Beginner Guide

Dry-fly Fishing Basics – Fly Fisherman


It’s not at all times important to fix. Right here fly-casting legend Ed Jaworowski makes an ideal presentation with a straight-line forged. When casting upstream into water shifting towards you, merely strip within the extra line because it floats right down to you to facilitate the hook set. The fly will float drag-free. There’s no purpose to fix from this place. (Paul Weamer picture)


This text was initially titled “Dry Fly Methods” within the 2021 Fly Fishing Made Simple particular publication of Fly Fisherman journal.

The right dry-fly choice gained’t allow you to catch trout for those who don’t current that fly in a fashion by which a trout will obtain it. There’s an amazing fly-fishing debate about which is extra vital: fly sample choice or fly sample presentation. Some anglers carry tons of of dry flies, and so they consider that they’ll catch extra trout as a result of they at all times have the proper sample. Different anglers use far fewer flies—my good friend and Catskill fly-fishing legend Ed Van Put is known for less than fishing Adams Parachutes on the Higher Delaware’s Essential Stem. I are likely to consider that each colleges of thought are right, so I usually have numerous flies and attempt to current them in the very best method attainable.

Decreasing Drag in your Flies

Drag happens anytime your dry fly strikes unnaturally on the water’s floor. It’s typically the first purpose a fish gained’t eat your fly. I’ve heard different anglers clarify that drag is brought on by a fly floating by conflicting water currents that pull it in several instructions. However this isn’t precisely true. Drag happens solely as a result of your fly is floating by these currents whereas it’s tethered to a stationary object: you.

When you drop a dry fly out of your field and onto the water with out tying it to your rod, it is going to float rapidly by some currents, spiral over others, possibly even pause almost immobile in an eddy. It’s going to act identical to a dwelling insect, and the fish anticipate their meals to behave this fashion. If a possible meal doesn’t, they’ll typically rapidly deem it a forgery. Would you eat one thing out of your plate that’s shifting in an sudden method? Your fly will get pulled unnaturally solely after you lose slack within the system out of your rod to the fly. And that is the essence of drag. So to finest mimic nature, anglers should purposely resubmit slack into their system, and we do this by mending the road.

Generally you’ll see anglers forged to a fish after which stroll down a financial institution as their fly floats towards their goal. They’re making an attempt to increase their drift by shifting the tether. My good friend Charlie Meck used to name this “strolling the canine.” However more often than not, anglers should stay stationary as they stand within the water to forged. Creating downstream wakes as you progress within the water to stop drag isn’t very best. Different occasions, streamside obstructions impede you from strolling far sufficient alongside the shore on your fly to achieve the fish. That is why to attain drag-free drifts, underneath various situations, you could be capable to mend your chief and fly line to counteract drag from a stationary place.

Correctly Mending your Fly Line

Mending is the best way by which anglers manipulate their fly line to assist be certain that their dry flies float drag-free to the fish they’re concentrating on. There are two distinct mending classes—aerial mends and on-water mends. Normally, aerial mends, that are carried out whereas your fly line remains to be within the air, are an important for dry-fly fishing. When you wait to fix till the fly is already on the water, you’ll typically trigger the fly to sink whereas making an attempt to fix it, notably with emerger patterns or different dry flies that aren’t very buoyant. It’s also possible to pull the fly away from the fish’s feeding lane for those who mend too aggressively on the water.

Many anglers mend an excessive amount of.

Fly-fishing instructors have positioned such a excessive emphasis on mending that inexperienced anglers consider they’ve to fix, typically a number of occasions, on each forged. However mending is only a software to attain a drag-free drift. So in case your fly is already going to drift drag-free over the fish you’re concentrating on, there isn’t a purpose to fix. And there are a number of circumstances if you in all probability shouldn’t mend in any respect.

