Monday, 28 January 2013

It's All About Positioning

Having described two common but similar faults in my last two blog posts I am again going to describe a common fault on the same theme, this time entitled "Casting into likely spot from wrong position". This is something that I see quite often and is closely related to the first two faults I wrote about...


Usually seen in complicated sections of fast water, or large pockets of water, where wading is essential. Casts here need to be kept short and rods held high to stay in control and to avoid drag (remember what I said in my first blog post, Casting Too Far: “the faster and more complicated the water, the shorter the cast should be”). In this type of water a slight flattening of the turbulent surface usually indicates a slight depression on the bottom and, therefore, slightly slower, deeper water - a prime trout and grayling lie. This type of water is not always obvious from the bank, often your eye picks it out as you progress upstream, but it is odds on that it will hold fish if you do recognise it. Sometimes as you approach it you will see a fish rise or roll at the surface and the temptation is always to fire off an instant cast to the fish. Sometimes the area of water will look so inviting you ‘know’ inside that it 'will' hold fish and you just can't resist a cast at the earliest opportunity.


Notice how this angler on the River
Swale has waded into position to
fish the slower water beyond the
fast flowing water (the most likely
fish holding area in this pool).
Presenting flies properly in this
type of water is impossible
without first wading into position
– the fast water would cause
instant drag.
(click to enlarge)

Both these impatient actions are futile and the outcome will be one of frustration that the fish you saw didn't take, or bewilderment that the delicious bit of water you picked out didn't in the end hold a fish. In my early days of guiding I would show the client such water, then, before I could do anything about it they would have made the cast and their fly would be dragging through possibly the best bit of water on the beat, alerting the resident trout and grayling to the impending danger. I remember one such occasion guiding on the River Ribble at Settle. I spotted a 'soft spot' in the next pocket upstream and pointed it out to the client, who immediately cast into it! "NO!" I exclaimed and went on to explain that the water pouring out of the pocket would cause our fly to drag and possibly spook the resident fish that was sure to be there. We moved into a position where we could cast up and across into the pocket and hold line off the water by raising the rod. Low and behold there was a good trout sat right in there, and it was, in the end, a very good example that the client learnt so much from.

Experience has now taught me to stop the client fishing; show them the good bit of water we are approaching and explain why it looks so good (rivercraft); instruct them how we will approach; how to present the fly; and insist they don’t cast into the area until we are in position and confident of fishing it effectively. We can continue to fish the adjacent water but our fly must stay out of the likely spot until we are in a position where we can fish effectively without drag, spot the take and strike. You will be surprised how many fish you can catch from these areas, though having the right tackle will be help greatly.

Wading into the correct position for effective presentation
This angler on the River Wharfe has
waded to the correct position to
present his flies into the most likely
fish holding water (the water
between the slack water in the
foreground and the very fast water
on the far side of the river).
Also notice how he has utilised a
long, light rod for control.
(click to enlarge)

Short or fixed line methods will work best here, such as Czech Nymphing, duo and trio, French nymphing, short range dry with almost no flyline outside the tip ring of your rod, etc. Chest waders are essential and have been mentioned previously, but these techniques work best with long rods and light lines such as the purpose built 10’ and 11’ Greys XF2 Streamflex and Streamflex Plus rods in line weights #2 to #4. Held high, the rod length and light line combine to allow us to fish drag free far more effectively than shorter, heavier rods. Every serious river trout and grayling angler should own at least one of these long, light rods, for their short range river fishing.