Fly Fishing On Moving Water | How To
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Fly Fishing On Moving Water | How To

January 28, 2020

(instrumental guitar music) – Whoa! (laughs) Beautiful! – Hi, and welcome to the
Orvis Guide to Fly Fishing. I’m your host, Tom Rosenbaur,
and in this episode we’re gonna begin to explore
the world of moving water. Current helps bring
your flies to the fish, but it also introduces some
special problems and challenges. It’s a dynamic and
fun environment, and I think you’ll
enjoy the show. (instrumental guitar music) – Now you got him. – Oh, wow! – Hee hee! – I know, you’re so tame
when you’ve been caught. – ‘Cause this is
the way we cast. – [Announcer] This show
has been brought to you by Orvis Rod and Tackle. Ontario: Yours to Discover. Ontario’s Algoma region:
Where Huron and Superior Meet. – Rivers and streams have a
special allure for fly fishers. They’re where many of our
favorite fly-rod fish live, but they’re also special because they are
beautiful and natural. They also represent some
unique challenges for anglers. Some basic understanding
of water dynamics and how fish live in
streams and rivers will help make you
a better fly fisher. When you move from still
water to moving water it does introduce
some complexities and you need to learn how
to manipulate your line so that your fly looks natural or looks the way
you want it to look. Current is both your friend
and your enemy in moving water. It brings your fly to the fish, but many times the
line and leader, once grabbed by the current, conspire to make your
fly look unnatural. In order to communicate
when we learn about fishing in a current first let’s get some basic
terminology in your vocabulary. Casting upstream means to
cast right into the current. You gather line as
it comes back to you. This gives your line
a natural drift, but it puts a fly line
on top of the fish which sometimes scares them. Quartering upstream is somewhere
between straight upstream and straight across the current. It’s a good compromise between
getting a natural drift and keeping your fly line
off to one side of the fish. Across-stream is when
you cast 90 degrees to the current flow, and this kind of presentation presents special challenges
as we’ll see later on. The fly begins to swing
or drag almost immediately after the line hits the water. Quartering downstream
is between across-stream and directly downstream. It’s often used to swing a fly over salmon,
steelhead, and trout and you can cover a lot
of water with this method. Downstream is just that,
directly downstream. It isn’t used much because
the fly doesn’t swing across the current and
the fly drags unnaturally as soon as it hits the water. So what I’m doing
here is starting here with a straight upstream cast. I am facing right
against the current, the current is
coming right at me. If you don’t strip fast enough, that slack builds up
under your rod tip and you lose control. Not only can’t you strike, but
you can actually develop drag as that belly develops
below your rod tip. So when you cast
straight upstream, you just gather the line
as it’s coming back to you just as fast as the current
is bringing it to you. That way that fly is moving
perfectly with the current just like a natural object. Now if you take this cast
and turn it 45 degrees that’s called
quartering upstream. You have an advantage here
in that it just puts the fly and a little bit of the
leader over the fish and it doesn’t put all your
fly line over the fish. So, this is quartering upstream. And there, usually,
you can also strip line to keep up with it but the
line will start to belly and then you may have to do
a little mend or something to keep the line in place. Quartering upstream is a
great way to avoid drag which is an unnatural
movement of the fly and it can be used
with any kind of fly dry, nymphers, even a streamer. It’s probably the
most common way of fishing for trout in a stream and it works in
slow or fast water. Now watch what happens when I
cast directly across-stream. See what’s happening behind me when I cast directly
across-stream that line bellies
almost immediately, pulls the fly along with it,
and causes what we call drag. Sometimes you want it
when you’re fishing a steelhead fly or a salmon fly or a streamer or a wet fly but when you’re fishing
a dry fly or a nymph you don’t want any
drag at all on it. So, you have to do something
to avoid getting that drag, and there are a
couple ways to do it. One way to do it is
what’s called a mend. And people get really
confused about mending and I think it’s
because it’s so easy they think it has to be
more complicated than it is. But this is a mend. I make a cast and
with a stiff arm, I just flip my line upstream. That’s all you
do, that’s a mend. Mends can be used
to eliminate drag or to control the speed of a
fly swinging in the current. I really like the way my friend, Montana guide Molly
Seminek explains it. Tell me about how you
teach people how to mend. What do you tell
them when you just first get them out
