Sunday’s Classic / Why Aren’t We Talking More About Angler Positioning

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Why aren’t we talking about Angler Positioning? Photo By: Louis Cahill

Countless fly fishing articles have been written about matching the hatch, setting up your rig correctly for the water you’re fishing, and how to cast tight loops. It’s true you should always have these areas covered in your fly fishing game but what about angler positioning? Why aren’t we talking more about how important angler positioning is for fly fishing success? Have you ever wondered why there’s trout fishermen out there that can’t cast forty feet, yet when they’re on the water fishing, they literally mop up every fish like a vacuum. There’s a simple reason for this folks. Great fisherman, that aren’t the best at fly casting, tend to figure out real quick that angler positioning is critical for ensuring they get presentations that produce hookups.

Listen up all you competition casters out there. I’m happy you can reach the far end of the casting pond with your fly. It’s not easy shooting fifteen feet of backing out the end of your fly rod with a five weight fly rod. That’s impressive, but if that’s how you choose to spend your time trout fishing, you’re probably going to catch few fish. Oh, and remember that guy that you just laughed off the casting pond with his pathetic forty foot cast? He’s probably going to out fish you if you meet up with him on the water, because he’s figured out that presentation trumps distance casting.

Forgive me if I came across a little tart there. Sometimes it’s helpful for driving the point home with my audience. The fact is, I consistently find fly fishermen of all skill levels struggling with angler positioning. Most have problems determining where they should position themselves when they first approach a stretch of water. The problem lies with them not first thinking about where they need to be standing, so they can make their best cast and presentation. Instead, they’re thinking, “I”m not going to waist my time wading upstream if I can reach that spot with my fly where I”m standing right now”. This usually doesn’t pan out very well for them. Two scenarios usually play out with this fishing approach. In the first scenario, the angler lands the fly short, land the fly right on top of the pod of fish he/she is casting to, which very often results in them alerting or spooking the fish. In the second scenario, the angler does manage to get the fly where it needs to be, but because they’ve chosen to stand in the wrong position, they have conflicting currents that compromises their drag free drift. In both cases, anglers that ignore the importance of angler position, remain fish-less.

Below are 3 tips for better angler positioning.

1. Examine the fishing spot you’re about to fish and determine where the best stretch of water or honey hole is located. Then move to that position to make your first presentation.

Once you’ve figured out where the honey hole is located and where the trout should be stationed, you should then position yourself perpendicularly across from it. Sometimes slightly downstream of perpendicular is best. Doing so, you’ll be able to present your flies upstream of the fish, and you’ll be in good position for line management, which will help you get a drag-free drift through the entire stretch of prime water.

2. Try to position yourself when possible in the same current speed you’ll be fishing.

Conflicting water currents of different speeds can jeopardize your presentation and drift. I see anglers all the time standing in fast water casting upstream into slower water. With the majority of their fly line landing in faster water than the leader and fly, it ends up putting drag on the fly shortly after their drift begins. They basically lose their natural drift before the fly reaches the productive water. By moving upstream a few steps where the water flows are more consistent, an angler can end up getting a much longer drag-free drift.

3. Ask the Question, “Am I confident I can get a good presentation from where I’m standing”?

I know this sounds simple but it’s an issue I see all the time. It pays to be honest with ourselves on the water. Let’s face it, sometimes we’re only going to get one or two casts before that big educated trout catches on that we’re trying to catch it. So get into position where you know you can make the first cast count right off the bat, and you’ll be giving yourself the best odds at hooking up with that trophy. It can be as simple as taking a step or two out from the bank to give you enough room to make the cast.

A client reaps the rewards for paying attention to angler positioning. Photo By: Louis Cahill

Keep it Reel,

Come fish with us in the Bahamas!

Kent Klewein
Gink & Gasoline
www.ginkandgasoline.com
hookups@ginkandgasoline.com
 
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21 thoughts on “Sunday’s Classic / Why Aren’t We Talking More About Angler Positioning

  1. This will always be a great article to revisit from time to time.. Positioning makes a huge difference in your presentation. I was once trying to make an easy cast and presentation, but I was still flubbing it after two or three attempts. I was told (by Kent) that my shoulders were turned away from my target and that was why i was bombing this presentation. I turned my shoulders towards my target and wallah! My fly landed right where I had been trying to put it. So simple, but I was too distracted with making my cast to realize the problem.

    • Justin,

      Pivoting your body around to the left or right works great for helping an angler getting an accurate presentation across stream. Especially when they’re dealing with tight quarter fishing situations.

      What Justin didn’t say is that I learn tips from him all the time as well. That’s what it’s all about; learning from each other.

      Kent

  2. Great point! You often get one clean shot before you have thoroughly bombarded the “honey hole”. The same can be said about taking your camouflage to the next level. We’re hunting here folks and whether it’s water that gets regular pressure or back country streams we should be approaching with exceeding caution to maximize success. That means noise awareness as well. No, you don’t sound like a bear crossing the stream. Cheers! have a good one! Look forward to more!

  3. Same thing on the flats as well. Thinking about where you want to be when you make your cast is invaluable. Where do I need to be to put the fly in the path of the fish without lining him, what is the wind doing, and maybe the glare off the water. All these things up your chances at a hookup. Flyfishing requires thought and practice.

