Sometimes, you gotta get the fly down to the fish. It sure is easier fishing a fly on or near the surface, but it's often necessary to take the fly down much further into the depths. While it's far simpler to get a lure or bait down quicker and much deeper with conventional gear, there are efficient ways for us fly anglers to dredge our patterns down where our quarry may roam. Let's run through a few of these methods!
Sinking Line- One of the most obvious ways to get your fly down and keep it there is with a....*drumroll please*.....sinking line! A sinking line is a great tool for when you are swinging or stripping various types of wet flies/streamers. For many saltwater and lake anglers, a sinking line is basically a must since the fish may often be found far below the surface. However, even for keeping a fly just a few feet down, something like an intermediate sinking line can make all the difference. For more info on sinking lines, check out our Fly Lines & Backing section.
Weighted Flies- Another way to help take your fly into the dark depths is by simply adding weight to the fly. This can range from adorning the hook with some type of bead, wrapping lead around the shank, or tying on some weighted eyes. Unlike a heavy lure that can simply be tossed out or dropped down and allowed to sink rapidly, flies can only be so heavy before they become uncastable. While adding weight to the fly alone is not enough to efficiently take it extremely deep, this can be very effective when used in conjunction with a sinking line and a few of our other listed tricks. Our past blog post touches on a few of the ways to add some heft to your flies here.
Split Shot- Adding split shot to the leader above the fly is a fast and effective way to make your patterns plummet. This method is mainly used when drifting flies like nymphs in a river and allows you to quickly alter the amount/weight of split shot you use for different currents and depths. It also allows you to efficiently fish deeper while still using a floating line for easy mending and line control. As an alternative, different types of sinking putties like Loon Deep Soft Weight are also available which can be applied to the leader and custom-shaped to your liking.
Leader Construction- Using the thinnest possible leader material is another way to let your flies sink just a bit more freely. Thicker line has more water resistance which will not cut through the water as well, but a thinner leader offers less resistance which slices through the water more effectively, thus allowing for a better sink rate. Leader length is another aspect you must consider, especially with sinking lines. When fishing a sinking line, I like to use the shortest leader possible according to the depth and water clarity. A shorter leader will allow the fly to get pulled down by the tip of the sinking fly line faster. This can make a big difference in moving water when you want your fly to get down into a small, specific zone without delay!
Fluorocarbon Leader- Fluorocarbon line is not only touted as being less visible, but it sinks a little quicker than standard monofilament so it's worth mentioning as yet another way to keep your fly down slightly better.
Use the Current/Wind- Casting at more of an upcurrent angle gives your fly additional time to sink with the flow of the water and allows it to do so without tension from the fly line impeding the sink rate. Even while fishing from a boat on a stillwater or open ocean, casting on more of a downwind/down-drift angle makes it easier to achieve a more efficient sink rate. On the ocean with a heavy fly and fast-sinking fly line, I've even taken a more drastic approach. I'll make a long cast directly down-drift, let the boat drift over the sunken line/fly (while bringing my rod around the bow or stern to follow the line's direction), and begun my retrieve in a nearly vertical fashion from the opposite side of the boat. It takes patience, but it's an effective way to get super deep and cover a huge piece of the water column on a single retrieve.
Use Slack Line- For a rapid sink rate, give your line some slack. By feeding out some loose line through mending or simply shaking excess line out of the guides, the line will be free to sink vertically and the fly won't pendulum back towards you from tension as it sinks. The one downside here is that you may not detect a take if a fish eats the fly as it falls.
Tip Underwater- With a full-sinking line, sticking your rod tip under the surface while you retrieve the fly can help keep everything deeper for a longer time. Besides the line coming off the rod tip under the surface, the angle of the line between rod tip and fly is lessened which helps achieve slightly more depth. For you conventional bass anglers out there, this is similar to sticking the rod tip underwater while reeling in a deep-diving crankbait, but to a lesser degree.
I've always enjoyed fishing in deep water whether it's with a fly or conventional gear. Sightfishing or just fishing shallow water in general is a blast, but I also love the mystery of blind casting out in the open and drawing a strike from the depths. Hopefully at least one of these tips is new to you and will help you catch more fish!