Fifty Tips Tips/Tactics

Fifty Fly Fishing Tips: #41 — Face Upstream

May 6, 2018

I’m not sure why, but it seems to be part of the anglers’ DNA to face the stream sideways. Some guy with a rod walks up to the creek, faces the opposite bank and watches the water flow from left to right. He casts up and across and drifts the fly / bait / lure until it’s down and across from his position. Everyone does it. Repeat ad infinitum and catch a fish once in a while. To catch more trout, face upstream.

Most of this applies to dead drifting things to a fish, which if you’re fishing for trout, is arguably the most effective and consistent way to put fish in the bag. Dries and nymphs (and often wet flies and streamers) are most useful when delivered upstream and allowed to drift along with the current, without much influence from the line and leader that carries it. The dead drift is the first and most basic lesson of Fly Fishing 101.

And the easiest way to get that dead drift happening is to face upstream.

One Seam

We need our flies coming down through just one current seam. That’s the only way a real dead drift can happen. When the attached line drags the fly across lanes, bad things happen. The fly looks unnatural. It speeds up and travels across seams in a way that most trout food sources do not.

Casting across the water immediately puts the fly and the the leader at odds. They fight one another when influenced by the currents of multiple seams, and it’s very difficult to get a true dead drift this way.

But casting upstream results in an entirely different setup. The fly, leader and line can all land and drift in one seam. And there’s your dead drift. Bingo — fish on.

Anglers facing across stream tend to cast across stream. Anglers facing upstream tend to cast more upstream. It’s that simple. If you face upstream, into the current, you will more often setup the flies for a solid dead drift.

Here’s the last thing to think about: We don’t need to cast directly upstream and in the same seam that we’re standing in. If our rod is ten feet long, we can cast upstream and ten feet across. We can then lead the flies down one current seam with the rod tip — ten feet out into the current. This is an essential concept for tight line nymphing, but it applies to dry fly fishing just as well. Because while using fly line, some of that line must often lay on the water’s surface. And if we keep all of that fly line in one current seam (the same seam as our fly), then the drifts are long and the fishing is easy.

READ: Troutbitten | One Great Nymphing Trick

Keep that one in your boot. Face upstream. It’s a good one to remember.


Enjoy the day.
Domenick Swentosky


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Alex Argyros

Great post: probably the best advice one could offer anglers. Add to it the admonition to keep casts short and you have a graduate course in fly fishing.

Tom Regan

Another great reason to use that mono rig and keep that fly line on the reel.

Domenick Swentosky

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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