by Fly Fisherman

In wet fly fishing, especially by the natural drift method, you must be alert to strike quickly—firmly but not too hard—at the first feel of a fish or at the slightest move of the line in any direction other than a natural drift with the current. In fishing a wet fly downstream by the action method, usually the trout hooks himself. Be careful he doesn’t surprise you into an automatic “yank” of the rod that is so hard you pull the fly right out of the trout’s mouth—or break the leader.
Considering that most of the aquatic insects in a trout stream live in the riffles, and that nymphs and larvae are continually being washed off these riffles, it is only to be expected that one of the greatest of the trout’s “dining rooms” is at the edges of current tongues at the end of a riffle. Cast your wet fly—which should be a nymph or an exact imitation type of wet fly—upstream into the edge of a big current tongue, or into the middle of a little one, and let the fly drift down with the current. This will give you one of the most natural deliveries of a wet fly that I know of. If skillfully done, this presentation will fool even very wary trout into striking.

Fishing Current Tongue
On the other hand, if this natural drift delivery doesn’t work, or has stopped working after getting you a fish or two, you can sometimes get above these riffle tongues; and fish them again by the action method with success. In this case use a fairly short line and work the fly with a jerky tip motion. It does no harm to try this with the fly sunk, and later by skittering it across the surface. What a trout thinks this skittering fly is, I can’t imagine; but I know I’ve taken many fish with it.

There are numerous small and sometimes deep, rocky pockets in every trout stream. Trout love to lurk in them. In 50° to 55° water, you can take a lot of trout from these places by fishing upstream, casting a very short line into the upper side of the pocket and letting the fly drift with the current down to the lower lip of the hole. An exact imitation fly is best, for this use. Pay especial attention to the sides, back and front of all good-sized rocks. This applies to boulders under the water or those that come up above the surface. With a short line, you can let the fly float with the current around and between the rocks, while keeping the line tight enough to be ready to strike quickly.

A good way to fish a wet fly in small brushy brooks, or in very brushy water of any kind, is to pick a spot where you have room for rod action but where the stream below is too brushy for casting. Work your fly and line down under the brush, keeping it deep, and giving the fly action with short jerks of the rod tip or the line. If the current runs down without underwater obstructions, as is often the case, you can fish sixty or seventy feet of line this way. Work the cast out carefully, both going out and again as you retrieve it.

In fairly fast water and with a fancy type wet fly, you can often get results with a maneuver used a good deal for Steel-heads on the Rogue and Umpqua Rivers. You cast quartering downstream and immediately begin to tip-work the fly with short rhythmic motions timed about thirty to the minute, Retrieve about a foot of line as your fly swings around straight below you. After working the fly up and down in this position for a few minutes, strip off about six feet of line and release it all at once so the fly will sink and float a ways down stream. If there is no strike then, reel in the cast slowly. For some reason, fish will often strike a wet fly when so reeled.
If the water is quite deep, it is a good thing, in wet fly casting, to strip out a few feet of line as soon as the fly lights, and let it sink even before it begins to float down stream.

In fishing the still waters of trout streams with nymphs or wet flies, use long leaders—from 9 to 20 feet depending upon how dear the water is—and count until you know the fly is just above the bottom. You will have to experiment first to see what count is needed. After this is fixed, let the line sink at the end of the cast; at the proper count, strike whether
you feel a fish Of not. On a loose line you probably would never feel a fish at all; but you will hook one every once in a while on the random strike method. It isn’t so random either, because just before the fly would have reached bottom is the time a trout would strike nine times out of ten. The retrieve should be made by the hand twist method previously described. Don’t hurry it. Probably nine complete turns per minute will be right. But try different speeds.

Here is another trick that often works with a wet fly, a bucktail or a streamer fly. After an ordinary cast, make three fast jerks with the rod tip, lower the tip, and allow the fly to sink for a count of about fifteen (vary this according to the depth of water). Make three more fast jerks, retrieve some line and repeat all through the retrieve. I have seen this method take trout after every other way had failed.

You will often find trout—and big ones—well under log jams and heavy brush piles where the fly has to drift quite a way in order to march a place where the trout can take it. These places often hold your best chances for good fish in a whole day’s effort. In 50° to 55° water a nymph is usually the best fly for such positions. If you want to carefully estimate the time necessary for your fly to drift to the proper place, a good technique is to float a dry fly over this piece of water first and find out what count it takes to make the drift. You won’t be liable to get any strikes on the dry fly at this temperature, but when you drift a nymph down with the same count, you should bring a solid strike from the trout under the log jam or brush pile. This same trick works for deep pockets under cut banks.

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