The Fly

It’s commonly overlooked that the Leisenring Lift was designed to fish an unweighted fly right on bottom . . . Leisenring’s method calls for a fly tied sparsely on a heavy wire wet fly hook. He did not believe in adding weight, feeling that it killed the action of the fly.

Dave Hughes, Wet Flies:2nd Ed, 2015

Lightweight. In general, the closer we can get our flies to act like the natural thing, the more fish we stand to trick. Our flies are heavier than the natural thing. That weight difference means at some level our flies act unnaturally in the water.  The lighter we keep our flies, the more natural they will act in water.  Thus, lightweight flies improve presentation. Of course, we still need to get that natural looking lightweight fly to where the fish feed. There are many ways to sink a fly to depth that don’t rely on extra weight in the fly. For example, using aerial mends in our casting to take advantage of sinking currents. Our goal is to use the lightest fly we can get to the target depth.

Low profile. Low profile flies present less surface area for wind and water to drag around. By tying our flies with a low profile, we can cast lightweight flies on lightweight lines with great accuracy. We can also sink lighter flies to the same depth. Modifying profile allows us to change the way the fly behaves in the water, too. For example, the incorporation of a high profile hackle in front of a low profile body can cause a fly to ride nose up. Controlling the profile of flies improves presentation and fly control.

Dense. Using dense materials in fly tying ensures the fly has adequate mass to reach desired depth while maintaining a low profile.  Where we place dense materials on our hook also impacts the way the fly behaves in water. For example, placing a beadhead on the front of a jig hook causes the fly to ride tail-up. Intelligent incorporation of density in our flies improves presentation and fly control. 

Stealth. A fly that is lightweight and low profile is less intrusive as it breaks the surface and sinks to depth. This improves stealth. 

Contact. By using a low profile fly, we reduce the noise created by water currents. This can aid in maintaining contact during presentation. There are also times when a high profile fly can aid in contact, times when drag on the fly is a good thing that we can harness to our benefit. For example, a large and/or heavily hackled fly can act as a sea anchor in the current. The drag on this sea anchor creates a force that helps counteract the weight of the remaining rig. This can aid our ability to hold line off the water and maintain direct contact with the fly. Using the fly as a sea anchor can substantially increase the distance at which we can maintain contact. Weighted flies can also act as an anchor and boost contact when needed. 

Next . . . Rigging