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RandyJones 02-08-2004 08:57 AM

Drift Fishing Correctly with Fly/Spin Rod: #2
The Perfect Drift

Drift Fishing Correctly with Fly/Spin Rod:
(Providing your rigging is correct)

Correct speed of drift:

Imitating an egg-nymph dead drifting along the bottom at the same rate of speed as the water column is imperative to successfully hooking up. This is achieved by looking where you?re mono butt section enters the water. It should be moving slightly slower than the surface current. This matches the bottom current speed close enough. Making your offering look real enough to even the Smartest fish.
Jim Rusher once told me that in the wintertime it is sometimes advantageous to slow your drift down even further. This allows the lethargic fish time to move slightly for what it thinks is an easy meal.

Correct depth of drift:

When I first cast into a new piece of water my first question is how deep. This determination is achieved by raising or lowering rod tip until light ticking of weight on bottom rocks is felt. The next step for me is to look at the distance between the surface of the water and end of fly line. (I prefer to run an 8-11ft. -butt section of 8lb. test straight mono for steelhead, so fly line never touches the water on the drift.) By this distance between fly line and water I know exactly where it should be on each successive cast. Allowing me to set up immediately for each additional cast to achieve the perfect drift. The next question I ask myself is am I weighted correctly?

Visual and non-visual characteristics of line:

When drift fishing correctly the line between tip of rod and weight should be a straight line. If you try to dead drift with a bow in your line, you not only create additional drag which speeds up your drift making your fly look unnatural but also makes for a lot of unnecessary snags on bottom. With out a straight line (slack) your weight is simply slogging along the bottom looking for the quickest and easiest rock to call home for good. A lot of the time if you have slack in your line you will not feel the ticking sensation due to the vibrations not being transferred up through the line. Remember; with line straight from tip of rod to weight you will be lightly tapping the tops of the rocks. Cutting down on drag, giving it a more natural drift and getting hung-up on bottom less.

Angle of rod tip to line:

To achieve a maximum dead drift and cut down on snags the rod tip should be directly over the line. If rod tip is in front of line then you will be prematurely initializing the swing. Also, if weight runs into structure, you will be pulling it into it and creating a worse snag than of rod tip was over line and twitched directly up and over obstruction.

Pre-setting and setting of hook:

This has been covered in previous posts. One thing I would like to add is whenever you set and find nothing there. Don't return your rod to its original position unless you draw up the slack. If rod is replaced to its original angle you'll end up fishing with a bow (slack) in your line because when you set you brought your weight closer to you. Getting hung-up will normally follow.

Common Problems:

If you ever catch yourself bouncing you rod tip constantly on the drift, (more than 3-6 inches) 4 things could be happening.

1. To much weight. Solution- Lighten-up or you'll be getting hung-up all day. I keep 8 different sized bags of split shot with me to achieve the perfect drift, no matter where I'm fishing.

2. Slack (bow) line from tip of rod to weight. When bouncing the rod excessively you are simply picking the weight up and off a rock, dropping your tip back to its original position and letting the weight return to the snag filled bottom below only to get caught up again. Solution- Return and re-read, Correct depth of drift, Characteristics of line from tip to weight, Pre-setting and setting of hook.

3. You are setting the hook on the subtle pauses and hesitations, instead of pre-setting with 3-6 inch twitch of the rod tip. Remember; if you do set the hook and come up empty then remove the slack by pulling
additional line in.

4. You are obviously fishing in snag heaven, loaded with big rocks and boulders. Solution- keep fishing because these areas hold unpressured fish. In November the steelies love to hold in 3-5 feet of rippled,
pocket water. Fast moving water with big boulders is steelhead heaven. Normally these areas are not fished heavily by seasoned anglers because you will spend a fair potion of the day retying. Most guides avoid these areas like the plague. But sometimes the fishing can be "Outstanding".

Besides all the other pieces of the puzzle we have covered and will cover, hopefully these tips will help you all to be more in tune with your drift fishing. Putting all of this together consistently will put you into the 10% that catch 90%of the fish!

Happy Hookin:

Randy Jones

juro 02-08-2004 09:20 AM


I am of the swinging school of steelheading, and have done very well over the years in the pacific northwest. With all due respect drift fishing is not fly fishing, and vice-versa. Call me a purist, but I only fly fish for steelhead. In fact drift techniques are illegal on fly fishing sections of western steelhead rivers.

