Pro Tips: Making the Most of the “Trico Trance”

Written by:Nick Chiasson, Forrester’s Bighorn River Resort


You can catch surprisingly big trout on tiny Trico patterns when the fish go into a trance.
Photo courtesy Forrester’s Bighorn River Resort

It’s Trico time again on the Bighorn River, and it seems that each year, the hatch gets longer and longer. Tricos are an incredibly fun dry flies to fish, especially on rivers like the Bighorn that boast a large trout population. When trout are feeding on Trico spinners or duns, an entire run can be bubbling with rising fish, which is something to behold.

Tricos hatch in rivers from coast to coast, with water temperature, water quality, and climate playing a huge role in the numbers that hatch in a specific river. These tiny mayflies–which range in size from 18 to 26–hatch in lots of colors, but the most common are black, brown, pale cream, and dark green. The male Tricos usually hatch throughout the dark hours of the night, while the females will hatch earlier in the morning. They are very temperature sensitive, so on hot days it’s imperative to get to a good dry-fly spot as early as 6:00 a.m. to fish the spinner fall. However, on cooler mornings the spinnerfall might last until noon. These cool days are the best, as you can fish the dun hatch and wait for the spinnerfall all in the same spot.


Trico duns line the gunwhale of a drift boat at 5:30 a.m. on the Bighorn River.
Photo courtesy Forrester’s Bighorn River Resort

Tricos float down the river in huge numbers, and the trout simply can’t resist such an easy meal. The fish stack up in places the Tricos collect–such as in seam lines and eddies–and they gorge themselves. Trout are so fixated on eating Tricos that oftentimes it’s virtually impossible to spook them with line or by pulling a fish out of the feasting pod of trout. We call it the Trico Trance.

Trico Tactics

  1. Be on the water early in the morning to get to a good wade fishing spot.
  2. Try not to float over the spot you want to fish, and wade in downstream of that spot.
  3. A two-fly rig works best. Use a 5X or lighter tippet to the first indicator fly (something big you can see) and 5X for the Trico Spinner dropper.The indicator fly helps you to see the trout eating the tiny Trico pattern.Sometimes, the trout will eat the indicator fly. A Royal Wulff or big Black Caddis is a good option.
  4. Wait for the fish to start surfacing for Tricos in large numbers.Don’t get excited about the one fish that starts eating early because you will discourage the rest of the trout from eating in that spot by constantly casting a line over them.You want the trout to get into the Trico trance before you start pounding the water with the fly line .
  5. Line up directly behind the trout and target the fish at the lower end of the pod first. Pick them off one by one as you move up through the pod.The trout will move up and down in the hole as they eat Tricos, so try not to get to excited if it seems like they are moving away from you.
  6. Set the hook lightly! Remember that the tippet is small and sensitive, so try not to gorilla hook set. All you need is a simple fast lift of the rod.

Top 4 Trico Patterns for the Bighorn

1. Indicator Parachute Trico

2. Trico Spinner

3. Krystal Spinner

4. Woven Trico Spinner

Nick Chiasson is a guide at Forrester’s Bighorn River Resort, in Fort Smith, Montana.

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