Swinging Basics - Spey Pages
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post #1 of 28 (permalink) Old 10-06-2013, 04:32 PM Thread Starter
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Swinging Basics

Hey Everybody,

I joined this forum because I need some help with swinging flies. I'll try and give you as much information as I can to help you help me!

I have:
13ft Spey Rod
500gr Skagit Head
Set of 10ft Sink tips
10lb tippet
Flies (Bunny Leeches, Scandanavian Tube Flies, Intruders)

So after spending some time with Skagit Master and a Spey instructor, I have my casting down pretty good. My Problem is what happens after the cast..

I cast across the river downstream.
Sometimes mend a little if my cast wasn't totally straight
I create a loop so a fish can pull the loop out of my fingers if they strike
I wait for the swing to end.

Here is what I noticed:
I can use the heaviest sink tip I have, and and the end of the swing, my fly is only a few inches under the surface. How do I get it to sink more?

If there is slack water on either side of the river, and current in the middle, the current in the middle takes my line and creates a belly, making the fly which is currently in the slack water turn around and face downstream. How Do I avoid this?

How do I choose colours for flies? I've spent 5 days on the water so far, the bait guys around me are catching fish all kinds but I have gone without a strike!

I'm the perfect example of a guy who has bought everything and doesen't know anything. Hopeuflly you guys can help me out!

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post #2 of 28 (permalink) Old 10-06-2013, 06:29 PM
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Don't worry about the bait getting most of the fish, that is perfectly normal. In big rivers I don't cast beyond the fast water. But whenever I can cover the slack on the other side with a long cast quartered well downstream I do the following to avoid the big belly. After the cast - I straighten out the line with a pull-back mend and throw the head onto the slow water opposite side. Quickly gather slack and hold the rod-tip high and straight out over the river keeping the running-line off the water throughout the swing. Sometimes I'll slip line at this time to get deeper if needed, but not so much to form a belly. I don't follow the fly with the rod tip until it has started to swing through the fast water and into the slower water. It takes some serious tips to swing deep like this. 10-15 foot section of t-14 and such and you only need to be within two feet of the bottom or the tops of structure. So quarter your casts well down working the sweet-spot from a wading point above, one mend and the fly swimming almost immediately.

I hope that is useful.

Last edited by fish0n4evr; 10-07-2013 at 12:28 AM.
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post #3 of 28 (permalink) Old 10-06-2013, 11:29 PM
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Hi Pierre,
For myself, when I want to get maximum depth with a sink tip, I cast slightly upriver from 90 degrees. Cast maybe 15-20 feet beyond the seam that you want to fish. I then jack a big mend upriver to straighten head, sinktip and fly. This brings the fly close to the area that you want to swing through. In order for the fly to sink there must not be any tension on the line, so follow the line down with your rod tip (no tension). Once the line and fly have drifted downstream from you, you can apply some tension with the rod (may require another small mend to get slack out of the line) and this will start the swing in towards the shore. The fly should be at its deepest point here. Let it swing it in towards shore. If it hits bottom, either start your cast further downstream or change to a lighter sinktip. There are many books out there that explain this better than I can. In no particular order, Dec Hogan's 'A Passion for Steelhead', Trey Comb's 'Steelhead Flyfishing', and Lani Waller's 'A Steelheader's Way' all have good articles about this technique in their respective books.
At this time of year you don't really have to swing very deep, those fish are aggressive now with the warmer water temps. Try to aim for mid water depth. As far as flies go, I wouldn't worry too much about patterns. I'm sure if you run a 2-3" black pattern, fish it with confidence, you will be rewarded. You should focus on presentation at this point of the game. If you're in it for numbers, then maybe swinging is not for you. It's like anything that you want to perfect, it takes practice, practice, and more practice (time on the water).
Go out and enjoy the scenary, it's a beatiful time of year, with the leaves falling and the birds starting to venture south. I wouldn't worry too much about the baitfishers. When I see them catching fish, I know it's just a matter of time.
Maybe others will chime in on how to get your fly deeper.
Good luck,
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post #4 of 28 (permalink) Old 10-07-2013, 01:31 AM
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Dec's "A Passion for Steelhead" is good advice. It's a damn fine read.
But hiring a guide is a good idea, too. for a couple hundred bucks and in a day they will probably have you pretty well sorted out. It will probably save you a lot of time and give you a good idea what water to fish and how.

