Chum Fry Season Is On!

Chum Fry Season is on! I know I’ve written a pretty extensive amount on tips and tricks to fishing Chum Fry. Truthfully, I’ve written about this subject quite a few different times. This year, things are getting a late start due to the lack of rain, and the uncharacteristically cold spring. Despite the late start we are excited for the topwater chomping to continue for the next month or two!

As a fishermen, guide, and a human, I am always trying to improve and learn. One of the biggest things we have learned this year so far is to go with the flow. Chum fry this early in the emergence are not great swimmers, and you will absolutely not see a little chum fry swim against fast moving water. So we found our best method is to fish with the flow of current, not against it. This is how we figured it out, and what we are doing to maximize our chum fry season this year!

The Set Up

The places we search for chum fry are spots they get washed into. Meaning the current is pretty strong. When chum fry are out we are going to get takes from cutthroat, so in the past we have just looked at it as “We are getting fish, this is as good as it gets.” However, this year we have focused mostly on topwater or just barely under the surface. One of the things we have noticed is that we were getting refusals from bigger fish. Not just a refusal here or there, but we were getting refusals from ALL of the big fish. We were shocked by this and our first reaction was to go deeper, and we were not bringing those big fish back. I started breaking down the problem in my head and this is what I figured out.

The Problem

1.) Stripping a chum fry across the surface draws a lot of attention from fish of every size. However, we do not tend to CATCH the largest sea run cutthroat.

2.) When slow stripping chum fry in fast current, we are stripping AGAINST the current. When this happens our flies get refused more often than not by the larger fish we are targeting. The fish we catch tend to be less than 14″.

Look out… Justin’s got ideas.

These things started making me think, we must be doing something wrong. When we started noticing the fish that are refusing were larger fish, a lightbulb went off in my head. The thing that tends to give up that big fish are feeding on chum fry is that they sip them like a dry fly on a river. All you see is a nose and a ring. Let’s fish these flies like a dry fly. That was the missing puzzle piece to bringing bigger cutthroat to the net during the chum fry migration.


1.) Extend your leader out to 10-12′. 4x Rio Fluroflex is what we prefer, however 3x works as well.

2.) Cast the fly up current and bring it back down with the current.

3.) Strip just fast enough to stay tight and get the fly to move slightly faster than the current is actually moving.

4.) Keep your hook set LOW! Strip fast on the take and set the rod to the side. When I instruct clients how to strip most flies it is fast and aggressive. Because this method requires some finesse and is quite a bit slower than most of our other fishing situations, we are getting some seriously blown hook sets.

5.) Enjoy the fruits of your labor and be stoked on a super visual and exciting surface take, and fight your fish like a champ.

Fishing, like most things, is a bunch of small details that adds up to a big move. Fine tuning those details is what makes all of the difference.

I hope this helps your chum fry season this year! Looking forward to see you out on the water!

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  1. Pingback: All-Waters Fly Fishing Spring Newsletter! Check It Out!

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