A large boulder interrupted the flow in a narrowing riffle, creating a transition to a run and pool by the deepening, scouring force against the obstruction. The boulder also trapped several logs, creating habitat structure and divergent flow areas that looked very fishy. If I were a trout, I would want to live there as it has a food supply, protection, and depth. Observing the section of stream and the geometry, I developed an approach. I waded into a position downstream of the feature. Two overhanging branches would limit an overhand cast on my right side, so I would need to cast over my left shoulder. I took a deep breath and lined up my cast. 

A Cold Day on the River

My cast was several feet off target. I was using an indicator to reach the area across multiple current seams on a windy day. The indicator landed in a flow path and the four feet of tippet carried farther toward the bank than I intended. I could see the tippet drop in the water column and pull across the seam; the indicator, acting as a hinge, was simultaneously sliding toward the dropping flies while being propelled downstream. This resulted in a diagonal motion of the indicator through the run downstream of the boulder.     

Predictably, there was no pause in the indicator or flash of a fish in the pool. The indicator followed the flow of the stream and I prepared to try again. On the second cast, I was able to kick the flies at the end of my casting stroke so they landed upstream of the indicator in the same flow line. I slightly lifted my rod tip to allow slack back into the line and settle the flies quickly under the indicator. Deep breath. One, two, three and then a pop. The indicator hesitated and then pulled downward. I lifted the rod and felt the tug. A beautiful 11 inch brown trout had taken the fly. 

Throughout the day, there were several moments when drag pulled my fly out of its intended course. Concentrating on the task at hand and the subtle movements required to make the cast and guide the fly are critical to success when fish are feeding on naturally drifting food sources. In a stream channel, velocities change in vertical and horizontal directions. Gradients indicating a change in the velocities are graphically depicted through drawings of isovels (Figure 1), which are lines indicating areas of equal velocity, like contours on a topographic map. Obstructions to flow or large boulders on the stream bed further complicate flow and create areas of turbulence and slower water.

Figure 1 – Isovel Illustration of Stream Channel (Kayla Smith Graphic)

I sometimes struggle with a drag-free drift in life. In attempting to find a flow to complete tasks and create things (like a blog or a book), I get interrupted and knocked off my path. Instead of focusing and staying on task, my mind wanders like a wayward indicator. It takes intention to avoid distraction and make the most of your time. Snacking, daydreaming, watching television or YouTube, and checking email are easy distractions for me. An effort that could take one hour quickly becomes four hours. My time and effort get dragged away. 

Similar to fishing, preparation, anticipation, and concentration help me stay on point. Playing music helps me relax and drown out background noise. A small bowl of pretzels and a glass of water can help prevent the growling stomach from winning out. Limiting visual distractions can help me avoid following movement or the latest flashy object. Mentally, I have to continuously bring myself back to the space when my mind spins in circles. Fishing with drag-free drifts often increases your opportunities to catch fish as your fly has the best chance of appearing like an insect caught in the flow of the stream. Striving to live more in the flow, avoiding distractions that drag me off course, is something I want to bring to my life as well.   

Keep Mending…

4 Replies to “Drag-Free Drifting”

  1. Oh, I so relate! I am so distractible as well!
    There are so many challenges with your fly fishing! So much to observe! So much to figure out!
    Yea to Kayla for the graphic!
    I am glad you caught some fish!
    How have these warmer than usual days affected the fish?

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