Mending is Killing your Dry Fly Game

So, I see a lot of anglers over the course of the season.  From experienced anglers to brand newbies.   And the Yakima is an equalizer.  It’s tough no matter your skill level.  It is why I enjoy guiding it.  During the summer months its actually the easiest to catch our Wild Yakima River Trout.  This is because the high flows of irrigation water create a unique summer tail-water that is unlike many western rivers.

The fish are pushed out from the middle of the river due to the sheer volume of water that is running down this river.  Especially in the Lower Canyon but this summer time phenomenon happens across the entire watershed.  The fish are forced to look for food and shelter along the banks of the river.  Its where the softest water is, its where the most food is, and its where they can find cover while still being able to find food and water that allows them to rest and not burn through all their energy.

It’s survival out there, and the big fish take all the good spots close to the food and the cover, and force the smaller fish into the current where they have to find structure and boulders to hide in.  That’s why the dry dropper works so well.  Every smaller fish is out there battling the current so they have to eat…constantly, so you can pick off smaller fish all day long.  Target the seams in and among the boulders and structure and nymph between 2-4 feet.  Small nymph, preferably with a tungsten bead.

But we are here to talk about dry fly fishing, and how mending is making you suck at it.

When fishing from a boat on the Yakima in the summer, the boat gets to do most of the work.  A good guide or oarsmen will set the boat around 20 to 30 feet and you can cast big fat dries tight as possible to bank to trick the largest fish.  I always throw a single big dry when I am after the big fish.  The dropper is great, but you sacrifice accuracy and the ability to get close to the bank with a dropper getting flung around behind your chubby.

A 45 degree angle is a must, especially in the faster water where there is a slipstream of softer current the forms tight to the bank where big fish and food hang out.  You would be amazed at the speed of the water in which we find these fish in the summer time.  When you cast big dries you have to be accurate, 9 times out of 10, I tell my anglers I am looking for 2 to 4 foot drifts that are within 6 inches or less of the bank.  When the fly drifts out of that 6 inch zone its time to recast.  For experienced anglers I tell them 2 inches.  If the boat is set right and the speed of the boat is right, you can get plenty of quick short drifts at every juicy trouty spot.  The problem arises…when mending starts.

Mending your dry fly is one of those things that if done right is great, but its not easy and most people lose the drift right when they need it…because they mend instead of throw a better cast.  A accurate, over the head, down to the target, at a 45 degree angle with minimal slack, will get the proper drift damn near every time…but it ain’t easy.  But when you get it…BOOM!

So, if you find yourself fishing and constantly having to mend your dry fly a couple of things are working against you.

  1. Your oarsmen or guide needs to slow the boat down.  I see it all the time, running and gunning, and missing all the fish.  There are only around 1000 fish per mile on this river, the water is 3 times the size it normally is in the summer.  These fish are spread out, and they need time to look at the fly.  So the boat needs to go slow, which means you need to row if you are on the sticks.
  2. Your angle is off.  You may think its a 45 degree but more than likely its to shallow and you are closer to casting perpendicular to the bank which is a no no when dry fly fishing here in the summer.  This is for two reasons.
    1. The first and most important is, when you cast perpendicular or straight at the bank, the slack that is there will immediately go down river in front of the fly because the water between the boat and where the fly rides next to the bank is faster than the target water. Cross currents are a bitch.  This forces you to mend immediately which is what we have to do in nymphing, and we ain’t nymphing.  Every time you mend, your fly will get pulled out of position, and if it doesn’t and you do get a good drift you are probably drifting right through the back anglers water because you should be down further in front of the boat.
    2. The second reason is if you do hook into a fish, especially a big fish, the trout will do one of two things.  Go under the boat and probably break us off, or go behind the boat and head upriver, in which case, they have all the advantage and will probably break us off.  So…get your angles down river.
  3. Your leader is too short.  I like a long leader for big dry fly fishing, and a fast action rod.  This way you can cast accurately with one shot, it lands quickly, and you can fish just the leader if you have to get in close and keep the fly line off the river completely.  I like 10 to 12 feet of leader.  3X or 4X.  Play fish fast and hard, get them in the net and back in the river.
  4. Practice.  If you wanna catch a lot of trout in the summer, you need to practice accuracy.  Being able to pick up and drop the fly on target in one shot every time will produce more fish.  Its just the way it works in the summer here.  I can usually get newbie anglers to get casting in the right zone in about 2 hours, then you get opportunity at some nice trout and learn how to play them in this heavy water, because you will lose the first few if you aren’t ready or aren’t listening.

So stop mending your dry fly casts and change your angler down river so you can get short 2-4 foot drifts within 6 inches of the bank.  Fish big bugs, think hoppers, ants, beetles, and summer stoneflies.  Fish are having to burn a lot of energy battling this heavier current and the water temps are in the upper 50’s and low 60’s so they are always hungry.  They eat in cycles but as the summer progresses they tend to get very opportunistic.  This is why big bugs work.  Typically fish will go after the most abundant food source but when the flows are jacked, you are battling for position like its a NASCAR race, and a big juicy, foamy, leggy, buggy, looking thing floats over head…you are gonna snack on it.

So there ya go.

Now I gotta go work.




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