Swinging Wet Flies Downstream

Swinging Wet Flies Downstream

Summer is upon us, the time trout fisherman start to change things up. Springtime nymph fishing is deadly, streamer fishing with baitfish patterns in the margins during high water can produce some big fish, and large dry flies come into their own post runoff. But a fourth option is largely overlooked by many, one that has history and style in addition to being just plain brutally effective at times. Swinging wet flies downstream to imitate emerging insects is one of the oldest tricks in the book, and the technique has had some modern updates that make it something you'll want to be rigging for when circumstances dictate.

Two hundred years before Isaak Walton, Dame Juliana Berners was writing about wet fly techniques and patterns in the first recorded book on fly fishing "A Treatyse of Fysshynge wyth an Angle." The dawn of fly fishing in Elizabethan England made do with what was at hand for equipmentlong cane or willow poles, horsehair or silk lines and imitation insects made from whatever feathers that were handy caught fish when presented on a downstream swing. Dry fly floatant was half a millennia away, and line diameters were still crudely thick if they were to have any chance of holding a good fish.

Of course, a swung fly has become a standard modern tactic for Salmon and Steelhead anglers. But for whatever reason, the approach fell out of favor for trout in the US, even on larger rivers, despite remaining a go-to technique in Europe. About fifteen years ago, I was turned on to a new generation of sinking leaders and soft hackle flies that changed my thinking about how, where and what to fish with. This technique is effective around the worldI took one of my personal best Brown trout in Patagonian Chile swinging and mending a large wet.

AirFlo and Rio produce monofilament core, flexibly coated leaders with variable sink rates to adjust for conditions. Leaders designated for trout typically have a 12lb (1x) core, though Steelhead and Salmon fishers are being accommodated with leaders that are double that. These leaders change everything about how your rod handles, loading instantly, and your ability to roll cast will increase exponentially.


Better commercial fly suppliers are now producing trout patterns incorporating what I feel is the most effective design element for wet flies, unweighted soft hackles. Typically made from Partridge feathers in smaller to medium hook sizes, soft hackle imparts action that mimics the shucked casing of an emergent insect being cast off in the middle of the water column. The pulsing, translucent fibers act as a very strong strike trigger for fish that are starting to key in on the beginning of a hatch, and this seems to apply to both Mayfly and Caddis emergences. Unweighted, non-beadhead patterns seem to have a more lifelike action with swung presentations. A word of caution is in order here, strikes tend to be violent as the fish are chasing the fly, typically hammering it downstream at the bottom of the "J." A Drop Loop strike will help with a solid hook set, and to keep from being broken off by the heavier fish that this technique can produce.


Some very enticing flies from OrvisUmpqua, and Solitude are perfectly suited for this technique, with some New for 2016 patterns catching my attention. Despite sometimes being labeled as Stillwater or Tenkara designs, these flies are becoming favorites among hard core swing fly fishers. Umpqua's New Trick soft hackle, in particular, has produced well for me on the large riffles of the Upper Rio Grande in Colorado.


You owe it to yourself to try a new take on an old trick, by getting into the swing of things on your next outing!

"And if the angler catches the fish with difficulty, then there is no man merrier than he is in his spirits." -- Dame Juliana Berners, 1450

//www.flyfisherman.com/files/2016/06/6316359b91937316a21d4da9d9a5456c.jpg

  


Get Your Fish On.

Plan your next fishing and boating adventure here.

Recommended for You

How an Atlanta craft brewery is helping to save Georgia's most important trout stream. United States

Saving the Chattahoochee River

Ross Purnell - April 23, 2019

How an Atlanta craft brewery is helping to save Georgia's most important trout stream.

American Rivers today released its annual list of America's Most Endangered Rivers, identifying ten rivers facing imminent threats. News

2019 Most Endangered Rivers

Fly Fisherman - April 16, 2019

American Rivers today released its annual list of America's Most Endangered Rivers,...

Here are step-by-step instructions for tying the Strong Arm Merkin fly. Fly Tying

Tying the Strong Arm Merkin

David W. Skok - July 09, 2019

Here are step-by-step instructions for tying the Strong Arm Merkin fly.

See More Recommendations

Popular Videos

 Getting Started In Fly Fishing

Getting Started In Fly Fishing

Getting Started In Fly Fishing

Bahamas - Bonefish

Bahamas - Bonefish

Conway casts for his personal best bonefish while fishing the Grand Bahama islands.

Fly Fishing for Taimen in Mongolia

Fly Fishing for Taimen in Mongolia

Finding giant Mongolia taimen and a state of enlightenment.

See more Popular Videos

Trending Stories

As you explore your home water, keep in mind what they are are eating to select the best carp flies! Flies

The 15 Best Carp Flies

Jay Zimmerman - September 27, 2016

As you explore your home water, keep in mind what they are are eating to select the best carp...

Golden riches in Wyoming's high-country heaven of the Wind River Range. United States

Wind River Range Wyoming

Greg Thomas - July 27, 2015

Golden riches in Wyoming's high-country heaven of the Wind River Range.

George Daniels offers his advice on which types of fly-fishing leaders are best for the most common applications you'll encounter on the water. How-To

Picking the Perfect Fly-Fishing Leader

George Daniel - January 22, 2018

George Daniels offers his advice on which types of fly-fishing leaders are best for the most...

See More Stories

More Casting

The temperature at night was cold enough to ice the deck of my boat, and hot enough during the day to make me sweat. Spey casting beginnings. Casting

Spey Casting

Tom Keer - July 01, 2011

The temperature at night was cold enough to ice the deck of my boat, and hot enough during the...

Swinging wet flies downstream to imitate emerging insects is something you'll want to be rigging for when circumstances dictate. Casting

Swinging Wet Flies Downstream

Jonathan Wright - June 28, 2016

Swinging wet flies downstream to imitate emerging insects is something you'll want to be...

Casting in wind is tough, and getting frustrated doesn't help. Take a deep breath, and think it through. Here's some expert advice for fishing windy days. Casting

Tips for Effectively Casting in Wind

Joe Mahler - December 05, 2017

Casting in wind is tough, and getting frustrated doesn't help. Take a deep breath, and think...

See More Casting

GET THE MAGAZINE Subscribe & Save

Temporary Price Reduction.

SUBSCRIBE NOW

Give a Gift   |   Subscriber Services

PREVIEW THIS MONTH'S ISSUE

GET THE NEWSLETTER Join the List and Never Miss a Thing.

×