Fifty Fly Fishing Tips: #21 — Fear No Snag

by | Dec 17, 2017 | 1 comment

If you always play it safe, are you really playing the game?

As anglers, we walk up and down the river delivering one cast after another, all the while calculating the risks of each delivery. Or we float downriver in a drift boat, launching our flies near streamside brush, measuring our luck and skill against the chances of hooking soft branches and busting off another well tied fly.

Playing it safe saves flies. It even saves time. But it catches fewer trout. And whether drifting nymphs across a rock garden, punching hairwing dries into hazardous hidey-holes or slinging streamers into bankside slots, it pays to take risks because the rewards follow.


When fishing nymphs, I understand that if I want to fool some trout, my flies must be close to the bottom. And instead of dismissing slow action as the fish just being unresponsive, I like to take some time to reassess. Am I really getting the flies down to the trout? Am I risking enough, or am I just trying to avoiding hanging up on the rocks?

I’ve learned that changing flies is rarely the best solution. More often, it’s about getting my nymphs into the right places, down into the slots and pockets and closer to the bottom. When I nymph the right way, I get snagged on the bottom sometimes, but I just accept it as part of the game. Invariably, my best nymphing days are the same outings in which I sacrifice some flies to the river.

The same rules apply to streamers too. If the fish are hugging the bottom, if they won’t move up for the fly, then I have to go down and get ‘em.

And if I’m more worried about the inconvenient bottom-snag than about getting my flies deep and right in the trout’s face, then I’m doing it wrong.

Dando, fighting the cold


Fishing the surface requires the same boldness, the same intrepid attitude, if you really want to play the game. Without a willingness to put a few flies in the trees, you’ll pass up a lot of fish.

Approach the tricky lies and corner pockets with resolve. Tuck the flies in there with some precision, feed a little slack at the end of the cast, and hold on tight. If you hit a tree limb instead of the target, so what. Break the fly off, or go get it back and try the next spot.

Fish with some audacity out there, and your confidence will grow.

If you haven’t lost a few flies at the end of the day, then you’re doing it wrong. Taking chances is the only way. Fear no snag.

*** NOTE ***  After reading this article, my friend, Chris, pointed out the importance of retrieving our broken-off flies and tippet whenever possible, and that’s a great point. I think we should fish boldly, but should be just as bold about retrieving the flies and tippet whenever possible. Leave no trace.


Enjoy the day
Domenick Swentosky

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Domenick Swentosky

Central Pennsylvania

Hi. I’m a father of two young boys, a husband, author, fly fishing guide and a musician. I fish for wild brown trout in the cool limestone waters of Central Pennsylvania year round. This is my home, and I love it. Friends. Family. And the river.

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1 Comment

  1. A man could make a small fortune re-claiming flies,indies and shots and he can also get very,very wet.


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