How Do I Cast and Mend When Fishing Dry Flies?

Here’s one thing every fly fisherman dreams about: Hitting their favorite spot right in the middle of a mayfly hatch. With the water covered in bugs and all the feeding going on, it’s an opportunity to experience some fantastic dry-fly fishing.

To trout, it’s also an opportunity. But one that carries with it a ton of risk. Fish live in an eat-and-be-eaten world. During a hatch, they can gorge on fat, easy meals. But to do it, they need to expose themselves to predators looking for fat, easy meals of their own.

This why trout get into hard-to-get-at spots when they’re eating flies off the surface. These fish would rather eat under the surface, as far from predators as possible. But when a hatch gets heavy, the chance to bulk up on calories is too great to pass up.

To feed and stay safe, trout locate themselves in some of the toughest lies in the river. These lies can challenge your fly fishing skills and make these trout seem untouchable. But with a few tips and techniques, you can find success—and some nice fish on the end of your line.

Give them room:

As trout rise to feed on the surface, they move up and forward in the water column. The deeper down they are, the more they move. When casting to these fish, don’t throw your fly right at their rise. Instead, put it upstream from the surface action. Generally, a few feet above the rise is right. The deeper the water, the farther upstream you should cast. This gives the fish room to see your presentation and come to the fly.

Make a mistake? Don’t make it worse:

Let bad casts lie when you’re fishing to rising trout. Instead of ripping the fly right out of the water, give it a few mends and finish out the drift with a drag-free presentation. Remember, trout are facing extra risk when they’re feeding on the surface. This means they’re extra cautious and easy to spook trout. When you let the fly finish out the drift, you won’t spook these fish by creating irregular movement and motion.

What wood you do?

When trout set up along woody debris and twiggy cover to eat dry flies, they have ample areas to duck into and hide. This makes them less wary. In these situations, cast well above the snag or debris and think how the current will carry it alongside and down to the fish.

This achieves two things: First, you’ll be far less likely to snag your fly on the debris and cover when you drop your cast onto the water and second, you’ll get better at reading micro currents and how small seam lines affect drifting insects and your presentation.

Get by boulders:

Big fish love hanging out behind mid-stream boulders with fast water all around. During a hatch, they’ll move down from these lies and into the slick water below the boulder. During a hatch, these can be tricky spots to fish.

Drag is almost unavoidable at some point in the drift because you’ll have to deal with the fast current between you and the boulder, the current seam line alongside the boulder, and micro currents within the slick itself.

Instead of trying to achieve a long, full draft-free drift, try targeting the time and points when your fly won’t be dragged along or pulled by other the currents. A few practice drifts through the spot should tell you this.

Fishing midstream boulders is more of a mending game than a casting one. Play with your mending by adding larger mends in the beginning of the cast, raising the rod as high as you can to keep more line off the water and then adding even more smaller mends as your fly drifts closer to the fish’s location. You’ll have to time the cast and drift just right for that one or two second portion of the drift that it’s moving through drag free.

Be ready for eddies:

Trout love eddies. These swirling currents draw banquets of drifting insects to single sections of a river and the foam lines along their seams are like conveyer belts of food. Sometimes, huge quantities of fish set up to feed within these currents.

Unfortunately, though, eddies can be tough to fish. Because the currents want to pull, twist and sink your line rather than let it sit on the surface, it’s extremely difficult to manage your fly line on the surface of an eddy. As a bank angler, a fish sipping along the bank in an eddy means you need to cast downstream and then try to throw more line downstream using a slack mend or pile cast. Then you can let the current draw the fly back toward us and the rising trout.

Aerial mending is a great way to add slack and a mend to your line before the line touches the water. Mending in the complex currents of an eddy can be difficult, so experiment with different mends and casts to see what works best for each specific presentation situation.

Landing the Dream

Fishing a hatch is easily one of the most exciting experiences you’ll ever have with a fly rod—especially if you follow the tips above and get into some serious trout action. They can help you go from dreaming about landing fish after fish, cast after cast to making this kind of dream come true.

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