I can’t see my fly!

I caught up with a fishing mate the other day and he made the comment that his biggest frustration in flyfishing, was not being able to see his dry fly. He’d just come back from casting small, delicate dries on the Steavenson River in north-east Victoria and despite some success, he was still not seeing lots of takes. That got me thinking about a few things I do to help with this fundamental problem.

Use a bright fly line

Interestingly, Australia and New Zealand are the only global flyfishing markets fixated on camo or dull-coloured lines. No doubt that’s a partly a reaction to fishing guides in New Zealand, who swear it makes a difference in their crystal-clear water. I’m sceptical, but one thing that’s beyond dispute is that a bright-coloured line can be a huge advantage in helping locate your fly on the water and detecting takes. Even if you believe a dull line is stealthier, consider how much more effectively you’ll fish by being able to see your line.

Airflo Velocity 4wt – 9wt $49.95 Buy Now

Airflo Tracker 5wt – 8wt $129.95 Buy Now

Scientific Anglers Amplitude 4wt – 9wt $199.95 Buy Now

It’s important to keep track of your dry in rough water – like this stretch of the Indi River in NSW – and a bright fly line can help.


This is an obvious one for nymph fishing, but few use indicators while dry fly fishing. Adding an indicator not far from your dry fly is an effective way of detecting takes when your eyes fail to see the less obvious fly. In flowing water, the indicator can sometimes affect your drift in a negative way, but for stillwaters in particular, this technique is deadly. I prefer a small indicator that (hopefully) doesn’t distract the fish from my fly.

New Zealand Strike Indicator Tool Kit and Stonfo Stick-on Indicators. Buy Now

Indicator fly

Traditionally, these were flies like Royal Wulffs and Stimulators. However these days, these big ‘attractors’ are joined by a plethora of delicate dries you can buy that still have high visibility. If the hatch is very specific, you can combine these indicator flies with your more imitative pattern in much the same way you’d fish a dry and dropper. You don’t necessarily have to go bigger to achieve that high visibility you’re after. Bright post material is the key and if you’re tying your own, you can’t go past Tiemco’ s Aerodry wing material.

Tiemco Aerodry Wing Buy Now

Flies like the Royal Wulff are good for visibility, but there are now smaller, delicate yet highly visible alternatives.

If you’re after subtle but also visible, try a black and white post. Black contrasts incredibly well against water sheen, while white is perfect against a dark backdrop.

Colour is one thing, but what sits above the water can also be important. Your eye can more easily find something poking above the water’s surface than something lying flat on it. A Shaving Brush is one of the easiest dries to see because the brush sits well out of the water and contrasts against water sheen. Parachute flies are also good if you’ve been generous with the amount of post material used.

Here are some of my favourite indicator dry flies…

Buy Now

Vision aids

I don’t have great vision and so any piece of equipment that can help is of real value. Smith Optics’ Low Light Igniter glasses have been something of a game-changer for me and I’m convinced it’s because weaker eyes need more light to process images. I think it’s also why I like a bright room as opposed to a dimly lit one.

Meanwhile, prescription polarised glasses need to be done right if you’re long-sighted. Spotters are the best when it comes to prescription glasses and because the lenses are made locally, getting them updated is easy. They’re available by special order at The Flyfisher.

Smith Optics Guides Choice Low Light Ignitor polarised sunglasses Buy Now

Glasses that make the most of available light are an essential part of evening dry fly action.

Seeing is catching

With dry flies usually deliberately fished on a slack line to enable natural drift, successfully fishing them is totally reliant on the angler being able to locate the fly; not only to detect the take but also to ensure the fly drifts and behaves the way it should. With the many ways listed above to improve the visibility of your dries on the water – and to improve your eyesight – seeing dry flies has never been easier.