swinging flies

Time To "Switch" It Up

I can't believe I am about to say this but mama nature, can you turn the faucet off?  It's been a wet 2017 to say the least.  We cannot even keep track of the canceled trips and clinics so far year.  Slowly but surely we are finding more days to get out and fish.  Those days have been very productive too.

The current guides in California are probably the most dynamic class yet.  We learned how to be successful in a major drought, now we are going to become experts on how to fish a flood. 

Before the drought when we were fishing in a "normal" year, switch rods were just starting to take off.  We dialed them in for both single hand casting and two handed casting.  We tried many combinations of lines and sink tips.  We finally had the system dialed but then the drought hit.  With the low water levels distance took a back seat.  Covering every part of the water wasn't as essential.  Switch rods weren't as needed as they will be this year.

This is going to be a major high water year.  Get used to it.  The fishing is already good in certain places and is going to get better.  We will have to change our approach.  This is going to be a very good year for switch rods.  It will give you the opportunity to cover more water and get more distance. 

Morgan Thalken swinging trout water.

Morgan Thalken swinging trout water.

The idea of switch meaning you can single hand cast or spey cast doesn't really work because you are talking two very different fly lines.  Single hand approaches need a specific line to be most effective while spey casting needs a completely different line.  If you are going to single hand cast or indicator fish try and oversized weight forward line.  I like the Trout/Steelhead/Indicator line from Rio.  If you are going to spey cast and swing flies the Switch Chucker from Rio or a Skagit Head is perfect.  The problem here is there isn't really one line that does it all.

Using a switch rod for single hand fishing in high water gives you a leg up.  The length of a switch rod helps with bigger casts.  It also helps with bigger mends and lifting a lot of excess line off the water.  The disadvantage is that single hand lines do not spey cast.   

Swinging flies on a switch rod can be an extremely beneficial way of covering water.  You will be able to get good distance and put your fly in front of more fish.  Using a skagit short head with a running line gives you the flexibility of adding tips and varying your fly size.  Big ugly streamers on the Truckee will be a good way to get into a trophy size fish this year.  You may need a pretty heavy skagit head to handle the sink tip and fly. 

For more general purposes Rio's Switch Chucker line can be the closest solve all issues fly line on a switch rod.  You can single hand cast or spey cast with it.  The downside is that you limit yourself because this line does not handle heavy tips and bigger flies all that well.  While single hand fishing with it once you get into the running line it becomes hard to mend and control.  

My rod of choice here is an 11' 6wt.  This is kind of do it all size rod for all situations.  I've played around with micro speys and trout speys and they are wonderful for light tips and light flies.  They have their purpose but aren't as universal as the switch rods. 

If you have more questions email me or give Fly Fishing Specialties a call 916.722.1055.

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See you on the water!

A Reason to Swing

It appears we are having a legit winter again.  I am sure you all have been following the heavy storms smacking north state sending us tremendous amounts of water.  Our rivers are swollen, muddy, and unfishable for the moment. Give mother a nature a chance to catch her breath and calm down a bit.  The rivers may be fishable in a few weeks.  When they drop and clear you’ll be dying to get back out there and when you do, I hope it is with a two-handed rod.  

The two-handed game has blown up in Northern California and I could not be happier about it.  We all know how heavily the indicator is fished in our state, and we all know how productive it can be, but now  is the time to give a chance to a new tactic, (actually a far older tactic than an indicator).

Stop staring at the bobber!  Ask any trout or steelhead guide worth a damn how much they enjoy staring at an indicator.  Their response, I am sure, will not surprise you.  I spend so much time staring at floats, that any opportunity I get to fish a different tactic I jump on it.  Fishing the indicator is a very involved method.  It requires constant concentration and frequent adjustments.  It becomes more of a chore than an enjoyment.  Swinging flies simplifies the method.  You cast (and that is the essence of fly fishing)  maybe add a mend, stick one hand in your pocket and watch the line flutter across the run.  You end up looking around more at the setting you're in, you become more connected to the art of fly fishing rather than just the production value.  My message to anglers getting into swinging flies is that you have to be in love with the idea of fly fishing to get the enjoyment the technique.  

