Skated dryfly

From the perspective of someone who just happened to drop by yesterday, we don't know what we are doing, however from the perspective of someone who was here exactly one week ago, we are completely organised. Today I am writing about fishing the skated sedge, or any skated fly for that matter. If you were here last week you'd know that of course. If you were here yesterday, I've just surprised you. Life is like that. So is fishing.

Dusk on a West Coast river: sedge timeHere's how I fish the skated sedge on one of my favourite rivers in the world. I can't tell you where it is – although it is in Fiordland, New Zealand – but I can tell you that it gives possibly the best evening rise in the world (when they rise) and it is a sedge rise. A manic sedge rise that starts just before dark and continues well into the early morning hours. We wear headlamps but we dare not use them for fear of suffocation. When you fish somewhere like this you learn about the skated sedge and night vision.

Anyone unfamiliar with insects, and their behaviour, will first need to know why one needs a skated sedge, and why sedge skates about the surface in the first place; it is because they enjoy it. For a sedge, skating across the water surface is a risky life-and-death thrilling adventure. Russian Roulette on the wing. It's understandable of course, they have just spent their entire lives crawling about the river bottom, eating stuff and building homes out of bits of gravel, and now they have received their wings – four of them; it's an exciting time. Their lives have been spent hiding from trout; now they're going to tease them. And so are you.

So I cast my dare-devil sedge (soon to be tied up by flytying maestro Ben Spinks) slightly upstream, perhaps with a small hump mend – surprise move there I know, but on this particular river sometimes the trout want it drag free, and so it's good to hedge the options – allowing the fly to drift downstream, as it passes me I give the line a little upstream flick mend, and then, because these trout can be complex risers, even to the sedge (this makes them bitchy), I'll flick some slack line downstream. All the time following the path of the line with the rod tip.

So far the sedge has travelled downstream drag free you will notice.

Then, while continuing to point the rod tip down the line, I hang on. This is quite an dramatic moment since the sedge begins skating madly across the surface.

NB definition time: drag = unintentional surface movement, skate = intentional drag.

This dramatic moment is a good inducement for a take incidentally, and so you can expect something to happen. Actually “expect” is not a good word; “anticipate” is a far better one. Allow the current to swing the fly round until it reaches the slack water, close to the bank and then give it a few interesting pulls. Wait, lift and either snake roll with low pointy elliptical loops or else snapcast upstream with an aerial single spey kick manoeuvre (depending on the wind direction) and repeat with or without taking a step downstream, being careful not to fall in.

The first time I tried dragging flies I had all sorts of problems hooking fish. For some reason only known to myself, I imagined that you had to throw slack to the fish when it took the fly, you don't, it's a bit like a muddler – in fact sometimes it is exactly like a muddler – just keep on doing whatever it was you were doing, and the fish will, or should, hook itself.

A small collection of skating flies and an quiz: what are the four unidentified mystery objects seen in the photograph?I don't really, or at least haven't up to now, talked about flies in this series (some people think that this is because I only use one fly – a competition Humpy) and interestingly a Humpy does make rather a good fly for dragging about, but it's not particularly streamlined, and the silhouette's all wrong for sedges. And so you might like to try a Goddard Caddis (you want a fly that doesn't sink remember) or else one of Viking Lars' variants – which I'll ask him to talk about at some point – or perhaps some other sedge-like patterns as in the photo, or a muddler.

I often fish two skated flies, a big one and a small one; sometimes I fish the small one (the point fly) as a subsurface pupa. This works really well, and when the sport slows down and it get's really late, I'll fish a black lure instead of the pupa.

Upstream Skating

The skated fly is not simply reserved to downstream sedge action, or mice, it is also a minor induced take tactic. The occasional fish, which just wants that something that little different, can sometimes be provoked into taking a twitched surface fly.

I'm thinking duns here, or humpies (naturally), but it applies equally to any dry fly: stick the fly upstream of the fish and then, just as it enters the window of vision (you'll have to work this bit out for yourself), give the fly a tiny twitch. Lifting the rod slightly is the best way to achieve this, but you could also try pulling the line a bit with the line hand. What we are trying to do here is give the fly a suggestion of struggling life, not super-insect powers, so be subtle.

When you do this you'll have to delay the strike of course, because it's really just a variation of upstream dryfly.

Next week: Bugs


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