Bernd Ziesche | Wednesday, 30 January 2019
1. The Movement 2. The Time Lag 3. The Smell
1. The Movement usually can be everything from medium fast to extremely slow - depending on the situation. In general you will have to strip faster in summertime and significant slower in winter time.
BUT let's assume you present your fly in a very slow movement 4 meters below the surface in a muddy water (all typical for an average winter situation). I can assure you: You will miss a high percentage of the takes you get. Zander mostly suck in the fly and then spit it out within less than a second.
The cause for missing most of the takes?
2. There is a significant time lag between the strike and us feeling it. That is because there is no STRAIGHT in fly fishing! Our fly line + leader connection between the fly and the rod tip never will be fully straight. Due to that there will always be a damping effect and a time lag making it harder to feel any sort of soft and especially fast happening takes.
Yeah, that's why so many fly fishermen love to fish for pike. Pike often hammer into the fly and run off without allowing the fly to leave their mouth for the next (at least) 3 to 5 seconds. Enough power and time to feel the take AND set the hook. Fair to call pike an easy catch when comparing with catching Zander on the fly rod.
In addition to all that, Zander often check the fly first. I am pretty sure they use their sense of smell often when we present the fly in a very slow retrieve. So here we are:
3. The smell of our fly probably will spook the Zander in quite some situations. At least it will support the Zander to realize something to be wrong and then make them turn off before taking the fly or spitting it out within less than a second.
So, what can we do to gain a constant success in catching Zander on fly rod?
Based on all my findings over the past years I recommend to always stay within a medium fast retrieve. 30 centimers (nearly one foot) per second might be the minimum retrieving speed when you fish in 3 meters (or more) water depth on a distance of 30 feet (or more). Any more shallow or shorter line and you will have a better contact and may decide to reduce retrieving speed a little more. For sure fastening the retrieving speed significantly shortens the time lag between the take and you getting the chance to set the hook.
Fishing down deep and a one and one only density fly line offers the best contact. Stay away from any double, triple or more density fly line systems here - especially in winter time! This is the result of testing many different line setups within the last years. My findings match perfectly with the experience of these two great (outside the box thinking) experts, Tom Keeling and Bob Pauli.
Going down in the weight of your fly line, while going up in the resistance of your fly (more weight and/or a funnel in front of it) will also help to get a better contact and thus help to shortening the time lag for setting the hook. Also going down in the line weight means less damping when the Zander inhales the fly.
Oh, and now some of you may call me to no longer be a fly fisherman, but I have tested to add some natural smell to my fly in order to cover the glue + the lack + all chemicals my fly comes along with. I still need to run further tests to be sure. But so far it looks like at least some Zander do inhale the fly little more seriously offering me an slightly increased chance to set the hook. This holds true for the slower side of retrieving speed. In a proper speed Zander do take the fly in a serious action mostly anyway. BUT in winter time SLOW movement is better often. Well, IF you can FEEL the take that is of course.
Next week I will go UNDERWATER and check all details in regard of how my Zander flies really move down there and how long it takes exactly from the take to the line hand. Hansi and I will enter a swimming bath with our fly rods. Sure we have a long list of details to be checked under the surface, can't wait!
All my best
P.s.: For me fly fishing is casting a fly with the weight of the fly line. I don't care, if you will cast a dry fly upstream, a nymph downstream or having a rattle in your fly. You may use a leader of 120 lbs. strength. You may even use your leader to cast the fly as long as it comes along with enough weight allowing you to shape loops back and forth. You may also add some natural smell to your artificial fly.
Last week as usual, fishing every day (+ teaching double hand casting)...