Mending is a bit of a lost art in fly fishing. I meet fewer and fewer people with much skill for it. And in some ways, that’s just fine. I strongly prefer setting up the angles and curves of my line and leader in the air, rather than mending after the line touches. I also fish shorter dry fly drifts than most, and I fish upstream. While nymphing, I fish a contact rig, (Mono Rig) most of the time — even when fishing suspension tactics under an indicator. And because contact rigs are all about keeping line off the water, no mending is necessary.
With that said, there’s plenty of room for good mending on the river. And I believe that mastering all the available tools is the only way to be a consistent, happy angler who has success under any conditions.
So I mend sometimes.
I do it with a dry line the most. Mending helps when fishing dry flies at distance and at cross stream angles. And while fishing a standard line-and-leader setup with nymphs, the same applies. At cross stream angles, mending skills will make or break your day.
I was a poor mender for much of my fly fishing career. And because I had no mentors early on, it took trial and error to figure a few things out. I now pass these keys on to my guided guests who share the water with me every day. And it’s amazing how a handful of principles changes everything.
Which Mends? What and Why?
There are a few different mends to learn: upstream, downstream and stack mends are the basics. I’m assuming here that you already know these mends and have the skills to perform them. This article is about how to make theme better. Because, like me for all those early years, your on the water mending may need a tune up.
Remember, we aim for mends that provide slack to the dry or the suspender, allowing them to drift drag free for longer. And to achieve this, we lay slack on the water, somewhere around the dry or suspender. Whether upstream, downstream or to the side, a good mend provides slack on the water. It removes tension on the dry, or better yet, it prevents tension from happening at all. Perfect mends do this without ever bumping the suspender or moving the dry. Masters of this craft can drift a fly for an eternity.
Now here are my five best mending tips.
This is perhaps the most overlooked of these principles: Land the cast with some slack in the first place. Turnover is the key to all good fly casts, especially if you’re hoping for a dead drift. By turning the line and leader over with speed and good, tight loops, the fly lands with s-curves in the leader. Aerial mends help establish this slack as well, and so does the right leader design.
Land with some slack on the water. Because if the line is tight, and the dry or suspender is under tension immediately, your next move will certainly skate the fly. That’s bad.
Remember, a good mend starts with some slack — without tension on the fly or the line hanging from the rod tip. This way, when you get things moving toward a quick mending stroke, there’s a little grace to perform the operation.
Land with slack first. It’s the only way.
Everything that happens next should be fast. Think crisp. Almost all fly rod motion should be swift, both during the cast and while mending. Use rod tip movement that flexes the rod and forces energy into the mend. In this way, the power of the rod does the mending and not your arm.
Slow or large arm motions usually drag line over the surface. Slow motions create more tension than relieve it. A casting stroke is efficient when it’s built with speed, and a mend is essentially a cast with the line on the water. So perform it with speed.
Many anglers seem satisfied with mending the fly line, but they miss what is more important — the leader. The fly, or suspender, attached to the tippet, follows that tippet as soon as it’s under tension. So we must relieve the tension on the leader. Because mending fly line is only half the job.
Mend with enough speed, force and enthusiasm to reposition the fly line and continue through the leader. You may not see the leader laying on the water, but good imagination combined with a lot of experience allows us to know right where the leader is. And as the leader lifts off the water, you will see it again.
Mend the leader too, or you’re just pissin’ in the wind.
Fly line companies these days brag about the floatation of their line coatings and finishes. That’s nice. Cleaner and newer lines certainly mend better. But a little grease does wonders. And that grease should also find its way onto the leader.
I don’t always grease dry fly leaders, because in clear flats, a floating leader can spook trout. (So can mending.) I tend to fish dry flies in moving water anyway, and if my tactic calls for mending, I grease some of the fly line, the whole leader, and all the tippet up to about ten inches before the fly. When nymphing under a suspender, I grease everything up to that indy.
Favorite Grease:Silicon Mucilin
andLoon Payette Paste
Mend Soon | Mend More
If you wait for half the drift before realizing that it’s time to mend, it’s too late. The water is a greedy bastard. It pulls fly line and leader into the surface as soon as it hits. And that friction becomes harder to release, the longer our line is on the water.
Even a greased line is tough to pick up and mend effectively after a few seconds of suction to the surface.
So, mend as soon as the cast finishes. Even if the mend isn’t yet needed, mend anyway. Think of it as a setup mend. Then mend again, and again, and again, throughout the drift. I’d rather perform a series of short mends instead of one big mend that starts halfway through the drift (usually). When fishing mixed currents, I throw small mends almost constantly through the drift. Done artfully, you can practically dance and hover the leader over the water, leaving just some tippet on the surface. This is certainly the best way to fish pocket water with a standard line and leader.
I believe it’s easier to learn fly casting than to learn mending. But each skill requires repetition and refinement to be effective in challenging situations.
Remember to start with slack. Then keep your mends small and crisp. Mend like you mean it, and be willing to make mistakes. Have fun out there.
Fish hard, friends.
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Enjoy the day.
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