here on the water? – When people ask
me about mending, the first thing I want
them to try to do is play around with their rod more, and make circles with the line, and lift it and get comfortable
with moving it around because we’re often too careful. And the way to mend is to
lift the line off the water and break that
line/water tension. Take your rod tip and
direct it anyway you want and just use the
tip and fling it. So, the step one
break the tension. Step two, direct the line
whichever way you want it to go and have fun with
it and play with it and use the rod and don’t
worry about making mistakes because first you have to
get the feel of mending. – When you cast at any angle
other than directly upstream or directly downstream you
get what’s called swing, where the fly swings
across currents instead of in the same
direction as the currents. Quartering downstream
is the traditional way to get a fly to swing. As the fly swings, you
wanna control its speed by choosing the currents
you cast across, by mending the line, or by changing the
angle at which you cast in relation to the current. In trout fishing you can swing
a wet fly, nymph, or streamer in any kind of water from fast riffles to slow pools. Typically, you follow
the fly with the rod tip as the fly swings
through the pool. This imitates an emerging insect or perhaps a tiny minnow
swimming across the current. Fish often take just as
the fly completes its swing and begins to
straighten below you. At the end of the swing, you can also strip
the fly in a few feet which may also induce a strike. In Atlantic salmon
and steelhead fishing the traditional way
to fish for them is quartering downstream, and strikes almost always come
toward the end of the swing. It’s important to
vary your swing speed with casting angles and
mends for all species. Too slow and the fish
lose their interest. Too fast and they seem
reluctant to chase the fly. Catching a nice
trout, steelhead, or
salmon on a swing fly is one of the greatest
pleasures in fly fishing. Downstream is when you
cast in the same direction the current is moving and the
line goes tight immediately. You don’t use a direct
downstream cast very often, but when you do
it’s often important to throw some slack
into your presentation and even reach as the fly
drifts down in the current. So there are many ways
to manipulate your line in the current to get a
fish to take your fly. Sometimes you need
a full combination of the right casting angle plus multiple mends
in the same drift. No matter what kind
of fly fishing you do always experiment with
different presentations before changing flies. What kind of presentation
will the fish prefer today? Well, that’s something
only trial and error, experience, or the advice of
a good guide can tell you. There are no magic bullets, but when you crack the code
it’s a wonderful feeling. Next, we’ll look
at some other ways to get a natural drift. (instrumental guitar music) (instrumental guitar music) Although we often use drag when fishing a swung
wet fly or a streamer most times you wanna avoid it, especially when fishing
dry flies and nymphs. Trout mainly eat helpless
insects drifting in the current, and only a few types
are strong swimmers, and drag is not always as
obvious to us 40 feet away as it is to a trout just
inches from a drifting fly. Drag can be quite subtle, but if you know you’re
fishing over trout, and you have the
right fly pattern ’cause you caught fish
on that fly earlier and you don’t get any strikes
then you should suspect drag. And just as often, when you
cast a dry fly to a trout and the trout splashes at
the fly but seems to miss it drag is probably the culprit. Trout are pretty good at
catching what they go after and that splashy
refusal is probably just a trout putting on the
brakes at the last minute and not really
opening its mouth. Mends don’t always
work that well, because they
sometimes move the fly and you don’t always
want a fly to move. Another way to reduce drag
is called a reach cast, which is really nothing
more than an aerial mend. (instrumental guitar music) Here we have a perfect setup
for what’s called a reach cast. We need a reach cast here. We’ve got fast water
between us and the fish, slower water over there. The minute the fly
line hits the water the fly’s gonna drag, it’s
gonna pull the fly downstream and the fish aren’t
gonna take it. So, what we’re gonna do
in here is a reach cast, to throw a loop
of line upstream. We’re gonna get the fine
points on the reach cast from Pete, our casting
instructor, a bit later on but for now I just
wanna show you how it’s one thing in your
bag of tricks to avoid drag. (instrumental guitar music) If you’re trying to cast
across conflicting currents like you have over there, it’s always better if you can to wade as close as you can
to get as close to the current that you’re fishing
into as you can. I could cast all the way across to that slower current
below that island but I’m gonna have
an awful time. My line’s gonna be
twirling all over the place and I’m never gonna be able
