There is so much to learn when it comes to fly fishing, but I think that's one of the reasons I enjoy it so much. Ya gotta be in tune with what's happening around you. Slowing things down and paying attention to nature's world is not only fascinating, but its what helps me get away from the stress and pace of the working world. Its a totally different pace on the river. And you can't force our hectic pace on nature. Won't work. You have to slow down, look and listen.
Besides, if you want a better chance of catching fish, put yourself in a better position. Figure out what the trout want. What's on their dinner plate? You don't have to be a great chef - just a decent entomologist. But if that sounds a little daunting, no worries. While it helps to know your bugs, thankfully there are plenty of resources to assist.
I go old school. I tote a pocket sized booklet with me, because I am often in remote locations where there is no cell or internet service, so you can't do a quick Google search.
I found a great little book by Jim Schollmeyer called "Hatch Guide for Western Streams". Its full color, with great pictures of the real bug - and then color pictures of the flies to match. It comes in handy.
Here's a sample:
I checked my handy-dandy pocket guide - and found a pretty good match. Seems like he might be an American Grannom - and - I can see the fly that might look good to a trout.
The book shows bugs in various stages of their life, so, if you pick up a rock from the riverbed, flip it over, and see little creatures clinging to it, you'll know what stage of life the bug is in, and what fly to select.
You'll get pretty good at it over time, and might not even need a reference guide, but just in case you get stumped, its a very useful tool to carry with you.
I'll post a few more of these in the coming weeks. We will take a closer look at the major categories of bugs. Usually, the two main are caddis and mayflies. The bug in the picture is a caddis. I also like to have a stonefly category, as well as a "terrestrial" group. I lump things like ants and beetles and grasshoppers in the "terrestrial" group.
I hope this helps.