When you’re standing on the backside of a riffle and casting your fly upstream, towards the highest of the riffle, the present will carry the fly again to you drag-free. You shouldn’t mend right here, although many anglers typically do. The one factor that you must fear about on this place is getting an excessive amount of slack in your fly line because it floats again to you. To counteract this, that you must strip in your fly line in because the fly floats downstream. At all times preserve the fly line between certainly one of your fingers and your rod’s cork grip as you strip, otherwise you gained’t have pressure to set the hook if a fish unexpectedly eats your fly. As soon as the fish eats, merely clamp the road tight between your finger and the cork and carry the rod tip to set the hook. At all times be sure to tempo your strips because the stream’s circulate price dictates. Don’t strip so quick that you just’re pulling the fly or too gradual that you just’re permitting slack to kind.



One other time when mending is pointless, and even detrimental, is when a fish is feeding in a really tight spot the place a protracted drift isn’t attainable. Many anglers appear to relish very lengthy drag-free drifts as if that’s the entire level of fly fishing. Typically, a brief, however on-target, drag-free drift is rather more efficient. Perhaps a fish is feeding in just a little lower alongside the stream financial institution. Or maybe it’s underneath a bush the place your fly will grow to be tangled if it floats too far. In these and different situations, it’s finest to forged nearer to the fish with a shorter drift. Let the fly float with out mending, which could sink it or transfer it away from the fish. Ideally, you need to forged to a fish from a place the place you don’t want to fix in any respect however can simply let the fly float naturally. That isn’t at all times attainable. And that’s the place good mends could make all of the distinction between catching a fish or not.

Dry-fly fishing basics, casting position
This angler is barely upstream of the trout rising in entrance of the sticks within the picture’s backside proper nook. He’s in a super place to catch a trout rising on this flat, calm water. The upstream casting place, mixed with a attain forged and the flexibility to softly shake the road to increase the drift as wanted, makes an angler a really efficient dry-fly fisher. (Paul Weamer picture)

Aerial Mends

Attain forged. The attain forged is arguably an important mending software for catching rising fish. If I had to decide on between a consumer with an ideal dry-fly sample who couldn’t execute a attain forged or one with an imperfect fly however a very good attain forged, I’d take the higher caster each time. The attain forged facilitates the utmost drag-free drift size by putting the fly downstream of the tippet, chief, and fly line at an approximate 45-degree angle. This ensures that the fly is floating with out drag for the longest time attainable, as the road and chief have to catch as much as it within the drift earlier than they’ll pull the fly, creating drag.

Just remember to are casting to the fish from a place upstream of it, so your presentation will likely be made quartering downstream. You execute a attain forged in your ultimate casting stroke towards the fish, simply earlier than you lay the road onto the water. As your line, chief, and fly are straightening in entrance of you, towards your goal, sweep your casting arm upstream, after which permit the road to settle to the floor. If the fly lands downstream of your line however nonetheless upstream of the fish so it has time to drift to the goal, you’ve efficiently accomplished a attain forged.

The attain forged isn’t troublesome to carry out, however there’s some nuance concerned in executing a very good one. First, that you must compensate for the quantity of line you’re utilizing to achieve the fish. When you forged straight at a trout rising throughout from you, you’ll use much less line than for those who’re casting downstream at an angle with a attain forged. This causes many anglers to forged wanting the fish they’re concentrating on; they haven’t compensated sufficient for the mending forged.

The opposite frequent drawback when anglers are simply creating their attain forged is that they use an aggressive, forceful movement to finish the forged. This typically causes the road and fly to slam to the water, scaring the fish and often sinking the dry fly. It takes some observe, however you’re making an attempt to attain a smooth-motion transition out of your ultimate backcast to your attain forged, and also you shouldn’t apply any extra power than you’d use to finish some other forged.

Curve forged. A curve forged, simply as its identify implies, is meant that can assist you throw a curve along with your fly, chief/tippet, and line, in order that they don’t land in a straight line on the water. Anglers use this forged in order that they don’t “line” a fish by having their fly line and chief float over a rising trout earlier than their fly does, doubtlessly scaring it. Some anglers describe this forged as being a optimistic or detrimental curve forged, relying on which approach they’re making an attempt to curve the fly. However I simply check with it as curving left or curving proper.

