Five things to remember to catch more fish

One of the most important things about fly fishing on chalk stream rivers is presentation. The better it is, the more fish you will catch, and the most important of all is drag. Fish hate it. So much so that 90% of the time it will be the reason for a fish ignoring your fly. In this post Oscar Boatfield gives a few tips on how to decrease drag, and hopefully increase your catch rates.

1. Keep your rod tip up

By gradually lifting your rod tip from the moment the fly hits the water right through to the end of the cast this will be constantly lifting line off the water. This will reduce drag, keep you more in touch with the fly, and most importantly the fish. You must make sure that the rod does not get too high so that you run out of space to strike, if a fish takes your fly. To stop this from happening I recommend a figure of eight with your line hand which keeps the rod at a level height whilst maintaining control of the line and keeping it off the water. 

2. Mending the line

Mending the line is not the easiest of things to do. It most certainly reduces drag overall, but increases drag during the mend. I have found the best way to mend the line is by lifting as much line off the water as possible. By keeping a high rod and using a very delicate punch  you can allow the fly line to flick over without any movement of the fly. It also sometimes helps to put the mend into the line as soon as the flies hit the water. This alone can add a good few seconds to your drag free drift.

3. Casting Styles

There are many different casting styles which can reduce drag. Personally, I find the most useful is what I like to call the wiggle cast (it probably has a proper name). This is a very easy cast, however it goes against the initial tendencies of the fly fisherman. When learning to cast for the first time the goal is a dead straight cast, however with this technique you put a wiggle into your line before the line even lands on the water. Just a delicate wiggle of the rod tip is all it takes to put a bit of shape into your fly line as the rod comes down to land the fly line on the water. This will immediately reduce drag as the line hits the water. 

4. Casting distances

As fly fisherman we love to cast long lines. They just look so good! I on many occasions look to cast silly distances to rising fish, knowing before hand that it would be highly unlikely for me to hook one! If you want to increase your catch rates, then you must get closer to the fish and cast shorter distances. By casting a shorter distance, you not only have much more control over your line but you also the ability to keep more line off the water and thus reducing drag. The shorter cast also gives you much more contact with the flies so when a fish takes you have less time before you are hooked into and playing the fish.

5. Length of leader

The most effective way of fishing with the least amount of drag is by using an ultra long leader and having no fly line involved at all. This is where the French Leaders really come into their own. They allow you to cast long distances without the use of any fly line at all. Due to the lower surface area of the material this gives you the perfect drag free drift . If you do not feel comfortable with going straight out and trying the 15m french leader then I suggest working your way up. Simply start gradually increasing the length of the leader that you fish and I’m sure you will notice a real difference in the amount of fish that take your fly. 

Having said all this, there are times when drag can come in handy: skating flies across the surface, swinging nymphs, and stripping streamers to name a few. However if your flies are dragging unintentionally then you need to think of what you can do to change that, and hopefully these tips will help you with this!

Oscar Boatfield