What a Drag.

Fishing becoming a drag? It is better to be something of a slacker.

I have recently been asked by a client to describe and or demonstrate a variety of different “casts”, that isn’t to say various socio economic groups on the Asian continent, but varieties of fly fishing presentations. In particular there were amongst others, the slack line cast, the mend, aerial mend, the puddle cast, the reach mend, the “e” cast (I really haven’t heard of that one before) and more..

It got me to thinking, in fact it is a subject that was much on my mind in years past, why do we make this all so complicated?

There is a definitive tome on fly presentation by one of America’s most famous fishing sons, Gary Borger, entitled “Presentation”. The book really is a work of art, I may even suggest required reading at some point,  it contains every possible variation of cast, presentation, leader set up and all manner of tips tricks and techniques which would one supposes where you able to accomplish them all, would make you into the world’s best angler.

Don’t get me wrong, there is little in the book with which I would disagree, I suspect that nearly everything, with the possible exception of the “overpowered curve cast”, which I have yet to see anyone effectively demonstrate with a dry fly, is in fact true. I would further submit that the vast majority of what Borger is on about is in fact useful and on occasion pertinent. What I don’t agree with is the necessity to give every little nuance a different name to the point that it boggles the mind. If you really want to stop your spouse, loved one or significant other taking up fly fishing in the first place you should buy them a copy of this book. It is telephone directory thick, chock a block full of information and so complicated for the neophyte that they will roll over on the couch and suggest that perhaps bowls is more likely to “be their thing”.

Sure fly fishing can be complicated, the very best have an arsenal of tricks and adaptations up their piscatorial sleeves that keep them ahead of the pack, not to mention ahead of the fish,  but for the average or neophyte angler it is all a bit too much. Perhaps for the aging trout bum the same applies, it is all simply too complicated.

Truth be told what it is mostly about, is the presentation of the fly without drag, that is to say not moving in any manner differently to the current upon which the fly is riding. Refer to Drag and Steak Dinners on this blog for some reference to what drag is.

Drag occurs simply because the fly is tied to the leader, the leader is tied to the fly line, the fly line is tied to the reel and the reel is tied to you. That means that various sections of the line on any given trout stream are going to be moving at different speeds and therefore the end result is going to be that the fly is either speeded up or held back in its progress down the river.

So why is drag important?

Because “Dear Watson”, the natural flies on which the fish are feeding are not tied to a leader, which is not tied to your line, which is not tied to your reel which is not tied to you and therefore they move at exactly the same speed as the current upon which they find themselves, other than the odd flutter of the given struggling insect perhaps. So abnormal movement of the fly is a dead giveaway to a wary trout that all is not well. If you are a trout living in the catch and release waters of a Cape Stream you have a number of possible means at your disposal to avoid getting a sore lip when feeding, the most reliable one being that you don’t eat anything that is moving unnaturally, better to miss out on the odd wind affected real bug than to end up with a size eighteen hook in the nozzle.

How do you delay the onset of drag then?

Firstly I am going to draw specific attention to the above comment, notice that it says “delay the onset of drag”. Drag is an inevitable consequence of fishing with a line and fly, you cannot, as so many writers glibly presuppose, “Avoid it”, drag is unavoidable it is however possible, in fact desirable, to delay its onset long enough to present the fly to a fish and therein lies the skill of fly presentation.

The essential means of delaying the onset of drag is to put slack into the line, a straight line and leader will drag almost instantly as the currents pull the line at different speeds and possibly even in different directions.

On small freestone streams the problem is complicated by the multitude of currents of various speeds and directions, in fact frequently too complicated to solve simply by “mending the line” as is so frequently illustrated in books. In those books there is almost always only one variation of current speed not ten and on a freestone stream in amongst the pockets you could be mending the line like a dervish and achieve little.

To my way of thinking there are five primary ways of delaying the onset of drag, all the other variations, no matter how impressive their titles, are simply versions of the same thing.

Pick your stance, probably the most underrated skill in small stream fly fishing, it is as important where you cast from as where you cast to. By moving your position you can eliminate a lot of potential drag causing cross currents before you even start and even moving a foot or two can achieve a great deal.

Cast short. Because drag is a function of the various currents acting upon the line and the fly at different speeds and directions, the less line out the less conflicting forces have to be dealt with , which is why most good Cape Stream anglers don’t cast very far at all and prefer to get closer when at all possible. Trust me, it isn’t because they can’t cast further, it is because they know that it is counter productive to do so.

Keep the line off the water. The corollary to the above is that line not on the water isn’t going to be affected by the currents (although it could be affected by the wind) and therefore in highly complicated pocket water currents one of the best methods of avoiding drag is “high sticking” keeping the majority of the line and leader out of harms way. One can achieve similar benefits by laying the line on convenient rocks to keep it away from the tug of the stream’s flow.

Fish a long and unstable leader. On more laminar flows perhaps it isn’t as critical but on fast moving and varied currents of freestone streams the single most effective means of delaying the onset of drag is to use a leader that will automatically create slack in the presentation. That means that it is long, fine, manufactured from soft material and pretty much impossible to turn over perfectly. There are casts that will provide more slack in the leader and some are useful but almost all of them then lose out when it comes to accuracy of presentation. On a tight overgrown stream, accuracy is pretty much essential.

Mend the line, where possible. There are instances where one can “mend” the line to overcome or avoid the effects of one significant variation of current flows. But that will only help you in respect of one current at a time, it is very difficult if not impossible to mend sufficiently to prevent the results of multiple current flows.

I have found that for myself when fishing convoluted currents the two most effective means of getting drag delayed presentation are using a long unstable leader and picking ones position carefully before the cast is made. In the final analysis, anything that you can do to delay the onset of drag on the fly will improve your chances but you don’t need a litany of different names for every variation. If you get it right you will know because there will be more trout on the end of your line eating the fly.

Advertisements

Tags: , , , , , , , ,

One Response to “What a Drag.”

  1. sharland East Says:

    BRILLIANT

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s


%d bloggers like this: