07-09-2009, 09:31 AM
Re: Dry fly
First, it's good you were getting hits, even if you didn't hook them. At least you have them looking up and showing interest.
A couple things that might help-
Try and keep your casts short by getting into position by wading if you can-- the shorter the cast, the less line on the water, and the less problems you'll have with drag and slack line. This might be easier (and more important) in faster water sections where you can wade a bit closer to holding lies without spooking fish. In some streams you can catch a lot of fish within 20' feet, and holding the rod high with a minimum of fly line on the water to screw up the drift and less slack line on the water to move when you want to come tight and set the hook. The ability to cast long is a great skill and will come in handy under different conditions, but generally the longer the cast, the more you cross different current speeds making mending and natural presentations very difficult.
Mending is going to be key to get a good drift. After your cast, just flip the tip of the rod upstream-- you may be using too much force if you're moving the fly-- you just want to move the fly line- the mend shouldn't reach the fly. Many times what looks like a strike is actually a last second refusal because of drag on the fly.
While the fly is drifting, the fly line should either be held firmly either in your left hand, or pinched between the index finger of your rod hand and the cork. Generally i prefer holding the line in my off hand above the cork towards the first guide, so that when the fish hits you can "strip strike" by flicking the rod tip as well as pulling the fly line down towards the reel with a quick tug to remove slack line.
Keep the angle of the rod low enough and the slack line under control so that a 6" flick of the tip will move the fly. If you can do that and are still missing strikes, it could be that you are striking too soon. In Britain, when a fish hits the fly, the old traditional advice is to say "God save the Queen" before striking the fish. It's hard to resist striking right away, but the slight pause at least in theory, gives the fish time to take and turn, which gives you better angle for sinking the hook into something solid instead of pulling it out or away from the fishes mouth.
Hope some of this helps. I'm sure other folks will weight in with more tips.