to keep control of my fly. Maybe you can’t cross the river. We have other things
in our bag of tricks. With a longer fly rod you
can keep your rod high and try to keep
most of the fly line off the conflicting currents. When casting across
currents like I did up here behind this rock it’s always a good idea
to keep that rod tip high because the current in
the center of the river would’ve dragged my fly right
out of there too quickly. If that doesn’t work, you’ve
still got other options. Every piece of water
is like a fingerprint with unique current lanes and sometimes you have to try a number of different
angles and presentations to get what we call a dead
drift or drag-free drift. And, believe it or not, we have still not exhausted
our bag of tricks. (instrumental guitar music) We’re working up the bank and
once we get past this point the current’s actually
coming around in a back eddy and going the other way. I’m gonna have to throw
a slack line cast. There’s two ways to do it. One is to stop the rod
high and just drop the rod, sort of a half parachute cast. The other way is
to throw an S cast by wiggling your rod tip
as the line comes forward. Another cast to try
is the parachute cast, also known as the pile cast, which I like to
use in tricky spots like the tail of a pool
where drag is always nasty. I’m gonna do what’s
called a parachute cast. A parachute cast, what you do, is you aim your
cast up into the sky and then you drop
your rod like this and what that does it throws a
bunch of slack into your line so that that slack
has to pay out before the fly starts to drag. So, here’s how you do it. I’m false casting
off to the side. The fish are over there, and now I’ll aim
high and drop my rod. That gives me some nice slack. You see how that slack
has to straighten out? And that’s gonna give
me a drag-free drift. So, aim high and then drop. Your leader can also be
modified to reduce drag. Instead of using the typical
two feet of tippet material tie on a new tippet that
is four to six feet long. The tippet will
land in loose coils which will also
help you avoid drag. You can use all of these
tricks to avoid drag no matter what kind
of fly you’re using, streamer, dry, or nymph. Mends aren’t usually as
effective with a dry fly, because they almost
always move the fly but they can be effective
with nymphs in faster water or with a streamer to
slow down its swing. (instrumental guitar music) Now let’s get some solid tips on making slack line casts
from a fly casting expert Pete Kutzer of the Orvis
Fly Fishing schools. – So when we’re casting,
we have to get that dry fly to drift as naturally
as possible. And that’s a dead
drift presentation, or a natural presentation, and there’s a series of
different casts we can do, and these are called
slack line casts. They all have a lot
of different names, but don’t get confused by it. It’s just a variation of the basic pick up
and lay down cast. The first cast
I’m gonna show you is a cast that some
people call the pile cast, some people call
a parachute cast, but it’s a great cast
when you’re trying to make a downstream
presentation. You want that fly to
drift nice and naturally down to those fish below you. To do this parachute
cast, or pile cast, it’s basically just a
pick up and lay down cast with a high forward trajectory. You’re then gonna pull
that rod tip down, which is gonna cause that line to come back a little
bit and pile up. That’s gonna help you get that
nice, natural presentation as that fly drifts
down the water. So, we send it up, pull it down, and that gives you a nice
downstream presentation. Now that fly will drift down nice and naturally
to those fish. (instrumental guitar music) When you have to present
your fly across the river, we have to put controlled
slack in the line either by mending or by a
cast called a reach cast. A reach cast is an
aerial mend, if you will. We’re bringing
that rod to a stop, then sweeping it
upstream or downstream to get that desired
controlled slack in our line. We want that fly to drift
down as naturally as possible. When we do this reach cast, we have to allow a
little bit of line to slide through our hands
or slip a little line so we keep our fly on target
and it’s very accurate. It’s basically just a
pick up and lay down cast with a little reach
after that stop. We’re gonna take that
rod, pick it up, and stop then reach in a direction. That’s gonna put an
aerial mend in our cast and get that fly on
target to those fish. – So now you have some
ways of avoiding drag when fishing in
rivers and streams. Next we’ll talk
about staying safe and getting the fish to
the net in moving water. (instrumental guitar music) (instrumental guitar music) A lot of newcomers
to fly fishing have problems setting the hook. There are many times
when trout refuse a fly because they change their
minds at the last minute which is called a refusal and looks like you
missed a strike. There’s nothing you can
do in a case like that but try again. You wanna reach a happy medium
when you strike a trout. You wanna be quick. Trout won’t keep the fly
