Fifty Fly Fishing Tips: #43 — Two Ways to Recover Slack

by | May 27, 2018 | 5 comments

Much of what we learn about fly fishing comes from instinct. Fishing, after all, is not that complicated. It does not take a special set of talents or years of study to figure most of this out for yourself. It just takes a tuned in, heads up approach out there on the water, and a good bit of want-to.

Being self-taught has its own rewards, namely a certain individual satisfaction about doing and discovering things your own way. I would argue, however, that no one is fully self taught. And the motivated anglers I know all seek out information from a variety of sources to improve their game.

I like to think that this Fifty Tips series and the Troutbitten site as a whole caters to the ambitious kind of angler — the one who takes pride in fishing hard and digging deep for new resources, mining information about the next small (or large) adjustment which hooks more trout to the line.

And many of these adjustment, these tips or discoveries, are downright obvious. They’re the kind of things that you certainly would figure out on your own if you thought about it long enough. They’re the things you already know, inherently, but perhaps haven’t thought about in much detail. And within these simple things are the keys to the greatest discoveries — your biggest steps forward.

So here’s a “Duh” tip that has big consequences:

There are two ways to recover slack after the cast: stripping in line or lifting/moving the rod tip.

I would never suggest using either method exclusively, of course. There are times to use both, because each method comes with its own caveats.

Here are two scenarios for consideration.

Nymphing

Say you’re tight line nymphing with the Mono Rig, directly upstream — and I do mean directly. You are casting thirty feet, perfectly upstream of your position, into a pocket behind a midstream boulder. You’re allowing a pair of nymphs to be carried downstream with the current, in one seam. To keep those nymphs in just one seam, on a tight line, you must keep the rod tip in that same vertical plane, above the water and guiding the flies back downstream.

You cast and then recover the slack returned to you by gradually lifting the rod tip straight in front of your position.

Now, after about five to ten feet of drift, your rod is vertical — the tip is pointed to the sky. You have nowhere to go to recover more slack, so you must cast again, right?

Not quite. Now’s the time to remember that the line hand can also recover slack. And if you use the line hand in conjunction with the lift of the rod tip from the beginning of the retrieve, you can obtain an extra five to ten feet of effective drift.

Dry Fly Fishing

Let’s say you’re fishing a slow flat, with a relatively even top current from bank to bank. You’re casting thirty feet of fly line and a nine foot leader, punching a Klinkhammer dry fly into a downstream breeze toward the sporadic rises shown by a pod of wild brown trout.

After the cast up and across the stream, your rod is parallel to the surface, and you begin recovering the slack by raising the rod tip.

That’ll work, until you encounter a problem. As you raise the rod tip, the weight of the fly line hanging from the rod tip is pulled down by gravity. That unavoidable pull of the hanging line tugs unnaturally on the fly line remaining on the water, which in turn pulls on the leader, straightening out the the slack you’ve so artfully given the dry fly with your George Harvey Dry Fly Leader. The stiff breeze blowing downstream pushes against your hanging fly line and only makes the problem worse. Your effective drift length is therefore shortened.

It takes a half dozen of these abbreviated drifts before your angler’s instinct kicks in. Then instead of raising the rod tip to recover slack, you keep the rod tip low, right next to the surface, allowing more fly line to remain on the calm water. In turn, you remove the elements of wind and gravity and are helped along by the even currents. Your effective drift is lengthened by more than ten feet and you start catching twice as many fish.

Nice.

Simple Thoughts

Again, so much of what we do out on the river comes back to the basics. It’s a simple, intuitive game where all advanced techniques have their kernel in simplicity.

Sounds like just about every other sport out there, doesn’t it? The grand gateway to advanced techniques is a simple step through a common man door.

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

What water type? Where are they eating?

What water type? Where are they eating?

Fast, heavy, deep runs have always been my favorite water type to fish. I can spend a full day in the big stuff. I love the mind-clearing washout of whitewater. No average sounds penetrate it. And the never ending roar of a chunky run is mesmerizing. I also enjoy the wading challenge. The heaviest water requires not just effort, but a constant focus and a planned path to keep you upright and on two feet. Constant adjustment is needed to stay balanced, and one slip or misstep ends up in a thorough dunking. It reminds me of the scaffold work I did on construction crews in my twenties. I always enjoyed being a few stories up, because the workday flew by. When every movement means life or death, you’d better stay focused. I always liked that . . .

Tight Line and Euro Nymphing: Leading vs Tracking vs Guiding

Tight Line and Euro Nymphing: Leading vs Tracking vs Guiding

Eventually, after decades of drifting things for trout, I discovered other ways of fishing dead drifts.

And now, I try to be out of contact as much as in contact. I ride the line between leading the flies and tracking them — choosing sometimes one and sometimes the other. And I’ve come to think of that mix of both styles as guiding the flies.

Think about these concepts the next time you are on the water with a pair of nymphs in hand. What is your standard approach? What are the strengths of leading the flies? What are the deficiencies? When does tracking the flies stand out as the best tactic? And when does it fail?

Why do we miss trout on a nymph?

Why do we miss trout on a nymph?

Late hook sets are a problem, as is guessing about whether we should set the hook in the first place. But I believe, more times than not, when we miss a trout, the fish actually misses the fly. However, that doesn’t let us off the hook either. It’s probably still our fault. And here’s why . . .

Loss of contact, refusals and bad drifts. All of these things and more add into missing trout on nymphs. So how do we improve the hookup ratio?

Fishing Light

Fishing Light

You’ve probably been wading upstream on a favorite trout stream and seen another angler’s lost tackle. Maybe the whole mess was in the streamside trees, with split shot and bobber attached, or a misguided F13 Rapala with rusted hooks. Maybe you’ve snagged a pile of monofilament stuck in waterlogged branches and lodged against a rock. And when you’ve seen all that mess, maybe you were stunned by how heavy the tackle was. Are you with me? . . .

Be a Mobile Angler

Be a Mobile Angler

Wading is not just what happens between locations. And it’s not only about moving across the stream from one pocket to the next. Instead, wading happens continuously.

Many anglers wade to a spot in the river and set up, calf, knee or waist deep, seemingly relieved to have arrived safely. Then they proceed to fish far too much water without moving their feet again. When the fish don’t respond, these anglers finally pick up their feet. Maybe they grab a wading staff and begrudgingly take the steps necessary to reach new water and repeat the process.

This method of start and stop, of arriving and relocating, is a poor choice. Instead, the strategy of constant motion is what wins out . . .

Beyond Euro Nymphing

Beyond Euro Nymphing

Euro nymphing is an elegant, tight line solution. But don’t limit yourself. Why not use the tight line tools (leaders and tactics) for more than just euro nymphing?

Use it for fishing a tight-line style of indicators. Use it for dry dropper or even straight dries. And use it for streamers, both big and small.

Refining these tactics is the natural progression of anglers who fish hard, are thoughtful about the tactics and don’t like limitations. I know many good fly fishers who have all come out the other side with the same set of tools. Because fishing a contact system like the Mono Rig eventually teaches you all that is possible . . .

What do you think?

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

5 Comments

  1. Great tip.

    Reply
  2. Wow! Awesome blog post with great tips! In this article, you offer great tips for us about fly fishing. Thanks for sharing!

    Reply
  3. best blog I’ve found on fly fishing. thank you very much

    Reply

Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published.

Recent Articles

Pin It on Pinterest