There is no question that being able to get your fly where you want it is of the upmost importance in fly fishing. The fly cast has long been revered as one of the purist art forms in all of fishing, and for good reason. Being able to consistently place your fly into the target zone with a perfect cast has been praised in movies and on TV, written about more than any perfect golf swing, and helped instructors and guides pay their bills for as long as fly rods have been around. Well now what?
By far the most overlooked aspect of the sport is presentation. We see it all the time on our home waters around Truckee, CA. Anglers have the ability to make the perfect cast, but have put no time into the skill of mending. This is the equivalent of spending time at the driving range with only your driver, and never going to the putting green. During our trips, we stress that having the right fly doesn’t mean a thing if you’re not presenting it correctly. This is especially true if you’re targeting the big wild fish of the Truckee and Little Truckee, or anywhere else for that matter.
The following is a simple way to improve your “mending game”, especially during the winter months when in most places, indicator fishing is king.
Although there are exceptions to every rule, we generally teach a cast that is approx. 45 degrees upstream from the angler. This is where we employ our ‘primary mend’. The primary mend is your first mend of the drift and is by far the most important because it sets up your entire drift. Anglers tend to have this overwhelming fear of moving their indicator even the slightest amount. With your primary mend, this shouldn’t factor into the equation at all. Don’t be afraid to give have this first mend be a big one. Your flies are still sinking and nowhere near where the fish are yet. If you visualize this principle, we get most of our eats from around 90 degrees to the angler, to 45 degrees downstream. Everything from 45 degrees upstream is just setting up the drift while you’re flies are sinking. You only get one shot at your primary mend, don’t be afraid to give it a little extra and make it count.
Now it’s time to start actually fishing. By now your flies have finally reached the bottom and are in the “zone”. This is where we want to back off a bit, and the mindset of ‘secondary mend(s)’ comes into play. Our secondary mends in general have much smaller movements and should be more subtle. Because our flies are finally on the bottom, we need to make a series of short, softer mends at this point and minimize movement of fly. That said, from a teaching standpoint, we know at times the indicator will inevitably move some from time to time. This isn’t the end of the world, the truth is most of the time the indicator moves a few inches, it can still add several fee or more to your drift.
In conclusion, we again realize there are exceptions to every rule, but really try to focus on that primary mend. Don’t be afraid to give it a little extra, and even have that indicator bounce upstream a bit. The better you primary mend is to start the drift, the less secondary mends you should have to do. You might only need to do one, or if you’re lucky, none at all.
Owns are operates Matt Heron Fly Fishing, an all-inclusive school and outfitter in Truckee, CA. He and his team guide the Truckee and Little Truckee rivers year round, as well as numerous other waters on the north shore of Lake Tahoe. His school is nationally recognized as one of the largest and most sought after programs in the country. In the off season, he can be found hosting clients to the world’s finest saltwater and freshwater destinations and lodges.