Fishing a Trico Spinner Fall

by John Barr

Throughout the country on many rivers Trico spinner falls offer some of the most consistent and predictable dry fly fishing we have. Many rivers will start seeing Trico activity almost daily starting in mid-summer and continuing into the fall. Trico duns hatch very early or late in the day and although the hatch can provide good fishing the light is often poor. The life of the adults spans just a few hours, during which time they transform into the reproductive spinner stage, mate, lay eggs and die, floating down the river as the spent winged spinners. What is often referred to as a Trico hatch is actually the spinner fall.

Trico spinners are dead so they are an easy target and sometimes can be present in huge quantities. Trout like an easy meal, and although the individual insects are small the sheer numbers can provide trout with substantial nutrition. Sometimes it seems like every fish in the river is aggressively feeding during a Trico spinner fall, including some of the larger fish that don’t normally rise.

Fishing a Trico spinner fall can be challenging. The color and body length of the natural must be matched, and since the natural spinners are dead the drift must be 100% drag free. Fishing a single floating pattern is tricky. If the light isn’t perfect the pattern can be difficult to see, and your pattern is often competing with many naturals. If you can’t see your pattern throughout the drift, strike detection is tough, and you’re never sure if a little micro current has caused your fly to drag.

I have developed a system for fishing a trico spinner fall that is productive, relatively easy and fun. The technique uses a dry fly with a sunken spinner as the dropper. The first fly, the poly winged Vis-A-Dun is a good dun pattern that doubles as a floating spinner. It is easy to see, floats well and with the hackle clipped on the bottom the body floats in the surface film just like the natural spinners ( or duns). Dry-Dropper is nothing new but the dry fly I use is essential to the overall effectiveness of this technique.

The wings and tail of a natural spinner are clear and I feel that trout feeding on spinners key on the body length and color. I match the body of the VAD to the natural and trout regularly take it as a floating spinner and with the easily seen pattern, surface takes are readily detected. The dry fly also plays an essential role in monitoring the drift, which must be drag free and as a strike indicator when a trout takes the appropriately sized drowned spinner pattern that is used as the dropper. This techniques offers the trout both a floating and drowned option, and when presented properly is very effective.

I use around 18 inches 6x Fluoroflex Plus to the Vis-A-Dun and 6-9 inches of the same tippet to the drowned spinner. The reason for the relatively short tippet to the dry fly is so that it doesn’t sink it. The increased takes with the fluoro trumps using a longer tippet with regular mono. My Trico box contains black bodied Vis-A-Duns and drowned spinners in sizes 18-24.

After fish have quit rising, the drowned spinner is an excellent choice in a hopper-copper-dropper or nymph rig.

This technique can be used to fish any spinner fall. Just match the body size and color of the Vis-A-Dun with the natural, and use an appropriate drowned spinner.