Editor: Mark

Part 3: What Trout Eat—Know Your Technique

This is the concluding part of a three-part series on What Trout Eat. In the first part you learned about the bugs trout eat. In the second part you learned how to read the water trout live in. In this final part, let’s pull on that knowledge to put the right bug in the right place with the technique that will bring results!
I’m going to break this last segment down into three parts:
• How to cast a dry fly
• How to mend that cast
• How to cast a wet fly

How to Cast
With casting let’s start here: most people, even experienced fishermen, think they have to strip a lot of line and cast long distances to catch fish. On larger rivers there is some truth to that. But the most important lesson for you to learn about casting is that by stalking fish and making precise casts, you can catch a lot of fish with a dry fly within 10 yards of where you stand. With nymphing you can catch fish in the deeper water within an arm’s reach.
I found this great illustration online. It shows the casting cycle (the cycle starts at the 9 o’clock position).

How to fly fish line casting
How to fly fish line casting

Here are some basics about casting a dry fly.
• Be sure that the guides are lined up on the rod as you put them together.
• Practice the feel of the cast using “false casts” where instead of letting the fly land on the surface you continue with another back cast. Watch a couple of YouTube videos to understand the movement you want. Keep your rod tip up.
• While you’re casting, don’t extend too far back or forward with the rod. Your forward stroke and backward stroke of your fly rod should move from the 2 o’clock (5) position to the 10 o’clock (7)position.
• Tie some yarn to the end of your line and find an open spot of grass with no trees or bushes nearby. Make marks at different distances and cast to them. Practice keeping your line in the air and getting the yarn on your target within a few quick strokes.
• Point your thumb in the direction you want the line to go. Wherever the tip points, the line will follow. Note positions 7 & 8; you want the line to flutter down upon the water. If you don’t stop at 7 you will slap the line on the water, spooking the fish.
The Bane of False Casting
A false cast has its specific utility. Use it when you are changing direction or trying to dry out a fly that is not staying on top of the water. If you’re stripping line and gauging distance, then yes; but be efficient. When fishing, the less movement the better. I’ve fished with folks that false cast 4 or 5 times every time they pick the line off the water. How much better to pick the fly off of the water and redistribute it in one smart, efficient loop. If you are out there whipping back and forth you stand to spook fish, get hung up in the trees and bushes, or put wind knots in your line.
How to Mend Your Cast

How to mend a fly line
How to mend a fly line

You can never really be a good flyfisherman unless you learn how to mend your line. Imagine yourself on one bank of a river looking straight across to the far bank. The nature of rivers is that the water between you and the far bank is moving downstream at different as influenced by structure in the water, the shape of the river, and the different depths represented.

Now, imagine you see a fish actively feeding in the more shallow water just on the other side of the middle of the river, where the water runs the fastest. You can cast to that fish, but the faster water in the middle of the river will catch your flyline and start dragging it and your fly downstream, resulting in the fly skimming as it is pulled across the water instead of sitting naturally on the water the way a real insect would. Yeah, you have to know how to mend that line, which keeps that fly in the fish’s feeding lane, floating high and true until the strike.

The mend is a flip of the rod tip or series of flips with the rod tip that puts a u-shaped bow in the line. This slows the speed with which the line travels if mended upstream and speeds up the line if mended downstream.
The position of marks the original cast, targeting fish across stream holding in the rocks. I’d mend immediately, but as shown, the faster water mid-stream means the angler mends at .He mends again at  to continue his drag-free drift for fish holding further downstream.

Let’s take it in 5 steps:
1. Again, I recommend you mend early, as soon as the fly touches down and before the line has time to bond to the water’s surface.
2. Your mend starts with the rod tip close to the surface of the water. If you have slack at your rod tip, you’re mend will move the slack, not the line on the water. If needed, make a couple of quick strips to pick up the slack before you mend.
3. Imagine a hinging point where the mended line meets the unmended line. That hinge point is the seam between the different speed currents. If you don’t mend enough line, the current will cause the line to drag the fly; if you mend too much line, you can accidentally pull your fly out of the trout’s feeding lane.
4. Lift your rod tip high during the mend. In this way you to pick up more line and avoid dragging the line.
5. Make a strong deliberate movement. It’s too much if you accidentally throw your fly upstream with the line. With practice, you’ll learn to mend the right amount of line.
Casting a Wet Fly
Casting a wet fly or “nymphing” is an art. My 75-year old neighbor nymphs on the local blue-ribbon trout stream and routinely outfishes those around him. I’ve watched guides with clientele in tow go up to him and ask what the heck he is doing. He nymphs without a strike indicator, dead drifting and going completely on feel. He catches fish every month of the year, sometimes scary big ones, and often does it on size 22-26 hooks. It is wonderful to watch, much harder to do.
When nymphing, I’ll give you the most important tip first: get the fly to the bottom of the river! It is common to have to play with the split shot on you line a bit before you feel yourself on the bottom, but not so much that you hang up and spend your fishing time breaking off and tying on a new rig. One quick story will illustrate.
Several years ago I was nymphing a stretch of water without success. That stretch was deep and long and sloppy with fish, so I was frustrated. I tried about three different flies to no avail. My friend came along and moved my split shot about 12 inches on the line. And suddenly I was hooking a fish every other cast or so. Nymphing is an art form. You can’t catch fish unless you’re on the bottom.
Here is an illustration of the nymph cast. It’s generally closer in than the dry fly casting. Notice the position of the fly rod as the fisherman makes the initial cast upstream (to the right) and tracks the fly downstream through the drift. A drag-free drift is just as essential underwater as on top. A fly that is dragging beneath the water does not behave like real food floating through the feeding zone.

how to fly fish

1. Make your cast but do not follow through to the water as you normally would; instead, raise the rod tip a few inches as your presentation sinks.
2. Make a couple of short, controlled strips of the line to remove any slack line at the point where your fly line touches the water. Immediately you will notice that what would have become a saggy ‘L’ shape in your line now resembles a tight curve from your raised rod tip to the point at which your line enters the stream.
3. Immediately begin the downstream swing of your rod, leading the line as it follows in the drift. Lift your rod to keep slack off the water as the fly comes nearer to you. Strip in any slack line as it develops to maintain a consistent curve below the rod tip. This tight curve acts as both a lifeline to your nymph (any bumps or knocks will be felt if constant tension is maintained) and a visual indicator for the slightest of takes. If the curve tightens at all, strike! And by “strike” I mean just lift the rod tip and it will snag the fish. No violent jerk needed.
4. As the drift passes your position, you can lower your rod again to put the line on the water and extend the drift. Be sure to finish the drift at the furthest downstream point. There is a little factor well-known to flyfishers called the Leisenring Lift (named after the fellow who developed it). When you get to the end of your drift, the fly starts to lift off of the bottom just as an emerging insect would do. It’s amazing how often you will get a hit at the end of your drift as you employ the Leisenring Lift.
There are a thousand more things to learn about fly fishing a stream, but I hope this short series has helped you better understand how to catch more trout. Thanks for reading and happy fishing.

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