Anglers typically use curve casts when situations power them to forged immediately upstream to a rising fish, and so they need to kick the fly to the facet of their line. However casting round in-stream obstructions like logs or boulders can even require a curve forged. It’s at all times higher to maneuver to a brand new place to get into the very best casting state of affairs for any explicit fish. However this isn’t at all times attainable. Maybe the water is just too deep so that you can wade into a greater spot, or possibly it’s streamside vegetation or a cliff wall that inhibits you from shifting.

Crucial factor to recollect when executing any forged is that the fly line, and in the end your fly, will observe no matter you do along with your rod tip on the finish of your casting stroke. There are a number of methods to attain the curve forged. I’ll focus on the best to study first, after which a tougher, however very efficient, different.

The simplest technique to carry out a curve forged is to drop the tip of your rod out to your facet, extra parallel to the bottom than close to your head. Which facet will rely on whether or not you’re making an attempt to curve the road to the left or proper. Dip the rod tip to your proper facet to make the road curve left, and dip it to the left to curve proper. Now sweep the rod tip in a casting stroke towards your reverse facet. However cease abruptly when the rod tip passes in entrance of you. It will trigger the road and fly to curve on the finish of the forged, persevering with within the arc you created earlier than stopping the stroke abruptly.

The simple curve forged requires that you’ve sufficient room to your left or proper to create the backcast that instigates the curve. However what for those who don’t have sufficient room? There’s one other technique to full the curve: by twisting your wrist on the finish of the forged.

Right here’s the right way to execute this more difficult forged: Hold your rod tip extra vertical (close to your head), like several regular forged, after which cycle the forged ahead. As your line is straightening in entrance of you and also you’re nearly to let it start to settle to the water, twist your wrist. When you twist it to the proper, the fly will curve to the left. And for those who twist left (rather more troublesome to grasp for a right-handed caster), it is going to curve to the proper.

The curve forged is tougher to execute than the attain forged, however all it takes is observe. My good friend Walt Younger throws one of the stunning curve casts I’ve witnessed. A few years in the past, we’d hang around on the fly store he was managing and observe making curve casts across the outdoors trash cans. Observe this forged, and sometime it is going to repay by serving to you idiot a troublesome trout in a troublesome spot.

Puddle or pile forged. The puddle forged (additionally referred to as the pile forged) is a superb software for buying a downstream, drag-free drift when swift-moving or conflicting currents make it troublesome to attain. The concept with this forged is to permit the top of your chief and your whole tippet to land in free coils, in a puddle, with the fly floating beside them. This creates extra time for the fly to drift drag-free whereas the present straightens the coils and in the end pulls your fly, inflicting it to pull.

Dry-fly fishing basics, casting position
Matt Grobe implements a puddle forged to get the longest attainable drift within the slack water beneath the tree. Discover how Grobe’s rod tip is close to the water whereas his fly line and chief are simply starting to fall to the floor in a puddle. (Paul Weamer picture)

More often than not if you forged your dry fly to the water, you’re aiming for a spot lower than a foot above the water in your ultimate stroke— excessive sufficient in order that the fly doesn’t slam onto the floor if you lay it down, however low sufficient to permit your chief to straighten. However with the puddle forged, that you must purpose your rod tip larger, above the water, quite than towards it.

Start with a low backcast (rod tip pointing towards the bottom) and cease your rod tip larger than regular on the ahead forged, then instantly drop your rod tip towards the water as the road straightens. As a result of the road at all times follows the rod tip, it will throw your fly larger into the air than regular and permit it to flutter right down to the water’s floor. This forged could be very troublesome to execute if it’s windy as a result of the wind will seize the fly extra simply because it falls, typically making your forged inaccurate.

However there are locations, notably in pocketwater, swirling backeddies, or different areas of slack present adjoining to shifting water, the place the puddle forged provides you the very best probability to get a drag-free, fish-fooling drift.

On-Water Mends

I wrote earlier that on-water mends aren’t very best for dry-fly fishing. However there are occasions when the one technique to prolong your drift is thru an on-water mend. And there are two explicit situations when these mends are important to getting a very good drift or extending one.

