The Sweet Ride

by | Dec 18, 2019 | 9 comments

There’s a sweet spot to every drift. For each swing of a wet fly, strip of a streamer or drift of a dry, there’s a range — a distance — where the fly looks its best. This is the moment where the fur and feathers tied to a hook are most convincing or most natural. It’s when the fly is really fishing and not just dragging through the water. Good anglers recognize this sweet spot of the drift. They maximize its length. They position themselves in the river to control it with their rod tip or with slack line. And they set it all up to happen over the best trout in the river.

First, there’s the cast and delivery. Our line hits the water, and it may take a moment to gain contact with a nymph, to get the streamer to depth or provide extra slack to a dry. Then the drift, the strip or the swing begins, and we try to recognize the part of the ride that is just right. We attempt to lengthen that inherently short time. And at our best, we take this perfect look to the juiciest gut in the run.

All of this is variable. Sometimes it’s eight feet of a perfect dead drift with a BWO Klinkhammer in a gently rippling seam. Other times it’s the head-flip-and-drift after a deliberate lane change while working streamers on a crossover technique. Or maybe it’s a five foot glide with a nymph through the strike zone before pulling it out at the lip. We’re looking for the best part of what happens after a cast. We’re searching for the sweet ride. And we’re trying to make it last as long as possible.

READ: Troutbitten | Get Short and Effective Drifts with Your Fly

At First

The first few casts in a specific lane are exploratory missions. And if you get much of a good ride on the first cast you’re either very lucky or a master at reading currents. But it’s certainly easier to nail it the first time with a dry fly, and it’s probably hardest with a nymph.

Because we can see the surface currents and watch their effects on our fly, casting dries and finding the sweet ride up top is all visual. We want the dry to land with enough slack to drift drag free instantly. Most of a good surface ride starts when the dry touches, so the experienced angler places the fly upstream of the trout and in the same current seam. Good dry fly anglers get long, sweet rides.

READ: Troutbitten | Category | Dry Fly Fishing

Under the surface, good fishing starts with contact and control. And after the cast with a streamer, wet or nymph, it might take a moment to gain that contact, to get the right depth and set the fly on its intended course. So the fly isn’t really fishing at first. Not until we reach the strike zone or strip the streamer off the bank are we on course toward the sweet ride below.

Get Over It

Once the best part of the drift is through, when the sweet ride is over, the angler then chooses to extend it further or pick up the line and cast again. I’m strongly in the camp of pulling it as soon as the best part of the drift is finished. And I believe by giving up on the back half of drifts and swings I maximize my productive fishing time, catching a lot more trout in a day.

Look at it this way . . .

Every good dry fly angler that I fish with picks up the fly when it starts to drag. They backcast once, shoot the line forward and put the fly back on the water. Skillfully, they provide enough slack to the dry fly on the cast. They get a few seconds of a sweet ride and take the fly back off the water as soon as drag sets in again. I see no successful anglers extending dry fly drifts beyond the point where drag sets in. Not around here, and not over picky wild trout.

READ: Troutbitten | Fly Fishing Tips #10 Mend Less

On the other hand, I see most subsurface anglers trying for much longer drifts than they should. Truth is, there’s a limited range for the sweet ride underneath — just like up top. If you learn to read the water, watch your sighter and control your fly line, you can easily recognize a good drift or the best part of the retrieve. So, once that’s through, give up on it. When the sweet ride stops — get off. Set the hook, backcast once, and shoot the fly forward again.

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 700+ 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

Tight Line Nymphing: Drift with a Stable Sighter

Tight Line Nymphing: Drift with a Stable Sighter

A simple piece of colored monofilament might be the most important element in a tight line nymphing rig. The sighter, placed just above the tippet section of the leader, shows us everything about the drift. When fished well, a Mono Rig or a euro nymphing setup provides the angler with amazing control over the course of the flies. So it’s important to use it to our advantage.

Reading the sighter is an unending education. Like so many interesting pursuits in life, tight lining is something you can refine to no end.

Everything we read from the sighter follows from first gaining contact. Learning to make that contact happen, and learning to see whether we are in touch with the flies, is the primary skill. Everything else follows from there.

In a future article, I’ll break down all the elements of reading a sighter, but for now, let’s focus on just one important aspect — keeping the sighter stable . . .

Tending your tags and point flies — A DIY hack for multiple hook keepers

Tending your tags and point flies — A DIY hack for multiple hook keepers

One of the more irritating trends in the fly rod market these days is the absence of a hook keeper above the cork. Plenty of us think it’s an oversight. And I’m tired of the worn out excuse that there’s a hook keeper at every guide. Rod guides aren’t the same. Give me that thin little u-shaped hook keeper just above my cork, please.

Even with a hook keeper for the point fly, those of us who use tags for a second fly are often frustrated by the tangling tag while walking to the next honey hole.

Solution: mini rubber bands.

Here are a few tricks to get it just right . . .