  4. Kent,
    Point taken on the difference between the casting pond and a small stream caster. However, too many times very good stream anglers get in a drift boat without practicing their 50’+ cast. Angler positioning counts in a dory too, but, sometimes the current dictates boat position . If the oarsman is pulling hard in a fast seam and the target is an eddy along the cliff wall requiring a 45′ cast being able to hit a pie plate at 20′ is not going to result in a hook up. Similarly in a low water situation one wants to keep the dory away from bank structure. If the angler can only manage a 25′ cast and the oarsman is rowing 9′ oars then the blade is within 16′ of the smallie hunting crayfish in the shallows. A good well rounded angler can effectively cast and fish at distances from rod tip to 70’+ and knows when to use the effective cast. If you are a great small stream brookie angler but incapable of casting and shooting your fly lines head and some backing don’t be too smug to ask that casting pro at the pond for a few pointers. Your oarsman ( you know that fishing buddy with the drift boat that keeps pestering you to go smallie fishing) will thank you and your rod will stay bent.
    bob

    • Robert,

      Most of the article was intended for wading situations. I totally agree that it holds true also when you’re standing on the bow or fly fishing out of a drift boat. It’s important for all fly anglers to continue to increase fly casting skills. Being able to consistently make casts 70+ feet will come in handy quite often. I do want to point out that out of guiding over 13 years, most of my clients cannot cast at those distances. Nor do they need to in order to catch trout in most situations, particularly wading. Sometimes, however, as you pointed out on the river, you can only get so close to the fish if you want to have a good chance at catching them. In situations like that, the angler needs to be able to make up the difference that the guide cannot and put the fly where it needs to be, or be willing to accept defeat and look for easier presentations to capitalize on moving forward. Thanks for the comment.

      Kent

    • Robert,

      Most of the article was intended for fly fishing wading situations. I totally agree that it holds true also when you’re standing on the bow or fly fishing out of a drift boat. It’s important for all fly anglers to continue to increase fly casting skills. Being able to consistently make casts 70+ feet will come in handy quite often. I do want to point out that out of guiding over 13 years, most of my clients cannot cast at these distances. Nor do they need to be able to when their trout fishing in most situations, particularly wading. Sometimes, however, as you pointed out on the river, you can only get so close to the fish if you want to have a good chance at catching them. In situations like that, the angler needs to make up the difference and put the fly where it needs to be, or be willing to accept defeat and look for easier presentations to capitalize on. Thanks for the comment.

      Kent

  5. On many occasions I have noticed that taking just one wading step, in some direction depending upon circumstances, while working a particular fish, resulted in an instant hook up. Just one step made all of the difference. It has been uncannily productive, more often than not. Slight changes in the angler’s position may have a tremendous influence on presentation.

  6. Good positioning and good casting abilities – great combination! Whilst wading rivers positioning is a key skill, but sometimes the only position available requires a good,or even great, long cast!

    Mind you all distances and forms of casting, short or long, deserve the best execution one can give it!

      • I’ll take that as a compliment then? :-) Lol.

        Many years ago I did tournament casting and I can’t say that I would be happy to think that any tournament caster would look down upon the casting abilities of others. In fact I have always tried to help and teach people to improve their flycasting abilities, no matter what their level or ability (I still consider myself very much a student of the noble art of flycasting). The only thing important to me is that they showed a desire and willingness to learn. That’s what’s so great about flyfishing, we never stop learning.

        In an age of “over information” I choose my “data sources” carefully. G&G do a great job and I enjoy your work.

        • Rob,

          It was a compliment. What I talk about in my posts come from what I’ve seen and learned over the past 13 years guiding. I’ll be the first to tell you that I don’t know it all and sure as heck don’t claim to. I don’t have a shred of ego in my fly fishing. I’m always wanting to learn from others. So when I write a tips post I look forward to other professionals and avid fly anglers to use it as a platform to build on. I always welcome opinions from others that have the same goal in mind which is to help others further their fly fishing skills and hopefully that will help them to catch a few more fish.

          I appreciate your comment as well as the others for this post. The more involved the G&G community is, the more we can help each other.

          Kent

  7. Kent,

    To me casting and fishing from a drift boat on my home river are quite different. A couple things I have experienced, staying with the wading aspect and trying to not repeat what has been said above:

    Another reason the long cast is less desirable than positioning yourself closer and at a better angle is detecting strikes and hookset. 60 or 70 feet of line on the water makes it difficult for many anglers to respond to strikes and effectively set the hook. How often astream or on the flats has an underwater flash been an indicator of a take (or refusal)? You can process and use this info only when you are close enough to see it.

    Too many folks walk into the fish to cast across the stream. Sometimes the fish are right in front of them and they cast over and beyond where they should be fishing.

    I wish I could cast like a competition angler. But when I am wading on my home river, which you know is about 80-90 feet wide, very few of my casts are executed at the max of my ability when I am wading and most are less than 50 feet. In my personal case, your theme of positioning is right on target.

  8. In my efforts to achieve proper position, I am often faced with the necessity to change flies.
    Whether I prefer a dry fly to match the current hatch, conflicting water currents might make a drag-free drift impossible for the dry. That’s a bummer since I’ve been waiting all afternoon for this “dry fly” moment.
    So, I tie on the wet/emerger pattern and console myself with a presentation that works and subsequently a fish or two to hand before I move on to the next lie.

    Great article from the best online source for practical, wise and informed fly fishing.

  9. Nice article Kent! careful approach to the fish and proper positioning and presentation will always beat a 70ft cast!
    hope all is well
    johnny

    • Johnny,

      Whats up dawg? Thanks for commenting on the post and giving your two cents. Hope the fly shop in Steamboat is killing it. Louis and I are going to have to find a way out there and check it out. Hope all is well and thanks for supporting G&G.

      Kent

  10. Pingback: Angler position… | Flick and Fly Journal

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