Skill of the Day: Fly Placement
This is geared towards nymphing, when selecting flies for my standard 2 fly rig, the first decision is where will I put my anchor fly(heaviest). Usually depth of the water determines this for me. If the water is over my waist in depth, then I place this fly at the point(farthest away from rod), if the water is shallower than my waist, then it goes on the tag. There are many ways to get the weight of your rig correct for proper drift. One is the select the anchor fly that by itself will get you to the bottom. This has trade offs though since in a lot of cases this may be a size 10 or 12 fly. If I'm using this fly strictly as a means to get contact with the bottom and my second fly is my target fly, then I'll do this on occasion. The second way is to use both flies weight together to get you in contact with the bottom. The third way is to downsize your tippet(6 or 7X) to accomplish this. I usually fish 6X in most cases and then this usually allows me to use an anchor fly that mimics a food source in the stream I'm fishing. Let's talk about fishing the different methods of anchor fly placement. If I'm fishing with the anchor on the point(farthest from rod), then I can go a little smaller on my 2nd fly. I don't usually use 3 flies unless the water is really deep(10' or more). This style will look more like the traditional high stick with your rod more in the vertical plane while tracking your drift. Remember, manage line so your rod is not too vertical, you have to ensure you can get a good hook set. Also remember, hook sets are always in a downstream direction. The second method with the anchor on the tag(most frequently encountered) the second fly can be manipulated for height in the water column. For example, say I'm fishing 3' of water and I want my second fly to drift a foot off the bottom, then I'll choose a slightly lighter fly than my anchor. It might look something like this: 3.5 mm tungsten bead anchor with a 3 mm tungsten bead point fly. If I want to raise my point fly higher than I might go to a 2.5 mm tungsten bead point fly. No bead or a 1.8 mm bead will get the second fly almost to the top of the water column. There are a couple of important things to be aware of when fishing with your anchor on the tag. The first is you have to get the anchor weight correct. If the anchor fly is not ticking the bottom, then a couple of bad things can happen. If the anchor fly is too heavy, then your trailing fly can overtake your anchor inducing slack resulting in missed takes. If your anchor fly is too light then you are missing fish on the bottom. The rod is more horizontal in this method of fishing(unless you are using a greased sighter, more on that in another series) and all hook sets are still downstream. Remember that by downsizing your tippet, you can go with a smaller anchor fly. If the food source is in the 14/16 range, then this is what you need to do. A size 14 fly with a 4 mm tungsten bead doesn't have the proper proportions in my opinion. A 3.5 is the biggest I'll go on that fly and it's a little of a stretch. One final note, as a comp fisherman, we have to have a minimum of 20"s from hanging fly to point fly. When fishing with my anchor on the tag, I very rarely go longer than 24" to point fly. If I'm fishing with the anchor on the point, then I may place my second fly higher up(> 30"s). So in summary, there are two places for your anchor fly, point or tag. It's dictated by the depth of the water. You need to determine proper anchor fly weight for the water you are fishing(may have to change when needed). For shallower water(less than waist deep), you can set your drift weight by the anchor fly, the combined weight, downsizing tippet, or a combination of all three. Rod is held more vertical on rigs with anchor at the point and more horizontal when on the tag. Finally, always set the hook in a downstream motion. Good luck and see you all on the Reever!