Colmisfishing

Drifting flies in current

30 posts in this topic

Looking for advice/feedback on how to drift a fly in the current to maintain the best presentation possible.

I am fishing a headland with large bodies of water either side. The tides rips past the headland on the ebb and flood creating a fishing opportunity.

Water ranges from 2ft to 12ft deep in front of me depending on the state of tide and I cycle through various speeds of sinking leaders to try and keep my fly close to the bottom. That is one issue!

The other is presenting the fly. I'm struggling to mend the line adequately due to speed of the fly moving through the rip. I generally stand at the 12 o clock position in relation to the rip.

Any advice on how to best approach such a scenario so that the fly as it moves through the rip, is as life like as possible? 

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I am very much an amateur when it comes to drifting/swinging flies. I will attempt to dead drift by mending line as best I can but have found that in tidal outflows with strong current and oftentimes standing waves, it is hard to mend without pulling on the fly and imparting unwanted movement. When I swing, I just cast cross-current and let it swing out and across the rip and then make a slow retrieve back. It is usually as the fly hits a low point when crossing perpendicular to the current flow that I get the hits. Bear in mind this is for Striper fishing in New England and I am probably experiencing dumb luck/right place right time more than a sound swinging presentation.

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Posted (edited)

On 10/16/2017 at 7:54 AM, Colmisfishing said:

 I'm struggling to mend the line adequately due to speed of the fly moving through the rip.

 

Not to overstate the obvious, but you're using a floating line, right? A longer rod also helps with mending, as does a clean, buoyant line. Next, do you do any trout fishing? If so, it might be helpful to look at the rip as a swift river and your fly as a nymph, dead drifting along the bottom. You may also want to consider adding weight to the leader to sink the fly, or if the current is really ripping, a heavily weighted fly. I fish a boat channel and will use a longer (10-12 foot) leader and a fly tied on a jig hook and bounce it along the bottom as I would a nymph. Or sometimes I'll add a couple 3/0 split shot to the leader just above the fly. Depending on how far you're casting, a super fast sink integrated line with a floating section may help too. I will also fish bottlenecks and pinch points with very little or no fly line on the water, much like high stick nymphing, letting the flies sink and dead drift, then rise up through the water column to the surface (look up the Leisenring Lift on my website).

 

RE: Any advice on how to best approach such a scenario so that the fly as it moves through the rip is as lifelike as possible?

Lifelike starts with the naturals. What are they doing? If the current is really ripping, they're likely being swept pell-mell through the opening. Also, bass will often sit on the edges of current or structure, waiting to pick off strays. Fish those edges, as well as any eddys. Do the flies have to be at the bottom? Bass are often looking up, and a swung fly that is waking on a tight line (called "the dangle" in wet fly fishing) just below you is a tactic I'll often use in situations like this. You can do a lot with a fly on the dangle by mending, raising/lowering the rod tip, hand-twist retrieve, etc.

 

Scenarios like this are difficult to armchair quarterback without actually seeing them. But puzzles like this are fun to solve. :-)

 

Hope that helps, and sorry for the formatting gremlins!

 

Steve Culton

 

 

 

On 10/16/2017 at 7:54 AM, Colmisfishing said:

 

Any advice on how to best approach such a scenario so that the fly as it moves through the rip, is as life like as possible? 

Edited by The Fisherman

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Posted (edited)

You left out important details.  What fly?  Imitating what bait?  Assuming stripers.....HOW do you know they want a dead drift (no movement except with the current)....as opposed to a swimming, swinging fly?

 

2-12 feet depth, fast current.  My initial approach would be an intermediate line and swing a clouser trying the whole litany of stripping scenarios until I had the combo, casting more downstream when the water was shallower to keep the fly from hanging up on the bottom, more upstream and letting it sink a bit before starting the swing-strip retrieve as the water deepens.  But keeping the fly on the bottom would NOT be my goal initially.  It is NOTHING energy-wise for a fish, holding near the bottom in fast current, to plane up 10 feet to grab a baitfish/fly swinging/swimming/floating above it.  Sometimes they are that lazy, but not often....in that situation.  And if I couldn't take fish the first question would be.....are there fish there at all?  If I saw the fish, or indications of activity, or others were catching fish.....only then would I start trying specialty tactics.  The most common reason for lack of success is.....the fish aren't there. 

 

Stripers love to feed in current because, with an ambush tactic, the current gives them an advantage over otherwise fast-swimming baitfish......or......the current carries  along passive bait to lazy them that is NOT moving or swimming fast.  The presentation possibilities can be between dead drifting your fly all the way to ripping it with your fastest hand retrieve....which will be magnified by the bow in the line swinging in the current.  There is no ONE SINGLE scenario.

