Adding a Swing

With the recent Drawing Flies 52 emphasis on wet flies (another to come this week) I though that I’d post a bit on “adding a swing.” This really is an “add-on” tactic, not a full blown wet-fly approach, but it can still give your presentations an extra, and sometimes effective, element.

August of 2005 saw Montana’s famed Bighorn River with water levels looking good and many fish up and rising. Afternoon midge and caddis activity set the stage for some exciting dry-fly action, especially on the river’s broad, moderately deep flats. While the bank-sippers provided measured, up-current action, the mid-river fish lent themselves to longer casts and, of course, down-and-across swings.

adding_a_swingOn one flat, the fish were spread out all over the place and feeding rather sporadically. Although a dead-drifted caddis dry took a few fish, it turned out that the same fly fished submerged and on-the-swing was the ticket to better success. The presentation required standing hip deep, with thick brush a few yards directly behind. In order to fish the fly for the longest possible time, and to avoid potential casting hang-ups, I used a Snap-C (a/k/a C-Spey) to deliver the fly. Each cast was made across stream, with a subsequent up-current mend to allow the fly to drift as naturally as possible. As the fly approached a downstream quartering position, I reached the rod toward the fly to maximize “dead-drift,” and then allowed drag to set in. Rather then immediately re-casting, I worked the fly in a series of on-again/off-again twitches as the line swept the fly through the currents. Only when the line was nearly straight downstream of my position would I re-cast (using the Snap-C). This sequence, combined with a slow down-river pace, felt more like fishing for steelhead or Atlantic salmon, but it worked just fine with the Bighorn’s trout.

What I did those August days is what many other trout anglers have done in many other August days before—making the swing a proactive part of the entire presentation, rather than an afterthought (or not at all). Everything about the situation—from the water-type, to the fish’s feeding habits, to the hatch, to the type of cast employed—was considered in a making the swing an integral presentation element. But you don’t have to go that far. If you simply keep the swing in mind as you fish, you can add it whenever you want. When not focusing on a specific fish, or casting up-current only, I may add a swing if I think I can put the fly over some additional “trouty” water.

There has been much written and recorded on the topic of swinging trout flies (especially as its own technique, versus the add-on swing discussed here), and I encourage you to explore this often under-appreciated approach. Adding a swing does not have to be difficult, but it can open up additional angling opportunities.

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