I realize the adoption of traditional fly fishing in the great lakes is growing very slowly, for a number of reasons. I think in some regions the fishing is focused on fish already on the redds, sadly. The waters are very cold and the fish are dour. But IMHO the #1 factor preventing real flyfishing in the GL is lack of confidence. With preseverence, people figure out how to present the fly to fish and will get good swinging flies. I am not judging those who chuck n duck, I am only saying fly fishing is one thing and drift fishing is quite another.

So my question: Do many people swing flies on the Salmon River? Does everyone still stand in one spot instead of rotating through? Do you think it would be worth my while to come out or should I just fly out to the west where I know I can get a pull on the line with a traditional presentation on my spey rod?

Thanks in advance

RandyJones 02-08-2004 10:16 AM

Swinging flies
Hi Juro,
Hope all is well. Yes, a fair number of anglers swing flies and do traditioanl fly fishing with success.

After you have experienced out
West, I think you would be disappointed up here.

The local economoy could use your $$, but I'd go where the vista's and fish are more wild and come to a fly better. (In my opionion)

Best Fish's,

Feel free to delete this and all post's I just made. No hard feelings, no biggy. I just feel that these sites are a source for the free exchange of information and by adding good substance- bring's more viewers to your site. This helps the local economoy and also any sales you might be offering iff your web site. Content = more viewers. More viewers = hopefully more sales. Its one thing to be a paid advertiser and another to take hours out of my day to write report's, educational articles to help your viewers. And in exchange only add my url. The viewer wins!

Again, no hard feelings if you should decide to delete everything, just felt like shareing, thats all.
May all your door knobs smell of grossly over sized bass and steelhead.
Randy Jones

juro 02-08-2004 11:28 AM


I ask those questions because unlike so many sites who call themselves flyfishing sites but have little content to support it, this is truly a fly fishing site.

As far as posting, we've worked this out once before but for good measure, as long as you are not putting direct hyperlinks to non-sponsors (like outermost) or commercially promoting non-sponsors, then the advice and wisdom you offer is valuable and appreciated.

I for one know how good of a fisherman you are, having fished in the same waters as you for many summers. Just don't tell everyone too much ok buddy? ;) ;) Just kidding, you've been more than generous with your knowledge.

I hope you do continue to offer your fishing insights within the policies that Dana Sturn, myself and the committee of moderators set for this site.

See you on the flats soon (can't be soon enough for me!)

shotgunner 02-09-2004 07:48 AM

"In fact drift techniques are illegal on fly fishing sections of western steelhead rivers". orig posted by juro.

hello juro. could you elaborate some on this? what is good to go & what is not? (use/placement of weight, weighted flies, ect)

would like to get a western prospective. (from a now eastern resident)

thanks, SG

juro 02-09-2004 09:04 AM

WA is excellent about getting the regs detailed, although some of the wordings are ambiguous on certain regions, etc.

Here is more than you could ever want to get for perspective on their regs:

Look under selective fishery fly fishing only

In the PNW, drift fishermen abound but do not use fly rods and do not call it fly fishing. The majority of drift anglers use drift gear, which is predominately level wind reels on 8.5 foot trigger handled rods, or spinning rods. Most use extruded lead or slinkies to drift corkies or bait or a combination along the bottom of the river, bringing the offering to the nose of the fish.

Fly fishermen do not use weights on the line and swim the fly over the fish getting them to move to the fly and strike it. It's not as easy as drift fishing but with practice it can be deadly.

One needs to think differently about the water to fish, and the techniques to use. Where drift fishing concentrates on breaking down the resistance of generally dour fish sitting in concentrated groups, swinging a fly focuses on covering a lot of water effectively and really working the dynamics of the flow and structure to present the active fly to aggressive fish.

Granted the frigid temperatures of the midwest and east create more instances of dour holding fish, they are still moving toward the headwaters and active enough to grab a fly if presented properly.

There is a fairly steep learning curve to reach proficiency but the satisfaction of reaching that level is indescribable and not measured so much by the fish hooked but equally in the skill of the angler.

Eventually the angler reaches a new level of proficiency and has the ability to catch fish consistently with beautifully tied spey flies and in summer months surface flies on dry lines, all on the swing.

