Shotgunning - By Jason Borger
by Jason Borger
A shotgun is designed to fire a large number of pellets into a defined area at close ranges. Such a patterning dramatically increases the chances of hitting a target, if only with a single piece of shot. The same principle can be morphed in a fly-fishing technique. Instead of making a few long-range casts into a wide area, the angler makes a large number of precise casts into a predefined target zone at easily controlled distances. That’s the idea of the highly effective and time-proven tactic known as “Shotgunning.”
There are many ways to apply Shotgunning when working riffles, but all revolve around defined target areas and numerous, but short and accurate casts. Perhaps the simplest shotgunning method is to fish up-current, working back and forth in a zig-zag pattern up the length of a riffle. Begin by visually blocking out a 10-foot by 10-foot area that begins 10 feet in front of you (the target area). This will allow you to keep casts to a maximum of 20 feet. If the fish are spooky, you may need to back off another 10 feet or so.<o =""></o>
Once the target area has been determined, work it from front to back and edge to edge with casts. Don’t just make a couple of casts to a few locations and move on. Rather, saturate the area with 15 or 20 or more casts. If you see spots that look especially “fishy,” concentrate some additional casting there. Don’t neglect any areas, though. Sometimes the biggest fish are in locations that appear unlikely at first glance. When I was first taught Shotgunning as a child, I was amazed at the number of nice trout that came from water I would have once just waded through.
If nymphing, using a Tuck Cast and a small shot or two will get the fly down immediately and prevent wasted drift distance. And even though the casts are close and fast, an indicator can be of use when Shotgunning. An indicator that is brightly-colored and floats high will allow your eyes to quickly pick it up in choppier waters. You’re not trying to suspend a fly here, rather you’re using the indicator to help determine fly speed and location and to assist in determining otherwise unseen takes.
When Shotgunning, I often don’t bother with stripping line—a waste of time. All you need to do to take up slack is raise the rod tip, lifting excess line from the surface at the same rate as the current moves it toward you. A quick C-Pick-up will quickly lift the fly from the water. An added haul can also help to further energize the short length of line.
Once you’ve sufficiently worked one 10 by 10 foot block, move over 10 feet and start again. Once you’ve worked the breadth of the riffle, move upstream 10 feet and work back across.
Jason Borger is a professional fly-fishing educator and was the "Shadow Caster" in the film A River Runs Through It.
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