Friday, July 30, 2010

Dry Lines and Long Leaders

This past week I visited some of my local stillwaters.  The weather was hot and muggy, trout are beginning to slow down and go deep.  Our lakes are hovering at a surface temperature of 70F.  Right on the boundary for safe survival for stillwater trout.  As water temperature increases its ability to hold oxygen decreases.  Trout become lethargic and if hooked often become stressed and unable to recover.  It is time to consider rivers or targeting species such that are tolerant of higher water temperatures.  Until the water temperatures drop I will be choosing one of the two considerations I mentioned.

On one of the stillwaters I visited I expected trout to be deep and would need coaxing to the fly.  I believed they would chase an active fly, depth and retrieve speed would be my keys to success.  I focused on the windward shore as the lee shore would have the warmer water pushed into it by the stiff breeze that was blowing that day.  A degree or two can make all the difference.

Pond Rainbow
(Courtesy of Nick Sliwkanich)

I opted for perhaps my favorite presentation method, a floating line and long leader to work up the gradual slope I was fishing.  I anchored in 15 feet of water and cast into 20 plus feet of water.  My sounder was invaluable in telling me not only the depth I was anchored but the depth my flies would be working through and the bottom slope.  In these situations I would be blind without the information my sounder provides.

Using my 4 weight 10 foot Helios and Rio Indicator line I began with roughly 2-feet of .020” butt material Nail Knotted directly to my fly line.  From there I added a 2X 12-foot tapered leader via a Blood knot.  I added approximately 3-feet of 2x tippet via Triple Surgeons knot.  Using an improved clinch knot I attached a #12 black barrel swivel.  .  To the bottom end of the barrel swivel I added another 4-5 feet of 2X Flouroflex Plus tippet.  Barrel swivels add an inline weight, help reduce leader twist and when using fluorocarbon tippets as I often do eliminate any knot concerns with nylon leader material as the two never meet.  My total leader length from fly line to bottom fly was approximately 21 feet.  I placed a balanced Sparkle Leech on the point and a #12 black and Red Ice Cream Cone on a 10-inch Looped Tippet or Sliding dropper just above the barrel swivel.

Floating lines, long leaders are a personal favorite!
(Photo Courtesy of Brian Wiebe)

The thicker butt section and butt section of the tapered leader helps in part turn long leaders over.  Your casting stroke needs a degree of modification.  Break your wrist slightly to open the casting loop.  Tight loops are a recipe for nasty tangles.  Allow the fly line to completely roll out on the back cast and maintain a smooth powerful casting stroke.  Only cast what you comfortably can, avoid the urge to cast across the planet!  If possible allow the line to shoot to the reel or pinch the line tight to slingshot the flies and leader over.  As the flies land look for three distinct separate splashes of the flies and swivel.  If the splash down is concentrated strip the line in and see if there is a tangle.  Deal with tangles early and they can often be addressed repeated casting leads to frustration and exponential leader and tippet consumption.

Once the flies had landed I counted my flies down using my watch, 30 seconds is a standard starting point.  I then began a painstakingly slow retrieve.  I want to ‘drag’ the fly line across the surface without causing a disturbance.  When you think you are slow enough cut the pace in half again and you should be in the game.  Make sure there is no slack in the fly line.  If you go too fast your flies no longer track horizontally but rather track toward the surface out of the depth zone the fish are holding.

Presentation depth and retrieve speed are critical to stillwater success
(Photo Courtesy of Brian Wiebe)

Watch the line for signs of a take.  Takes with this method are often seen before they are felt.  Most of my takes felt like a dragging sensation as though the leader was being pulled through a phone book.  A smooth rod raise drives the hook home.  Fish are typically hooked in the upper lip, top dead center.  All my takes in deeper water were to the balanced leech.  As the flies worked up the slope at the end of the cast the chironomid became the fly of choice.  I pumped one fish and it had about 15 chironomid and Chaoborus pupa along with one lone caddis adult.  A sure sign fish were feeding predominately at depth.

A throat sample confirms the presentation method

This method once mastered is deadly and extremely versatile.  I managed well over 10 fish in roughly four hours of fishing.  I use it for chironomid pupa and larva, caddis pupa, mayfly nymphs, damsel nymphs, and leeches.  Give it floating lines and long leaders a try it is a deadly versatile method.  And quite addictive too!

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