Everything that touches the river drags — Everything underneath drags even more

Everything that touches the river drags — Everything underneath drags even more

This one is simple. Line, leader or tippet laying on the water drags. It’s a plain truth staring right back at us. Meaning, it’s pretty easy to see the results of drag on the water’s surface. It’s harder to see drag happening under the water and out of sight, but once you’ve put in a few thousand river hours, intuition mixes with experience and the subtle visual signals above the river reveal the same telltale drag.

. . . Only the line that has to touch the surface should be wet. Even more importantly, only the line that must go under the surface should disappear. Here’s how and why . . .

Fly Fishing Tips: The Order of Everything

Fly Fishing Tips: The Order of Everything

A lot goes into a good fishing trip. It’s a flexible framework of pieces and parts mixed in with a little fortuitous intuition. That first trout to the net is rarely luck. And when you start to lose count of how many fish have come to hand, you can be sure that luck has had very little to do with it.

We like to dig into the details of fly fishing. How fast should we lead a pair of nymphs on a tight line? What streamer-head-angle produces best for a medium retrieve in flat water? But the overarching principles of how to catch a trout — the headers of the outline — are these . . .

Fly Fishing Strategies — Plan for the Hookset

Fly Fishing Strategies — Plan for the Hookset

For a moment, let’s consider where the line goes when the hookset doesn’t stick a trout . . .

You strike on the rise and miss a fish. Or, while nymphing, you set when the fly bumps a rock for the forty-fifth time. And the fly goes where?

In wide open meadows and valleys, who cares? With no trees to eat your fly, sloppy hooksets go unpunished. But the rivers I frequent harbor broken tree limbs as earnest gatekeepers. I like dark, shady corners because the trout do. And working around these obstacles forces me to be mindful — to know where every hookset finishes . . .

Fly Fishing Tips: Good drifts are about the leader — not the fly

Fly Fishing Tips: Good drifts are about the leader — not the fly

Flies unattached to anything make for a great lesson. Drop a dry fly into the current and watch the endless dead drift. With no leader to change its course, the dry might go on, drag free, for miles downstream. But weighted flies are a little different. Drop a tungsten beaded Walt’s in the river, and it’ll find the bottom in a few feet or less, even in heavy currents — same thing with split shot. For underwater presentations, then, the leader keeps a fly on its path.

The line and leader is in charge of the flies. And regardless of the fly type, tippet or presentation, good drifts are all about what an angler does with the leader. Wherever that last section of tippet goes, so does the fly.

Therefore, placing the leader in the right water is the key to getting good drifts.

Let’s do it . . .

What do you think?

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

9 Comments

  1. This was the most valuable thing you taught me when you guided me on Penns. I still believe there are some windows where the extended drift works quite well, like in a caddis hatch. Yesterday getting off at the right stop was key.

    Reply
    • Right on. Time and place for everything. But most often, getting off at the right stop . . . I like that.

      Cheers.
      Dom

      Reply
  2. What % of your overall nymph takes occur during sweet part of your drifts? Just curious.

    Reply
    • Oh man, maybe . . . 75 percent?? But I think I’m pretty good at lining things up to make it happen too. And you have to remember, as I wrote above, that as soon as the sweet ride is over, I’m out of there. That’s usually my approach, anyway.

      Make sense?

      Cool question.

      Dom

      Reply
  3. I think one of the big advantages of tight line nymphing is you are fishing off the end of your rod most of the time thus your drifts are shorter by nature. When we indicator fish we have the tendency to start fishing 10 or so feet in front of us and unless the current is extremely consistent your control of the drift gets away from you much easier and you watch the bobber while your flies are doing whatever, hoping for a miracle. 🙂 good article Dom!

    Reply
    • I get what you are saying, and I agree that most people fish indys that way. But I’m always trying to get anglers to fish indys with tight line principles. Like this, really:

      https://troutbitten.com/2017/02/14/tight-line-nymphing-with-an-indicator-a-mono-rig-variant/

      In that way, I may not fish any further away from me. The drifts may be no longer than when I’m straight tight lining. And I am NOT out of contact with the nymph at all. Instead, I’m still in good contact with the nymph, and I’m aware of its position. There is no hoping. But the big advantage is that I can let the indy do the job of leading down one current seam.

      Dom

      Reply
      • Another great article, Dom. I also think that the article about nymphing with an indicator is one of the most astute observations on nymphing that I’ve ever seen. I was wondering if these days your preference is still for a sighter over a suspender. I realize that it depends on water type, but I mean do you tend to use one over the other as a default in average kinds of runs?
        Alex

        Reply
  4. I’m definitely guilty of extending my nymph drift to far downstream of my position. The smaller trout, mostly bows hit sometimes downstream from me. Caught one 20”bow on the East Branch Delaware this summer on the dangle while lighting up a smoke. Ha. But all the other large trout were caught across or upstream of me.

    Reply
    • Good point Dom I should have made it clear I wasn’t talking about tight line indicator fishing that you have described I was talking about what most people do when they put on an indicator. In terms of catching fish on the D on the dangle if I’ve seen it once I’ve seen it a thousand times. I took a guy there once for his first time (not the best newbie river) and I saw him working on a tangle in his fly line with his indicator 20 ft. below. when he got the knot out and reeled in he had his first D fish. Like swinging wet flies only different. 🙂

      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