More About Knowing What The Fly Is Doing;

Ard

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I received a PM from a fellow who had ask a question regarding benefits of longer lines vs. Skagit heads and I wrote a rather long reply. After reading it I thought it worth repeating in a thread. This may be old news to some of you but if not it may be quite helpful.

The message sent was to tell me he had decided not to invest in a longer rod and line. He is currently fishing an 11'6" I think and he ask me about this on Spey Pages not here.

This was what I sent back,

I agree that many times fish are found closer to shore than in the center of a river. However just because a fellow has a 37' or 45' belly line rather than a 22' Skagit he does not have to be throwing 70 foot casts. When you have the proper line for a given rod it will work very well at ranges of 30 - 40 foot. My preference for longer heads is rooted in the fact that they provide floating line that can be easily controlled at many different distances.

We all have learned to fish in different ways. I am the type who likes to think I can influence the outcome of some situations by steering my flies around by controlling my lines more. By this I mean slowing the fly with upstream mends - speeding it up and changing directions by following with a downstream loop mended in. The best way I can hope to explain how you can see what you are able to do with a fly once it's in the water is as follows.

Choose a bright fly that you can see really well in the water. Find a spot where you are alone and can pick a good moderate current to make some short swings in. Now just make simple roll or overhead casts to put that fly out there about 30 feet away and straight across from you in the current.

When it lands allow it to begin to sink and drift down current. Now, make a mend but maintain eye contact with your fly. Watch what it does in reaction to your mend. It will twitch into a tight buttonhook turn and rise toward the surface. If you are wanting to fish a fly at a depth so that you may be showing it to fish that are deeper in the water then this hook and rise thing caused by the mend is counterproductive to getting it down.

Next make another cast to the same spot and before that fly hits the water or at the very instant it hits; make that upstream mend in the line. A quick flip of the wrist is all it takes to get a nice sized loop upstream. Watch that fly. Nothing really happens if the mend was done right. The fly will begin to sink into a dead drift because the mend was made before the drift ever started. Now that you have slack in the line and the fly is sinking you can make additional 'small' mends to further your cause of sinking that fly. Again, as you stack additional mends into the cast watch that fly for movement. If all is done correctly it should be continuing its downstream course without reacting to your additional mends.

OK, once you have used up a couple minutes to confirm that what I say will happen really does it's time to learn more about what you can make the fly do while it's on a drift & swing.

Make another cast with an instant mend just as the fly is about to strike the surface. this time once the dead drift starts make a pretty good sized downstream loop (mend) in your floating line. Follow this mend with a gentle twitch of the rod tip in a downstream direction. Watch that fly; it should speed up and come across the stream towards your position. Now an upstream mend is made with another gentle twitch, this time upstream to match the mend. The fly will change direction again.

Essentially that sunken fly will respond to whatever the tip of the floating fly line does. The reaction of the fly to the line is not instant if there is some slack in the line but the reaction will come. The more you do this while watching how the fly reacts to your manipulations of the line the more you will come to understand that you can actual have a great deal of control over a drift & swing.

You can influence the depth, the speed and direction of the fly. Choosing a bright fly and good spot for this simple exercise can pay long term dividends for you in the fishing days and years ahead. The things you observe at close range while purposely trying to have more and better control over what your fly is doing will always occur when you do these things to the floating line. What you see at 30 feet will work the same way at 70 feet albeit with a bit more delay between your line manipulations and the flys responding to them. Because of this lag time you must be constantly reading the currents as they can be seen on the surface downstream of where you know the fly to be. By anticipating changes in currents and spotting what may be possible holding water you can help to send that fly right through the best slices of the channel. Of course as you lengthen the casts you must be conscious not to be swinging too long. By this I mean to not be crossing with the fly behind the fish. If this is happening your possible fish will be seeing leaders or sink tips and not the fly.

