Adding weight to a wet fly team: when and how

“Do you ever add weight to your wet fly rig? If so, where do you place the weight on the leader?” “Do you ever use weighted wet flies?” I get these questions a lot. Here are the answers.

This is how we do it. Two options for adding weight or a weighted fly to a wet fly team. There’s a downloadable pdf link below. FYI, the Maxima I use most often is 4# Ultragreen.

AddingWeightWetFlyTeam

AddingWeightWetFlyTeam

Let’s start with the last one. I hardly ever use weighted flies, and when I do, it’s with a specific purpose. Syl Nemes was of the opinion that if you were using beadheads or weighted flies, you weren’t wet fly fishing. I have a lot of respect for Syl — he is, after all, a giant in the pantheon of American wet fly fishers — but I find the weighted wet fly a practical arrow to have in one’s quiver.

So, I’ll add a tungsten beadhead wet on point when the water is generally higher than I’d like (500-800cfs on the Farmington); if I’m fishing a deep pool where there are some trout rising, but I suspect the bulk of the emerger action is well beneath the surface; or if I want to sink the flies quickly and then create a more precipitous rise as the line comes tight. If my drift is of any significant length, or the pool is particularly deep, I’ll be throwing mends and keeping slack in the line to help sink the rig. In some cases I may throw a shorter line and “nymph” without touching the bottom — almost like a deep water Leisenring Lift.

Adding weight to the leader is almost always a strategic decision I make based on river structure. Okay — that, and also because I’m lazy. Let’s say I’m wading along, fishing a stretch of riffles and pockets and runs with a water depth of 1-3 feet. Suddenly, I’m faced with a riffle that dumps into a stretch of deep water — or a deep, long pocket. Nothing is rising, and a few swings through prove fruitless. Still, it’s a fishy looking hole, and I’m certain there are trout holding on the bottom. This is where the lazy kicks in. Rather than swap out the wet fly rig, I’ll create a quasi wet fly/nymph rig by adding a removable BB shot just above the knot that forms the middle dropper.

Keep the line plumb when you’re presenting deep. Feel that shot ticking along the bottom. If you detect a strike or if the line moves off vertical, set the hook hard downstream.

WF101Presenting Deep 1

Now I’ve got a three fly team that, when presented correctly, covers two crucial areas of water. If I present like I’m short line/tight line nymphing, the middle dropper fly will be right at the bottom; the point fly, just above the bottom; and the top dropper about 16-24″ off the bottom. I’ll either feel the take, or, as I’m tracking the drift and keeping the line plumb, see the line begin to angle behind the drift; in either case, a hard set downstream is in order.

There is no magic depth for making the decision to present near the bottom. Channel your inner Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart, and you’ll know it when you see it.

My client Paul was swinging a team of wets through a run that I knew held fish. We had no takers, so we dipped into the shot-on-the-leader till for some tight line bottom presentations. Ding-ding-ding! Paul scored this gorgeous high teens Survivor Strain truttasaurus.

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Wet Flies at Legends on the Farmington

What a swell time yesterday tying and teaching at Legends. Many thanks to Sal for hosting, and the same shout out to the group for making my job easy. This was an all day event, featuring wet fly theory/tactics/strategies in a classroom setting, and most of all, lots of tying. We managed to bang out a half dozen soft hackles, wingless wets, and winged wets. Always nice to have a full class — not to mention a full glass at the end of the day.

The late afternoon view from the great room at Legends. You can’t tell from the photo, but it was a perfect day for staying inside (windy and cold) and tying wet flies. I was digging the fireplace.

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Best of North Country Spiders: Greensleeves

As you can see, currentseams is on a North Country Spiders kick. The goal here is to show you some of my favorite classic Yorkshire soft hackles, including the recipe, brief tying directions, and match the hatch notes.  I have to confess that I haven’t fished Greensleeves as much as I would like. I tend to tie it smaller, say 14-18. It makes a fine BWO emerger, as well as caddis (and even microcaddis is you wanted to cross the size 20 and smaller Rubicon). It certainly works nicely as the top dropper on your nymph setup.

Greensleeves North Country Spider

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Hook: Wet or dry fly, 14-20
Body: Green silk (this is Pearsall’s Gossamer Highland Green)
Hackle: Hen pheasant neck or inside of a woodcock wing (this is woodcock)

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Tying notes: This is a fairly straightforward tie. While not as fragile as starling, woodcock isn’t as robust as partridge, so don’t pull too hard as you’re winding. You can find a general North Country spider video tutorial here.

Come one, come all to “Wet Flies 2.0” Friday 1/25 3:15pm at the Fly Fishing Show, Edison, NJ

Looking forward to a good crowd for tomorrow’s seminar at the Fly Fishing Show in Edison, NJ, and you can help make it happen. Wet Flies 2.0 is an extension of my intro wet fly program. We’ll go a little deeper into the ancient, traditional art of fooling fish with soft hackles and other magical creations. Lots of new stuff to learn and discover. Catch Room, 3:15pm. And be sure to come say hello.

Wet flies have been fooling trout for centuries…and the Salmo aren’t getting any smarter.

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Farmington River Report 9/1/18: Finishing with a bang

Yesterday I guided Pete and his son Scott. They wanted to learn the mystical arts of the wet fly, so we had a stream side mini-class then had at it. The water was a little higher than I’d like (400cfs+ in the permanent TMA, 64 degrees) and the hatch activity was about a 2 on the 10 scale, but we managed to move a few trout in Spot A. Still, not the action I was hoping for. Off to Spot B where I noticed a few risers. They weren’t having the wet (this is the second time in two weeks I’ve witnessed this) so I switched Scott over to an X-leg Hopper Caddisy thing with a wet dropper. Second cast, we had a rise. A few casts later, pay dirt. Many thanks to both Pete and Scott for being such swell company. Weather was great, and the river was far less crowded than I expected.

Just as time was running out on the session, Scott nailed this stunning high-teens wild brown. What a gorgeous fish!

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Farmington River Report 7/17/18: Big Bang Boom

I guided Paul for four hours yesterday before the fireworks began. Atmospheric, that is — although the fishing was slow, we managed to conjure up plenty of electric action. We fished three locations within the permanent TMA and found players in all of them. The water was down to 237cfs (they dropped the dam 100cfs) but still plenty cold. Wet flies were the first order of business, and we induced a savage strike from a lovely wild brown in the snotty water at the head of a run. Upstream there were trout smutting in that difficult-to-present-to frog water along the edge of a faster current. Then I saw a moth skitter across the surface, and one of the trout snapped at it. We clipped off the SHBHPT on point and tied on a Stimulator. Three trout later, we moved to another spot. This was a very sexy run, but we had no interest in swung wets. I figured there were trout in residence, so we added a BB shot to the middle dropper knot and presented along the bottom. Ding! We have a winner, with Paul landing a gorgeous kyped Survivor Strain brown. Great job by Paul with his casting, wading, presenting, and especially his no-time-wasted landing those trout. They just didn’t stand a chance. A pleasure, sir!

The skunk was off with this lovely wild brown. Man, did he open up a can of whupass on the wet fly.

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Men at work: Paul demonstrating the advantages of a ten-foot rod on the Farmington.

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What the fly saw moments before the take. A good fish, Survivor Strain, well-earned. (There’ll be no pictures of anglers thrusting fish into the camera at arm’s length on this site.)

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