Fifty Fly Fishing Tips: #41 — Face Upstream

by | May 6, 2018 | 13 comments

I’m not sure why, but it seems that part of the anglers’ DNA is 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, then 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. But 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. Dry flies and nymphs (and often wet flies or 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.

READ: Troutbitten | See the Dead Drift

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 is performed. 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.

I’ve seen season after season, that casting across stream is a very hard habit for some anglers to break. And the best way to change the casting direction is to change the body position. Face upstream, and you will find targets upstream. Face across stream and, well . . .

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.

Fish hard, friends.

 

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

 

Share This Article . . .

Since 2014 and 600 articles deep
Troutbitten is a free resource for all anglers
Your support is greatly appreciated

– Explore These Post Tags –

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.

More from this Category

Nobody Home | Nobody Hungry

Nobody Home | Nobody Hungry

Nobody home means there’s no trout in the slot you were fishing. And sometimes that’s true. Nobody hungry suggests that a trout might be in the slot but he either isn’t eating, isn’t buying what you’re selling, or he doesn’t like the way you are selling it.

Does it matter? It sure does!

New Structure | Old Structure

New Structure | Old Structure

One of my favorite places in the world is a deeply shaded valley that runs north and south between two towering mountains of mixed hardwoods. The forest floor has enough conifers mixed in to block much of the sunlight, even in the winter. The ferns of spring grow tall, and thick moss is spread throughout. The ground remains soft enough here that all large trees eventually surrender to the valley. When they can no longer support their weight in the soft spongy ground, they fall over, leaving a broken forest of deep greens and the dark-chocolate browns of wet, dead bark. It’s gorgeous.

Fallen timber also dictates the course of this cold water stream. The fresh tree falls force the creek to bend away from the hillside. Rolling water carves away the earth and lays bare the rocks — these stones of time, as Maclean puts it. And when water cuts into a neighboring channel, previously dry for centuries, new river banks are undercut and fresh roots exposed . . .

What Lies Beneath

What Lies Beneath

There’s a world unseen below the surface. The riverbed weaves a course and directs the currents, giving shape to its valley. Water swirls behind rocks. It moves north and south against submerged logs. The stream blends and separates, merges and divides again as vertical columns rise and fall — and all of this in three dimensions. . . . Eventually, knowing and admiring what lies beneath is as easy as seeing what flows above.

The Water Column — And the All-Important Strike Zone

The Water Column — And the All-Important Strike Zone

Seeing into the river is a learned skill. It takes a lot of time on the water to judge the three dimensional flow of a river. Reading the surface is easy. Even without bubbles on the top, most anglers quickly learn to gauge the speed of the top current in relation to their fly or indicator. But what lies beneath can be unpredictable and deceiving. Eventually, with the help of polarized lenses and some serious thought, experienced anglers become proficient (enough) in reading the currents below.

But where does it begin?

Understanding a little about the water column and the correlating habits of trout goes a long way toward better fishing. So let’s do it . . .

Fly Fishing Tips: #54 — Don’t let a good bite teach bad habits

Fly Fishing Tips: #54 — Don’t let a good bite teach bad habits

Fly fishing provides so much variety in presenting flies to a trout that a good and well-rounded fly angler can make something happen, even on the slowest days — usually. And so, we spend our time on the water learning and refining these various techniques with dry flies, nymphs, streamers and wets, waiting for the trout to turn on, but fishing always with persistence and hope flung into each cast.

I’ve been around enough long-term fishermen to understand one primary character trait — we all approach the water with an effort to learn. That’s what keeps things fresh year after year. That’s what keeps a man fishing from childhood to the grave. It’s not the trout, but the process of discovery, the perfection of tactics that will never be good enough to make a sure thing out of a day on the river.

Every angler finds moments when the fishing is easy, when seemingly any decent presentation of the fly brings a fish to hand. Even the most difficult rivers give up a good bite once in a while. And the easiest rivers, with eager trout, produce great bite windows that last for hours or even days. But what should we learn from that? . . .

Fly Fishing Tips: #53 — Nymphing: Set On Anything Unusual

Fly Fishing Tips: #53 — Nymphing: Set On Anything Unusual

On a first drift through the lane, you may very well set on anything. But maybe that line hesitation was just the flies ticking the top of a rock. Good. Now you know.

Don’t set on anything. And don’t wait for a sixth sense to kick in and grant you the superpower of sensing trout takes. Instead, pick a lane and learn it. Use the nymph as a probe to draw a mental map of a specific lane. Refine the drift. And all the while, set on anything unusual.Let’s break it down real quick . . .

What do you think?

Be part of the Troutbitten community of ideas.
Be helpful. And be nice.

13 Comments

  1. 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.

    Reply
    • There ya go. Two tips. That’s all you need. 🙂

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

    Reply
  3. Another thought: the effectiveness of fishing upstream may be one of the reasons for the effectiveness of using a strike indicator or suspension device. As you have said on numerous occasions, a bobber tends to lead your flies downstream behind it, making the effective cast upstream even if the actual cast is more across stream.. BTW, I think that this is one of the main reasons for the success of the Prove bounce rig.

    Reply
      • Still catch lots of fish swinging 3 wet flies “down & across”. lazy & relaxing way to fish.

        Reply
        • Oh, I agree. If you find the right trout and the right situation, swinging flies down and across can work great. But over the wild trout around here, a dead drift produces far more often. It also brings to hand larger trout.

          But many areas are different.

          Cheers.
          Dom

          Reply
  4. I was anonymous.

    Alex

    Reply
  5. My best trout monoriggin came from a cast upstream about a rods length across, once I got the line retrieve thing down. Force yourself. DO IT !!!
    Thanks Dom.

    Reply
  6. Thank you for this! What a simple solution. Even though I cast nymphs upstream, I find that they spend more time fishing water next to me instead of above me, even though I always cast upstream. This simple tip will fix that problem.

    Reply
  7. I read this year after year. I agree with you. Old habits are hard to break.

    I fished a small stream in Idaho last week. Water was very low. I used this technique and it did work. Unles the best seam was across the stream. I had success both wAys but my best luck was facing up stream. Thanks for the reminder

    Reply
  8. I have just recently encountered this web site and really enjoy the philosophy and lessons posted. I am not an “Old master” fly fisher even though I have been fly fishing for over 50 years. I was born and raised in Butler PA and went to college at Penn State so I’m familiar with the waters you address. Yes I fished PA until I joined the Air Force and ended up in Idaho. I bought a 9′ Garcia fly rod soon after arriving and did not pick up a spinning rod until 4 years ago when I started steelhead fishing in the Clearwater River. Now my goal is to learn how to swing cast my 14′ spay rod and hook up with a B run steely. I have fond memories of fishing Mahoning and Redbank Creeks. I caught my first trout in Leatherman Creek. I did a lot of fishing but little catching. Your discussions concerning mixing wild trout with hatchery raised has struck a note with me. Not because I encounter stocked trout in reservoirs I fish in the spring. I rarely encounter stocked trout in the rivers I fish for Cutthroat. However, I do encounter hatchery raised steelhead. I can clearly tell the difference in the fight of a wild steelhead from a hatchery. Fortunately, Idaho does not permit harvesting wild steelhead. Washington has even taken legal action to stop the WDFW from releasing hatchery steelhead in some coastal rivers. From your discussions, I realize how fortunate I am to catch wild Cutthroat.

    Reply

Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Recent Articles

Recent Posts

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.

Pin It on Pinterest