So, what I'm saying is that if you are not currently aware of what your fly is doing after it hits the water out there you may benefit by spending a few minutes of your time doing what I have described above. I haven't met many fellows who have ever done this and when I get them to slow down & take a few minutes to see what I am saying in this writing they are enlightened at the very least.

Not everyone is a control freak, I know this. It is however very rewarding when you get a really good strike immediately after you have repositioned your line in an effort to send the fly cross current right on a good looking current seam. For these type control fishing situations a longer floating line is precious. The line doesn't have to be a 70 foot long belly, on shorter rods I find the old Beulah Elixir lines perfect at 37'. I use the full lines that have integrated vinyl running line behind the head. This coated runner allows for some measure of control even with 10 or 20 feet of it out the tip. On longer rods one of Steve Godshall's Super Scandi lines is really sweat. They have a 45 foot head so when you add a 13' leader and rod reach you can be fishing 60 feet with full floating line.

Not trying to convert you, this is what I do. others have what is working for them however if you ever begin to question your results you may want to try the exercise I describe and go with slightly longer heads on your rods.

Ard


If nothing else you gotta hand it to me, I don't mess around when I answer a PM huh :D

---------- Post added at 08:41 PM ---------- Previous post was at 06:44 PM ----------

Since no one has posted on the thread I'll make a few more comments. You could read that original post as well as many other things I've written here on the forum and get the idea that I care only about fishing while using wet flies and streamers. You would be correct, this isn't to say that I never have enjoyed or became good at using dry flies or nymphs, I certainly did but I found the wet fly or streamer the most challenging way to fly fish. I would hope that many of the members here on the forum do this (fly fishing) as a way to make fishing more challenging and it is my hope that some will be lured into fishing sub surface flies in the ways I have described in many posts here.

If you spend a little time looking for Sticky threads in various forums and also page back through the blog I've made here on my profile page you can find more of these entries :)

If you have questions about the use of streamers feel free to ask them and I'll give my slant on things.

Ard
 

busbus

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Ard,

I love the way you explain things. I have read so many things in books and magazines and on the Internet that make me scratch my head. But you describe things in a very down-to-earth, understandable manner.

Actually, I think it is because you take the time to explain things that you should do while practicing. Your advice about taking time out to experiment when the fishing is slow has helped me more than just about anything. The only thing that trumps it may be when an old fellow took me out a couple times and taught me how to cast.

Now, I regularly take time out to try this or try that when I get a chance to fish. I like seeing how a fly reacts to me doing this or that. I must admit, I am not terribly coordinated and I am woeful at most things fly fishing--and other skills!

Heck, I even failed at "finger painting" in Kindergarten because I was all thumbs.

But I have found myself getting lost just watching how my fly is reacting when I am practicing. Sometimes, I catch myself just mesmerized by this instead of really fishing. Sort of like when a cat is playing with you and, all of a sudden, it decides it's time to clean some spot of their body--and usually one that you don't really want to watch them clean.

I am printing this post out and reading it 39 times. Then I am bringing it with me the next time I go out so I can try it on the water.

Thanks a lot for all of the great advice you (freely) give to us on this forum!



ray
 

mcnerney

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But I have found myself getting lost just watching how my fly is reacting when I am practicing. Sometimes, I catch myself just mesmerized by this instead of really fishing.
Ray: I know exactly what you are talking about, sometimes I do the same thing.

Ard: Great info above, hope you don't mind, but I made it a sticky due to how useful that information is.
 

Bigfly

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Self teaching vs. accidental learning is what Ard's talking about.
Get active about doing clinics for yourself....make them up...
Do things in miniature, or up close to see what is going on "over there".
Sure, ask questions of others to see what they think.....read all the tips on the forum....
But then go test it yourself!
Every time I suggest something, I encourage folks to test it (I already have).
Many times people have told me with authority how to do something and if I didn't test it, I often found later, they didn't know what the hell the were saying......
I agree with Ard, that the hardest style to master is the streamer swing.
I'm still learning....after 45 yrs of it....it just gets deeper.....
Dry flying can teach a good drift in one dimension, nymphing teaches depth control, and streamer fishing puts both together...
It's taken me much longer to master this style than the other two styles put together.
I can tell Ard's done these clinics because he teaches in a self discovery style.
He may have gotten a few tips here and there....but I'll bet serious money ($10.00) he did the homework himself.
The last thing I want anymore, is an accidental fish.......because a planned fish is much more satisfying.....anybody can catch a fish on accident....I've heard it said, "if all you catch is one fish...it was an accident"......
Call me a control freak too Ard..............
Keep up the great posts!

