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Dancing Waters cause dastardly drag


April 16, 2004

Dancing Waters cause dastardly drag

The need for development of alternative fly casting styles can hardly be overstated.

Unfortunately, challenging something that has been a tradition with most fly fishers for years may be a sensitive topic, or at least questioned, even though almost every fly fisher wants to eliminate the fly fishing evil of evils - drag, or unnatural drift.

Last week, I referred to celebrity fly fishers like Bob Jacklin and Joe Humphreys and their fly casting philosophies. Since then, I found the following quotes by one of the most publicized of all fly fishers - Gary Borger.

In referring to the effort spent on combating drag and the importance of achieving dead-drift, Borger made two very noteworthy statements - "Drag remains the single biggest tactical problem facing the fly angler. In fact, if drag were not a problem, the fly fisher would only need to make straight-line casts. But drag is a problem."

Mr. Borger, Lefty Kreh, John Randolph (Editor of Fly Fisherman magazine), Joan Wulff and many other fly fishing legends have long since entered the realm of perfecting casts that "catch trout." This does not mean that they or I will not throw a straight-line overhead and false cast if it is appropriate for a given presentation. Occasionally it is absolutely the correct cast. For example, to power a streamer some distance, to dry a fly or to present flies on still-water from a float tube, these instances require that kind of cast. But note that none of these situations address drag induced by varied currents and water speeds.

As Gary said it so clearly - drag is a problem! For the majority of casting requirements on streams and rivers, the problems of infinitely different hydraulics are a constant challenge. Being able to negate those forces that are constantly pulling on the line and leader, and dragging the fly is one of the biggest obstacles in fooling trout. Drag on the fly alerts fish to the fact that the fly is acting unnaturally - usually. Real midges, mayflies and particularly running or oviposting caddis flies may however have active movement over the surface that can only be replicated with intentionally induced drag. Wet fly drag may pull an emerger imitation toward the surface. But, for most situations, the real fly drifts naturally with the currents.

To add even more difficulty in detecting and preventing drag, we need to think and see in two dimensions. We may be pulling the fly both up or down river, while simultaneously pulling it across or perpendicular to the current. Depending on our visual reference, we often only notice drag in a single dimension. Compounding the problem is the miniscule deviation from natural drift. This is called micro-drag. Worse yet, micro-drag is mostly undetectable to human eyes.

But to a trout, any kind of drag or unnatural fly movement stands out like a tornado sweeping a jumbo jet off the runway. Only the dumbest or most desperate of trout will accept such a presentation. Dry fly or wet fly - it is all the same deal. Trout want to see their food sources being delivered just as the river would do it - naturally.

Natural drift is best achieved with fly casts that set the line and leader on the water in a manner that permits the water's movements to actually facilitate a believable presentation, whether the fly is on the water or below. Obviously the straight-line overhead cast induces drag the second it hits the water.

Curvilinear or slack-line casts allow the fly to drift a considerable distance before significant currents begin pulling on the line, leader and the fly.

These unusual looking casts have all been essentially created for the same purpose, but for different circumstances. Next time, we will review some of these casts, their execution and situations where they work. They are fly fishers' most effective techniques for preventing drag.

L. David Grooms is senior partner of . He can be reached at (970) 385-9048.




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