Fish deep and pause the retrieve
  |  First Published: April 2013

The trick with fishing wet flies in lakes is to actually let the fish eat it.

Quite often anglers immersed in pulling wet flies like Woolly Buggers get way to wound up in the speed without thinking about how on earth is the fish going to eat this thing!

Competition fly fishers worked this out ages ago, but as most competition fly fishers pass on next to nothing about what they are up to it hasn’t filtered out much into the ‘real world’.

Skilled wet fly fishers often used very fast sinking fly lines to get down 3m or so in quick time, and then make the fly dance and dart back to the drifting boat. Back ten years or so the ‘Dirty Harry’ technique was brutally simple, but also brutally effective. A fast sinking fly line is matched to two or three tungsten bead head buggers on a 8-10lb fluorocarbon leader. The full line (or as close as possible) is cast down wind, and allowed to sink while maintaining contact with the flies via a slow figure eight retrieve.

Once the flies are considered to have sunk deep enough, usually with a countdown of 15-20 seconds, four or five blisteringly fast pulls are made, then the flies are allowed to pause for a few seconds, and then repeated. When the flies are on their sweep up to the boat, they are allowed to ‘hang’. This means just holding the flies on a tight line, but stationary for a few seconds – more if possible. It is generally on the pause between the fast pulls, or at the point of hang that trout take the flies.

This is basically a reaction bite – three flies whizz past the trouts’ metaphorical ears and they follow out of curiosity, then take it when it stops out of pure reaction. The same is for the hang, trout follow the flies and before they surge through the surface they grab them less they disappear!

Every successful wet fly technique is a derivation of this. Different density lines can be used, different patterns, different pauses and so on.

One excellent retrieve is the ‘roly-poly’. This is where the rod is tucked under the arm and the line is swiftly retrieved hand over hand. While plenty of fish take the continuous retrieve, even more are taken at the point of hang.

Just remember that speed kills, but a pause will kill more fish!

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