Hey Vapor, I'm looking forward to learning from this thread as well. The two bass I caught today I caught on short strip-loooooooong pause (several seconds)-short strip, repeat. However, I also had a bass slash at the bugger and just miss as I pulled it out of the water as I just lifted the rod tip to cast again. So yeah, I've hardly mastered the retrieve element yet!
Perhaps some of the really experienced folks will have great wisdom here, but my answer would be, "it depends..." Knowing the answer comes through experience and experiment and changes depending on where and when your are fishing.
In some waters the fish might like a fast retrieve while in others a slow. It might change with the water temp, seasons, time of day, and other environmental factors. Sometimes the patterns you mentioned might be taken on a dead-drift, especially a leach drifting downstream in a river. I'd recommend playing around with different speeds as well as mixing up the speeds and mixing in pauses. See what works where you're fishing and the time of day you're fishing.
One of my favorite small mouth rivers, where I used to live, the bass loved black wooly buggers. I'd cast them towards the bank and keep a tight line to swing it below me. That way I could feel them smash it. Other rivers, they'd want it stripped across the current or dead drifted, or whatever. On still water, I found it can be good to give long pauses between strips when fishing poppers, but sometimes bass want it stripped more quickly.
Wow what a question ! To answer properly would require pages of info but I'll throw a few things out.
Poppers are easy. Basically there's only 3 retrieves.
The most effective is to cast out and do nothing The longer you can stand to let it sit there the better. After a while give it a pop and let it sit there again
After you're too restless, try moving it along at a slow pace. Pop strip, pop strip.
The third and least effective retrieve is to strip frantically as if the popper was trying to escape
Leaches are fairly simple too . They propel themselves by undulating through the water. To best mimic this use the figure 8 retrieve.
There's a good explanation of it on another forum, but you'll have to google that for yourself.
It goes something like this.
One of my favorite ways to fish a 'bugger is to place yourself above a likely holding area and stick your rod tip to the bottom and just let out line a little at a time, letting the current do the work. You can do this with any streamer, but with a bugger it seems to work especially well.
Streamers and 'buggers... there's so many ways. You just have to picture what bait fish do. Be they shiners, sculpins, shad, what ever. Feeding, schooling, hiding, fleeing....
One of the most effective ways to fish a streamer is to cast up and across, above a suspected lie, let the fly sink and then make a hard downstream mend, causing the line to quickly move with the fast current and the fly to zip down through the holding area like a minnow trying to escape.
Mending rather than stripping should be your basic tactic to control speed.
The down stream "greased line mend" is effective fishing pockets or ledges when you want to call attention to the fly and an upstream mend does the same when you need to keep the fly in the target area longer.
I agree with what has already been posted, attempting to mimic the real thing often works. Imitating natural movements, and those that might indicate an injured prey will both work at times. The simple answer is vary the retrieve until you find what they'll hit. That could range from very fast strips, to painstakingly slow, to no retrieve at all, just let it drift & hold, especially in current. All work sometimes.
The bass guys call this finding the pattern.
My most used retrieve for both surface & subsurface flies is a steady, short strip of 3 to 6 inches, pause, then repeat.
I'll usually make my cast, let the fly sit several seconds once it hits the water if on the surface, or will count down as it sinks if subsurface, then start the retrieve.
This works well on bass, and Striped Bass. This is like you might do with a jerkbait, or a frog on the surface. A slow retrieve that allows the lure to flutter down in the case of the jerkbait, or just slowly crawl or swim across the surface with the frog.
Although sometimes, I find that starting the retrieve as soon as it hits the water works very well. It's the reaction strike you get sometimes when the fly lands near your quarry.
My next most used retrieve is the same as above for the cast, then make longer, steady strips. I would say this might be similar to using a spinnerbait, or a crankbait, or even a casting spoon or swimming jig. This is an action that could just be that of a baitfish or other prey swimming along, or if faster, fleeing.
Different fish species favor different speeds too. For example, Pike, Muskies, Pickerel usually like a faster retrieve than bass. Bluefish often want a faster retrieve than Striper's. However, there are no set rules, so you just have to experiment to see what works at that time.
As has already been said, the more experience you gain, the easier it will be to find the right retrieve.
I don't want to throw a wrench into the gears, here.... But, you also need to be aware of the depth that you are presenting the fly at. If a fish is suspended at a dozen feet deep and you are making a great retrieve presentation at 2 feet deep, I'd suspect you will have a slow day....
Given the point in the season that this question is asked, I would suspect that many opportunities have been lost due to depth more than 'retrieve' or 'presentation'....
Excellent point Raindogt. Now for the next step..........any suggestions on determining depth of holding for those of us bank fishers, or river waders? I'm not a boat fisherman at this time, and have no fish finders.
I figure it's a matter of trial and error, but was hoping for something a bit more scientific, LOL.
The most scientific approach that I can think of is just be observant! Unless you're fishing a new location, somewhere that gives you no indication of where or how deep you need to fish, usually the type of water & it's surroundings can give you some clues. For example, in many small streams & some rivers, such things as bridges, rocks, downed tree's and even bends that may provide undercut bank's will give you some idea of where to cast a fly. You can often tell about how deep the water might be. In bigger rivers, or on lakes & reservoirs, it may be a bit more difficult to locate holding areas, particularly when confined to the bank. But, most bank fishing situations restrict you to fishing shallow water anyway.
In my area, in the tidal rivers & creeks that I fish most, there are places I tend to try first that I'm already familiar with, then I look for similar conditions in places I've not tried before. The depth is rarely an issue, because I know most such locations are not usually over 10 or 12 ft deep in the deepest areas. Simply by establishing a methodical approach to covering the water column, I can usually figure out where the fish are, and since there's little mid current obstructions that may break the current, I can be reasonably sure that the majority of the holding areas will be somewhere along the cuts in the bank. The banks are mostly marsh, with some brush & trees. There are ditches, and cuts washed out by the tidal action, so these are the places I will look. I also have the advantage of low tide, which gives me a peek of what's there when the water level is low. Sometimes it's surprising what you can see if you just pay attention!
However, you do need to be prepared for whatever conditions you may find. I usually carry both floating & sinking type lines and flies that will allow me to cover whatever depth I find. It's going to be a long day of casting practice (or a very short day of fishing) if the fish are holding near bottom in 15 or 20 ft, and all you have with you is topwater flies & a floating line!
Sure, unless you're already familiar with the water, then it's going to be a matter of trial & error regardless of the conditions, but hopefully you're learning something everytime you go!
Figuring out depth is a problem for wading fishermen and even more so for a person on shore. If you wade and can see the bottom you'll figure out what 5' looks like, beyond that it is often your best guess. When you want to get a fly deep without having a sinker on the fly you need to cast it close in a depth you are pretty sure of and count how long it takes to hit the bottom. You need to consider any movement you may impart on the fly when actually fishing and whatever current exists, both will affect the sinking fly. With a general understanding of the sink rate of your terminal tackle and being aware of the other factors that will either contribute to or slow down the sinking fly you can fish and have a feel for where the fly is at.
In short, it takes experience to gage depth. All the replies you are getting are going to be helpful for you and I especially like the moving figure eight retrieve that Rip Tide stuck on the thread.