3 Tips for Swinging Flies for Trout & Other Species

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3 Tips for Swinging Flies for Trout & Other Species. Photo Louis Cahill

Some time back I read a great fly fishing article on MidCurrent titled, Beyond the Swing by John Likakis.

It was a fly fishing techniques piece packed with tons of information about the how-tos of swinging flies. It’s a great read for any angler wanting to become more competent and effective at swinging flies for trout and other species. If you happened to miss reading this one, please check it out after today’s post. After I read John’s article, it inspired me to share three swinging fly tips of my own. Each tip is meant to help the anglers out there who’ve just recently started swinging flies on the water.

3 Rookie Tips for Swinging Flies

Tip 1: Don’t Hold Your Rod Tip Too High Off The Water When Swinging Flies

One technique flaw that I see a lot of my clients’ make on the water when they’re swinging flies is they hold the rod tip too high off the water. In many cases, when you do this during the swing, it will create a belly of slack between the rod tip and the fly line on the water. Slack makes it more difficult to detect subtle strikes during the swing. To fix this problem, I tell my clients to always keep the tip of the fly rod on or very close to the surface of the water during the swing. Doing so, it keeps slack to minimum and they find it much easier to feel bites during the swing. The only times, in my opinion, that you want to raise your rod tip off the water during the swing, is when you’re performing a Leisenring lift or you need to raise the fly up in the water column so it doesn’t snag the stream bottom. Before all you veteran swinger junkies start bashing me with comments, understand this tip is for anglers that are newbies to swinging flies.

Tip 2: Don’t Set the Hook Too Hard When Swinging Flies

One of the hardest things for me to learn when I first started swinging flies was adjusting my hook set. When you swing flies correctly you don’t have near as much slack in your fly line during the drift as you do when your presenting a fly on a dead-drift. Since you don’t have all that slack to eliminated during the hook set, you don’t need as big or hard of a hook set to successfully hook fish. I’ve found a smooth, conservative sweeping hook set works best when swinging flies. Especially when you’re fishing tiny nymphs or wet flies. Only if you’re streamer fishing and you’re worried about a big hook penetrating to you want to give it extra power during the hook set. Furthermore, since you’re hooking most of your fish directly downstream of you, it can be really easy for fish to give you a few head shakes after the hook set and spit the hook. After you’ve felt tension, and gotten a successful hook up on the swing, take your time during the early stages of the fight, so you don’t pull the hook free. Once the fish stops shaking its head, you can then raise your rod tip and begin increasing your fighting pressure.

Tip 3: Don’t Forget About Adjusting Angler Position

They’re are times when even the best cast and presentation you’ve got won’t allow you to swing your flies into the kitchen. Sometimes the only way for you to get the fly in front of the fish, and get an eat, is to adjust your position in the water between you and your target (take a few steps out, downstream or upstream). A prime example of when you’d want to do this is when you’re trying to swing your flies against the far bank. Often in this situation the drag from different current speeds you’re fishing across will speed up your flies too fast and suck them out of the strike zone before you can get your flies to the fish. A lot of the time if you just reposition yourself, you’ll find it makes all the difference in getting that perfect drift.

Keep it Reel,

Kent Klewein
Gink & Gasoline
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9 thoughts on “3 Tips for Swinging Flies for Trout & Other Species

  1. #4- BE READY AT ANY TIME, from the moment your streamer hits the surface, to the last second you pull it from the water.
    Great Tips~ Thanks for keeping it reel>>
    Tight Lines,

  2. Great tips for the beginner, or someone looking to better refine their technique. My additions:

    If you get a strike and miss the hook set, make the same cast again. Ofter times that fish is fired up and the repeat swing will connect.

    Stinger hooks (aka trailer hooks) will increase your hook ups.

  3. I get a majority of my hookups on wet flies while I’m walking upstream and just letting my flies drag behind me. Can anyone explain this? They are just hanging in the current, unnaturally and the fish just attack.

    • Typically the strike on wet flies is at the end of the swing, when the line tightens a bit and imitates an emerger. Make sure to let your fly swing underneath you before recasting and you’ll catch more “when you mean to”

  4. Great tips here. I would add a long loop of line in the hand for the fish to take before lifting into the fish to set the hook can make a great difference.

    Many new anglers make the mistake of lifting far too soon as the fish needs time to turn and return to its resting spot. Usually a loop of line allows this to happen and creates more successful hookups.

  5. On a recent trip to a medium size brown Trout stream in Alberta, I landed a couple by highsticking my line over the main current seam and slowing down the swing on the slacker water on the far bank. Didn’t always work, but had fun doing it.
    Keep up the good work on the block Kent, I appreciate the information!

  6. One I did myself (still do), is not holding the swing long enough.
    A lot of my fishing is straight up pounding the far bank in the nastiness, and I would forget to hold the swing all the way around to parallel with the flow. Slow down, swing it through, strip up, step down. Repeat. It’s the whole “fly in the water” deal.
    It’s one way to hit those fish boss^ was talking about. Hanging in the seam closest to you. It’s fishing ALL the water. Helped me hookup more.

  7. Ummmm, interesting post for newbies, thanks (as a newbie). However, a newbie is supposed to know what a “Leisenring lift” is….??!?! Really?

    • google it. You can’t expect everything to be handed to you. Be happy these guys are here to point you in the right direction.

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