Fifty Fly Fishing Tips: #38 — The Fly Line and Leader Need a Target

by | Apr 15, 2018 | 0 comments

Look at the water. Your target is two feet on this side of a current seam that’s drawn downstream from the tip of a gravel bar. Three trout are steadily rising within casting distance, lined up and distributed in the riffly, bubbly seam. Golden noses poke through the surface and slurp Blue Winged Olive duns without reservation, with early-season, confident rises and none of the skittish hesitation that you’ll see in a month or two. It’s as if a long winter erased the trout’s memory of all present dangers — of anglers and shadowy herons.

Yes, these trout should be (almost) easy. Your leader is well designed, tapered to a long soft piece of 5X nylon. Your position is downstream. Behind the trout’s vision and just off to the side, you stand in ankle deep water on the soft, inside part of the seam. You mentally process the targets and plan to pick off the most rearward riser because he’s closest to your position. And with luck, you’ll hook him on the first few casts. You’ll set the hook and use his upward momentum to pull him sideways and downstream, away from the top two risers. The other trout will be undisturbed — hopefully.

With just a moment more to pause and check the Olive Klinkhammer and the knot of 5X,  you dust the top of the fly with desiccant, working the powder into the parachute post and wrapped hackle. But you leave the dubbed abdomen wet so it can sink into the surface. The Klinkhammer gives the look of an emerging insect, adding another trigger to the set of variables that will or will not convince the trout in front of you.

Everything is just right. With the sun behind both you and the fish, your angle is perfect, and you can easily see the dark grey submarines rise and fall, almost in rhythm, as they suck in another hapless mayfly every twenty seconds.

You release the fly with your line hand and set the combination of dry fly, leader and line in motion with a swift and small loop toward the backcast. On the forward stroke you gauge the distance, at once visualizing the target of the trout itself and a targeted space on the water’s surface a few feet ahead of it. You backcast again and zero in on your target with concentrated, focused eyes. And on the final forward cast, your wrist flicks forward and stops hard. The rod flexes, poised to send your BWO Klinkhammer to the water’s surface and directly in the sight-line of your first trout.

But wait . . .

Hold on. There’s one more thing to consider. Where will the line and leader fall? How will you position the tippet section, the leader and fly line on the water and in the air? It’s just as important as where the fly lands.

Tethered to the line, the fly must follow the leader’s influence. (That’s why it’s a leader.) And it’s our job to set up the cast so the line has the correct influence on the fly.

Often, the objective is a drag free drift. So whether casting dries or nymphs, we do well to set up some slack in the same current seam. If the leader must lay on the water, then consider the curves. How will the currents push those curves around? When casting dries or indicators, it sometimes helps to switch to a backhand approach, or vice versa. Watch the way the curve lands on the water. Is the current pulling immediately on that curve, or is it pushing the curve out of the leader and essentially providing more slack for the fly?

Likewise, a good tight line nymphing presentation finishes with a portion of the leader in the air. But it’s important to consider where that leader is. No matter how light or thin is the leader and line, it always has enough mass to pull and drag the flies unnaturally. So the leader should be inline with the flies, coming down one current seam.

READ: Troutbitten| One Great Nymphing Trick

Even if the presentation is one intended to utilize drag (e.g., stripping streamers), setting up the line with the cast is just as important. We position the leader so the swing or strip of the line leads the flies. They follow the direction of the leader, and they’re guided toward the chosen target.

Success comes from positioning the line to work with the flies. And that line positioning is part of good casting. The situation may call for a simple change in casting angle, or it may require a small arial mend.

Again . . .

So look at the water again. Your target is two feet on this side of a current seam that’s drawn downstream from the tip of a gravel bar. Three trout are steadily rising within casting distance, lined up and distributed in the riffly, bubbly seam.

And before you make the cast to those eager risers, consider where the leader will land. Think about what the various currents will do to the leader. And think about what influence the line hanging from your rod tip may have — because all of it matters.

Fish hard, friends.

 

Enjoy the day.
Domenick Swentosky
T R O U T B I T T E N
domenick@troutbitten.com

 

 

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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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