Sunday, January 20, 2008

Fly Fishing Techniques

Below are a few fly fishing terms and techniques that may be helpful to some anglers.

Dry and Dropper

This technique is when a dry fly is tied to the end of a leader and an additional fly (i.e. nymph, emerger, or wetfly) is attached or ‘dropped’ below the dry fly with a length (6-30 inches) of tippet. The length of tippet material to the ‘dropper’ (second) fly will vary in different conditions. This set up allows you to search for fish feeding on the surface as well as ones feeding on suspended insects. You will find this method can be very effective when fishing just before, during, or after a hatch. Many point (first) flies are generally buoyant to help suspend a heavier fly below.

Nymphing with Indicator

Being the most common way to fish nymphs, this technique involves submerging your flies (nymphing) below a strike indicator ( yarn, palsa, Twist on…) which floats on along the surface. The indicator is placed above the point (first) fly at a length approximately 1½ to 2 times the depth of water. Example: If fishing in a run with the depth of 4ft. the indicator would be placed 6ft. to 8ft. above the point (first) fly. This allows you to detect any hesitation or ‘strike’ on fly patterns drifting naturally below the surface.

Two Nymph Rig (Double Nymph Rig)

This technique presents two fly patterns to fish feeding below the surface. Most setups you will use 12-18 inches of tippet to the point (first) fly, generally attractor pattern, and then drop a more realistic or natural imitation off the bend of the hook, approx. 12-18 inches behind. Flies are generally presented upstream and allowed to dead drift (drag-free) downstream towards feeding fish. Different amounts of weight (split-shot), depending on depth of fish and speed of current, are generally attached above the knot of the first tippet-to-leader connection. You will find this setup is very useful when trying to figure out correct patterns for selective feeding fish. Indicators are often used to detect strikes.

High-Stick Nymphing

For this technique involves you standing in close proximity to the run or hole that you are fishing. Normally you will use a single or double nymph rigs, and will have very little or limited casting in your presentation. Your flies are presented to the fish within rod and leader length with plenty of weight to get flies down fast in a short drift. After your flies are presented upstream you will follow with the rod tip being lifted above your head at the same speed as current and tension maintained at all times on the leader while still maintaining a dead (drag-free) drift. With this technique it is not uncommon to have little or no flyline on the water. Indicators are often used to detect strikes.

Nymphing without Indicator

This technique involves fishing patterns below the surface (nymphing) without any kind of floating indicator (i.e. palsa, yarn, twist on…). It instead relies on your ability to read the water and pay close attention to the subtleties of the current. You will detect strikes by observing a slight hesitation in the tip of the flyline and the butt of the leader. To make these both more noticeable apply floatant to the first 1-2 feet of your flyline. Pay close attention to the line and set the hook at the slightest twitch, pause, or movement in flyline.

Swing Technique: Nymphs and Wet flies

This technique is primarily used when fish are believed to be feeding downstream of your position. Flies are presented upstream with a dead (drag-free) drift to allow the patterns to sink. After the flies begin to pass you make a mend (generally downstream) to have the current ‘pull’ the patterns slightly faster than the dead drift. This slight increase of speed will slowly bring your flies up in the water column to give an ‘emerging’ or ‘escaping’ appearance. At the end of the drift, your flyline straightens and a slow raise of your rod tip will continue the emerging effect just below the surface. Strikes are generally aggressive and are ‘felt’ due to the reduction of slack line. Using this method before and during a hatch can be the most effective way for you to fish.

Streamer Fishing

Streamer patterns are mostly designed to imitate smaller baitfish and other swimming food organisms, therefore you will generally fish these flies with some movement to trigger strikes. You can cast these patterns upstream, across currents, or downstream with different retrieval rates to create a swimming motion. By adjusting the amount of weight and using different casting angles, the depth of your presentation can be changed. Making presentations around structures and cutbanks can be productive for large fish. Minor variations to the Swing Technique may also be used when you are fishing streamer patterns.

Skating Dry Flies

You will generally use this technique with large attractor patterns, caddis, stoneflies, and hoppers and can be extremely effective at times. Most often fished during heavy caddis hatches when you observe fish ‘slashing’ at the surface. Your flies can be presented upstream, across currents, or downstream with slight movements to create small ‘wakes’ on the surface which imitate the behavior of the natural insects. Submerged structure and riffles are excellent areas for this method during the right conditions. The strikes are very aggressive and often take little or no movement to set the hook.

Water-Load (Slide) Casting

At the end of the drift allow your fly line to drag in the water with the rod pointed downstream. This will load (bend) your rod with energy. A smooth flip upstream will 'shoot' your line, leader, and flies to start another drift. It is the equivalent of performing one sidearm false cast upstream. Try to keep the rod, line, and leader in a low-profile to minimize the effect of the wind. Mostly used to present flies in tight quarters where false casting is not an option or in situations of high winds.

Sight Fishing

The technique is named for when you observe a fish and continue to have it in ‘sight’ while making a presentation. The presentation can be on the surface (dry fly) or below (nymphing) with a natural (drag-free) drift. Some of the difficulties with this style of fishing is making the proper presentation (location and drift) while not ‘spooking’ the fish. If you are fishing below the surface you will generally not use an indicator to reduce distractions. In this situation it is very important to know the approximate location of your flies and observe the fish making a ‘feeding motion’ before you try to set the hook. Many anglers find it to be the most rewarding because of the stunning visuals and difficulties.

Written by Jin Choi


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