Fishing a Dry Fly Downstream
Updated: Oct 31, 2021
The last couple months I've been thinking a lot about trout fishing.
Living in Florida where snook, tarpon, peacock bass, bonefish, and countless other exotic species roam, you'd think I wouldn't care much about trout anymore.....but nothing could be further from the truth. From the rugged scenery to the technical prowess to the fish themselves, fly fishing for trout is special. Catching them on dries is even more special.
RIO Products recently released a great video covering one of my favorite ways to catch trout on dry flies, which is fishing them downstream. The video to that is linked below and I highly recommend you take several minutes to watch it.
While that footage mostly details how to fish dries at more of a quartering angle downstream, in addition to that something else I have often done is fishing dry flies at an angle directly straight downstream from the rod tip position. Have you ever tried that?
I have mostly used this method of fishing a dry fly directly downstream when I'm on the bank and can't attack the prime spot from another angle. This is partially because when wading, you'll often stir up silt and debris that might alert fish downstream to your presence, so staying on shore eliminates that possible issue.
The direct downstream approach has worked well for me when I want to fish any piece of good water near to my side of the bank, but I especially like it for short drifts of the fly into a precise spot such as tight to an undercut or between narrow tendrils of moss. A drag-free drift is easy to achieve here since the line and leader lay inline with the current, but as shown in the video, you still need to always create the necessary slack in the line so the fly doesn't receive any drag as it drifts. Just remember to not create so much slack at any time in the drift that it will screw up a hook set.
The parachute and pile casts are good to know for any downstream presentations, as is being proficient at mending/shaking out slack line in the right amount at the right time to keep longer drifts alive. I've even had great success using more unorthodox methods, like casting outside of where I want the fly to be, then while using a high rod tip and the current (on a tight line), I skate/swing the fly into position below me. Once guided precisely where I want the drift to begin, I'll immediately start lowering the tip to allow the fly to start drifting. I like doing this when I'm fishing the tightest spots—especially in the wind since casting ultra-precisely becomes tough in these conditions.
Feeding fish will be holding while facing into the current. In the direct downstream presentation, that means they'll be looking in my direction. Because of this, I want to remain unseen which means I need to keep a low profile or a good separation between myself and the fish. I'm often fishing while hunched over and several feet back from the water's edge.
One bad thing about presenting a fly directly straight downstream is that the fly line follows pretty much inline with the fly's path. If you don't get a strike in a particular spot, the line then can drift right over the target zone and may spook any fish there. When doing this type of direct downstream fishing, I really make that first presentation as perfect as possible because that might be my only worthy shot!
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