I understand how the general approach gravitates toward drift fishing with fly rods, as there is no real separation and the fly water permits it. If the fly water regs prohibited the use of weights and people started having to swing flies in the fly water, the crafty anglers of the region would quickly become proficient with these more traditional techniques. But as long as people are allowed to chuck and duck in fly water, stand on one rock all day, the advances in these techniques will remain unrealized, IMHO.

The short story - see the river differently, fish different water, and relate to the fish in ways unconventional to the drift angler and eventually it will all come together.

Think of the drift boater pulling plugs. Is he fishing a weighted little nymph close to the bottom? Nope, he is running a vibrating glorified bass plug in neon colors through the same pool and banging big steelhead. What does that tell us?

Thanks for asking.

BearDenWoodshop 02-10-2004 12:12 AM

Randy, I think you have good info there. I thinkl everyone has a point. In fact a dead drift is not the easiest thing to accomplish and is consuidered a traditional tecnique. I have been fishing the great lakes for many years and I have seen the transition. Most of the time our waters are overcrowded with many lead chuckers. .... hopefully more posts like this will bring better info to those who need to respect the guy fishing next to them. I checked out your siye...great site.

Thanks --Keith B.
Bears Den Woodshop

loco_alto 02-10-2004 02:55 AM

The bias for big river fly fishing continues alive and well.

Exactly why were Washington fly anglers disappointed when the Hoko was deemed fly only water instead of the Hoh? The Hoko is poor water for swinging flies, period. No amount of angler effort or attitude will change the relative merits of the Hoh vs Hoko as swinging rivers.

If you want to swing flies, then buy the airplane ticket out west... and target big rivers with wild fish. Avoid the Hoko and its small stream brethren. For that matter, avoid your own local small rivers. Stay home. If PNW fishes who prefer to swing flies avoid the Hoko, then it only stands to reason that you should avoid your local rivers for their same shortcomings. Besides, none of us "fly fish" those small rivers anyway, we just tie our intruders a little light and put the weight on the line instead. :chuckle:

exhibit A: cheek. insert tounge here.

I'll take a nice summer day at home to practice casting anytime over the option of frozen death in upstate NY. As one who fished the upstate NY rivers for 6 years, yet avoided the Salmon River with a passion, I understand your dilemma. But for me, crowds are/were the issue, not spatially dispersed Intruders.

shotgunner 02-10-2004 07:10 AM

loco_alto you make several points that i think are on the money for GL tribs. to start with the words "big river" have alot of weight. thats something we are on short supply of here.

with the pressure some areas recieve sometimes the only logical choice would be to fish the hoko instead of the hoh. or in my case secret creek#12055 vs. the big manistee. for the same reason you stated, "crowds".

juro, i wish you had a half day to spare for a drift down the world renowned "pere marquette". if you had an hour to spare while you were here for the M.O. clave and needed a chuckle, its just a short hop north. i would hazard the guess that it would qualify as a "nice little creek" by western standards.

i envy the western residents of this board. hearing freds temp quotes of 50 some degrees in oreg, while i'm looking at single digets on both sides of zero as the norm. (big heat wave right now, its up in the teens)

while i'm trying to get more towards traditional methods i probably wont ever be far from some sort of weight. my idea of fly fishing here revolves more around the line on the spool & the casting methods employed. if using a traditional taper line and casting overhead, roll, or spey, i think that qualifies as "fly fishing". if the spool is loaded with running line, mono, or amnesia, with a gob of shot, slinky, or pencil, propelled by a "lob" then it certainly is drift fishing. i wont say i don't do some(less every year) of that, but its on conventional tackle. i gave up on pretense a long while back.

even lani waller promoted the use of lead twist ons in his trophy steelhead fishing vidio from 3M, filmed on the babine. SG

juro 02-10-2004 07:38 AM

Good points by all, but in the end drift fishing is drift fishing, and fly fishing is fly fishing and n'er the twain shall meet. For me, and this is a personal view, the pretense is in drift fishing with fly gear and calling it fly fishing.

I built this site to be different from the "flyfishing" sites that are not really that, and with all due respect let's stick to flyfishing here.

I agree that if a person chooses to use weight to get a deeper swing, propelling the cast with the force of a shock wave in the line verses the weight of the object on the end of the leader, using only artificial lure tied by someone's hand on a hook with materials commonly known as a "fly" - then it can be called flyfishing - but I also maintain (subjectively) that putting weight on a leader is cheating :devil:

The beauty of flyfishing is to overcome the temptation and become victorious by one's mastery of the technique. But then again beauty is in the eye of the beholder.

juro 02-10-2004 07:54 AM

Re: Information
Randy describes the technique as the "ticking of weight" on the bottom. This is not dead-drifting a fly, this is drift fishing.

