Articles in the Category Fly Fishing Strategies

That’s Not a Dead Drift

Fly fishers talk a lot about a dead drift. And why shouldn’t we? So much of our time is spent trying to replicate this elusive presentation that the concept of drifting flies without influence from the leader dictates a large part of what we do. It’s what we think about. We plan for it, rig for it and wade into position for it.

. . . If you just twitched or stripped your fly, it cannot dead drift next. Anything under tension drifts with some influence from the leader. And that’s not a dead drift.

Dry Fly Fishing — Back Door, Side Door, Front Door | When the first cast matters most: Part Two

When fishing dries, the cautious angler has many chances to fool a rising trout. Start behind the trout at the back door. Next move over and try the side door, beside the trout. Then try going right down the middle and through the front door.

Making consecutive casts with a dry fly produces often enough to believe that the next cast will seal the deal. But there’s a lot more to it . . .

When the First Cast Matters Most: Part One — Streamers

While fishing the long flies, accuracy is paramount. In a recent conversation with my friend, Bill Dell, he made an excellent point that changed the way I fished streamers again. Bill’s thoughts forced me to rethink the habits I’d fallen into. And that hammered me back into shape.

Bill told me he doesn’t make a cast until he’s in the ideal position, until he can deliver the streamer to that sunken log near the bank with exactly the angle he considers best. He refrains from any lead-up casts. Rather, Bill saves the initial cast for when he can deliver the knockout blow — no jabbing on the way in. Here’s why . . .

Fly Fishing Strategies: Tags and Trailers

Sometimes trout are feeding so aggressively that the particular intricacies of how nymphs are attached to the line seem like a trivial waste of time. Those are rare, memorable days with wet hands that never dry out between fish releases. More often than not, though, trout make us work to catch them. And those same particulars about where and how the flies are attached can make all the difference in delivering a convincing presentation to a lazy trout.

Two nymphs can double your chances of fooling a trout. But there are downsides. Here are some strategies for rigging and getting the most from two fly rigs.

Dry Fly Fishing — Back Door, Side Door, Front Door | When the first cast matters most: Part Two

Dry Fly Fishing — Back Door, Side Door, Front Door | When the first cast matters most: Part Two

When fishing dries, the cautious angler has many chances to fool a rising trout. Start behind the trout at the back door. Next move over and try the side door, beside the trout. Then try going right down the middle and through the front door.

Making consecutive casts with a dry fly produces often enough to believe that the next cast will seal the deal. But there’s a lot more to it . . .

When the First Cast Matters Most: Part One — Streamers

When the First Cast Matters Most: Part One — Streamers

While fishing the long flies, accuracy is paramount. In a recent conversation with my friend, Bill Dell, he made an excellent point that changed the way I fished streamers again. Bill’s thoughts forced me to rethink the habits I’d fallen into. And that hammered me back into shape.

Bill told me he doesn’t make a cast until he’s in the ideal position, until he can deliver the streamer to that sunken log near the bank with exactly the angle he considers best. He refrains from any lead-up casts. Rather, Bill saves the initial cast for when he can deliver the knockout blow — no jabbing on the way in. Here’s why . . .

Fly Fishing Strategies: Tags and Trailers

Fly Fishing Strategies: Tags and Trailers

Sometimes trout are feeding so aggressively that the particular intricacies of how nymphs are attached to the line seem like a trivial waste of time. Those are rare, memorable days with wet hands that never dry out between fish releases. More often than not, though, trout make us work to catch them. And those same particulars about where and how the flies are attached can make all the difference in delivering a convincing presentation to a lazy trout.

Two nymphs can double your chances of fooling a trout. But there are downsides. Here are some strategies for rigging and getting the most from two fly rigs.

The Sweet Ride

The Sweet Ride

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 . . .

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 . . .

