** NOTE ** This is the third featured skill in the Troutbitten series, Nine Essential Skills for Tight Line and Euro Nymphing. You can find the overview, along with dedicated articles for each chapter and skill as they publish HERE.
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So you’ve waded into the perfect position to present the flies in one lane. You’re faced upstream and casting up two and over one rod length. So the flies have a chance to drift drag free, guided by your rod tip, because your angle and approach are excellent.
Next up is a good tuck cast, not just to get deeper quicker, but to have full control over the fly and the tippet placement. You’ve learned to cast tight loops with a contact rig (just like a fly line), and the dreaded lob is gone. Now you make the cast. And with a fly-first entry, you choose to allow a bit of controlled slack in the tippet. It’s a moderate tuck cast, allowing the fly to free fall through two feet of moving currents before it reaches the strike zone near the riverbed.
It’s a great tuck. And if you have the next step right, the fly will reach the bottom in no more than a second or two. But if you do the next thing wrong, the fly will drag. It’ll take twice as long to reach the strike zone, you’ll struggle for good contact with the flies, and when you do get it, the drift will be more than half over.
So the next step is critical. What is it?
Stick the landing on the sighter.
The Perfect Ten
In a previous article on tight line and euro nymphing with the Mono Rig, I detailed the tactic of sticking the landing. I’ll cover it again here and flesh out more details, but I strongly recommend reading the other article. Consider it as supporting material for this one, and do your homework.
(Remember, Troutbitten reads more like a book than a blog. And the best way to learn things around here is to follow the in-article links like this one.)
How do you stick the landing after the cast? Think of a tumbling gymnast, somersaulting and twisting on a balance beam, the uneven bars or a floor routine. At the end of all those acrobatics, she lands on two feet and does not move. The perfect landing results in no side steps and no leaning to regain balance or recover. The gymnast’s goal is to stick the landing — to end in the final position perfectly, rather than stepping or struggling to find it after the landing.
Your sighter is that gymnast. It turns over in the air, sending the tippet and fly to the target with precisely the entry and slack that you choose. And when the fly hits, the sighter lands above the water at exactly the angle it will need to gain contact, just seconds later.
At what angle and how far off the water should it be? Those are fair questions, and you already know what I’ll say next. It depends. But let’s try for forty-five degrees and a foot above the surface. If the water is two feet deep in medium current and you’re running five feet to your point fly, then forty-five degrees and a foot off the water is a good start.
Honestly, forty-five degrees is a great baseline for the sighter in most situations. Then, as you learn the currents and find the strike zone on the lane you’re working, you’ll refine that angle on successive casts and drifts.
So, learn to stick the landing at a forty-five.
Keep It Dry
I emphasized this in the other article too — it is imperative to keep the sighter off the water. There are surely times when we float the sighter, but this is not our standard approach. Learn to stick the landing. Keep the sighter dry. And then deviate from there.
Laying the sighter down just to pick it up a second later is a terrible habit that hurts the drift. Line on the water creates tension that drags the flies downstream as the line is picked up. So stick the landing, and that unnecessary tension and drag never happens.
Another bad habit connected to dropping the sighter is dipping the rod tip or reaching with the tip to finish the cast. It is very difficult to drop the rod parallel to the water but also stick the landing on the sighter. Instead, do not drop the rod tip lower than where it will be for the drift. Stop the rod tip higher and stick the landing on the sighter. Dropping the tip lays line on the water. Remember, any unnecessary line on the surface takes away our tight line advantage.
Slack and Tension
What we call tight line nymphing is something of a misnomer. Contact systems are not only about contact. The trick to all of this — the real magic of the magician — is knowing where your contact is, but deliberately drifting the nymphs without contact at certain points through the drift.
Good tight line and euro nymphing anglers learn to slip in and out of contact as the fly drifts downstream. But the best anglers learn to adjust the amount of slack — and therefore, time to contact — within the cast. That’s the art of a good tuck cast.
We tuck and then stick the landing on the sighter at an angle and depth where we expect to catch that contact. The moment after the cast finishes, we are likely out of touch with the flies. Good! That’s a deliberate decision. The flies can free fall into position for a second or two without tension from our rig. This slack, this lack of tension with our rod tip, is mere inches, not feet of slack. Even a deep tuck provides only a few inches of slack for the fly to fall. But those few inches make all the difference.
When the fly hits the water and the necessary tippet follows, we stick the landing on the sighter. In these brief moments of slack, the sighter may look limp, wavy or nervous — but just barely. We want it free from tension, but not by much and not for long.
Of course, the more slack we send into the tuck, the harder it is to control everything, to stick the landing and lead to the point of contact with the nymphs.
So let’s tackle one more facet of sticking the landing . . .
The Next Move
There are surely more than nine things to get right in a euro nymphing cast and drift, because each skill has multiple components.
After the tuck cast, the fly enters first and the sighter sticks the landing. Great. But now what?
If the rod remains static, the sighter will go limp, more vertical and never have a chance to gain real contact. Understand this: The river is pushing the nymph and the tippet downstream, creating slack, so our rod tip must either lift or lead to take the next steps — recoveribng slack and finding contact.
In the slowest water, the rod tip need not move much at first. But in the fastest water, we must begin leading, it seems, before the fly ever touches the water.
All of these variations are an effort to find contact on the sighter. Tuck the fly and stick the landing first, then recover slack and look for that contact. It’s coming next . . .
Fish hard, friends.
** Next up is the fourth skill for tight line and euro nymphing — Recovering Slack. **
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Enjoy the day
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