Most fly anglers are missing opportunities for more
and bigger fish by limiting themselves to only floating
lines. We all love to fish dry flies to rising trout,
but often the fish are feeding deep, especially the
big fish. Large trout are lazy, secretive and prefer
to take their food in larger chunks. The judicious
use of sink tip lines will enable you to keep large
flies (streamers, leeches, stonefly nymphs) near the
bottom for an extended time without using lead.
I hate lead. It disrupts the smooth rhythm of fly-casting.
It tangles leaders. It falls off, it breaks rods.
And I use it all the time when trying to fish deep
with a floating line. Even if you use a lot of shot,
the line still plane up to the surface unless you
maintain a perfect dead drift. Forget about swinging
or swimming a fly deep across the current.
Enter the sink tip. A good high density ten foot sink
tip with a short leader (3 or 4 feet) will keep your
flies near the bottom in all but the deepest heaviest
flows if you handle the line properly. Make a quartering
upstream reach cast immediately followed by a big
back mend and lead the line downstream with a high
rod tip keeping as much of the floating line off the
water near you as possible. Don't pull the sink tip
out of the water. If a belly begins to form, make
adjustment mends to keep the line straight. This allows
the sink tip to pull the fly to the bottom and keep
it there. As you lead the drift with the rod tip,
concentrate on the last visible portion of the floating
line nearest the sink tip. This is your indicator.
If it twitches, darts, dives or does anything wierd--set
If you mended line properly and kept the rod moving
with the line, you will get a deep dead drift across
from you that will transition into a deep slow swing
below you. The key words are deep and slow. The important
thing is that you are keeping your flies down in the
fish's face through the whole arc of the line. This
is my basic steelhead fishing technique and it works
well with big nymphs and streams on the Delaware.
It's my favorite way to fish wooly buggers on the
West Branch. With some practice, you will find that
you can control the fly's speed and manipulate it's
action to imitate various food forms.
When casting sink tips, keep in mind that the rod
will load quicker because of the additional line density
and will generate more line speed because it's thinner
and less air resistant. Cast with a slightly wider
loop and make sure that you let the back cast straighten
out to avoid tangles. When initiation a cast, don't
try to pickup too much line off the water. Retrieve
line to shorten it and get it near the surface before
For river trout or steelhead, only purchase high density
Type V or Type VI sink rates. Slow sinkers are only
suitable for Stillwater or flats fishing. Remember,
the whole point is to get the fly deep fast and keep
it there. Ten foot tips are the most useful, but I'll
use five footers in small streams.
Now go put a Hi-D sink tip on your extra spool and
use it. Like all techniques, you'll only get good
at it if you do it regularly. And please release those
big fish you catch.
John F. Dembeck