Join Date: Feb 2002
Location: West Michigan rivers
Gettin' to the tug
Sorry if this is stuff you already know, but taken together it answers your question.
Basically, water temperature is the key, but the type of water and food are also critical:
1. The colder the water, the slower fish are to respond and generally the less energy they'll expend to chase. Also, the bait is more lethargic too. So swinging is better in cold water. As the water warms and baitfish become more active, stripping better represents what's real. Watch small fish activity in the shallows to guide you, and experiment.
2. In water that holds baitfish and other swimming food, your presentation should match the activity. In waters with more structure and smaller bug populations to support baitfish populations, I see predators often orient to the structure and chase in ambush. These fish respond best to a stripped fly in moderate water temps. In areas that support more baitfish it's sometimes good to swing a deeper baitfish for those fish that are holding in tailouts and flats and see an easy meal.
3. Water conditions are a factor too. With the big rain and high, off-color water, I go back to the swing with big ugly ESLs (flies with big shoulders and silhouette). When the water clears and conditions are more moderate, let what you see in the water guide you. As the water goes through the 40s the parr and baitfish get more active...so it pays to start whipping baitfish patterns.
4. If you haven't fished soft hackles, it's a good way to add to your swinging experience. If you have, mix in some smaller baitfish patterns and drop them near structure. The swing will produce too, and sometimes the browns like minnows over bugs.
5. The Skagit line with T-14 is a pretty specialized swinging tool, one I put away around the end of April because of the increasing water temps. With warmer water and more active fish, you don't need to leave your fly on the drag and will actually get more fish with those strips in to recast. That's a hint that it's time to move the fly more. With your rod, you might try a popular PM streamer stripping tool (one you may have)--a T-300 chopped to about 18'. It will only lightly tip-load your rod, but will be very easy to cast with a water load. It's really a two-handed overhead cast, but once you get the technique it's less tiring that whipping a one-hander all day with the same line.
6. Although it doesn't get much mention here since it's more of a warmer water trick, with a long sink-tip like the Teeny or it's clones you can add action to flies (without losing much depth) in a sort of swing/twitch blend that our early season trout sometimes can't leave alone.