Video analysis has always been an important tool for me when looking to up my game. I like to slow it all down, dissect things, consider what I’m seeing and try and improve on it, whether I’m on the lawn casting, or fishing the water.
Here’s a recent clip from a stop off on my way home where I wanted to check out my wet fly swing. Pressing record and just getting lost in the moment offers valuable insight once you sit down and play it back, far, far too many times. You’re not always conscious of what you’re doing or why you’re doing something when you’re on the river, and so reviewing it afterwards can help clarify what you did to make something work, or not work.
I always like to picture how the fly is acting as it swims through the water, and manipulate my rod tip and line accordingly to better control its speed, depth, movement and the profile it presents to the fish as much as I can. As you’ll see, there is much more to simply casting, letting it swing, following it around and hoping for an eat. Sure you’ll get the odd fish, but being more conscious of your swing, being more proactive, and adjusting the movement of the fly to the water you’re working through, you’ll catch more fish.
Here I begin by firing on a slightly downstream angle and employing an aerial reach mend to remove tension and allow my sink tip to do its thing the moment it touches down. I’ve chosen to swing the entire run from one side to the other here as there is a sexy drop off below spanning its width. Often I will pick one or two ‘hotspots’ within the run itself and target them directly, making sure my fly is at the depth I want, swinging at the speed I want under control as it passes the predetermined bingo zone. These brief, targeted moments of the swing determine where I land my fly and how I mend, if I do so at all.
You’ll notice I’m holding my rod high and wide / upstream in the initial stages of my swing, this is to allow my line to hinge into position so that I can control a super slow swing. I’m guiding the fly through its across stream path now at whatever pace I choose to move the rod tip around at. This is the difference between ‘leading’ the line or ‘following’ the line with my rod tip. Also, keeping the running line clear of the many pockets and currents within the run gives me more control, and a much slower, deeper swing. I can move the fly across the flow now at a pace I choose, which here is much slower than the flow. This was filmed in bone chilling temps so as you could imagine, the fish were staying pretty close to home. I didn’t want to spend too much time out there and so was making sure each moment my fly was in the water, and my hands exposed, counted.
As the fly swings into the softer edge water across the drop off I lower the rod and go into a prolonged dangle. This is where I expect the grabbier fish to be resting up so plan to really work my fly here. This is also where using an unweighted fly with loads of movement to the materials prevents hanging up while the materials get to work in the softer currents. Do nothing. Let it dangle. Let it dangle some more. There’s a fish there somewhere and my fly is fluttering about right in front of him. C’mon, eat it... I let it dangle some more...
Once the fly has worn out its welcome below I introduce a little more movement, first by a few vertical wrist flips, popping it up and lifting the fly, then waiting for the line to regain tension. Pop and wait, all the time watching the end of my line for that pull. Often I’ll see it a moment before I feel it, and act accordingly. Now to dangle a touch more...
A subtle repositioning of the rod tip moves my fly across that little bit more...
Now I pulse it a little. Smoothly back and forward with the elbow. Like dangling string in front of a kitten. It’s sexy water so there must be something there. I’m ready.
No dice. Now to swim my fly back up the seam with anticipation as I strip. You’ll recall I often advocate fishing your retrieve rather than just stripping back haphazardly with the sole intention of casting again. And here’s why.
Bang! Fish on!
If your fly is in the water, fish it...
It’s all the little things that some anglers do that combine to make them more successful.
Consider your swing to put more fish in your net.