Jim
 
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Ard

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But I have found myself getting lost just watching how my fly is reacting when I am practicing.
I think that what you describe is perfectly normal Ray, if everyone took time to do this they may have a better understanding of what's happening out there where they can't see. For me the entire exercise builds confidence even when I am having poor results. It keeps me focused on what it is that I am trying to do and eliminates those surprise grabs from fish I never anticipated. In other words while I'm fishing I constantly anticipate a fish grabbing my fly because I am paying attention and in control.

Ray: I know exactly what you are talking about, sometimes I do the same thing.

Ard: Great info above, hope you don't mind, but I made it a sticky due to how useful that information is.
Thanks Larry, like I said it may be helpful to some. What prompted this post was watching that video you posted about the 'Colorado Fisherman Accused Of Scamming'. I looked at that guy doing that flip thing right in front of himself using all mono line and some weighted thing on an indicator and it looked so strange. I thought to myself that this is how far we have moved from what I have always thought of as fly fishing. Here in Alaska when the sockeye run we have what is called 'The Kenai Flip' Basically it is done in the same way that that guy was trout fishing.

I do the Kenai Flip when I make meat runs down to the river when the limit on reds has been raised to six fish per day per angler. I don't consider it fly fishing by any stretch of the imagination. It is how you fish for numbers and meat when the salmon are in by the million. Seeing a guy using the same technique in relationship with what is considered A Fly Fishing Competition was sobering. I couldn't help what I was thinking when I saw that video. It went something like this, "That guy wouldn't make a pimple on a real fly fisherman's butt, I don't care how many trout he catches".

Sorry for revealing such candid thoughts but if people are out there really pounding the water like that trying to catch fish for bragging rights then they have a lot of maturing to go through before they could be considered fly fishers. Sometimes I feel that I am a voice calling out in the dark deep in a void where no one will hear me but I continue to call out. This sport isn't just about what is caught. It is about leaving all our materialistic behaviors behind when we step into the water. That means that regardless of what you paid for your tackle, your ride or the trip you are on your fishing has nothing to do with material results. For me it's about having my mind go blank of all the normal though processes and immersing myself into a practice that has a long and very colorful history. The beauty of the fly - the beauty of the river or creek and the chance that maybe I can fool a fish into grabbing my very unrealistic looking lure. I'm just not ready for the place I see fly fishing headed I guess.
 

Unknownflyman

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A good read thanks, like your other thread, I will digest and think about it and post more later when I have time.

As far as your last post, I'm with yeh, ran into a bunch of guys in the fall that fish switch and two that fish Spey.

One says I caught and released a 29" an hour ago at the blank blank hole Spey fishing. I said that's great man were you swinging streamers? He says yeah. What fly? What color?

Long pause........I said, ok what color anyway..........pause.... He says I was swinging spawn on an indicator.

Switch and Spey seems to be the new method now of bait fishermen. They think they are Spey casting and fly fishing. Um no sorry.

More than a few came up and say I fly fish a switch rod too and to ask me what I was fishing, I says sculpins, bunny leech, intruders. Those don't work I hear. Ok whatever dude. What do you use I say? Spawn.

Kinda sad really, seeing that. Switch rods in particular seem to be the method of choice for spawn baggers.

Oh well.
 

Ard

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He may have gotten a few tips here and there....but I'll bet serious money ($10.00) he did the homework himself.
Honestly Jim, I have never heard anyone advise what I have written about studying / watching a streamer in order to understand what's really happening when you are fishing. If I did read it tomorrow I would question the writers source. I've been in love with pretty flies for a long time and one day while swinging one of these...........................................



