Heave, Leave (and Retrieve)

Heave, Leave (and Retrieve)

Jason Borger | Tuesday, 6 September 2016

Last week’s FP was all about simplicity in stillwaters. So is this week’s FP!


The Heave and Leave (and Retrieve) has the sound of almost ridiculous simplicity, and for good reason: The technique involves casting the fly into known or suspected feeding areas (the “heave”) and allowing it to sit motionless (the “leave”). Then, after an arbitrary period of time, or when a fish is known or suspected to be close, the fly is moved (the “retrieve”).

The movement may be little more than an attention-getting twitch, or it may be a sudden jump, or even a full-fledged swim. All of this should sound very familiar to those who toss hair bugs to bass or fish damselfly hatches. The Heave and Leave (and Retrieve) can be applied to dries and subsurface flies alike, although you may need to employ a fly suspension device (i.e. indicator-as-bobber) when fishing sinking flies over a weedy or algae-laden bottom and in deep water.

The concept of dead-drifting a fly in flowing waters is firmly entrenched in many fly fishers’ minds, but in stillwaters it can be sheer torture to allow a fly to simply sit for any length of time. It feels like the fly has to be out there doing something. Of course, it is doing something: It is waiting for the fish to find it. Keep in mind this rather generalized breakdown of fish feeding behavior: In flowing waters, the water moves and the fish stay still (in lies or on stations), but in stillwaters it is the fish that move (in cruising lanes or feeding zones) while the water remains (mostly) stationary. Certainly, action on the fly is a major component of presentation in stillwaters, but there are those times when it pays the leave the fly to its own devices. How long you leave the fly depends on a number of factors, including wind, waves, fly sink rate, population/location of fish, food organism behavior, and basic human patience.

The Heave and Leave (and Retrieve) is far from difficult, but it can work wonders when the stillwater situation proves difficult and patience is the virtue.