Effective fishing requires efficient fly management. Your fly needs to be presented very close to where fish reside, and it must be presented as naturally as possible.
OF course, accurate casting stands as the primary key to good fly management. But once you put the fly on the water, it needs your help to stay where it belongs. Depending the type of fly cast, there’s an array of gear to help keep it performing as desired.
Getting a bit of feathers, foam, or fabric wrapped around a steel hook to mimic a bug on the surface of a river or lake takes some effort, a fair mount of luck, and a bit of assistance from modern chemistry. To keep that artificial fly floating on the surface requires treatment(s) floatants.
For flies that haven’t yet been used—meaning, they are still dry—apply a gel floatant such as Loom Outdoors’ Aquel. This silicone-based gel penetrates fly bodies, coating threads and fibers to both prevent water absorption and provide increased surface tension on lakes and streams, keeping the fly floating high. For best results, massage it into a fly and allow to air dry before casting. (NOTE: a few extra false casts can be used to help accelerate the drying time).
When the fly in use starts to sink (and they always eventually start to sink), reinvigorate the fly using a simple desiccant such as Umpqua’s TMZ Shimazaki Dry Shake. With the fly still attached to the tippet, pop a waterlogged fly into the Dry Shake bottle, close the lid, and give a couple shakes. Open the bottle, remove the fly, tap off any excess desiccant (a simple silica powder), and then gently squeeze the fly to help ‘pull’ any absorbed moisture out into the powder still on the fly. Give the fly a few false casts to remove the last of the powder and then get it back into action on the water.
Nymphs and Streamers
Getting flies down to fish that won’t rise means encouraging light-weight flies to sink. This can be a problem, especially in fast-moving rivers.
In some situations, the simple addition of classic split-shot pellets to the leader or tippet will work to sink that fly. When using this option, use tungsten beads instead of lead whenever possible to minimize the risk of lead poisoning waterfowl and aquatic animals.
A much better option to classic pellets is Loon Outdoors’ Deep Soft Weight. The Soft Weight features tungsten in a biodegradable paste that can be molded around a leader. Use as little, or as much, as needed to get the desired sink rate. I found molding it into an elongated tube shape on the leader reduced the chances of it hanging up on rocks or weeds —and that’s a definite advantage over crimp-on sinkers. When done fishing, the paste can be pinched off added back to its container and reused another day.
Oftentimes, an angler wants their fly down below the surface without dragging it down with extra weight. For this, Loon offers Snake River Mud. This ‘mud’ proved effective at breaking the surface tension of water. Apply the paste to flies and tippets and they will cut through the surface film and sink at a natural rate for a gentle presentation to fish feeding up in the water column. The paste is biodegradable and non-toxic so it’s safe for even the most pristine waters.
When nymph fishing, controlling the depth of the nymph —and marking a fish’s strike— can require the use of a surface indicator. Over the years, a host of things have been tried as indicators, including bits of yarn, tiny balloons, marshmallows, corks, foam bulbs, and even rubber bubbles (aka Thingamabobbers).
After trying virtually every option over the last 37 years, I’ve recently discovered the best bet is a new take on an old classic: Yarn. The New Zealand Strike Indicator system allows indicators to be sized from tiny to massive. They can be securely placed anywhere on the leader but moved or removed with ease. The system is ingeniously simple: A small needle-like tool pulls a loop of leader through a small section of nylon tubing. From the kit, pull out an appropriate amount of yarn/fluff to match your needs, tuck it into the leader loop, then pull the loop into the tubing to ‘close’ the loop tightly on the yarn. Apply a bit of floatant (Loon Aquel) to the yarn for maximum flotation. To remove, just tug the yarn up to open the loop, remove the yarn, then pull the loop out of the tubing.