Let it ride

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Photo by Louis Cahill

Photo by Louis Cahill

By Daniel Galhardo

Don’t recast your fly until it’s had a chance.

It takes some time to learn how to read water well. But, at least when it comes to fishing mountain streams, the concept is easy to grasp: fish are looking for food and shelter, and don’t want to spend a lot of energy looking for food. Currents bring them food, slow water and breaks in the current gives them shelter. With that in mind we quickly learn that seams where current meets calm water may be the best places to target with our flies.

Once we learn this basic piece of information, we all want our fly to land with 100% accuracy where we suppose fish will be. But, hey, sometimes it won’t!

In recent days I have been taking a lot of people fishing. Most were new to fly-fishing and to tenkara. After giving them some basic instructions on how to open the rod, how to tie the line to the rod tip and tippet to the tenkara line and then tie the fly onto it, I would teach them how to cast.

It’s been said that anyone can learn how to cast with tenkara in a matter of minutes. I have found that on average it takes 7 or 8 casts to learn how to cast with tenkara fairly well, and I’m not exaggerating. But, like anything, it takes time to get the tiny fly to land exactly where they want. If I had to guess, I’d say that in the beginning about 70% of their casts will land in the vicinity of where they wanted. Perhaps 25% will land just off the target zone. And, of course, about 5% will land on the trees in front or behind them, but that’s a different article for a different day.

The 25% slightly off-target casts is what I’m interested in making a point about. Actually, it doesn’t matter if it’s 25%, 50%, or even if you’re a bit off on just 5% of your casts. The point I want to make is that if you miss your intended target by just a little bit, don’t recast immediately, let it ride!

What I noticed in the last few days of taking people fishing is that very often when their flies didn’t land exactly where they had intended, they would immediately recast. The instant the fly touched the water, perhaps just downstream from the intended area, they would attempt to make a perfect cast. I noticed that over and over again. But, most importantly, I noticed in many of these attempts, the place where their fly actually landed could have held fish.

Perhaps the fly didn’t land in the very obvious foamy whirlpool pocket behind a boulder, but rather it landed just downstream from it, on a nice slick of water they had not noticed; or, the line didn’t stretch out perfectly and landed just a bit short of their target, but on a micro-seam they didn’t realize was there.

So, I started telling “my students” if the fly doesn’t land exactly where you wanted, don’t cast it immediately, let it drift for a few seconds before casting. There is a chance it will get in front of a fish. Reducing the number of immediate recasts has the added benefit of lessening the chance of spooking fish with a lot of motion. Of course, not every spot will hold fish, and some of the missed casts will land in places that almost certainly don’t have a fish. But, I think overall it may be a good habit.

Immediately correcting a “mistake” is a hard instinct to overcome. And, yes, we all want our flies to land on that obvious “foam-is-home” pool, or on the calm piece of water we suppose a big one is hiding. But, when your fly doesn’t land there, try letting it ride and see what happens. After all the fly that is in the water is the fly that catches the fish, and fish are not only in the places we suppose they will be.

Daniel Galhardo
Gink & Gasoline
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8 thoughts on “Let it ride

  1. Good stuff Danieal and equally applicable to all types of fly fishing. The number one problem I have when taking people streamer fishing is too much casting. With a sinking line and a large streamer you can easily put fish off by hitting the water then picking it up right away to land it two feet from the last cast. Best thing is to finish out the drift as best you can then hit ‘the spot’ with your next cast!

  2. I tell my clients this same thing every time I’m out on the water. We don’t always land our fly in the “10-ring”, but that doesn’t mean those casts won’t catch a fish. Too often anglers make a less than desired cast into a run (too long, too short, behind the fish, etc.) and immediately rip that fly, or flies, from the water. Why not let that thing go? You never know. Especially this time of year on my home waters, fish are spooky as hell because of the low water levels. Ripping your indicator rig out of the run just because it didn’t land exactly where you wanted it to just might prove counter productive. Great tip Daniel!

  3. I learned this truth from Monty Hankinson, a Beaverhead/Big Hole Rivers guide in Dillon, MT. As he put it, there are no bad casts, just some that are better than others.

    • Yes, Daniel – And pretty much the same goes not only for streamers, but also for Parachute Adams and Dahlberg Divers, and even for Jitterbugs, Buzz Baits. and Gary Yamamoto Plastic Worms.

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