Avoid “The Drag” for Successful Dry Fly Stream Fishing – AvidMax Blog

By: Andrew Jupina

As a lifelong fly fishing hobbyist, I have learned that presentation and natural movement of dry flies are very important aspects of being successful in catching fish. I mostly dry fish for trout in small to medium sized streams and rivers, but these basic spots will increase hookup rates for any species. I will try to keep my points short and simple, as I believe that fishing is a relaxing and meditative endeavor, not a chore or chore.

First, I will describe the term “crawl”. Drag is when your fly doesn’t float or move in the current exactly like a natural insect does. This is easily caused by casting the fly in the wrong place in the current, having too much line in the water, not having enough line to pull the fly against the current, or anything else that causes poor drift. Watch natural flies in the water. Observation is key here, before the all-important first plunge into your quarry.

Now, find a rising fish or at least a fish spot where you want to jump. Position yourself where you think you can hit your target and naturally move your fly across the area without creating too much disturbance that would spook the prey. Make sure it’s a place where you can get in and out safely and also land the fish with minimal risk of getting soaked unnecessarily or worse. I personally learned this lesson as a youngster! It’s also important to choose a spot that allows you to make that elusive “perfect” cast. Be aware of possible obstacles behind you that would prevent the back throw. Also check for overhanging tree branches.

Find a good food lane. Many times the surface bubbles of the stream will be concentrated in these lanes. If you are going to cast to a feeding fish, aim for the fly to land a few feet above the fish, depending on the speed of the current. This gives the fly a chance to settle and settle into the perfect motion before the fish sees it, inspects it and makes the decision to strike or not. The fish in their lie face the current and look for their next meal from this position, many times very carefully. An unnatural or crawling movement will give the fish an innate alarm and your fly will be rejected.

Watch for cross currents. Sometimes these can be subtle to the eye, but they are more than enough to disrupt the movement of your fly. Familiarity with the water you’re fishing helps, but after some experience you’ll be able to spot potential tricky current problems more easily. In these cases it is sometimes better to keep much less fly line in the water when possible. Sometimes it’s best to just have the leader in the water, which can require some innovative arm placement to keep the rod in place. Hey, whatever it takes to get results, right? I got a few quizzical looks from other anglers about my technique to be complimented later on the bank. Lol!

I hope this brief, if not comprehensive, primer on avoiding drag when stream fishing helps you enjoy your travels. Because it’s all about fun and it’s always more fun to catch fish!

I am a 65 year old retired Casino Operations Manager. Lifelong New Jersey resident who has been fly fishing my entire life. I primarily fish the Catskill Mountains of New York, but have fished many of the great rivers of the western US in Colorado, South Dakota, Idaho, Wyoming and Montana.

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