Thursday, November 29, 2012

Swinging For Chrome Is Not Pure At Heart

Being an avid Atlantic Salmon angler, for more than forty years, has given me a strong affinity for fishing the swing.  Watching my fly speed and creating what has become an instinctual learning experience, as to what is correct, has taken some time and many fish to fly.

Come on, you know that feeling.  You make the cast, the fly hits the water and the line looks perfect.  You don't know it's perfect but it sure looks good.  That's what I am talking about when I say "learned instinct".  The time when you say to yourself, "that's the one" and it happens.

Now in this age of a growing steelhead fishery in the Mid West and New York state, swinging with two hands, for me, is taking on an entire new meaning.  To incorporate my traditional down and across mend free swing learned for best advantage when the target is Salmo Salar would result in few fish when the quarry is chrome.  We all love the stories of fish charging across the pool to attack our fly.  You can just forget about that one.  Putting our fly in the fishes face and having the speed being slow is an absolute requirement.  As the water temperature gets colder this aspect becomes more and more necessary.

I love two hand casting and have worked especially hard practicing and studying the art.  I recently attended a workshop with Al Buhr and Jim Valle, both true Masters, that opened my eyes wide as well as the window of possibilities the swing will fit through.  Try to think of it this way.  The floating portion of the line is the vehicle and the tip with leader is PROBE.  As I said, for fall and winter angling we must slow the fly down and have the depth running correctly.  Not dragging the bottom but almost.  

So how do we satisfy our desire to swing and at the same time achieve the pin point in their face presentation necessary to get these fish to bite?  Cold fish less days can be hard to take and at the same time there is a high probability that is what will happen.  Let's do our best to increase the odds.

I have changed the pure Swing into the Swimph.  Not just in presentation but even in the equipment.

First comes the rod.  I leave my fast action rods at home and use through the butt flex slow reaction tapers.  Commercially, a TFO traditionl progressive, regressive, taper works well.  Also the TFO switch rods with through the grip flex will work.  The reasoning is that these fish are leader shy and at the same time like a great deal of movement in the fly.  Rabbit Tails, Zonkers and Temple Dog styles get the most reaction for me.  This requires us to use as light a tippet as we dare where a fast action rod will result in too many fish with our flies left in their mouths.   The lines are all short head heavy Skagits.  These floating heads must be able to handle a fifteen foot 7 inches per second poly or a two foot piece of T14 or whatever is needed to PROBE the lie.  The flies can be up to four inches long and very heavy to pull out of the water.  I don't like fishing weighted flies as I feel the action is greatly reduced.  I prefer the correct tip choice and tippet length.

Think of this PROBE as different length fingers hanging down into the current that will bend perfectly to the bottom off our floating hand.  What ever the fishes lie requires in depth and current speed must be in your ability to recognize and PROBE.  The Skagit head gets the tip and leader to the ideal location and the tip or poly leader puts the fly at the correct depth to fish the lie.  Going an entire day, or even an hour, with the same tip system is not going to work.   Each fish in each location will require a different set up for a  perfect presentation.  The more you fish a piece of river the greater your understanding will be in many different conditions and the greater your chances will become for success.  Knowing what is in each pocket and behind each rock gives us great advantage.  "Learned Instinct", will take over even if you don't know you are using the power.

The easiest way to explain the way I Swimph is to say that I am swinging in a nymphing style.  The casts are mostly short ninety degree or greater Single Spey.  In our clinic, Al asked what we thought was the best cast.  After a brief pause he said the best cast was the one that returned his fly to fishing in the least amount of time from when it was last  fishing.  Of all two hand casts, the Single Spey is the one that can't be beat.  I now fish the Single Spey with dominant up or down most of a fishing day and would estimate that I add about fifteen percent more fishing time to a day than when using Pokes, Doubles and Circles.  Time yourself for ten casts.  You will quickly understand.

After the fly hits the water I will want to slow down and make mends in the same exact way as when we are nymphing.  The dead drift technique is employed.  I try to make my fly swim equal in speed to the current to achieve the correct depth.  When the line starts to extend into the forty five degree area, a common Salar presentation angle, we then want to cause Dangle Time as much as possible.  Again the incorporation of up stream mends will slow the fly from crossing the current too quickly.  Each and every Swimph watched and fished with the precision of what feels perfect is being sought.  

At the end of each drift let the fly dangle for a moment.  Start your retrieve to set up the next cast slowly.  Many times the first pull of the line will trigger a take.  The higher the water the more fish will congregate close to shore and the dangle becomes a more important tool.

I guess the last part of this is the question of whether Swimphing is really Swinging.  In my opinion, the answer is absolutely   I am using a two hand rod that is casting the belly of the line with casts that are common to tradition and adjusting the drift to the requirement of the quarry in an optimal way with the use of weight on line or fly.  

The nature of the fish we seek determines the way we look.


Friday, November 16, 2012

Throw Them Some Line

Ever have a big fish get caught up in the current and head down river leaving you helpless?  Our first thought is to hold tight.  But that usually doesn't work on a light tippet.   Then possibly follow as fast as possible.  This is all happening quickly.   And then what? What if option one and two are not available.  Then what?

The natural instinct for a fish is to flee from the direction that seems to be the source of danger.  When we pull on a hooked fish, the fish will pull back naturally in the opposite direction.  So a very good tactic, that I have used many times, is to reverse the direction of the danger by throwing line off my reel.  I do this as quickly as possible to create a down stream belly. This action will force the fish to move opposite the danger.

The main factor to consider, and you will not be allotted a great deal of time to make the choice, is the environment below your position.  When I am driving a car I try to know my surroundings both behind and in front and on a river I try to know what is below and above.  Calm water below with easy access will result in being able to move down.  Continuous moving water requires quick decision to chase or throw line.

Don't be afraid.  React quickly and see what happens.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

I Call It Dangle Time

How long are you willing to let your fly dangle in the current at the end of a swing?  It's a simple question that I would ask you to consider.

Sometimes we are so quick to cast that we diminish the chances for hook up dramatically by not letting the line sit.  On a number of occasions I have been in the middle of conversation with an up stream angler between casts when the fly gets smacked.   My rule is that the deeper and higher the water flow, the longer the time to dangle.  In higher water, travelers are moving up the sides where there is less water resistance.  If you must, force yourself to do so. Creating what seems like the perfect amount of time, then counting to yourself will pay off, I guarantee it!!!  After it happens you will not need to count any more. 

This rule applies to all trout, steelhead and salmon angling.  It also applies to nymph fishing as well.  Pop up on the lift and then wait a moment before casting.

Another option is to make the fly dangle in other locations in addition to directly below our river position.  If you were to cast down and across and immediately throw a big loop mend up and out you are slowing down your fly from moving sideways.  Mend again, and again, and again and you continue to slow down and in some river current conditions keep the fly in a zone for a much longer period of time.

Should you do this on every cast?  No.  The dangle is just another piece of the puzzle to give credence and cover certain situations.  But waiting a moment before that next cast can produce some very hard takes.   Another aspect to the dangle is the 'pull and drop'.  When you have your fly on the dangle pull up slowly and then let it drop back into the fishes face.  This can produce a very strong take possibly from aggressive irritation.

 Having confidence is a key component to successful angling.  The things that make up every cast are the things we believe in and I have made the dangle a powerful go to option.  Pick a good fly with lots of action to dangle and count one thousand one , one  thousand two........................