Underwater Secrets in Fly Fishing

Underwater Secrets in Fly Fishing

Bernd Ziesche | Wednesday, 2 December 2020

Presenting a dry fly we do see our fly and the fish taking it on the surface. But what exactly do we know about the details for those flies being taken somewhere down deep? Yet NOT MUCH, I think!

During the last week I was teaching both single and double hand fly casting. Besides that I was studying further details on fly fishing for Zander and perch as well as tying flies for both these magnificent fish.

In a facebook group "fly fishing for perch" (almost 1000 members) I asked about how many strikes when fly fishing for perch with a sinking line we miss to feel and thus not catching the fish by missing to set the hook?

The one general answer was, that most fly fishermen believed not to miss a lot of takes and that they have a great sinking line offering the nearly perfect detection of feeling most strikes even down deep.

Well, I totally disagree with this estimation based on my own experience both on fly fishing for Zander and perch!

Some weeks ago I was lucky to have excellent sightfishing for perch (25 to 35cm = medium sized). For some days every morning I could see all perch coming up to my flies which I presented slowly moving just below the surface in pretty clear water. I had no more than sometimes 2 to 3 meter fly line outside the tip and sometimes even significant less (only 80cm of my thin 0,22mm nylon leader).

We did run an interesting test:

I closed my eyes and my fellow angler was counting the number of perch who inhaled my fly while a) the perch spitting my fly out again without me having felt the take, b) I felt the take but couldn't hook the fish before the perch was gone again and c) I felt the fish and hooked it.

Clearly I have to summarize that even on this very short of fly line in the water or even when not having any fly line between me and the fish I simply missed to feel a huge percentage of takes.

Out of 30 takes I managed to hook 6 to 7 fish while having my eyes open and seeing each of them coming towards my fly! All those fish I missed were coming up very fast, inhaling my fly extremely fast before even faster spitting it out again and running back down in higest possible speed. It all happened so fast, that it was hard to see the fly going in and out the perch his mouth! But be sure it did clearly go in!

Many times the perch at the same time of inhaling my fly had put little loose into my leader which is part of the reason why I was unable to feel the take.

Now imagine you fish down deep. First of all your connection between your rod tip and your fly will never be fully straight. Then you may very well have some stretch being possible in your line and/or leader. Finally of course the line mass and surface (friction) will help to absorb most takes.

Interestingly I hooked mainly those perch who run back down by having missed to spit the fly but slightly getting hooked in one way or another and then hooking themselves seriously against me holding the line. That was what I was feeling: the run, not the takes. Perch inhale our flies mostly and our line systems absorb these usually little force. In addition this inhaling force by far not always pulls opposite direction to where we are! In fact perch when fishing down deep easily may just suck in the fly towards our direction and thus making it even harder (impossible) to feel the take.

I very much believe this is one of the 2 reasons why worm fishermen in 90% outfish spin fishermen and fly fishermen on perch. Because the perch don't spit the hook and we get the detection of the running away fish still having the hook in his mouth.

When it comes to the perfect choice of fly line for fishing down deep I often hear people say, that they want an as straight connection as possible. Now this may come in by using the so called density compensated fly lines. In these lines manufacturers have solved the issue of always having the thicker parts of the belly sinking faster than the tip section when built in one and one only density.

Well, sounds plausible, right!? But there is another side and that is the path your fly will move when comparing the old style fly lines and the density compensated ones. I had to learn a lot here when fly fishing for Zander down deep.

In my next front page I again will shine more light into what really happens down deep. Yet there are quite some mysteries happening, that I am sure about!

If you have made any experience like this when fishing down deep for whatever species of fish I would be very interested in having you sharing your experience - especially if it is totally different from mine.

Great fly fishing week to all of you!

All my best


Some pictures as always...