Fly Action and Position on The Water

by Fly Fisherman

Another step upwards, in the rating of the cast fly, is its ACTION. It would perhaps be more apt to say, “Its lack of action,” because this pertains to naturalness of the fly on the water. It means, in other words, that there is a complete lack of drag, the fly presenting a cocky realistic form. (Naturally, I am assuming that the fly is a well-tied quality creation. There is a tremendous difference in the “action” and efficiency of good flies over the common so-called market productions.)

The chief requisite relating to the fly itself is its POSITION on the water. This means accurate placement in the natural food channel. It means, perhaps, a delicate bump off the bank to ride closely along the water’s edge where naturals might also travel. It means a delicate drift over that open area, in a close-to-the-surface weed bed, it means a float just slightly to the right or left of the line in which you witnessed a rising fish, it means, when conditions warrant, a curve cast which permits the fly to precede the leader over a prospective fish location.

The two most vital essentials of all, I firmly believe, are not particularly concerned with the fly or the cast, but to the PRESENTATION by the fisherman and his APPROACH. These requisites are developed, not from careless fishing butfrom a conscientious  desire to improve and from successful, studied efforts to carry them out in the best possible way you can. I like my flies sparsely tied as to hackle. Just enough to float the fly is sufficient and in well-tied, high quality material flies the small amount needed to float them is surprisingly limited. (After all the insect has only six legs.) And I want wings on my flies. I have an aversion against fooling my fish with crippled simulations even though they are impressionistic copies of the naturals.

Certain hackle flies tied wet are O.K. with me inasmuch as many nymphs, before rising to the surface, have no discernable wings. I prefer and insist upon hackle tip wings instead of the old-fashioned English type cut wings from flight quills. These latter wings are opaque, unlike the naturals. They will not stand even mild abuse and as for resurrecting them following a clash with the mouth of a trout, it is practically impossible. Hackle tip wings and also wings formed of the flank plumage of woodduck or mallard are sturdy, will withstand maximum abuse, are easy to put back into shape (they rarely get out of shape), and they are far and away a better copy of the natural’s fine transparent wings. Regardless of statements to the contrary, and to the so-called excuses for eliminating wings, the winged fly is more efficient, will give you more action and because it represents the insect form better the positive results are better. A thorough series of tests has proved this fact to me and an honest test will prove it to you.

A fallacy that took me a long time to see through is that a ragged, chewed up pattern was superior to one of the same species or type of good physical condition. A fisherman may have struck on a certain Ginger Quill, for example, and found it so desirable to the fish that its constant contact with the mouth and teeth of those fish rendered it a sorry object but it still continued in efficiency. When things were going along in an exciting path few fishermen would take the fly off and replace it with another. Had they done so they would have found, providing the fly was an identical pattern and size, that the action would have continued unabated or even increased. I’ve done it.

The fallacy developed, by the fisherman probably losing the fly and replacing it with another almost like the original and his surge of successful activity tapered off—so the old ragged lure becomes the model and another “truism” comes to being. The only possibility of their being a factual superiority in the chewed up fly is that the fisherman, perhaps unknowingly, happened to be handling the lure as a nymph is sometimes fished and that could be what the trout calculated it was. Too, the chewed-up fly has become a “sparse” type and gets deeper into the water where the trout wants it.

In the almost unending list of fly patterns you will note that, aside from color variations or uses of different materials to accomplish the same end, there is but a surprisingly small number of basic models for the few species of aquatic and land flies used in fishing.

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