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Old 05-05-2013, 02:26 PM
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Default What is EDL - "Effective Drift Length"

There is concept that I teach that every nympher should know. That concept is "Effective Drift Length (EDL)."

We all unconsciously apply this concept when we dry fly fish. Because we can see where the rise is when dry fly fishing, we instinctively know that the fly must be in the right current seam, on (adult) or in (emerger) the surface film, AND drifting drag free. Only when all of those three things occur do we have a chance of catching the fish.

The identical principal applies when we are nymphing. The fly must not only be in the correct current seam laterally (1) but vertically (2) in depth as well, and the must be as drag free (3) as possible. Only when these three criteria of lateral and vertical location and drift speed are correct is the drift effective in catching fish. The fishing method that gives keeps the fly at the correct location at the correct drift speed for the longest length has the best "Effective Drift Length".

Lets apply EDL to examine strike indicators.

Indicators are a tool and not a crutch. Being a tool, you wouldn't use a screw driver when you need a pry bar. So using an indicator should only be used when it is the most effective nymphing method.

Indicators are good for slow even flows over an even bottom depth. Indicators are good for fishing at a greater distance over an area that would not be able to straight line nymph.

Indicators have several inherent problems. First they convert a tug on the line into a visual cue. So rather than feeling the strike, you see the strike and feeling is much better than seeing. You can react much faster to a feeling.

Secondly, there must be slack line between the rod tip and the indicator for the indicator to move free of the fly line drag. This slack delays the strike. Hence a reaction to an indicator will ALWAYS be slower than if you feel the strike.

Thirdly, surface water flows faster than the the water at the bottom of the river. The bottom is where the fish are holding so a tight line between the indicator and the fly will cause the indicator to DRAG the fly downstream. For the fly to move drag free, there has to be slack between the fly and the indicator. But if there is slack between the fly and the indicator, the indicator cannot move with the strike. Basically, drag is needed if the indicator is to reflect the strike.

Fourthly, indicator and the fly must land in the same current seam for there to be no lateral drag between the indicator and the fly. If they land in different current flows, the lateral drag pulls on the fly and the fish is less likely to hit the fly. With direct line nymphing there is less lateral drag because the leader has less drag that the indicator, even when it is in a different flow than the fly.

There is NO FREE LUNCH. Indicator fly fishers must live with some downstream drag if the the indicator is to immediately detect a strike.

That is why slow flows over an even bottom is the best situation for indicators. Slow flows minimize the flow differential laterally and vertically, and the even depth keeps the fly in the fish zone. Also slow flows make it easier for the fish to detect the fly fisher and indicators allow the fisherman to fish at a greater distance.

A fly takes time to sink to where the fish are. EDL tell us that if your fly is NOT where the fish are holding you will not catch many fish. You may think you are fishing but really you are just moving your fly through useless water. So if you cast an indicator and flies upstream, until the flies reach the fish, you are not "fishing". If the river depth varies, when the flies are drifting ABOVE the fish, you are not "fishing".

The EDL concept tells us that the method with the longest effective drift length for the water we are fishing should be used.

If you can direct line nymph without dragging the nymph out of the proper drift lane, it is most often the best method of nymphing. What I mean is that you can straight line nymph at the speed of the current seam that the nymph is in without lateral drag.

If you have ever worm fished on a river, it has a direct correlation to indicator vs straight line nymphing.

Set a bobber at a set distance, lob it out and wait for it to dip as it drifts downstream. A fish will take it when the level of the worm happens to be at the level of the fish. The worm is being dragged downstream by the bobber.

Now fish the worm on a hook with a split shot to take the worm to the bottom. The worm stays next to the bottom even if the depth varies and the split shot bumps along the bottom with the worm drifting just above the bottom. Keep a tight line and you can feel the split shot bumping along the bottom and you will also feel the fish take the worm. You will feel the tap-tap of the take or a hesitation of the drift. This is exactly what happens with direct line nymphing.

