The Wet Fly Swing

Posted by  Thursday, October 17 2013 4:00 pm
expert

Wet flies are traditional fly patterns that were originally tied to mimic insects which had been swept beneath the surface and dredged along underwater. Wet fly patterns are known for being tied fairly sparse, with a hair wing pulled to the rear of the hook shank, and a soft hackle tied with a swept look to it. These patterns were carefully tied as such so that there would be nothing to hinder the underwater drift of the fly.
 
WetFlySwing 1Over the years, wet flies have evolved probably more than any other type of pattern to date. Wet fly patterns are now minnows, caterpillars, rock worms, etc. This classification of patterns can also include your favorite nymphs and streamers if you just adapt the way you fish these flies to catch the big one. Let wet flies get down deep and hang in the current. The quintessential technique to fishing wet patterns is known as the "wet fly swing" and for many anglers this method has produced great numbers of quality fish.
 
The wet fly swing is a technique for the beginner and the veteran alike. There are many old timers who will use nothing else in a day's fishing because of the time-tested results. Beginners find it easy to learn and use this swing technique out on their first days fishing. However, to truly fish the wet fly swing with the greatest success calls for knowledge of where the fish lie, their feeding habits, and the ability of anglers to swing the fly to where the fish are hiding. When fishing dry flies, the angler is able to see what the fly is doing, and if the fish are rising he knows what he is doing is right. When fishing wet flies on the swing the angler must be able to feel that the fly is doing what it should be doing and make the necessary correction to get fish to strike.
 
Tackle Needs
 
Wet fly fishing has no real particular requirements on fly fishing tackle, making it ideal for beginning anglers looking to broaden their fishing knowledge base. Any 8 1/2- to 9-foot 4/5 weight fly rod and floating fly line will be adequate for fishing this technique on most waters while shorter rods can be used if fishing small, overgrown rivers. Leader lengths should be tailored to the size of the river you are planning on fishing. Leaders that are 9 feet are great for most waters while 7 1/2-foot leaders are good for smaller streams. Tippets of 2X, 3X and 4X are suggested to help resist the shock of fighting fish on a taught line. Excessively long leaders are not advised with this technique seeing as multiple flies are the norm, making casting this combination a headache for anglers.
 
Finding Good Water
 
Ideally, fishable water for the wet fly swing ranges from 3- to 6-feet deep and has a relatively moderate fast flow accompanying it. River beds that include submerged or partially submerged structure are ideal to harbor hiding fish, but not a necessity to anglers. Most fish can be found in the transition zone in the current. This transition zone is the section of the river where the current slows down (fast run to slow riffle) or speeds up (slow break to fast run). Casting above these transition zones and allowing the fly to be pulled downstream and across to where the fish lay is ideal for anglers looking to hook up with large numbers of fish.

Fishing the Wet Fly Swing

WetFlySwing 2
Wet fly fishing dates well before dry flies existed.

Similar to dry fly fishing, the wet fly swing is started with a general up-and-across type of fly cast. This delivery places the fly in the fish's field of view without ever letting the fish see the angler. A cast of 25 or 30 feet is idea for this type of fishing so that the angler is able to retain control over slack line and be ready to set fish on possible takes. Once the fly reaches the water's surface, line mends are needed to be made so that the fly will float along naturally with the current. This beginning drag-free drift is a very necessary component to the swing techniques because it allows the fly to sink to the desired level in the water column while simulating an aquatic insect that has become drowned or dislodged and swept downstream. Trout will rise to this drifting wet fly much as they do to a dry fly, opportunistically feeding on whatever floats downstream.

As the fly line reaches a position directly in front of the angler, a mend is made across the current. This line mend (depending on the current will be upstream or downstream) will allow for the body of the fly line to be pushed downstream faster than the fly. This resulting current push will swing the fly downstream of the angler simulating an escaping insect or a fleeing minnow. This swing will occur until the line reaches a point directly beneath the angler. At this point it is a good idea to pause for a second or two and then gently lift the rod tip and the line. Raising the line like this will bring the fly up from the depths, simulating an emerger rising off of the bottom to the surface. Once you are finished, the cast take two to three steps forward and repeat this swing process. Use this swing-step combination all the way upstream until you have covered all the water in the run.

Many anglers consider dry fly fishing the "traditional" way of catching trout. In all actuality, wet fly fishing dates well before dry flies ever graced the water's surface. Swinging wets has been a potent technique that has been duping trout for many years in the hands of beginner and experienced angler alike. Unlike dry fly fishing or nymphing, where takes from fish are hard to detect or time, wet fly strikes are convincingly hard. More often than not fish will hook themselves simply by pulling against the tight line. Wet fly fishing is a great way for fly anglers to get introduced to sub-surface fishing. Skilled and precise imitations are not needed to effectively take trout, providing rewards quickly and making for an exciting day of fishing.

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Jason Akl
expert

Jason Akl is a writer, commercial fly tyer and guide with 15 years in the industry. Professionally, he's been a seasonal guide and fly tier that ties commercially and teaches tying classes to both adults and children. Most of his flies make their homes in fly shops in the northern Midwest but some have found their way as far as Europe. As a freelance writer, he's had many written pieces appear in both Canadian and American publications, as well as numerous global websites. When not on the bench or behind the computer, he spends time working with companies such as Daiichi Hooks, Monic Fly Lines or Gatti rods as part of their pro-staff doing product testing pieces and seminars.

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