Sunday Classic / 8 Common Fly Line Mending Mistakes

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Mending fly line correctly is crucial for getting drag-free drifts and consistently catching fish. Photo By: Louis Cahill

I spend the majority of my time teaching fly casting when guiding my clients, but the art of mending fly line is a close second.

A perfect cast can quickly become obsolete if you don’t understand the concept of mending fly line. When mending is timed correctly and executed properly it allows fly anglers to maintain a drag-free presentation, keep their fly in the target zone, and prolong the length of their drift. Developing good mending technique my friends, translates into more fish being hooked and landed. If you’re lucky enough to already have the basics of fly casting down, I highly encourage you to next focus your time on understanding and mastering the mechanics of mending fly line.

Throughout this post I’m going to try to touch base on the most popular mending mistakes I see on the river, but before I do so, here’s an intriguing question for everyone. Why is it, that fly anglers seem to always get their left and right mixed up when mending fly line? It happens to me guiding all the time. I’ll instruct my client to mend to the left and they’ll do the opposite, by mending to the right. One of the most common four word phrases out of my mouth is, “no, your other left”. This will probably hit home with more guides than anglers but I had to bring it up, since we all do it. I’ve tried using upstream and downstream for instructing mending direction, but that seems to be even more confusing. That being said, here are the most common mending mistakes I see on the river.

1. Anglers Wait Too Long to Mend

Everyone deserves props when a perfect cast is made, but don’t make the mistake of admiring it, and forget to follow it up with a good mend. Most often, but not always, a fly angler should make their first mend within a second or two of the fly landing on the water. Why you ask? Because it’s the most critical mend of your drift. It sets up your entire drift, and will eliminate the need for extra mending.

2. Anglers rod tip does not travel high enough in the air during the mend

The majority of the time when mending you’re trying to mend as much of your fly line and leader without moving your flies. The longer the cast or more fly line you have on the water, the higher you’ll need to move your rod tip in an oval shape path. “Give me a superman mend”, I say to my clients, when their mending a bunch of fly line. What I’m meaning by this is giving me the biggest mend you can.

3. Anglers mend their line by moving their fly rod in a sideways motion instead of upside down u-shape or n-shape

When your mending, your trying to pick up fly line and leader off the water and reposition it (placing it back down upstream or downstream of your fly). I see a lot of anglers moving their rod sideways in a straight line when mending. All this does is require you to mend again seconds later.

4. Some drifts require multiple mends

Even a perfect first mend isn’t always enough to get you through the entire drift drag-free. Sometimes fly anglers will need to mend two, three, and even four times from the beginning to the end of their drift. I see a lot of people fall behind on their timing of their second and third mends. Be ready for it, and as soon as you start seeing a loop forming to the left or right of your fly, commence mending. When done properly you’ll extend your drag-free drift and will be less likely to move your fly on or below the water surface.

5. Strip excess fly line in between mends

Mending your fly line you will at times build more slack up between you and the fly than you want. Too much slack and you’ll have a hard time setting the hook, but secondly, too much slack will make it very difficult to execute you next mend.

6. Be prepared to change mending direction during the drift

Eddies and converging currents downstream of your fly may require you to mend in the opposite direction of your first mend during the later parts of your drift. Don’t feel like there’s only one correct direction to mending your line. Pay attention to the direction of where the loops of your fly line are forming and mend the opposite direction.

7. When dry fly fishing you have to be more subtle with your mending.

Just about anyone can make great mends when their nymphing with a strike indicator. The weight of the rig and friction of the surface provides us with a buffer that keeps it from moving during mending. When your dry fly fishing though, you don’t have that buffer, and fly anglers need to take a more subtle and slow approach. Don’t be overpowering or in a rush, instead raise your rod up high smoothly and make a tight half-circle path with your fly rod to finish the mend. This should do a good job of keeping your dry fly from moving on the waters surface.

8. It’s ok to lift your fly or strike indicator off the water during your first mend.

A lot of novice fly anglers think it’s bad to move your fly or strike indicator with the first mend. Most of the time it’s not a bad thing at all, and can make your drift even better. I do it all the time when I’m deep nymphing in fast water, where even the slightest loop in my leader or fly line will hurt my drift. When I’m dry fly fishing, I often will cast just past my target, so when I make the big mend, it will pull the fly slightly back to me and drift in my target zone.

Keep it Reel,

Kent Klewein
Gink & Gasoline
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6 thoughts on “Sunday Classic / 8 Common Fly Line Mending Mistakes

  1. Spot on Kent, and I think you are correct in that Guides can relate to this more than the general public, I think we Guides get it and understand how critical good mending is! Most anglers want to mend but are lazy and don’t lift enough line or move the rod enough to achieve a good mend, they want to, but don’t understand how much the rod and line need to move to create a good mend. WHen I’m having problems with anglers mending, I try to fine a deeper run that is holding fish and do a little “training” session, it really drives home the good mend exercise – a good mend gets them a fish a poor one gets them nothing! Good article!

  2. Spot on as usual, Kent. When teaching mending, like I did last week in Trout Camp, I try to describe the reason for a particular mend under the circumstances (i.e., water is moving slower [or faster] between you and the indicator; or now that we are in faster water, a bigger mend is needed). Only then will the student be able to apply mends in changing circumstances on their own. Patience is needed, because learners tend to concentrate on the most immediate issue to them (i.e., I missed my last take so I must keep my eye on the indicator), and they may need reminders to mend.

    Good communication is essential to good guiding (and teaching). You obviously have that skill.

  3. Kent thanks for the much needed info. The mend is something that I have struggled with. I truly believe that I have been guilty of just moving my line to the left/right. However when you said that one way is by using an upside down U shape it all made sense. Definitely something I will work on.
    Thanks for the great advise as usual.

  4. I just follow Hank’s instruction, works great for me…

    “There’s nothing more annoying to a guide than a guy who’s gonna put in a lazy mend alright–you get some shoulder into it. You start a 6, you end at 6 o’clock!–that’s a proper mend!”

    “You want to mend it…and mend it… and then mend it, and then you follow that bobber, and then mend it, then you follow that bobber..then you mend it, then you mend it and you mend it. And then once you’re done mending it, you mend it again. Because you’re going to mend it over, and over and over and over and over again–OK? Nymphing isn’t about casting, it’s about mending.”

  5. Try making a mend in mid air before your fly even hits the water so that your drift starts without an initial mend.Sometimes you will get a hit immediately after the fly hits the water.You also take really tough currents out of the initial equation as the fly is positioned correctly from the get-go.Check out the currents that are in your lane and mid air mend to start your drift.

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