3 Advanced Techniques
The most interesting lifelike movement technique was shown to me by Pennsylvania angler Bruce Fairfull, who uses it to catch both smallmouth and trout in slow to moderate water. I call it “jostling.”
The quick lift-and-drop action of this technique causes the fly line beneath the rod tip to jump forward and then settle back. On the end of the line the fly darts toward you, swimming upward as it comes forward. On the drop, the fly falls back and starts to sink. Done right, the jostling fly looks like a darting minnow swimming toward the surface and then falling back.
Since at first no additional line is retrieved, jostling keeps the fly in relatively the same location. It drives fish wild.
Another effective technique is the “slide-and-glide”—good for long, across-stream casts. “Slide-and-glide” describes the action you give the fly as it moves downstream in a moderate to strong current.
With most stripping techniques, you retrieve a fly in one direction—back to you. The across-stream slide-and-glide technique allows the fly to be carried away from you; it covers more distance with natural movement.
To perform the slide-and-glide, simply allow short lengths of previously retrieved line to slip back through your fingers and let the current pull the fly along. After a strip of one or two feet with a good staccato action, let some of the retrieved line drift downstream before you resume your strip. This causes the fly to dart forward with the retrieve and then, when the line is released, float downstream for several feet. The appearance is of a creature that bolts forward, runs out of energy, and is swept back downstream by the current. The action is deadly.
I particularly like the slide-and-glide in heavy water where the current reduces visibility and the fish have little time to think. It also works great at the end of a drift when your line is below you. The technique is not effective in a slow pool.
One technique that brings a lot of fish to the rod is done at the end of the drift in slow to moderate flow. I call it the “stalled strip,” or “dead-sticking,” and it allows a fly to stay in place and still have motion.
In this technique, your line hand does not shorten the line; it makes short, repetitive tugs, keeping the fly active, but in place. The stalled strip allows you to keep a fly active and near cover to trigger a strike.
This technique can be deadly when imitating nymphs and crustaceans, and it works in imitating slow-moving forage fish such as stonecats and sculpins.
When you combine a number of stripping techniques with the solid fundamentals, you have an arsenal of methods that should increase your strikes. Remember, you have to persuade the fish that your fly is alive, and possibly in trouble, to produce a hit.
Vic Attardo is a full-time outdoor writer and mayor of Red Hill, Pennsylvania.