My favorite part of swinging flies is the not knowing where or when the grab is going to come.  Anglers who are experienced in swinging flies identify with good swing runs just because they swing well rather than their catch totals.  I like to swing certain runs just because of the shape of water.  Sure, there may be areas that have higher concentration of fish but if it doesn’t swing well I am not that interested in fishing it.  I guarantee you will start to look at river in much different way.   

The myth that spey casting is hard if completely false: Spey casting is not hard, it is hard to be an expert at it.  Realistically a beginner angler has a better chance getting grabbed swinging a fly then the getting a fish under an indicator on some of our technical streams.  With the advances in fly lines designs a roll cast at 50 ft. is very obtainable.  Casting at the right angle and swinging through a run confidently is an easier task than roll casting a big thing-a-ma-bobber with split shot and two flies mended 5 times to get a perfect dead drift.  Easier that is if you can make the cast in the first place.    

The numbers is an interesting topic when it comes to fly fishing.  Take the Trinity for an example.  An accomplished guide friend of mine up on the Trinity said on average each angler is going to get 3 attempts on steelhead out of the drift boat fishing an indicator.  That's still a pretty low number.  I would say that if you swing a fly on the Trinity you will average at least 1 good grab a day.  I’ll take 1 good swinging grab versus three take downs nymphing on any stream.  I have never qualified a good day of fishing based on how many fish were caught but how many were caught artfully.  If for you fly fishing is a numbers game then the swinging art may not be for you.  Hell, maybe this sport isn’t for you either.   

You will remember every fish that you connect with on the swing.  This perfect Trinity River steelhead chased down a "Brother In Law."

You will remember every fish that you connect with on the swing.  This perfect Trinity River steelhead chased down a "Brother In Law."

The Yuba and Feather are great Valley rivers to swing.  You just have to know what to look for in a swing run.  The Yuba River rainbows are a lot more agressive than you may think.  Ask guide Chuck Ragan, who absolutely loves the streamer fishing out there.  Sure those fish eat aquatic insects but there is a ton of bait in that river.  With the size of the salmon runs out there, and the amount of eggs that eventually hatch, those fish look for the fry.  January through March, swinging an alevin pattern gets grabbed often.  There are a lot of sculpins and little leeches out there too.  I’ve had good results swinging flesh flies, it's a no brainer that with all the dead salmon out there that the fish will eat flesh floating down the river.  A swung soft hackle will get eaten too.  When the bugs start working the fish will chase down emergers in the middle to top water column, giving you an excellent opportunity to hook an eater.

Morgan Thalken ties mean flies for swinging.  A mixed box of sizes and colors.  Potential options for trout or steelhead. 

Morgan Thalken ties mean flies for swinging.  A mixed box of sizes and colors.  Potential options for trout or steelhead. 

The tools you’ll need are very simple: rod, reel, shooting head, tips, tippet, and some flies.  For the single hand rods, Rio’s Single Hand Spey line solves all issues.  This is a beautifully constructed line that I wish more anglers were using.  It is very easy to cast, and is a great distance line.  Swinging on a single hand rod will improve your line control.  The-two hander is a different ball game.  It can improve your distances and with the right line give you options on size and weight of a fly to try.  At the fly shop, see customers in a state of confusion over all the options for swinging.  It really is a lot of info to juggle, the best way to figuring it out what is the right gear for you is to talk with someone at the shop and tell them what you are looking to do, what rivers you want to swing, and what species you’re targeting.  The new wave of Trout Spey has offered a really nice tool for trout lovers.

Email us if you are interested in our swinging flies class this spring.  jordanromney@gmail.com