Which method would work best in fast water and which method in slower water? Which method is best when the water depth is constant and which when the bottom is rocky and the depth varies? When there are riffles and the bobber "bobs" due to rough water, which method allows you to detect the strikes more easily?

The fact is that in fast water, many of the strikes that cause the bobber to stop or jump are due to the fish already being hooked by the downstream pull of the bobber hooking the fly/worm into the fish's mouth. Sometimes the first thing a fly fisher sees is a fish jumping out of the water or the bobber streaking upstream. These are known as "automatics" to those who understand what has actually happened. They are called "being a great fly fisher" to those who think their skill hooked the fish.

Only use indicators when the advantages of an indicator are greater than it's disadvantages.
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Old 05-05-2013, 02:53 PM
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Default Re: What is EDL - "Effective Drift Length"

nice explanation...

I tend to extend (maybe many of us do) my drifts with an indicator longer than I probably should. It's tempting to let that bobber go almost forever once it's in the lane and on cruise control...but the truth is I seldom hook up when the indicator gets too far out. (maybe that's like 40 feet downstream??) I'm working on making shorter, better drifts.

also...I like to keep the indicator upstream of my bugs if possible so it doesn't tend to drag them faster than the bottom current. If the indicator floats downstream slightly slower than the surface flow, I think that's ideal...

and the same when tight lining...I want to see the surface flows passing my offering just a little.

Does this all seem right?
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Old 05-05-2013, 04:36 PM
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Default Re: What is EDL - "Effective Drift Length"

Quote:
Originally Posted by mikel View Post
nice explanation...

I tend to extend (maybe many of us do) my drifts with an indicator longer than I probably should. It's tempting to let that bobber go almost forever once it's in the lane and on cruise control...but the truth is I seldom hook up when the indicator gets too far out. (maybe that's like 40 feet downstream??) I'm working on making shorter, better drifts.
When the indicator goes tight at the end of the drift, the fly gets lifted up by the indicator pulling tight to it. What is happening is a Leisering Lift. Occasionally this will induce a strike during a hatch especially when you are fishing a caddis pupa during a caddis hatch. The trick is to do it on purpose because you understand when to do it.

Quote:
Originally Posted by mikel View Post

also...I like to keep the indicator upstream of my bugs if possible so it doesn't tend to drag them faster than the bottom current. If the indicator floats downstream slightly slower than the surface flow, I think that's ideal...
I suspect that to reposition your indicator in front of the fly, you must do an upstream mend. This is why you see indicator fly fishers mending to prolong the drift.

When you reposition the indicator with a mend, you must lift the indicator off of the water and flip it upstream. You do this because the indicator is tight to the fly and pulling it down stream. This means the mend must also lift the fly out of its drift and then it must sink down, using up part of the slack that was created by the mend. PLus the slack creates a loss of contact between the fly and the indicator and delays strike detection. The angler always has a choice when indicator fishing - slack vs strike detection.

You must ask yourself how much extra EDL am I gaining by doing this and extending the drift downstream?

Most of us are moving upstream when we indicator nymph. If we are moving upstream, by extending the drift, are we not re-fishing the same run we fished through earlier? How many actual fish do we catch by re-fishing the same location by an extended drift vs not extending it and using that time to move and fish virgin water?

Einstein said. "Insanity is doing the same thing and expecting a different result." An extended drift over the same area we fished earlier is not quite the same thing but it is pretty close. Keep track of how often you catch fish during the extended drift vs the first few casts into new water. That is really the choice you are making when you extend a drift.

Personally, I rarely extend a drift unless there is a reason to do so. I may be hemmed in by other fly fishers and cannot move upriver at the pace I want. Or I caught several good fish in the run I just left or I missed a fish in the run I just left. Then on a few casts before move, I will extend a drift over that area to see if there are more fish there or if the fish I missed is rested enough to hit my fly again. I use the extended drift for a reason and not as a routine.
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