I've heard good things about this guy and he's in your area (no affiliation, mind). A fellow board member has great things to say about Mike.

have fun!

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post #5 of 28 (permalink) Old 10-07-2013, 11:48 PM
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Get used to baitfishers outfishing you. That's just the way it is.

In "a passion for steelhead" I believe Dec calls it a "pullback mend."
Correct me if I'm wrong.
Anyhow, I'm not really a fan of casting 90 degrees. Below I'll make those reasons clear.
For the most part, I'll just do the big upstream mend. Cast slightly down stream and well over the area you're trying to get your fly to drop in and as soon as it hits the water, pull waaaaaay back. Your line will now be parallel with the flow and will give you a few seconds of complete slack for the fly/tip to sink in. If you want it to go deeper, have some extra running line ready to be fed into it. That will give you another few seconds of slack.

I find this to be "better" than the 90 degree method for these reasons:

1) your fly "dead drifts" but you don't lose "touch" with it. I find with the 90 method, there is a period where you have so much slack in your line that if a fish grabbed it, you'd not be able to feel it. Plus fish like the dead drift especially if you lay your line into a slot.

2) when you do the mend AFTER it's already began to sink, you will pull your fly up in the water column. With the pullback method, once it starts to sink you leave it alone.

3) people can't tell you that you're flossing But seriously...I've seen a few vids of speycasters with T17 or leadcore and I feel that where they took the fly in the "swing" and the position of the line, the fish could have very well have been flossed. But to each their own.

That being said, maybe I just do the 90 deg method incorrectly. This is just what I have learned from swinging the rivers here for bulls. You need to get down fast in very deep pools.

Other things to consider for gaining depth: smaller diameter tippet and rapala knots.

Just my opinion and what I find that works for me.


Last edited by Bron; 10-07-2013 at 11:54 PM. Reason: clarity
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post #6 of 28 (permalink) Old 10-08-2013, 03:08 PM
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Another option for depth

Even though you do not need it now with the warmer water and more receptive fish, you can get deeper and slower with a sinking belly and different rate sink tips. Guideline has the DDC which has worked well for me. There is even a faster sink belly to get really down. There are two advantages to the sinking belly. They cut through the air very well and they sink through the top layer of the water where the flow is slower. That slower flow can be a real benefit in cold water.

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Practice is about increasing your repertoire of ways to recover from your mistakes. Joann C. Gutin
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post #7 of 28 (permalink) Old 10-09-2013, 01:56 AM
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I had a friend that decided he wanted to learn how to fly fish. He had lived near the Rogue River in Oregon for nearly 30 years, and had caught literally thousands of steelhead on conventional tackle. We met on the river one day. His casting was ugly. His gear was questionable at best. But he could read water, knew the river, and knew fish. We started fishing together a couple times a week that fall. One day in frustration he questioned aloud whether he should keep trying to learn to fly fish. I looked him dead in the eye and said, "you can teach a monkey to cast a fly rod, the hard part is knowing how to catch fish." Literally a year later he was slaying them.

I know, so what? You need to focus on learning how to fish. The old adage that 10 percent of the anglers catch 90 percent of the fish is around for a reason. Being a great caster, or knowledgeable gear head does not necessarily equate with being a good angler, either. There are guys, and women too, who are lethal with fly gear, so do not automatically surrender yourself to the idea that you shouldn't be catching fish if they are in the system simply because you're fly fishing and they're not. If you're not catching fish, figure out why. As your knowledge base increases, you'll find the answer to that question is usually less related to the inherent inferiority in your chosen gear than an error in tactic or understanding. There are limits to what fly tackle can do, but I believe way too many people just get caught up in the idea that they shouldn't be catching fish and therefore fail to progress as an angler. Don't get me wrong, everyone has the right to fish according to their own set of expectations; just saying that if catching fish on flies is your goal it is totally achievable.

There are lots of great tools out there to help. If you're after steelhead, one of the things that helped me many years ago was Lani Waller's 3M video set. I saw the other day that they are now on DVD. As dated as they are today, the basics still hold true. There are also several really good books. And, spending a day with a good guide will lower your learning curve. It is money well spent.

