Monday, June 1, 2009

Switching to the Fly Rod

If your going to take the spinning rig along then you might as well forget about trying the Fly Rod. But, if you're serious about trying to learn fly fishing, then just take it and practice your techniques. If you don't catch anything, they'll still be there for the next trip. You might be surprised how well the flies work.
In my experience, if you can master the fly rod, you will catch fish when the blade throwers aren't. Find out what patterns are working for your area and give them a try. Local fly fishing shops can tell you if there are any hatches and what time of day. Fish the recommended dry flies at those times to trout you see rising. At other times, fish a recommended nymph (ask about which ones work in faster water and which work best in slow).
In Dry Fly Fishing, size, shape and color are the important factors. Use a floating Fly Line and rub a floating line dressing on about the first 15 feet of the tip of your line. You will need to attach a tapered leader to the fly line. I recommend a 7 1/2 foot leader tapered down to 5x (about 4 pound test). Depending on the size of fly, you will need to taper it down further with tippet. You must taper the tippet 1 size at a time; i.e. 5x to 6x to 7x. Never jump a size or your leader will not lay out straight when you cast. The rule of thumb for tippet size is the fly size divided by 3 equals the tippet size. For example 5x tippet can be used with size 14 or 16 flies, 6x with size 16 or 18 flies and 7x with size 20 or 22 flies. If your a beginner, try to stick with the 14 - 18 size flies. When casting to a rising trout, try to cast your fly about 4 to 6 feet directly upstream from the last rise and try to get the fly to float drag free down to the fish. I will address how to compensate for drag later. During a hatch, a fish will generally rise at fairly regular intervals, every 10 to 20 seconds or so. If your fly floats over the fish in a natural manner, the fish should take it. If not, cast above it again as long as the fish keeps rising to the naturals. A lot of times, it's a matter of timing your drift to the rising rhythm of the fish. If your fly doesn't float naturally, it can put that fish down and you might as well start casting to another rising fish.
As I pointed out in a previous BLOG, unless there is an insect hatch at the time you're fishing, you will catch more fish nymphing. Use the same line, leader, tippet size rules, as with dry fly only add a strike indicator on your leader and split shot about a foot above the fly. I prefer the small, half inch size, cork bobber type strike indicator that slides on the leader and is held in place with a tooth pick. It can easily be adjusted on your leader for the depth of water you're fishing. The object is to get the nymph down to the bottom but not so deep that you are getting hung up all the time. Use a small BB size or smaller split shot to get it down. The size of split shot will depend on the speed of the current. Not getting down and ticking the bottom on the drift, add more weight or move your strike indicator higher on the leader. Getting hung up all the time, use less weight or move strike indicator down. Nymph selection, here again, check with a local fly shop on what's working. I always carry size 16 and 18 Hairs Ear's, Buckskins, and Pheasant Tails. They seem to be good all around patterns.
OK, let's try to tackle this drag issue. Drag occurs when the current of the stream is pulling your LINE faster than a natural fly floats. If this occurs, it causes your fly to drift faster or slower or to be pulled toward your side of the stream and does not look natural. Imagine watching a nymph being washed away from the rock that it was clinging to. It will be swept down stream with the current, no faster, no slower. A stream will have different layers of current speed from the middle out to the edge with the middle generally being faster and the edge slower. A keen eye can see these different speeds of current. The point of change of each layer of current is called a seam. The same is true with depth. The current will be faster on the surface than along the bottom (for some reason those rocks slow the water down - physics 101). Fish are basically lazy they will find the slowest current possible where they feel safe, but can still intercept food being washed passed them in the faster current. So, the idea is to drift your fly along those seams just on the fast side. The fish will be lying just on the slow side waiting for food to be washed by. They slip out into the faster current to intercept the nymph then slip back into their easy chair. In the case of the dry fly, they rise up to the faster surface to take the fly then they settle back down to the bottom.
So how does this affect drag? As I said, in nymphing, you want to drift your fly down just on the faster side of the seam. That means your fly line is floating on slower water than the nymph is in. This causes a belly in you line upstream from the nymph which eventually casues the nymph to slow down and to be pulled toward you, both unnatural movements that will turn a fish away. The way to compensate for this is a method called mending. In the case just described, you would need to mend your line downstream. To do this, immediately after casting your nymph, with a little lift and flip of the Fly Rod tip you flip just the line on the surface downsteam a foot or two so that the nymph is above the fly line to begin the drift and will catch up to it. You may need to mend the line more than once before the drift ends below you. The same applies to dry fly fishing. Mend the line before the fly reaches the rising fish so that when it gets down to the fish it will be floating naturally.
If you take the time to work on these techniques before you give up on fly fishing, you will probably catch a fish or 2. As your technique improves, so will your catch rate and some day you will be telling this story to other spin fishermen.

Good Luck and Tight Lines------<*)))><

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