 

I would venture a guess that 90% of the time (or better), feeding in current, they are chasing active baitfish and movement is NOT a turnoff.  Often quite the opposite.  Depends on the bait and the situation.

 

On the other hand, getting DOWN in the water column in fast current can be a whole different challenge.....and the faster the retrieve the higher in the water column the fly will want to ride.

 

So......there are all the sinking to floating line possibilities, the weighted to unweighted fly possibilities, leader length choices, and THEN angles to cast into, across, or down current, how long to wait before starting a retrieve (if there is to be movement), and the possibilities for mending the line.....which can INCREASE the fly-swing speed (mending DOWNSTREAM of the bowed line) or DECREASE/STOP the fly swing (mending UPSTREAM of the fly/swing).

 

But, mending becomes more and more impossible/irrelevant the more of the line that sinks.  For a pure dead drift presentation, like a trout-nymph dead drift, the easiest and fastest ways of getting that is a heavily upstream cast and retrieve with the current as the fly drifts down to you.  Little to no mending involved  You CAN do that on a sinking line but it is difficult  to stay in touch with the fly and feel the take.  OR, to depths of  10-15 feet you can use a floating line, a long leader, and a sinking fly and cast either upstream and retrieve passively with the current OR across and by mending and even throwing line let the fly dead drift downstream.  Or have it both ways by casting up, retrieve until the fly gets below you, and then start mending and even throwing line as the fly drifts below you.

 

I'm not going to go on and on with all the possibilities.  Back to the original question.  WHAT bait?  What fly? HOW do you know they ONLY want a drifting, non-moving fly?.

 

I've got to tell you that in my experience, for the last 20 years fishing exclusively in early to mid-June, during the daytime, I have only once run into fish that only wanted a drifting, movement-less fly.  And they were on the surface way into the estuary.  They were sipping something small, on/near the surface, and we never did figure it out.

Edited by Peter Patricelli

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Once you introduce a retrieve (of the fly, not of slack line) to the equation, you are creating drag, and you're no longer dead-drifting.

 

My experience differs from Peter's in that I have witnessed countless scenarios where stripers wanted dead-drifted, movement-less flies (and sometimes a static presentation like the dangle). Sometimes I have been fortunate enough to catch them. Of course, that may be a function of where and how I fish as much as anything else. :-)

 

Very respectfully,

 

Steve Culton

 

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Posted (edited)

10 hours ago, Peter Patricelli said:

... 

I've got to tell you that in my experience, for the last 20 years fishing exclusively in early to mid-June, during the daytime, I have only once run into fish that only wanted a drifting, movement-less fly.  And they were on the surface way into the estuary.  They were sipping something small, on/near the surface, and we never did figure it out.

 

Peter,

What about that day a few years ago when the no-retrieve retrieve was needed at Secret Spot #1? That was using clousers on the bottom, at a time when we believed that the stripers were feeding on crabs. As I recall, there was also a day last summer when it was working for me again, although there was no sign of crabs. Or, maybe I don't understand what this thread is about.

Steve

Edited by Steve Schullery

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I haven't seen many times stripers got so picky they would turn down food honestly (other than a worm hatch), but fishing fast moving rips like that I've always like the combination of a sinking head and floating running line. I never liked throwing weighted flies other than small crabs and bonefish type flies, a sinking head with a flatwing or deceiver gets down in the zone just fine. Steve's flies in the Fly Tying section would be great for that, though the ugly ones I tie work ok. The place I fish like that has slower water on the sides of the rip so I start in close and add a few feet with each drift, and there are a few spots closer in where eddies form and the bait holds and swims in the opposite direction as the rip. A lot of times I get fish as I'm bringing my line back through these eddies, not sure if the fish followed the fly from in the rip or was there to begin with, but it's good to be aware of them. I do like a floating line for drifting crab patterns just over the edge of a certain flat in Abaco though, killer combination there...

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Steve,

"What about that day a few years ago when the no-retrieve retrieve was needed at Secret Spot #1? That was using clousers on the bottom, at a time when we believed that the stripers were feeding on crabs."

 

Yeah, I thought of that.  But, the no-retrieve retrieve (common to fishing crab patterns) is quite different from a dead drift in fast current.  At that particular time and place, there was no current.  And, there really was a retrieve (or we would still be there), but very slow.

