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3 Slack-Line Presentations Every Trout Angler Should Know

Posted on April 20 2016

Fly fishing for trout from a boat by Cameron Miller.
Mend, now! Photo: Cameron Miller.

As most effective trout anglers know, a well executed drift is far more important than a perfect cast. Whether we want our fly to drift naturally in the current, or swing through the water column at a particular depth, this is best achieved by mending – That is, repositioning the line on the water after the cast for a desired result. Like every facet of fly fishing, mending is a skill, and one that successful trout anglers do really well.

However, one down side to mending is that when performing a mend on the water, the fly is often briefly moved out of the ‘zone.’ That means that for a brief instant, the fly is not fishing effectively. Instead, what if we could perform a mend in the air so that the fly was able to fish the moment it hits the water?

Well.. We can! By using..

3 Slack-Line Presentations Every Trout Angler Should Know

Unless casting directly upstream, very rarely is a straight line cast the most effective presentation for trout. Slack-line presentations allow the line to be repositioned as desired in the air before hitting the water, resulting in a fly that is able to fish effectively longer. Technically defined as ‘aerial mends,’ mastering the following slack line presentations will allow you to present the fly with an appropriate mend from the get-go – whether presenting at a 90 degree angle, directly down stream, or even around an obstacle. Here’s how they work.

  1. The Reach Cast. When casting across the river to a fish or lie, it’s not uncommon to cast over water of varying speeds. That can make it difficult to present the fly with a natural drag-free drift. The reach cast is a simple way of presenting a fly so that your line lands at an angle (either upstream or downstream) or your fly. To perform, after stopping the rod on the forward cast, allow your loop to form and simply ‘reach’ out to the side (either to the right or left) to position the line as desired. If done correctly, the fly will land directly in front of you while the line will be positioned at an angle to the side. It can be performed both with a fixed amount of line, or when shooting line as well. For a complete breakdown on the reach cast (or reach mend), check out our entire post on the topic, here.
  2. The Aerial Mend. Although by definition all three of the presentations listed here could be classified as ‘aerial mends,’ the presentation we’re referring to here allows for a ‘wave’ of slack to be positioned at varying distances. This is a great tool when trying to position the line around a rock, a funky eddy, or any other obstacle between you and your fly. To perform, after stopping the rod on the forward cast (allowing your loop to form), move your rod tip to the side, and then back again to the center, before laying the line down to the water’s surface. This will cause a wave in the line, that with a little practice, can be accurately positioned at different distances depending on the obstacle.
  3. The Pile Cast. When casting to a fish directly downstream, the ‘pile cast’ is a great cast to use in order to introduce enough slack in the line to result in a ‘drag-free’ drift. To perform, cast with a higher than normal trajectory on the forward cast – as if you were aiming over the tree-tops. After stopping your rod, thus allowing your loop to form, drop your rod tip all the way down to the surface of the water. Doing so will cause the fly line to ‘pile up’ with the slack needed for a downstream dead drift. The higher the trajectory on the forward cast, the more slack will be introduced, and the closer the fly will land to you.

More on Trout Fishing

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