The Fine Art of Not Casting

The Fine Art of Not Casting

Jason Borger | Tuesday, 22 March 2016

While I often write about casting, sometimes the best fishing techniques aren’t casting-centric. Dapping is one of those techniques. What follows is a short look at dapping with everyday gear, something that I’ve done a fair amount of over the years.

Dapping is a very old, direct approach that lends itself to straightforward equipment—such as a pole and a length of line. When using what one might call “standard” fly-fishing gear, dapping is typically done with the leader and perhaps a small amount of line pulled out of the rod tip. The intent is to be able to hold the rod out over the water, and “dap” the fly on the surface. Usually the dap portion involves just enough movement to make the fly look like it is fluttering or dancing (not full-on disco). Tuning the length of line out of the rod tip to best match your position in relation to the water and to the needed dapping movement is key. A lot of slack becomes hard to control, and a rod tip too close to the fly might be a visual problem. As a general rule, I go with a line length that allows me to do what I need to do in terms of fly movement/control, but I don’t go any shorter.

From an application standpoint, the fly can fished on a variety of waters in a variety of ways: motionless, dead-drifted or whatever you want. Keep in mind, that too much movement might be a turn-off to the fish. Just keep the action realistic, maybe with some sort of “attention getter” if you feel it’s needed. On the flip-side, I’ve dapped with imitations of mice and frogs, and those aren’t dainty (neither are the takes)!


Dapping may also be the technique of choice when you need to get a nymph deep and place it precisely in front of a fish’s nose. The fly can not only be sunk straight down, but it can be “jigged” for extra effect.


While part of the excitement of Dapping comes from being so close to the action, you can also Dap remotely. This is done in stillwaters when prospecting for wary fish that have established defined cruising lanes. The idea is to get the fly on the water, set the rod in a bush or the grass, then scuttle back to cover and wait for a fish to come to the fly. Once the fish has taken the fly, you spring forth and set the hook. As an angling approach, it has shades of old-school pole-and-bobber fishing, but is still effective with a fly. 


My father and I had a morning some years ago when we did nothing but remote dapping. We were fishing a lake that had a steep pine-backed shoreline with tall grasses right down to waterside. Our first casts to fish cruising just off the grass proved that we were not going to catch anything, even crouched down. The fish were just too spooky in the high-altitude light. So, we resorted to remote dapping, lurking in the pines 25 feet or so back. My father had the fish of the day, a 57 cm rainbow that sipped a tiny Griffith’s Gnat as we peered out from our sap-soaked hiding place. It was an angling morning saved by the fine art of not casting.