 

The OP asked about "drifting a fly in current" and then described a headland between two large bays, a ripping current, and fishing the maximum tide flows.  Then he talks about mending.  That said to me "dead drifting" in heavy current, basically exactly like a dead drifted nymph in a river current in trout fishing.   But then he says, "Any advice on how to best approach such a scenario so that the fly as it moves through the rip, is as life like as possible?".  Fly?  Lifelike?  Again.....WHAT fly?  Imitating WHAT life?......lifelikely?

 

The OP has only 4 posts, and hasn't come back on to answer or respond to anything.  I'm not entirely sure he meant to ask about dead drifiting at all rather than just how to work a fly in fast current, altho  I have no problem believing that he did.  I am well aware that there are times and places where it (dead drift) is a good striper tactic, but note that it seems to be not common at the times and places where we fish.......which is a really small slice of the playground, day, and season.

 

Unless the OP comes back for clarification, I'm not disposed to put more time or energy into this.  He got some good ideas to play with.  

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I feel like a miner that struck gold. Thanks for the feedback guys, there is a mountain of information in the replie s to ponder/test out. This is a thread I will print off and study.

I'm fishing in Irelan d for our European Sea Bass (Smaller first cousin of the striper).

Mainly fishing deceiver and flatwing patterns from 4 to 7 inches.

I said drifting but in reality I try combinations of dead drifting or a slow retrieve. I'm using a floating line with intermediate head and a 5' fast sinking leader with tippet attached for these conditions.

When I put in say a 60' cast uptide of the rip, say at 2 oclock, I watch the first 20-30ft from rod tip form a bow in the current and was wondering if this is having a negative influence on the way the fly is presenting and if anything can be done to improve the flies presentation as it moves through the danger zone which I have found to be roughly from 12 oclock back to 10 oclock. 

The other issue I feel I have is that as the tide rises in the scenario above, I feel like my fly is staying in the top layer of the rip and in any kind of coloured water, may not be getting down to the fish. I do take the points made above that a fish should find it easy to rise up and take the bait swinging past overhead.

Is there any merit to standing a bit further uptide from the rip so that when you make the 2oclock cast the fly has further to travel before hitting the danger zone and therefore more time to sink? 

I'm an experienced lure angler and novice fly angler so I'm trying to soak up as much good information on presentation as possible.

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Hmmm I've been toying with the idea of bringing my gear on my next Galway trip to try around Salt Hill, didn't know people fished the salt in Ireland. I was probably always too drunk to notice though...

What you describe works ok for me if I'm drifting my fly in the current along a beach or estuary, which is a slower current but in a fast rip I haven't had much luck with it. That's why I go with the fast sinking head, cast right into your "danger zone" or just before it. I don't fish much freshwater but it would seem those guys on the west coast fishing big water for steelhead or salmon would be the ones to look at. How was that rip during the hurricane?

 

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I am not clear with what you mean by "danger zone".  Meaning where/when you think the strikes will come??

 

First, you are fishing for a fish that only a few on this forum have ANY experience with.  Might be the same as stripers, might be very different.  Second, given all the limeys that bail for fishing over here every chance they get, I am going to guess that, at best, your fishery there is a LOT less productive than here....meaning the fish are few(er) and far(ther) between under every scenario so there can be long stretches when, even doing everything right, by purpose or chance, you aren't getting  hit....leading to more experimentation and probably spending time on less effective techniques.....just trying to get the first fish or two.  Clearly you aren't slaying them......since you were moved to ask the question.  From my experience, such "rare fish" fisheries are much tougher.  Very little in the way of immediate, direct feedback from the fish when you are doing the best presentation.

 

If you were taking these fish with lures, then that should be your key as to when they are present, exactly where in the water column (depth) and where (IN the fastest water or in the pockets or softer edges on the edges of the strong current.

 

There certainly are a lot of commonalities among predator fish feeding on baitfish in current.  You are using a baitfish-imitating fly.  I would assume as a starting point that lifelike movement, making the fly swim and dart in a nervous, erratic (fleeing) fashion would be most effective.  A still, non-moving (relative to the current) presentation would be the LAST thing I would spend time on, except you can play with a bit of that by (as you have learned) casting a bit upstream and letting it sink on its own before the swing really starts.

 

But, the best news is that, by casting anywhere between straight out, perpendicular to the flow to downstream.....say 10-11, virtually everything the fly does on the swing until after it stops hanging directly below you, is good, life-like, natural baitfish behavior which you can enhance (or not) by stripping.  In screaming currents a perpendicular cast is going to result in an even faster, screaming, too-fast swing.  Your choice is either mend continuously or. better yet, cast more downstream as a starting point.  If the current is slow and you feel the fly is swinging too slowly the answer is to cast more upstream and/or mend downstream.

