great question i was wondering this myself i have tried before but not very much and it was a guess all the way. so i hope someone delivers some insight here.
Dentry: Dare to be a drag when fly fishing
August 26, 2005
It can be a drag out there for fly fishers, but few know how to harness the stress. Despite what you might have heard, line drag can be a good and proper thing.
Take it from a codger who remembers the virtue of dragging a fly on purpose. Specifically, that would be ye olde wet fly, a contraption of the Dark Ages.
Drag, of course, is taboo now. It's the demon that instructors rant about in Fly Fishing 101: Never, ever let your fly sweep or swim against the grain of the current.
Unless, of course, it's a Wooly Bugger.
Fear of drag haunts us. If your guide catches you doing it, he might flog you with a willow switch. We are told to float our flies and drift our nymphs in a precise, natural way or the trout will die laughing.
Balderdash, to use an outdated word fitting for a discussion of passé flies and methods. Some trout like fast food and couldn't care less if it imitates anything at all.
That applies even to selective trout in hard-fished waters. If you don't believe it, try dragging a No. 10 King of the Waters past a pod of fish weary of watching an endless parade of dead-drifted, precisely imitative bug replicas riding fishhooks.
Even trout up on their reading aren't likely to have studied Trout, the 1938 tome by Ray Bergman. Trout was the bible of early and mid-20th century American fly fishing. It served anglers until the 1970s, when scientific angler/authors Doug Swisher and Carl Richards changed the way we fish.
Trout was the first modern textbook of fly fishing and tying. Its beautiful color plates displayed hundreds of wet flies and dozens of dries, along with a handful of streamers and primitive nymphs.
Nearly all the wet flies had swept-back wings and soft hackle beards. Modeled after traditional Atlantic salmon fly patterns, they were designed to swim in the current.
That's because, in their heyday, a fly fisher strove not to imitate trout food but to trigger a trout's predatory reflex. In fact, feeding a dead-drifted, fake nymph to a trout carried something of a stigma, like using cheese for bait.
In those days, you were good if you could tempt a fish into rising for a dry fly. But you were a hero if you could make a fish furious enough to savage a beautiful wet fly, particularly one of your own design.
The flies were multicolored and they had fun names: Artful Dodger, Claret Gnat, Parmachene Belle, Quack Doctor, Rio Grande King, Roosevelt, Undertaker, Yellow Sally and, of course, the Ray Bergman.
When author and fishing guide Todd Hosman, of Lyons, and I fished a stream in Rocky Mountain National Park last month, he evoked the hallowed Bergman name. Hosman isn't a codger, but he is part traditionalist.
He said he likes King of the Waters best among the old wet flies and often catches trout with them. The fly is dressed with a crimson floss body, gold ribbing, brown hackle and mallard flank wing and tail.
It suggests a king wearing a red robe with a train of white fur festooned with black-tipped ermine tails. What it doesn't look like is anything you might find squirming in a trout stream.
Hosman likes his wet flies fished the old way, big swing across the current after a quartering downstream cast, slow retrieve back upstream. Sometimes he slips one downstream under brush, where a cast never would reach.
"It's amazing how many fly fishermen these days never heard of down-and-across fishing," he said. "They have no clue."
Where I come from, we keep alive the old flies and ways because the better half can't see so well. Fishing down and across with wet flies works like a charm for people who are visually impaired and can't see a trout striking a dry fly or yanking a strike indicator under.
There isn't much to detect when you swim a wet fly and tickle a trout's predatory instinct. The result never is a subtle "take" but a vicious strike.
Juanita Kursevich, of Bailey, who also can't see very well, learned the method and saw the net results in rainbow trout the other day on Tarryall Creek. A King of Waters wet fly convinced her the old ways can keep her fishing.
Bergman sometimes fished his wet flies upstream on the dead drift. Mostly, though, he quartered them downstream, keeping a belly in the line so the current would swing the fly gently across the current.
Then he would walk his wet flies upstream with a slow "hand twist" retrieve he developed. You pinch the line between the left forefinger and thumb, draw it back, then pinch between the two middle fingers, draw back and repeat.
Trout usually strike when the fly swings and starts upstream, but sometimes they follow and whack it right at your toes.
Just as it says in the book.
Tried and true
? Historic wet flies were colorful and creative, and they still work.
King of the Waters