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Peter Patricelli

The sink rate of flies...how to get the fly on the bottom.

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A recent thread asked about strategies for fishing a sand eel pattern and a crab pattern on the bottom in 4-7 feet of water.

 

I made the statement than a sand eel pattern, tied for sink rate, NOT tied to a leader, should drop like a bomb. A leader, depending mostly on length and tippet length/size will only slow the drop. The naked fly is the fastest THAT fly will drop.

 

There are, of course, ways to tie the fly to drop faster...or slower. The more sparse, the more weight, the faster. The lighter the leader and the longer the tippet, the FASTER the fly will sink approaching this "bare fly" maximum.

 

With a slow sinking fly, like every crab pattern I have ever encountered, even WEIGHTED crab patterns, there is the possibility that the leader sink rate...Fluoro sinks faster than nylon, and a short leader attached to a fast sinking head, WILL sink faster than the crab and a short, heavy leader will get it down faster.

 

Two completely different approaches to solve the problem presented by seriously different fly sink rates.

 

To demonstrate:

 

Everyone has a fly sink rate testing column....don't they? Just kidding. We do because we have studied the sink rates of flies, leader materials/diameters, and even fly line sections....a lot.

 

I drop 3 flies, each twice, into the column which is 3'4" high. First is a small, relatively sparse Clouser with a small dumbell, second a large, heavily tied Clouser with a heavy dumbell, and last is a weighted Merkin-typ crab.

 

http://flyfishingfotography.smugmug.com/Fishing/Casting/17986621_sQnMvX#!i=1681787174&k=ZFwgr5h&lb=1&s=A

 

By the way, that head down rapid drop of a Clouser into sand is a major strike trigger for Stripers. Sand eels, when threatened, will dive and then bury rapidly head first into sand to escape predators. If you have a leader length/tippet set up that allows it, this fast, head down drop a fantastic way to trigger a strike . When the bass notices the fly and begins to close on it, STOP STRIPPING altogether. Thethe fly goes head down toward or actually onto the sand. The bass realizes it has only seconds to get it before it disappears into the sand, charges and goes head down, tail up or waving in the air to dig it out. Fun stuff!

 

Peter Patricelli

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Nice video, thanks.

 

With respect to the fly in normal circumstances, with a floro leader, the profile of the fly is changed relative to gravity and the horizontal surface area massively greater will slow the drop. Your suggestion to stop stripping is good, but is there anything which we can do to assist the fly to maximize the head-down posture?

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MWExile,

 

You are correct. The moment you tie a leader to the eye, things change quickly. The only factors I can think of quickly are a bigger lead head for obvious reasons, a small diameter leader (lighter rather than heavier...and a longer tippet versus shorter, a SUPPLE leader versus stiff, so the tippet is more free to bend easily to allow an immedite drop, a LOOP KNOT connection to the fly eye...rather than a rigid connection. And then of course, cast so half the leader turns over and the last half piles up so the fly pulls it straight down. You can do that whenever you want at the end of a 90 foot cast....right?

 

PMP

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In addition- the angle of your cast relative to the direction of the current is a key factor. Casting up and across with some slack in the leader will facilitate sink rate a lot, conversely, casting down and across will hardly allow any sinking to occur. Casting at ninety degrees and walking along with the current is another good way to get your fly down if you have the mobility to do it. It's not all that easy, but the goal is to let the current take your fly with as little resistance as possible while remaining in touch, which may involve some stripping and some mending.

JC

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One of the issues which I find interesting is presentation when getting a fly down deep when using a floating fly line. The issue is the actual presentation of the fly. Taking the 3 to 7 feet depth of water I understand very clearly how we can get a fly down there with a floater but do the advocates of floating fly line bother themselves over how the fly looks and fishes. Take a horrible extreeme example of a 7 foot long leader and 7 foot deep water. sure we get the fly down there but its hanging near vertical. As soon as we do any retrieving the fly will start to come up in the water but still not at a good angle presentation wise and we can't maintain depth so well as some sort of sinking fly line. Ok we can lengthen the leader to maybe 10 or 12 feet which may be difficult on some days to give us a better angle but that fly is still going to want to ride upwards and maybe out of the strike zone.

 

Mike

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Two-handed rod with Skagit head,,,,,, vary the sink rate of the tip with length and weight of T-8, T-11, T-14, T-17 and T-20.

 

I cary in my tip wallet, 4ft, 6ft, 8ft, 10ft, 12ft, 14ft lengths with loops on both ends.

 

The discussion on current direction relative to caster and speed of current is a complex variable.