in their mouth very long. You don’t wanna jerk the
rod way over your head, you don’t wanna
lift up like this. Only enough to tighten the line. So, think of a strike to a trout as just picking up
to make another cast. It’s really just enough
to make that fly move so about that much. When you set the hook, don’t
forget to pinch the line against the rod
with your fingers to keep the line tight. Make sure that you don’t have
a lot of slack in your line, otherwise you’ll never be able to move the rod quick
enough to set the hook. A trout can spit out
a fly pretty quickly. When you do it just right, there’s nothing like that
feeling of a fish on the hook. (instrumental guitar music) Playing a fish in moving water introduces some
special challenges. When it’s a small fish,
you can just strip in line as if you were retrieving line. But when you get a frisky
fish in fast water, that’s another story. It’s always best to get
downstream of a fish so that it has to fight
against the current. Also, the hook will
often pull out of a fish when a fight’s directly
downstream of you. If you hook a big
fish in fast water the best thing to do if you can is to move to shore
or shallow water where you can move quickly
to get downstream of the fish and then put pressure on it so that the fish darts upstream. A fish will always move
in the opposite direction from which pressure is applied, but you can also
turn a fish’s head to steer it where
you want it to go because a fish can only swim in the direction its
head is pointing. Once you get a
fish close to you, use this idea to lead the fish to exactly where
you want it to go. To net a fish, lead it
over the top of the net and then lift the net
from under the fish. Never swipe at a
fish with a net. That will usually make it bolt, and you can break a fine tippet by swiping at a fish with a net. (instrumental guitar music) Dealing with current also
means watching where you wade. Never move your weight
from one foot to another until one foot has
a firm placement. The best place to
cross a large river is usually at the tail of a pool or at the head of a wide riffle where the water is
usually the most shallow. One important tip
for wading safety is when you’re crossing a
wide piece of river like this you’re not sure of the
bottom or the current. Always angle yourself
upstream when you’re crossing. If for some reason
you get to a point where you can’t go any farther you can always
retrace your steps. If you angle downstream, you
might get pushed into a hole and get yourself
into big trouble. When crossing a
difficult piece of water make sure you stop and rest
briefly if you get tired. Wading is hard work
and I should’ve had
a wading staff here. When turning around
in deep, fast water always pivot in an upstream
direction against the current because rotating while
facing downstream can push you into a deep hole. When you’re wading tricky water it’s always a good idea
to have a wading staff. If you don’t have a
regular wading staff or you forgot yours you can
cut a stout piece of wood or grab a stout piece
of wood from the bank or use a long-handled net. And what you wanna
do is shuffle along, keeping the wading
staff downstream of you so you can lean against
the wading staff. So you put it
downstream, park it, and then you use that
to support yourself. Always wear a wader
belt in fast water. It’ll keep water from
getting into your waders which will prevent your waders from becoming a sea anchor
pushing you downstream and will add buoyancy
because of the air trapped inside your waders. – Whoa! It’s alright. I just
went for a swim. (laughter) – And don’t forget to
wear the correct footwear. Felt soles, where they’re legal, are very secure
on slippery rocks. But they stay wet
for a long time and harbor invasive species. You can get more information
on invasive species on the Orvis website. Rubber soles are great for
muddy banks and bottoms and for hiking long distances. And by adding carbide
studs to the bottom of them rubber soles can be
made as secure as felt even on slippery rocks. Be as careful in shallow water as you are in deep water. A spill in deep water will
often just get you wet. A spill on stream side rocks,
which are often very slippery, can break a bone. Never step where you
can’t see bottom, and if you’re fishing in
the evening into the dark always know the
water really well. (instrumental guitar music) (instrumental guitar music) You know moving water
always adds some excitement to fly fishing and there’s just
something about the feel of moving water around your feet that makes you glad
to be out here. In the next couple of episodes we’re gonna talk about dry
fly fishing and nymph fishing, places where it’s important
to use the current, but it’s really
important to avoid drag. To learn more about moving
water and fly fishing, go to – [Announcer] This show
has been brought to you by Orvis Rod and Tackle. Ontario: Yours to discover. Ontario’s Algoma region:
Where Huron and Superior Meet. (instrumental guitar music)

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