The primary vital on-water mend is carried out by shifting solely the a part of your fly line that’s being pulled by the present and repositioning it both up- or downstream, to counteract the pull. That is typically obligatory if you’re casting longer distances throughout various currents. The overwhelming majority of the time you’ll conduct this mend by reducing your rod tip towards the water after which flipping as a lot of the road as obligatory upstream till your fly is not dragging. You will have to do that a number of occasions all through the drift if the water is shifting rapidly. However for those who’re standing in an eddy that’s shifting a lot slower than the water the place your dry fly is floating, you will have to flip a few of your line downstream to attain the identical purpose. The bottom line is utilizing solely as a lot power as obligatory to maneuver simply the portion of your line that’s inflicting your fly to pull. It takes observe to not pull your whole line and transfer or sink your fly. I consider that longer (10-foot) dry-fly rods make this mend a lot simpler to make use of as a result of they use an extended lever to take action. However it may be accomplished with any rod.

The opposite on-water mend that’s important for dry-fly fishing is shaking your line to increase a drift. When you’ve been dry-fly fishing for any time period, you’ve in all probability forged to a fish solely to see it rise once more farther downstream than you anticipated. Or possibly your fly floated previous one fish with out being eaten, and also you’d prefer it to maintain floating to a fish that’s rising farther downstream. One of the simplest ways to do that is by shaking line.

The important thing to shaking line to increase your drift is, once more, utilizing the correct quantity of power to make it occur. Shake too laborious and also you’ll sink the fly. Shake too gently and the road gained’t come out quick sufficient. You may prolong the drift by shifting the rod tip backwards and forwards in entrance of you, permitting the water’s floor pressure to drag the road in order that it comes out of the rod tip. However earlier than you do that, you’ll want to drag sufficient line off your reel to permit it to easily slide out of the guides. Ensure that to at all times preserve the road between your finger and your rod’s grip as the road slowly glides into the water. That approach if a fish unexpectedly eats your fly when you’re shaking line, you’ll be able to nonetheless hook it by merely clamping down on the road and elevating the rod tip.

The place to Place your Fly Forged

I had a quite surly information the primary time I went fly fishing for bonefish in Andros, Bahamas. He was the type of information an knowledgeable loves—he places you on the fish—however he made it very robust for a newbie. We approached the primary tailing bonefish I had ever seen, and the information stated, “Forged, man, forged!” No different instruction. Casting to a tailing bonefish is similar to dry-fly fishing: you’ll be able to see the fish feeding, or a minimum of a part of the fish, and making an correct forged is essential.

I stated, “Forged the place?” The information was flabbergasted. “You don’t see that fish, man?” I might see solely a part of its tail poking by the water. The place was its head? The place was I presupposed to forged? You might need the proper dry fly tied to your chief and a trout rising in entrance of you, however for those who don’t make the right forged, you’ll have as a lot success as I had with that first bonefish. Your place in relation to a rising fish is commonly the important thing element in whether or not you’ll be capable to get a drag-free drift along with your dry fly.

Upstream place. I desire to forged a dry fly to a trout rising in flat water from a place barely upstream of it. This casting place, mixed with a attain forged, is the best technique to have your fly float drag-free. It’s additionally the easiest way to get your fly to the trout earlier than your chief and fly line attain it. You don’t should be quite a lot of ft upstream from the fish for this to work. The forged turns into extra problematic to execute effectively the farther upstream you progress, and this enhances the likelihood that your fly will drag earlier than reaching your goal. Stable hook units are additionally rather more troublesome to make as the space will increase.

Anglers have a tendency to drag their flies out of a fish’s mouth extra on upstream shows than some other casting place, so that you must pause earlier than you set the hook. After a trout rises and eats your fly, it is going to then start to descend, settling again to its authentic holding place under the water’s floor. Don’t carry your rod tip to set the hook till the fish closes its mouth and begins to descend. When you set too early, you’ll pull your fly proper out of the fish’s mouth earlier than it has the possibility to shut its jaws; you’ll carry and are available up empty.