I kid you not; had to be somewhere around 1985 on Pennsylvania's legendary Spring Creek I was fishing a Gray Ghost tied so well that it was almost an insult to not have a fish on every cast but I had caught nothing with that perfect specimen.

The flow was late spring low and water clear for a spring but still I thought that classic feather wing streamers were like that movie line; If you build it they will come. In this case I believed that if you tie it you were certainly worthy of catching fish; wrong. Admittedly the fly looked good in the water and I was looking at it, sort of pulling it upstream and studying whether or not I thought it looked like a small fish. I thought it did but it began to dawn on me that it didn't act much like a small fish. How many of those just go streaking down and then across a creek every day? I had never seen one and my curiosity took over. I started twitching the rod and trying to make the fly shimmy around so that it at least looked alive. I already knew there were no Smelt in Spring Creek and that was what the original pattern was to imitate but I thought at least maybe I could make it seem a little more believable.

Now that Gray Ghost was easy to see in the given conditions and so I started playing with it using all the mending and such I had read were the key to successful streamer fishing. In that regard you could say I had read some tips but none of the authors pointed out that it may be of great benefit to actually observe the fly in its response to what you do.

As the years went by I developed flies that possessed more lifelike coloration and a good profile for use in spring creeks all around Pennsylvania and wherever there were wild brown trout. I got better at making fish believe the fly was something that would be fun to eat and as a result my confidence grew. By the time that the last century ended I was convinced that I could catch fish anywhere on streamers and if I came up blanked on any given day, well that's the way it goes and was no reflection on the flies or my abilities :D
 

Bigfly

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Ard, sometime we will fish, and compare notes....
It was difficult for me to fish like others said to fish.
So many ways .......and they all said they were right...
So, I figured, do the tests and find out.....
I encourage all fishers to do the same.....
Keep teaching us Ard......

My 1st teacher arrived with me at water one day, dumped his new flies on the ground and pushed them around with his toe....and then placed them in his box.
I learned that day, that pretty don't catch fish, well fished does......


Jim
 
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james w 3 3

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Ard, sometime we will fish, and compare notes....
It was difficult for me to fish like others said to fish.
So many ways .......and they all said they were right...
So, I figured, do the tests and find out.....
I encourage all fishers to do the same.....
Keep teaching us Ard......

My teacher arrived with me at water one day, dumped his new flies on the ground and pushed them around with his toe....and then placed them in his box.
I learned that day, that pretty don't catch fish, well fished does......


Jim
A very interesting thread!!

And this quoted post reminds me of the phone conversations I had with my friend Garry for many years while long-range tuna fishing. They always began with us talking about what we've "been working on". . . connections, leader materials, techniques, etc. Both of us were always testing, learning, thinking about how to get better. Of course I applied this to fly fishing when I transitioned to this.

While I'm fishing I always looking in the water, at the water, at my fly, thinking about what I'm seeing and why. And then later at home or camp thinking, how can I fish that situation more effectively? It has served me well. ;)

IMHO this thread is the sort of thing I find far more valuable than reading the latest gear review/promotion/shootout stuff.
 

Ard

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Thanks JP,

I'm about ready to leave for the cabin and hope to finish the interior this winter. Somehow I have connected finishing the cabin to finishing all the writing and editing needed. I would love to be able to stay out there and do the remaining work, it is hard to focus when all the other things in life are there to distract me. I guess I'm not driven enough huh? To write a story like this isn't about marketing myself or a business, it's a matter of desire to tell a story that may be somehow helpful to others. I want it to be interesting yet contain things I've learned by spending my time outdoors and fishing too. There is so much already written but always something I find needs added............. I also need to return to Pennsylvania for more photography to accompany some things. Sometimes a picture can be worth a thousand words or so I've heard.

I think that it will be better late than never my friend :)
 
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