 

if your fly is hanging up on the bottom, cast more downstream giving it less time to sink.  For greater depth. more upstream and adding mends to slow the swing.....which causes the fly to rise. 

 

When swinging the fly, at all times you are going to be relatively to completely tight to the fly and any take will hook itself (or not).  Nothing subtle about it.

 

For depth control, again start with where the cast starts and +/- sinking time, then for progressive depth I would go to weighted flies ( such as clouser) and longer leaders (if floating line).....progressively to sinking line tips/heads.  Since the current drag will tend to lift the flies toward the surface, for the same weight, a smaller or more sparse fly will track more deeply than a bigger, bushier fly.

 

But, by far, the most important thing is to concentrate on trying to identify the water type/depth in which the fish are holding (IF they are holding....rather than roaming).  That is why/where your lure experience is valuable.  Every hit, whether landed or not, means something and should be thoroughly evaluated and mentally catalogued as to water type/speed, depth, surrounding/associated structure, as you build your database.

 

The centuries old cast-step-cast-step through a run is calculated to show the fly to every inch of potential water.  Fish are most likely to take a fly on the first pass over them, much less likely on the second, and unlikely from that point on.  ANY structure or current change is worth exploring with cast designed to put the fly right in front of or just behind the structure, or to swim through the current shift.

 

The above is designed to work on fish scattered in structure or current defined holding water where they can ambush passing baitfish.  The alternate scenario, and more frustrating, is fish that are roaming in random schools and they are either there (and almost anywhere) or not.  Suddenly you catch a fish or two, then they are gone, subsequent trials of that spot yield nothing, Your database of hits seems random without any pattern.  Without fish-markers (birds or visual swirls) all you can do is try and discern where the bottom and current structure is going to  concentrate fish moving up or down the shoreline into a thinner line (such as a point or headland) and then just stake out and cast your arm off.

 

Again, I have no knowledge of that fish.  But, without some good intel pushing me in that direction, I would not spend a lot of time  trying to get a "dead-drift" presentation.  Not with baitfish flies.  Not in the compulsive sense that some trout fishermen work to eliminate all forms of drag.  It might work.....but with few fish to find, you're better off covering more water with a moving, darting fly that will attract more attention from a distance.

 

I am sure Mike Oliver has had some experience with that fish and would be surprised if he didn't chime in here now that we know you are fishing Irish waters.  

 

 

 

 

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10 hours ago, Colmisfishing said:

I'm using a floating line with intermediate head and a 5' fast sinking leader with tippet attached for these conditions.

 

I'm an experienced lure angler and novice fly angler so I'm trying to soak up as much good information on presentation as possible.

 

Let's start here: what is the purpose of the intermediate line section in this chain? Since it cannot be mended and it is a thicker diameter than a full/fast sink line or head, all it is doing in a heavy current is adding drag. If you're interested in presentation options, you want line control, and intermediate lines are a poor choice for that. (Look for a copy of Greased Line Fishing for Salmon by Jock Scott. It's specifically about targeting Atlantic salmon, and the language is a bit moldy, but I think you'll find it a valuable resource for fishing in current.) Also, when you say "fast sinking leader" are you talking about a section of fast sink line (like T-11?).

 

Steve Culton

 

 

 

 

 

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Posted (edited)

Colm are you having trouble staying near the bottom or something? When you are fishing jigs or whatever with your conventional rod or whatever you call it over there, do u gen. catch the seabass on the bottom? How cloudy is the water? 

 

How much success have you had so far? Do you get 'em in deep water and shallow water alike and all stages of the tide? Just curious if you are even catching 'em on the fly. 

 

Search youtube videoes for steelhead swing fishing. Steelhead is a trout, common in the western part of the States, which people fish for with big sinking lines. I think "drifting" in your terminology is "swinging" in ours over here, although some of my collegues seems to have interpreted you to mean "drag-free" drift where the fly is moving at same speed of current, no slower and no faster, as in dry fly fishing. 

 

I would say this: casting across the current at perpendicular angle, try to keep a little line in reserve, and right when the fly hits the water make a very large mend before the rest of the line has hit the water. Just one mend maybe one more after that. Then you can feed a little of that reserved line into the drift and fish that. But how deep can you get? Who knows. 

 

It might be neccessary to just fish the shallower zones and focus there or else try something else. 

