I sat at the oars and watched Chase shoot fifty feet of line, laying a big dark streamer right next to the wood. In fact, his cast was so accurate that some olive hen feathers grazed the wet log upon entry. Yes, you can see this kind of detail at fifty feet if you’re looking in the right place, and Chase and I tended to see the next target together. That’s what it’s like with a good boat mate — simpatico. Two guys with one goal and a similar vision. So the fly hit the mark we both were looking for.
Watching Chase twitch and jerk the rod tip in between strips was a noticeable contrast to what I’d seen my friend, Brian, do the week before. Some guys use only strips and no rod tip motion — Brian is one of them. He believes that any tip motion puts you out of touch with the streamer, and you’ll miss strikes with the loss of contact. Brian catches a lot of trout on streamers. But so does Chase.
“Hey Chase, why do you use the rod tip?” I yelled to him. I was back rowing through a heavy stretch of boulders, through churning water that sounded like a washing machine.
Chase kept stripping without looking back. He mixed in twitches, jigs and rod sweeps with the retrieve.
“Because it’s more erratic and forces you to pause,” he yelled back. “Less linear tracking too.”
At the bottom of the washing machine, Chase set the hook with exuberance.
“There he is!”
If you want to get better at anything in fishing, spend time with the good guys and argue with them about their tactics. Force them to explain why, and you’ll hear strong opinions and confidence about what they do. The best of these anglers might first be mistaken as stubborn, but a deeper dig reveals their openness to just about anything.
At all ranges beyond “fishin’ close,” stripping is the only way to get your fly back and ready for another cast. So even if some rod motion is mixed in, the strip must be part of the game.
But some guys move the fly only by stripping. They might change the angle and direction of the rod tip to affect the orientation of the streamer. But by animating the fly exclusively with strips, they stay in contact at all times and are ready with a strip set.
Done carefully (without moving the rod tip) the strip introduces no slack between you and the fly. And that’s a good thing to understand.
Jigs, jerks and twitches
Using the rod tip is the other way to move a streamer. And I’ll argue that all jigs, jerks and twitches introduce some manner of slack.
For my own streamer style, I welcome that slack. I use it for effect. I believe a streamer looks more alive — more natural — when it’s given a moment to rest, even if that moment is only a split second. Just a bit of slack allows our carefully-considered fur and feathers to puff and swoon with the current. Sure, a streamer has a similar chance to breath in-between strips too. But that look — that effect — is a little more dramatic when there’s no tension on the line. For me, slack is a good thing.
I prefer to show trout a food that’s available, not something that’s hard to kill and eat but an easy meal. And a wounded or dying look is often the necessary trigger to get trout to eat, not just chase and swipe a streamer. A pause, with a bit of slack, can be just the ticket. I do it most with jerks, twitches and jigs. Following these rod tip motions, there’s always some slack as the rod recovers. It’s easily manageable, and you can decide just how much slack is introduced, if you’re attentive.
By pausing before the next strip, twitch or jerk, you can use that slack to allow a weighted fly to fall or an unweighted fly to suspend and falter against a pushing current. Slack permits a moment of helplessness that contact cannot precisely duplicate. The effect is simply greater without tension on the line, if only for an instant.
Do I miss trout by introducing slack?
Maybe. But not many. And I believe I draw more strikes with the kind of streamer motion that slack allows for. Coming from a nymphing mindset, I’m used to dealing with slack and setting the hook on trout that by my dead drift — because I manage some natural disconnect in the system.
Furthermore, I’ve seen a lot of trout “missed” on a strips-only presentation. Trout swipe and dodge at streamers no matter what. That’s just part of the game. That’s what makes it both maddening and addictive at the same time.
Aside from adding desirable slack, using the rod tip for animation with jerks, jigs and twitches also allows for more directional change than stripping alone. When we strip, the fly follows the line — which follows the rod tip. You might assume that the fly follows the same course whether it’s stripped or jerked, toward the tip. But I don’t find that to be the case. Jerking the rod to the right moves the fly on a different path than holding the rod to the right and stripping the same length. The difference is slight, especially at long distances with line on the water. But it’s the small, subtle things in fishing that add up to big results.
At short distances, mixing in jerks, jigs and twitches between strips permits a wider variety of directional changes than does stripping alone. As Chase said, there’s less linear tracking when we use the rod tip for animation. And for what I want to see from a streamer, that’s a good thing.
I’d love to hear your opinion on this, and so would other Troutbitten readers. What do you think is different about a fly that moves ten inches with a rod tip vs a fly that moves ten inches with a strip?
Fish hard, friends.
Enjoy the day.
T R O U T B I T T E N