Cover Water — Catch Trout

Cover Water — Catch Trout

John crossed the bridge with his head down. He watched each wading boot meet a railroad tie before picking up his other foot for the next step. Cautiously, he walked the odd and narrow gait required when walking the tracks. And with nothing but air between each massive railroad tie, he could see the river below.

I’ve never known anyone to fall on a railroad bridge. I suppose you couldn’t fall through. But you’d surely break a leg or twist an ankle with one wrong step on that slick wood.

So I stood by the “No Trespassing” sign, next to the edge of the bridge, and watched my friend slowly make his way toward me. He looked disappointed. And when gravel filled in the gaps between ties, when John was back on solid ground, his head stayed down.

“Did you catch a Namer?” I asked with feigned enthusiasm.

“Ha! Nope, I surely didn’t do that,” John said, waving his hand and brushing off my next question.”

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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 . . .

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Get a good drift, then move on

Get a good drift, then move on

Cover more water and catch more trout. It’s a common theme running through these Troutbitten pages and one that surely puts more fish in the net — if you’re committed to it. And while there’s certainly a danger of taking this concept of constant motion to counterproductive extremes, the core philosophy of showing your flies to more trout is hard to argue against.

There are a host of variables to consider, though. And walking upstream spraying casts in every direction is not the way to get things done.

Let’s talk about it . . .

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You don’t have to match the hatch

You don’t have to match the hatch

Long days on the water are best finished with some leisure time back at the truck. So as the guys trickled in, one by one after dusk, my waterlogged waders were already rolled up. I’d just broken the rod down and popped the top on a Troegs IPA when Smith walked through the fading light with his wading boots crunching over the gravel. I handed him a beer and asked the requisite questions: How many? And on what flies?

“Great day!” Smith said. “All nymphs and nothing up top. Mostly Beadhead Pheasant Tails. Fourteens and some sixteens. Silver beads were the best.”

“Nice,” I nodded. “For me it was stonefly nymphs. Copper bead. Took a couple on small trailers, but all the good fish ate the stones. Fun times!”

Smith agreed, and we clinked brown glass bottles. Then we leaned back on the tailgate and watched the darkening path, waiting for our friends to return from the water.

One by one they came back to the gravel lot, all of them pleasantly water-weary and uniquely satisfied. Each had caught lots of trout — that part of the story was the same. But the hot flies were all different. Trout had come to dries, streamers and a variety of nymphs. All of the Troutbitten crew had found success, but each had come to it in a different way.

“So much for matching the Sulfur hatch,” Smith chuckled . . .

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Fly Fishing Strategies: Sighters — Seven Separate Tools

Fly Fishing Strategies: Sighters — Seven Separate Tools

Sighters are game changers. A visible sighter allows you to stop guessing where your fly might be and know where it is instead. By having a visual reference at a fixed point on your leader, you can track the movements of that leader, in relation to the currents, and have a very good idea of what your flies are doing under the water — or on the surface.

Not only do I build a sighter into my nymph and streamer leaders, I also add small, subtle sighters into my dry fly leaders. As my friend, Jimmi Ray, says, “Why wouldn’t you?” Sighters, however, are a staple in tight line and euro nymphing leaders, and in the Mono Rig.

I absolutely believe in the effectiveness of long mono leaders for nearly every underwater presentation to river trout, but here’s one major drawback: without the fly line, there’s nothing to look at. A sighter gives that visual back, better than ever.

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Fly Fishing Strategies: Tippet Rings For Tag Droppers? No Thanks.

Fly Fishing Strategies: Tippet Rings For Tag Droppers? No Thanks.

Fishing dropper rigs should be easy. But judging from the amount of questions I field about knots, dropper types and tangles, fishing two or more flies causes a lot of angst out there.

Last week, I wrote about fishing tangle-free tandem rigs, and a popular question repeated itself in my inbox: “Tippet rings would be great for droppers, right?” My short is answer, no. My long answer is . . . usually not. Tippet rings for tags can work, but I don’t think it’s worth it.

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