Dead drifting a fly is usually a fly fishing term applied to dry flies (e.g. "drag free") and is also used for wets and nymphs using line control to manage the drift and visual contact with the line to signal a strike, not tap-tap-tap of lead on the rocks, which is the definition of drift fishing.

In fact the most deadly approach to drift fishing can be observed in the pacific northwest using "drift rods" which are coupled with level-wind reels that allow the monofilament to slip under the thumb, extending the drift to 100 yards down the current if desired without flipping bail arms to feed or set the hook.

I have no problems with these approaches, I am just calling a spade a spade - these are drift fishing techniques, not traditional dead-drift flyfishing, in my humble opinion.

Side note:
Promotion of one's business is a privilege extended only to sponsors of this site. Since our existence depends on sponsors, it would be dishonorable to our real sponsors to allow promotion by non-sponsors.


Originally posted by BearDenWoodshop
Randy, I think you have good info there. I thinkl everyone has a point. In fact a dead drift is not the easiest thing to accomplish and is consuidered a traditional tecnique. I have been fishing the great lakes for many years and I have seen the transition. Most of the time our waters are overcrowded with many lead chuckers. .... hopefully more posts like this will bring better info to those who need to respect the guy fishing next to them. I checked out your siye...great site.

Thanks --Keith B.
Bears Den Woodshop

removed_by_request 02-10-2004 08:05 AM

There are 2 issues we face on our MW rivers.

First and foremost is the makeup of 90% of our waters. Most of it is pocket water. Short deep runs where one must get down fast. How do you do that effectively? I shudder typing these words, chuck n duck. That style of fishing has a downside, it promotes snagging. Way too easy to run your fly into the fishes mouth or other parts. But if done by an etichcal fisherman he can and will score some nice fish.

Second issue is our fish are not the same as the PNW's. From what many have told me the PNW fish are a different lot. More prone to come to a swung fly or surface presentation. Every GL Steelhead and Salmon started out as a hatchery fish. Even tho it was years ago in some cases. Yes at times Steel will come to a swung fly or a surface presentation. It does happen, just not as much as the PNW.

Why is that? Is it our fishes habits or our habits. Stuck in one mode of presentation. You would like to think that over the years the hatchery has been bred out of our fish. If that is the case then it must be us.

juro 02-10-2004 10:35 AM

Just to be 100% clear, I am not down on fishing on any kind as long as it's not with gillnets. Drift fishing is d-e-a-d-l-y on steelhead, no two ways about it. There is a lot of skill involved in every type of fishing.

I love to fish for pacific halibut with a 4/0 Penn Senator holding 100# dacron, lowering a 30oz lead ball with a horse herring on 100# steel leader on 10/0 Gamakatsus in 240-300 ft of water off the British Columbia coast. Thump. Thump. WHOA!

But I won't call it fly fishing that's all. It's what it is, and it's all good!

BearDenWoodshop 02-14-2004 12:52 AM

making sure
Juro, I saw that my message was reposted on your reply. I want to make sure that I havn't broken any rules of engagement here. I want to enjoy the board for a long time. If I came off like I was trying to use this as a commercial forum I am sorry. I did not mean to spam if I ion fact did so.

Thanks>Keith B>

peter-s-c 02-14-2004 08:33 AM


Last fish I caught on the Catt (typical GL pocket water fishing) was taken on a swung wet. However, had I used the typical PNW rig of a weighted tip, I woudn't have had a prayer. I was using a floating line, a single hander, about 12' of mono, and three BB shot above the tippet knot -- no indicator. I'd DS cast the fly slightly upstream, then use the rod tip to steer the fly around a boulder, take off pressure to let it drop into the chute, then swung across the current just behind the boulder. She hit just as the fly swung into the frog water.

Sinktips are fine on the Grand (ON) and the Saugeen (ON) as these rivers have plenty of swing water. You can find swing water on the Catt (NY), the Credit (ON), and 18 Mile (NY) but more often than not, the fish are in the pocket water. So you have a choice -- do you swing in the unproductive water or or clip on a few BBs and fish the pockets where you'll catch something.

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