A basic mend involves moving the rod tip in a half-circle motion that positions fly line upstream of the leader, flies, or indicator. This removes the tension applied by the moving current and helps you improve the depth and control of your presentation. The downside of the basic mend is how long it takes to perform, and the water-disturbing and fish-disturbing movement it imparts to the fly.
When I was younger, I not only spent as much time on the water as I could, but I read every fly-fishing book on the shelf over and over again. I also watched instructional videos. Doug Swisher, who presented his Mastery Series of videos with Scientific Anglers, is one of my teaching idols. In his video on selective trout, he demonstrates the stack mend for use with sinking flies. It’s performed by throwing a mini-cast with a “micro-second wrist” toward the flies or indicator. This places slack line out near the fly where it is most beneficial. Several stack mends are made in quick succession, which allow the fly to sink quickly and drift naturally.
Years ago I started using the same method with a sideways approach to replace the standard mend. I call it “shoot mending.” I make the same micro-second-wrist cast with the tip of the rod moving forward only one foot. I then lift the rod up two to three feet to allow clearance for the line. Then, by quickly making one or two mends while the line is in the process of shooting, I get a mend that’s already in place when the line lands on the water. It’s also a very effective technique for shooting mends through wind and over chop in still waters without taking the indicator or dry fly away from the target.
In many ways [the approach] is simple: Don’t scare the fish before you cast to them. A scared fish is no longer a candidate for a hero photograph, or, as my friend Bob Scammell so succinctly put it, “Nobody’s good enough to catch a terrified trout.”
While the fish in heavily fished waters are usually more tolerant of an angler’s presence, you can still put them off their feeding by getting too close, by sending a wading wake out to alert them, by making sloppy deliveries too close to them, or by false casting over them when they’re in shallow water or near the surface. So watch awhile first before barging in and starting to cast. Look the situation over. Are the fish rising? If so, to what? Look at the water near you and try to see what bugs are on the surface. If you don’t see anything right at the surface, try to find out what’s drifting just beneath the surface (a small aquarium net or piece of screen makes this easier). All this will give you an idea of what fly to start with.
Jim McLennan, Managing Editor
The best Trico fishing comes in the heaviest spinner falls and those occur on the best Trico-days, which are those that begin with bright, warm, calm mornings. Cooler weather delays or severely reduces the intensity of the spinner fall, and wind can blow the spinners away from the river.
As summer progresses the spinner fall occurs later and later in the morning. When the hatch begins in mid-July or early August, spinners might be on the water by 8:00 am. Around Labour Day it might occur around 10:00, and by late September it could be noon before spinners come down. All these times are subject to weather, and particularly air-temperature variations.
When the flies are thick on the surface, the fish like to hold in shallow water along the stream banks, or just beneath the surface in slightly deeper water midstream. They find a lane of slow, steady current that delivers lots of flies and rise subtly, but frequently, making the most of an easy meal.
Jim McLennan, Managing Editor
“This is a type of fishing where we can throw out the “pattern versus presentation” debate. Here, both must be right. Your pre-fishing research should lead you to some suggestions about fly patterns for the particular stream at the time you’re going to be there. My further advice is to carry a number of different patterns to imitate each stage of the hatch you’re likely to encounter. If you’re going to be on a tailwater river at pale morning dun time, you’d better have two or three different emerger patterns, a few dun imitations and a couple of different spinner patterns, for both the male and female spinners (the natural males and female spinners are different colours). Be prepared to run through your fly selection often too, changing flies as soon as you’re sure that the fish has seen the last one presented perfectly. Your best odds for a take are on the first two perfect presentations. After that, your chances drop quickly. So don’t keep hammering away with the fly that worked on the previous fish, because for some annoying reason different fish often want different imitations. Yes, I know, it’s not supposed to work that way. When we find the right fly, we believe we’ve “broken the code,” meaning we’re home free and able to catch most every fish we throw at. But it often doesn’t work like that on the toughest of technical water, and you might need to try a number of flies for each different feeding trout you encounter.” Jim McLennan, Managing Editor
“Your fly should alight on the water far enough upstream of the fish that its landing doesn’t frighten the fish, but close enough to the fish that the leader and line don’t come tight and produce drag until the after fly has drifted past the fish and is out of its sight. There are a number of casting positions that allow you to accomplish this, including the traditional position downstream or down and across from the feeding fish. But you might consider casting from a position up and across from the fish. Though a bit unconventional, this approach gives you the benefit of showing the fish your fly before showing it your leader – and sometimes this is just what’s needed to close the deal with a tough trout. Just be sure that you can get into the proper casting position without scaring the fish. When casting down and across, you need to use a reach cast…” Jim McLennan, Managing Editor
“When you see a trout rise, remember that the rise form drifts downstream with the current, but the trout stays back where it rose. Don’t keep casting to the ever-widening rings that conveniently drift along beside you. The fish is still back upstream where the episode started.” Jim McLennan, Managing Editor–Fly Fusion Magazine
“Fishing banks effectively requires a well thought-out plan. First, it’s very easy to send those bank feeding trout fleeing to the middle of the river with a careless approach. Unless you’re fishing from a boat where you can float along quietly while casting to the bank, you need to walk up to banks cautiously with the idea that a trout could be within a foot of the shoreline. This means you often want to make your first few casts before you even step into the water. Sometimes it even means crawling on hands and knees as you approach the bank to avoid spooking feeding fish. If you do start wading, move slowly and as quietly as possible. Another option, if available, is to wade out and cast back in towards the bank. Or in smaller streams simply casting over to the far bank can be a simple way to cover bank-feeding fish.” Rick Hafele–author, lecturer, bug man (photography by Aaron Hitchins)