Sunday Classic / Keep Your Rod Tip Off the Water for Longer Drag-Free Drifts

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Scott McEnaney, Eastern Director of Orvis Endorsed Lodges, demonstrates proper rod tip position. Photo By: Louis Cahill

Are you finding yourself struggling to get long drag-free drifts on the water?

If the answer is yes, you may be holding your rod tip too close to the water during your drifts. When your rod tip is positioned too low, you’re putting unnecessary fly line on the water that you in turn have to manage in order to maintain a drag-free drift. As soon as this unwanted fly line hits the waters surface, it’s immediately subjected to the surrounding currents. Depending on how fast the current is at your feet, the less time it will take for it to be pulled downstream and begin effecting your drift. Eventually all the slack will be pulled out in your fly line and your drag-free drift will be compromised. There’s of course a happy medium though, on rod tip position. Too high, and anglers will find it difficult to effectively mend and set the hook. I generally tell my clients to keep their rod tip at least three feet off the water’s surface.

Here’s a simple drill to help you understand and visualize how improper rod tip position on the water can negatively effect and decrease the length of your drag-free drift. Lay out a nice 30+ foot cast on the water. Make sure you stop your rod tip high above the water (a good 4 feet). Watch your drift for a few seconds, and then quickly drop your rod tip all the way to the water. You’ll almost immediately notice the slack in your cast eliminated and shortly after drag on your fly. This is a simple technique mistake I see on the water all the time, particularly with anglers dry fly fishing.

Have any additional suggestions on this tip for the G&G Community? Feel free to drop us a comment, we’d love to hear your thoughts.

Keep it Reel,

Kent Klewein
Gink & Gasoline
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5 thoughts on “Sunday Classic / Keep Your Rod Tip Off the Water for Longer Drag-Free Drifts

  1. Kent,

    Rod tip position is important, and I appreciate your writing on the subject. I think, however, that giving a specific position (three feet above the water) can be misleading. As a salt water angler, I learned by trial and error that placement of the tip in or just off the water will assist in detecting the take as well as effectively striking the hook. When fishing rivers and streams, my “default” is to have the rod in or close to the water, but conditions of conflicting currents, proximity of target, fishing technique being used, type of flies, and many other variables will dictate my tip position. I may want all or most of the line off the water in one circumstance and all the line on the water in another. I may have the rod tip three feet off the water for part of the drift and lower the tip to the water during the swing. Having the line belly sooner is but one of many considerations for positioning. Unfortunately, when I teach newbies, I find that giving prevailing rules can confuse them when conditions change 20 feet downstream. Instead, teaching them the consequences of different rod tip positions is what is important, as you have done in this post. Thank you.

  2. Good advice, it’s always a good idea to be thinking of line management from the fly all the way back to the reel – especially where that line is at your feet, whether wading or in a drift boat. But I’ve seen a thousand missed hook sets from having the rod tip out of position, and having too much slack line off the tip. This is one of the finer points of being a great fly angler – until you’ve come tight with a hook set, managing your presentation should be on your mind all the way from the tip to the fly. Keeping your rod tip too high, especially on what some refer to as a “technical fishery” usually results in a missed opportunity. Water speed and currents are the biggest factors to manage, and by paying attention to those you’ll find your tip bent more often than not.

  3. Absolutes in teaching always lead to the inevitable introduction of exceptions.As a former educator I believe that in teaching the why’s of what we are doing goes a long way toward eventual change.Rather than “set in stone” procedures for our fly fishing students that somehow don’t lend themselves across the board,it is incumbent on us to demonstrate when a client misses on a mend or performs a faux pas that we seize the moment to demonstrate why a change would be in their best interest.Explaining merging/conflicting currents and how they mess up your casts is best done on a case by case situation and results in better retention especially when they succeed in front of us and we seize the opportunity to praise their efforts.Showing the difference as you move down a divergent stream will hit a homerun and not confuse the client as to where his or her rod has to be.Once shown the difference between drag vs.drag free will go a long way toward them learning the lesson for a lifetime.It’s the why’s that matter.Ask lots of questions of your clients as you instruct them to see if they “get it”.It’s the old story about teaching a man to fish and he’ll feed himself for a lifetime……
    Charlie S.

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