Giving your flies the right movement can make the difference between a good and a bad day on the water when you are fly fishing.


Trout and other fish are very good at imitating the way their prey moves naturally. If you move your flies in the same way, you can get more strikes and catch more fish.


Every fly angler choosing subtle/exaggerated movements needs to know when and how to apply them. It’s a skill they need.


Subtle Movements


When fish are feeding selectively or during delicate hatches, subtle movements are needed.


Trout can be incredibly wary of unnatural movements. A fly that drifts too unnaturally or twitches erratically may be rejected outright.


These situations are made for subtle movements mimicking natural insect or batfish behavior.


Technique: use the rod tip for gentle twitches or pulsations to your fly as it drifts downstream. This can make it look like an emerging insect or a mayfly on the surface that is hurt. Short, gentle line strips can attract nymphs and streamers with aquatic movements that resemble life.


Exaggerated Movements


In selective feeding situations, small movements are often best. But exaggerated movements can set off aggressive strikes.


This is true when fishing for bass or pike, which are predators, or when you want to catch trout that are eating baitfish or bigger aquatic insects.


Technique: using large, aggressive strips to make a lot of noise in the water or randomly stripping streamers to make them look like a baitfish running away. For dry flies, techniques like the “Leisenring lift” can create a splashy, attention-grabbing disturbance on the surface.


These movements can look like a baitfish that is struggling or hurt. This makes fish nearby want to eat it. Streamers can be stripped aggressively, with sudden stops and starts, or jigged vertically to create a darting, fleeing motion.


In low light conditions or when the water moves quickly, fish may rely more on vibrations and changes in the water to find food, and a fly that is moving quickly can be found and attacked more easily.


Matching Movements to Water Conditions


How well small or big movements work usually depends on the conditions of the water where you are fishing. In general, small movements work better in slower, clearer water, where fish have more time to look at and judge possible prey.


Fish may rely more on aggressive strikes when the water is moving quickly and turbidly, giving them less time to look at their prey. This is why big movements may work better in those conditions.


The type of movement that works best can also depend on the time of year and the hatches or baitfish that are present.


For example, during a delicate mayfly hatch – small movements that look like the real insects may be needed. When baitfish are more common – big movements that look like a baitfish is struggling or running away may work instead.


Experimenting and Observing


Experimenting and watching are the best ways to learn how to make your flies move. Pay close attention to how the bugs or baitfish in the water you are fishing move, and try to make your flies move in the same way. Fish are unpredictable, so do not be afraid to try out different methods and levels of movement. One day’s strategy may not work on the next.


Also, pay attention to the water conditions and how the fish are eating. If small movements do not get you hits, try making the movement bigger or making more noise in the water. But if big movements are scaring the fish, scale back to more subtle ones.


For more information, visit