Articles in the Category Tips

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.

Eggs and Olives

The early spring season is very much defined by the resurgence of the egg pattern. And by the time the suckers are done doing their thing, our hatch season is in full swing. Then, just like that, the egg bite turns off. Suddenly the trout favor mayfly and caddis imitations over the full-color egg options.

But as reliable as the egg bite can be in early spring, you don’t want to sleep on the Olives . . .

Tight Line Nymphing — Contact Can Be Felt at the Rod Tip

. . . But Smith had also drawn out of me one thing that I’d never fully put into words before explaining it to him. Namely, that contact is felt as much as it’s seen. While tight line nymphing, I’d told Smith, an advanced angler can feel contact with the nymph on the rod tip. Essentially, you could very well fish with your eyes closed. And because Smith was skeptical, I’d suggested some after-dark tight line nymphing as a way to prove to my friend that he could feel that contact just as well as anyone . . .

Tight Line Nymphing — How Much of this is Feel?

Smith was still puzzled, and I suspected I was about to join him. He held up his rod, with the long Mono Rig leader, two nymphs and a sighter, and pointed to it.

“But if strike detection is mostly visual, what part of this is feel?”

Smith had asked a question that I’d never fully considered. Then I answered. “At the rod tip you can feel when you’re in contact with the flies . . .”

Eggs and Olives

Eggs and Olives

The early spring season is very much defined by the resurgence of the egg pattern. And by the time the suckers are done doing their thing, our hatch season is in full swing. Then, just like that, the egg bite turns off. Suddenly the trout favor mayfly and caddis imitations over the full-color egg options.

But as reliable as the egg bite can be in early spring, you don’t want to sleep on the Olives . . .

Tight Line Nymphing — Contact Can Be Felt at the Rod Tip

Tight Line Nymphing — Contact Can Be Felt at the Rod Tip

. . . But Smith had also drawn out of me one thing that I’d never fully put into words before explaining it to him. Namely, that contact is felt as much as it’s seen. While tight line nymphing, I’d told Smith, an advanced angler can feel contact with the nymph on the rod tip. Essentially, you could very well fish with your eyes closed. And because Smith was skeptical, I’d suggested some after-dark tight line nymphing as a way to prove to my friend that he could feel that contact just as well as anyone . . .

Tight Line Nymphing — How Much of this is Feel?

Tight Line Nymphing — How Much of this is Feel?

Smith was still puzzled, and I suspected I was about to join him. He held up his rod, with the long Mono Rig leader, two nymphs and a sighter, and pointed to it.

“But if strike detection is mostly visual, what part of this is feel?”

Smith had asked a question that I’d never fully considered. Then I answered. “At the rod tip you can feel when you’re in contact with the flies . . .”

Tight Line Nymphing — Strike Detection is Visual

Tight Line Nymphing — Strike Detection is Visual

Smith set up over my right shoulder and watched for a while, quietly examining my backhand drifts and spitting sunflower seed shells on the water. I landed two trout and missed another . . .

“Did you feel those strikes, or did you set the hook because the sighter twitched?” Smith asked . . .

“They rarely hit hard enough to feel it,” I told him. “And if you’re waiting for some some kind of tug or tap, you’re missing a lot of strikes.”

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 . . .

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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 . . .

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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 . . .

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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 . . .

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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 . . .

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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 . . .

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