 

 

You should watch this video: 

 

 

 

Edited by Otshawytsha

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Posted (edited)

Colm Hi,

 

I saw this post and to be honest decided to stay away from it. Reason being the replies are lengthy and can be complex. Peters and Steve’s input are cases in point. Both have excellent advice. The other reason is that it gets frustrating giving out help when mostly you know that it is going to get ignored. Reason it takes a lot of effort and will to present a fly using the techniques that Peter and Steve have outlined.  But Peter sent me a PM when he found out you are fishing for European Bass as he thought I may have some further input as there could be differences in behaviour between our respective Basses. If you observe most but not all Fly guys fishing any moving water their default method is to cast their fly down current and fish it back up often as soon as their fly touches down.

Ok I am from the UK and fish for European Bass to . Our Bass, do in fact behave very much the same as Stripers. There are times they will come up,from deep and hit a shallow fished fly but others they want it on their nose.

 

ok I am not going to repeat the advice already given but add a couple of extra pointers.

If on the day you have to get right down accept it can be hard. So you have to be tenacious. Not every cast will work don’t let that frustrate you and stop you trying. Challange  like this ,is what make fly fishing so much fun.

 

Okyou ask about this belly. Yes if you get a belly in your line downstream of you you are causing your fly to move faster than the currnet. Commonly called drag. This will cause your fly to ride up in the water column. In your case this is not desirable but say if you are fishing in a slow mark and want to fish your fly faster it can  work for you.

To get rid of this down stream belly it’s not hard if you have a full floating line. You make an upstream mend. 

As the  line fishes you will get another downstream belly so you have to make repeated upstream mends. A mend is simple to do. You lift the rod tip and roll the line back up current. You may have to have two goes at it sometimes to make a single mend. Mending is your key tool.

ok it can be difficult with a floater to get down real deep. I will also use full sink. It’s not pretty and it is a bit hit and miss. With a full sink I will walk a short way up up current to where I am actually going to stand. I make a long cast at an angle up current. I want the fly line to have as little,drag on it as possible so it can free fall which means it will sink quicker. You can’t get total free fall but that’s the target. I will feed running line into the water so as the line sinks it is not being effected by the drag against the rod. As line comes back down current I  will walk down with it feeding  more line if I think it’s needed. That depends on speed of current and depth.

When I get to where I wish to fish I may even thrust my rod right down under the water to help maintain depth. This is like alchemy . It’s guess work and gut feel to try and find the taking depth and speed of the fly.

It is not for lazy Fishers. This is why I usually can’t be bothered to try and explain this technique as I never see anyone else doing it. So why waste your breath. LOL.

Before you get to trying this crude depth charge method then as Peter suggests it’s worth going through the other easier options.

There is no doubt in my experience that a floating line and a heavyish fly will give you the best control.  Again you can start further up current to where you want to fish and make repeated mends as you walk back down.

Now takes if you manage to achieve a true dead drift are going to be subtle. You may see your fly line twitch or slide. You may feel a gentle take. But often some six sense will tell you a Fish has mouthed your fly and you tighten up. 

With a sinking line truth is it will be next to impossible to get a dead drift and if you did how you going to detect the take unless the fish is extremely aggressive. The deep sunk sunk line will have some drag and that will induce a stronger take like a swing fly can.

I am guessing you fish soft plastics and you will know at times the Bass want it tricking along the bottom that a jigged approach is not going to work. That at times you have to make an up current presentation with your SP and jigs and suspended hard plugs. Much more difficult to do with long current grabbing fly lines.

ok back to gear you can try combos of floating line and various rate and lengths of sink tips and polyleaders.

As I mentioned earlier it is not for lazy or feint hearted Fishers. Another tactic. Is to try a very big fly as that may get  fish to come away from its lie as it’s worth having.

You have plenty of options. Some I have outlined need a lot of room to manuvere  yourself and your fly. You can’t  do this stuff alongside a spin guy or other Fly Fishers.

For simplicities sake my suggestion initially is to learn how to use the floating fly line approach. before going to the dirty method of fast sink.

Unlike the USA we have far fewer fish so doing new things is harder as we do not know if we are doing it wrong or that there are just plain no fish in our swim..

One last thought. A Two Hand fly rod say around 12 to 14 feet will give you superior control in situations like this. You can often use the rods length you keep you out of faster near side water and you can make bigger upcurrent mends.

I am in Brandon Bay Kerry from Dec 27 th for two weeks of surf Bassing if you want to meet up we. Fly opportunities  do exist at this time of the year but it’s tough. I am there for bait fishing in the surf but have my fly gear with me to. 

I started going to the USA because our own fishing is so,dire. You may want to consider doing that as well. In a good two,week trip,say to Cape  Cod it’s possible to catch more  Bass than in two seasons back in the UK.

I hope my additional info helps. Just work at it and it will come.

 

Have fun

 

Mike

Edited by Mike Oliver

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