Mending...it seems so simple. I can remember some years back driving home after a tough weekend of fishing on rising water and bad weather. We all know that fishing a river with water coming up can test anyone's fortitude. My buddy made the comment, " I just don't understand why these steelhead have to be so difficult to catch." Know that he had guided in Montana for a number of years and the tougher days of steelhead fishing on the OP were really wearing on him. After much discussion, we made a decision to put every bit of willpower we had into staying in "the game" in terms of indicator fishing the next trip out. That meant perfect positioning and speed of the boat to the drift and the angler's making good casts to the slot. And, most importantly, to achieve a perfect dead drift all the way thru. We also agreed to not get testy when someone on the boat took the time to remind someone of this pact! Now I know that sounds easy enough, but, I can assure you that, more often than not, with anglers new to steelhead fishing I'm repeating all day long...mend it...reset that bobber...stack that cast...keep that rod tip up. Don't feel bad if this sounds like you, we we're all there at some point in our angling life. It requires a lot of effort on the angler's part. However, the rewards more than make up for the tired arms and hands. Our next trip out we nearly doubled the number of takedowns and fish landed in equally difficult conditions...and that extra effort showed up in hard numbers at the end of the day.
Let's take a look at a couple of things that can help anyone become a better angler whether your fishing a fly rod or not. First, the water on the top is ALWAYS moving faster than the water on the bottom, so your bobber is continually dragging everything up. It's the single biggest reason for not getting a bite. Second, what's worse, the fish see your bobber and fly line go over just prior to meeting his meal or resetting the bobber if there is any drag occurring down driver. A slight lift of the bobber and an upriver mend will re-align everything so that the fish get's to see dinner before the warning siren goes off. This is especially critical when fishing over-pressured fish or in extremely clear water conditions. These basics apply to fly rods with indicators to float rod fisherman and centerpinner's alike. Third, the type of river that your fishing is key with a fly rod to properly mend a line that does not drag in the surface tension and pull you out of the zone. In an alluvial river such as the Hoh, out here on the Olympic Peninsula, is not typically going to be difficult to mend as most of the water is traveling at the same speed. Mending is a pretty simple task - an up river-mend and the occasional bobber reset if it's a little too far down river to properly manage but it's coming into the zone. However, on bedrock rivers here like the Sol Duc or Calawah, there are a lot of current seams around boulder pockets etc. that make it difficult to manage a drag free drift without completely pulling your meal ticket out from in front of that next fish. That's the down side of fishing a fly line - it doesn't afford you the ability to "slice" through the water like a thin mono or braided line does. This is even more evident when your nymphing from shore on these types of rivers. Here are a couple of tips to help in those situations:
1. Try to eliminate as many of the different current seams as possible by utilizing a hi/tall rod tip. This will help usually add a good ten feet of range and also makes that mend easier if you keep a little extra line in your non-rod hand to stack mend with.
2. When you've got a fast current seam between you and the target, it helps to use a series of continuous smaller stack mends than it does one giant mend. Combined with that tall rod tip this will prevent that "s" pattern that will form in the line from multiple surface speeds.
3. When that indicator does go down, make sure that your line hand is moving away from your rod hand hookset to pick up as much line as possible and get tight to that fish. Remember also that with the rod tip high if the fish runs at you it's easy to get the fly line wrapped up around the rod. This has accounted for more than a few broken fly rods. To help with this, throwing some line past the fish and letting him drag that fly line behind will help keep the fish hooked up and allow yourself enough time to get the remainder of the line stripped in and back on the reel!
Best Fishes - and call if you want to get in on the action here on the Olympic Peninsula!
Keith Allison, Owner
Chrome Chaser's Fly Fishing Guide Service