Good luck, and don't give up!
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post #8 of 28 (permalink) Old 10-09-2013, 10:59 AM
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Awesome post fshbm.

For me, the glass is neither half-empty nor half-full, but rather twice as big as it needs to be.
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post #9 of 28 (permalink) Old 10-09-2013, 11:09 AM Thread Starter
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Hey Bron,

I'm going to apologize in advance, I'm not a very experienced fly fisher, nor am I the sharpest knife in the drawer to begin with lol.

I'm having hard time understanding the "pullback mend", let me state what I understand and then maybe you can help me where I'm having an issue with my comprehension.

1) I cast slightly downstream
2) big upstream mend to give the line some slack, which will let the fly sink.
3) pull back in which direction? what exactly does the line do at this step? Does it tighten? What do I do with my rod after I pull back?

Thanks everyone else for the replies, I heard similar advice from my casting instructor, the bait guys will always outfish us, It was just frustrating when I see pinners hauling out 6 fish in a 1hr period, and I'm there for 4 hours without so much as a tick.

I ordered Dec Hogan's book off Fishwest/Amazon, but I live in Canada so it will take some time to get here. I also ordered a Rio iFlight Skagit head so I can hopefully slow down my swing as the months get colder.

Thanks again,

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post #10 of 28 (permalink) Old 10-09-2013, 11:39 AM
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My take on the pull back mend
Originally Posted by pfducha View Post
1) I cast slightly downstream - yes
2) big upstream mend to give the line some slack, which will let the fly sink. - no
3) pull back in which direction? what exactly does the line do at this step? Does it tighten? What do I do with my rod after I pull back? - pull straight back and up, the line will tighten out in front of you but you'll have a mini-d-loop of sorts, then drop the rod tip straight down at the fly, and this loop will drop onto the water. As the straightened fly, leader and tip in contact with the water move downstream, it will pull this slack line tight in more or less a straight line (depending on water currents) which is what you want for the best swing. As it's pulling the line tight, the fly, leader and tip are sinking as well so that gets the depth desired. Obviously, you need to do this upstream enough from where your targeted swing area is, so your casting angle may change from situation to situation. Hope this helps.

For me, the glass is neither half-empty nor half-full, but rather twice as big as it needs to be.
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post #11 of 28 (permalink) Old 10-09-2013, 12:22 PM
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This guy catches lots of fish.
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post #12 of 28 (permalink) Old 10-09-2013, 12:57 PM
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The pull-back mend is oriented towards the spot you want to cover. Basically you cast well upstream and beyond where you want the fly to swing through - not upstream of your casting position. Gather slack, lift the line, pull back to straighten and throw as much as you can upstream (the mend) so that the fly settles and is swept down into the spot by the current. Casting upstream of where you are standing makes it very hard to pullback and reposition the line to do this. In chutes as you described: fast water with slow current near side and far-side, this could mean casting into the froggy water or a back-eddy. You pull back (towards you) and out of the slack water. Again: You are covering the spot from a casting position well above the spot you suspect to hold fish so that positioning the head straight, behind, and upstream will keep the current from sweeping belly into your line. Hold the rod-tip high over the water and let the fly lead the rod as it swims into the fast current. As the fly swings into the slower current you can begin leading with the rod towards the near bank. The line will simply stop or the rod will suddenly begin bucking. The slack-loop you hold in your fingers will suddenly disappear with a whip-crack-slap against the cork and... Oh - excuse me. I digress

Last edited by fish0n4evr; 10-09-2013 at 02:07 PM.
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post #13 of 28 (permalink) Old 10-11-2013, 05:45 PM
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post #14 of 28 (permalink) Old 10-11-2013, 06:39 PM
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This video helped me a lot with understanding different mends

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post #15 of 28 (permalink) Old 10-12-2013, 01:02 PM
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for fly selection take a look at this video by Tom Larimer:


Great info posted in this thread by others on how to swing - another thought to help get the fly a bit deeper is to utilize the pull back method described above and take your steps down after you cast, not before - this will just aid in creating slack for a bit longer time
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