The significance of ready for the fish to settle earlier than setting the hook is magnified in some conditions and for some trout species. Trout which can be lazily gliding by a pool, selecting off trapped flies like mayfly spinners or spent caddis, typically feed very slowly. It’s straightforward to overlook the hook set with fish feeding this fashion. Cutthroat trout are additionally well-known for rising painfully gradual to your fly, making the angler antsy and infrequently inflicting a fast hook set that fails.

Some anglers power themselves to utter a fast sentence like “God save the queen” or “Set the hook now” earlier than they carry, to remind themselves to pause. That’s by no means labored notably effectively for me, so I don’t do it. I’m often too engrossed in watching the fish feed to recollect to say something. Nevertheless it may give you the results you want, so give it a strive. I simply await the fish to feed after which settle, and that works nice, too.

Even with the fish. Generally deep water or bankside obstructions cease you from getting upstream from the trout, and you need to forged from a place immediately throughout from it. This casting place creates a number of issues. First, you continue to should be capable to get your fly upstream of the fish to permit it to drift right down to it. However for those who strive to do that by casting proper on the fish, you might drop your fly line proper on its head, typically upsetting it to cease rising. There are a few methods to fight this.

The attain forged is significant right here. However you’ll have to extend the attain by exaggerating the sweeping movement on the finish of your forged to get the fly farther upstream. And also you’ll have to compensate for the elevated distance by taking pictures extra fly line. Anglers making an attempt to shoot their casts larger upstream on this method additionally are likely to drop the fly line from their off hand (the hand not holding the rod) as they make their ultimate forged. However for those who do that, the road will typically wrap across the butt of your rod or your stripping information, otherwise you’ll find yourself with an excessive amount of slack line between you and the fish, impeding your potential to set the hook. Make a loop between your index finger and your thumb and permit the road to slip by it as you end the forged. This helps you preserve line management because it shoots to the fish.

It’s also possible to make use of a curve forged to attempt to get the fly to the fish with out throwing your chief and line on high of it. However, once more, you’ll want to regulate your casting distance to throw your line previous the fish earlier than curving it. Even for those who execute this forged effectively, you’re going to position your fly line close to the fish. This may frighten the trout if it’s rising in calm water. It’s finest to make use of the curve forged from this place provided that you’re casting right into a riffle the place the damaged present can obscure your line.

Downstream place. There are a couple of situations the place casting to a trout from a place downstream of it may be useful. Nevertheless it’s additionally very straightforward to frighten a rising fish when casting from under it since you’ll typically must forged your line and chief very near it. Once more, riffles assist to mitigate the probabilities of horrifying the trout, because the damaged water tends to obscure your line. I often attempt to forged from this place provided that I’m blind casting into riffled water.

However there will likely be occasions if you find yourself compelled to forged from a downstream place in flat water. That is the place the curve forged turns into an incredible help. You may place your line farther from the fish, lowering the probabilities of horrifying it, in case your fly has curved into its feeding lane away out of your line. However solely do that as a final resort. The chance for failure right here is way bigger than for those who’re upstream of the trout. Many anglers forged from under the fish in flat water solely as a result of they’re too lazy to maneuver from the spot the place they’re already standing. The very best course is often to stroll to the financial institution behind you, very slowly and cautiously, after which transfer to a place upstream of the fish to current your fly.

The downstream casting place does give an angler one massive benefit for setting the hook: it’s a lot simpler to drag your fly into the fish’s mouth if you’re setting the hook from under it, quite than pulling the fly away from the fish for those who’re upstream of it.

Dry-fly fishing basics, casting position
Dry Fly Methods by Paul Weamer (Stackpole Books, 2021). 192 pages, $25 hardcover, ISBN: 978-0811739535.

Paul Weamer is the writer of Fly-fishing Information to the Higher Delaware River (Stackpole Books, 2011) and The Bug E book: A Fly Fisher’s Information to Trout Stream Bugs (Headwater Books, 2016). He’s the proprietor/operator of Weamer Fly Fishing LLC and lives in Livingston, Montana, together with his spouse Ruthann and his English mastiff Olive.



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