 

Regards,

FK

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Mike,

 

Remember, for this discussion we're talking 4-7 feet depth (I would expand to maybe 10'), and basically still water. A significant current seriously changes EVERYTHING

 

Regarding the "presentation" issue, while I want my fly in the fish zone to be seen I am bothered not at all by the idea of a fly going suddenly up or suddenly going down. I have to assume that the half life of real sand eels swimming calmly and staying in the same depth in front of their predators is not long. I assume, if sand eels detect approaching predators, they immediately get out of that zone, in ALL dimensions. A more natural fleeing behavior may, at times, trigger strikes when a more leisurely inspection of a non-"fleeing" fly might not. That up-down bouncing action is referred to as a "jigging" action because that is how jigs are typically fished.......with arguably the greatest success rate of any and all lures. I know one guide who will not fish Clousers, and gives his clients a little gentle chiding when they do so, because he considers them "jigs". He refers to them as the "jig fly" and considers them to be too easily effective and not "real" fly fishing. In our deep water dredging we are pulling the fly straight up! The fish hammer it.

 

There is no single correct answer in terms of fly line that fits all situations. There are times when a fly pulling hard through sand and held to the bottom by a fast sinking head is a great technique. But there are some bottoms where you just can't do that. If it is shallow and a hard bottom, or weedy, I need to keep my fly OFF the bottom. There are times when the fish want a very fast retreive...at depth, and no floating or intermediate line, regardless if leader length, is going to do that. And there are a million variations in between.

 

When I can I carry two rigged rods, one with a very fast sinking head or tip, and a slow sinking intermediate. If I can't carry two rods then I will have a reel with the fast sinking head in my kit to swap out if needed. But, most of the time, I find I have a greater number of options (in that 0-8 foot depth) with a slow sinking intermediate. I can fish it shallow keeping it above rocks or weeds both fast and slow. I can fish it on the bottom by a combination of fly weighting, leader length, and retreive rate. I have, for a long period through the retreive of a long cast, the ability to keep a fly in any part of that 8 foot depth.

 

A fast sinking head or tip is just going DOWN....and rapidly. Even with a long leader and unweighted fly by the time you have retreived the length of the leader....the fly is at that line depth...and continuously sinking. If you don't want the fly on the bottom you have to rip the retreive. Overall, I find the options contracted. So the line I rig first if I am wade fishng is the intermediate.

 

I thought people would enjoy seeing that a clouser or similarly weighted fly can easily be on the bottom at 8' depth, with a floating or intermediate line, with a long leader and a short 5-6 second sink count.. I typically fish a 12' leader with the intermediate (more options, no downside). If I want more depth and can't or don't want to change lines I go to a more heavily weighted fly, and ADD 3-4' of tippet, give it an extra sink count, and strip more slowly in the early retreive. A couple of fast, hard strips, followed by 3-4 seconds pause, keeps the fly jigging up and down off the bottom. Very effective. Or I can keep it off the bottom the whole retreive. To about 10 feet (in mostly still water), fast sinking lines are not the only way to fish deep.

 

Peter

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Unless I missed it, you left out some other variables that has an effect on sink rate, and that's water temperature & salt content. Warmer water is less dense than colder water. Waters with higher % of salt also are generally denser.

 

With all the other variables you've mentioned, both could have some additional impact on how fast a fly sinks.

 

 

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Peter,

 

Obtaining the depth you want to fish at for a given retireve rate is I agree one of the most fundamantal of fishing skills. Mostly it is sadly lacking. Just take a walk down a line up of Fly Fishers and you can see it for yourself. So many Guys after seeing another take a fish will enquire as to the taking depth will then change lines to say an ultra fast sinker but will make their cast and immediataly start a fast retrieve. Have you ever watched guys fishing a fast deep inlet. How many do you see walk upstream of where they actually want to fish the fly make a cast up stream and then feed more slack line to allow the fly to sink better and walk the whole shooting match until they reach the point where you stop and fish the fly round. I have yet to see one. I see the same thing Trout fishing on lakes with ultra long 18 to 20 foot leaders Buzzer fishing where countdown is often 30 to 50 secs. But if we shortened that process to say 15 secs by use of an I line we would not get any takes as we could not fish the fly slowly enough. I to use an I line for water depths up to 10 feet providing the current is not too fast if the fish are taking deep. Bob Clouser hated his fly refered to as a jig. In a good current it will fish more like a std tye fly. Now we have been talking about depth and Clousers are much easier as a fly to get depth control. Much harder with a Deceiver which is much slower to sink. The other factor we have to allow for is the actual time we have to alow a fly to sink. On many beaches with a surf running you may only be in play for 5 to 15 secs before your line would be dumped back in your face. I have found even long leaders and Clousers for me at any rate just do not cut it then even on an I line. To be effective I have to go to a D3 or D7 line and short leader to get into the strike zone before that incessant surf pushes the fly out of it. I have heard of some Guys who like to fish floating lines and that they will fish their Clousers like heavy nymphs Eastern European style and cast just behind the shore break wave and into the trough trying to keep all the fly line out of the water. Great technique but beats me how they do it wearing chest waders as these waves will dump on you. To be effective you can't do the oft seen cast and dash back to terra firma. I am looking forward to trying this in CC this June on the Back side beaches but wearing waders I will not be. LOL. And yes I may even have to go to heavier Clousers which I hate using. But these presentation problems are for me what go towards making the sport to challaging and interesting. If it was two dimensional and a piece of cake you would not see me on here or a beach. I am guessing the same could be said for yourself.

 

Mike

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