Trout on the Swing

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Swinging flies for trout is an extremely fun and addictive way to fish.  When a fish eats a big fly on the swing you can bet it’s going to hit it hard. That bone jarring strike which we feel on swing flies is what keeps us coming back for more.

You can swing flies for trout with a single handed rod or a two handed rod. We prefer to use two handed spey rods or switch rods depending on the size of the river we are fishing. The reason being is because you can cover large amounts of water more efficiently and with less effort using longer rods. People often think spey casting is extremely difficult to learn and in reality, it’s not.

As two handed fly fishing has become more and more popular, the gear and lines have evolved to make sense for our local trout streams.  We now have switch rods which are basically rods that can be fished in either a single hand or two hand capacity.  They are light enough now (down to 4wt) where a 16″ trout is still going to put a good bend in the rod.  The lines, sink tips, etc have also followed suit. This makes swinging flies for Colorado trout appropriate and manageable, especially on windy days on the Colorado River.


The Basics

Q: What does it mean to swing a Fly?

A: Put simply, you are fishing the fly downstream under tension so that it races across the current.  You’re goal is to make the trout chase your fly.

Q:What type of Flies do you use?

A: While there are a ton of spey style flies designed for streamers, they are often a bit much for our local trout stream. Recently, many tiers have begun to incorporate the same style of fly designed, but have sized them down to fish effectively on the trout rivers.  Many of the great flies can be found through Montana Fly Company. That being said, a lot of the streamers and soft hackle type flies you already own will work fine through various parts of the season.

Q: What are some Techniques you’ve Done Well With?

  • The traditional swing
  • Cast upstream, let the fly free fall as you feed it line and then stop the line with your finger and give rod a slight jerk downstream. Hands down the most effective technique I’ve used.
  • Skating Surface Flies or fishing soft hackles on a slow swing in the film
  • Using a riffle hitch on traditional style hairwing flies. This is a topic of its own but worth trying.  Google “riffle hitch” if you’re interested. You’ll be amazed at what this technique will make a fly do.

Q: Should I buy a Spey or Switch Rod?

A: As mentioned, you don’t need a two handed rod to swing flies.  However, I firmly believe that when you pick up a two handed rod, it will revolutionize the way you cast and make you much more efficient on the river with a single handed rod.


Why Try Spey & Fishing Flies on the Swing?

1. It teaches you how to cast & will make you a lot better with your single hand casting.

2. It will force you to rethink they way you tie streamers

3. The tug is the Drug! There is simply nothing like a fish hitting a fly at full speed racing across the current.  It’s absolutely electric!

4. Try something new! Swinging flies for Colorado trout can be extremely productive, even with small emergers and wet flies. Hide the bobber for a few weeks and add another arrow to the quiver.

My goal in writing this blog is to do so without the mention of terms most people who would benefit from reading this wouldn’t understand. If I tried to explain a bunch of techniques in this article, it would significantly take away from the main points I’m trying to emphasize. If you decide to act on what you are reading, the information to take it a step further is out there and we encourage you to chat with a knowledgeable fly shop in your area. That being said, the information on this page is sure to help your flies stay wet a lot longer. By numbers, it’s a simple equation, “If ‘X’ Amount more fish see fly ‘Y’ in a day, then you will catch ‘Z’ amount more fish!”


This Scary Misunderstood Four Letter Word, Called “Spey”

In my opinion, there is no such a thing as single hand casting and spey casting.  Fly casting is fly casting.  The only difference is a spey rod is used with two hands, and a single handed rod is used with one hand on the rod.  Aside from that, the casts we see performed frequently with two handed spey rods are all casts that can and should be made with the 9′ 5wt you have at home.  What you will find is that the casting techniques you see with 2 handed fly rods are more than just style points.  What you are seeing in the videos is an efficient and very practical way to answer the question from the previous heading, “When the fly is Down Stream, What do we do?” The answer is quite simple.  We get our body, fly, line and rod all back into an “A to B alignment” aimed in the direction we wish to cast.

The Most Efficient Path from Point “A” to Point “B” is a Straight Line….  

  • Throwing a dart at the target
  • Shooting a gun at a Target
  • Pulling the string on a Bow Towards a Target
  • Squaring up in the Tee Box to hit one down the fairway
  • Shooting a basketball from the free throw line
  • Running a 100-meter dash
  • Throwing a football to someone
  • Hitting a baseball
  • sending an email as opposed to sending a letter

I could go on and on, but I think you get the idea.  So why is it that fly casting should be so incredibly different?  Well, I’m here to tell you it’s not!  Unfortunately, this simple point has become incredibly lost in teaching a very important aspect of fly casting on a moving river.  When an instructor teaches you to overhead cast on grass, the  “A to B” path of the rod tip is taught by any worthwhile casting instructor. While that’s all good and dandy, what happens when we lay that cast down on a moving surface of water?  Your fly has now drifted downstream into a position where it is not so easy to take the rod tip directly from “A to B” while 20-40 feet of fly line is dangling downstream. This is where the problem and an extremely under taught aspect of fly fishing & casting begins.


When the fly is Downstream….What Do We Do?  

With the current pulling the line directly downstream, it actually works out where we can make a very efficient cast 180-degree upstream since everything is in a direct line.  This is called the water load cast and I blame a lot of the regression in the art of fly casting to the water load.  It’s very easy to teach, and for guides who don’t really understand fly casting, it gets the job done…well kinda. So what happens when you suddenly need to take your fly from directly downstream and cast anywhere other than straight upstream?   It’s simply not going to happen since the fly is only in a position to be water loaded upstream. In Colorado, our rivers are generally small enough where this awkward lift and cast across nonsense (sorry can’t bring myself to call it technique) is often taught and executed “good enough” to get the job done.  It might work on a small river,  but it is incredibly painful to watch and nothing makes my temples hurt as much as listening to a slack lined thing-a-mobber cast from downstream to straight across rip the water in agony all day.  It’s exhausting to watch and yes, it looks worse than it sounds.  Not much better, is to make a series of false casts like a 4 point turn a big truck makes in a tight parking spot to eventually redirect the fly, line & rod back into A to B alignment (optimistically assuming that those 4 backcasts didn’t land in the tree behind you or birds nest around the tip of the rod).


Where to Go From Here

If you have managed to read this far, you can no longer say, “well I didn’t know there was another way!”  If you are new to fly fishing the water load cast is understandable but  I urge you to correct those habits before they become the way you cast and fish.  If you are an avid fly angler,  I encourage you to fish with a guide who can help you understand the basic principles of;  anchor placement, sustained anchor casting,  touch & go casting, D-loop, and casting under the rod.  All this will radically change the way you fish and add a whole new dimension of the enjoyment you get from fly fishing. You will soon realize that the process of casting is really fun & and not this painful intermission between mending & watching the bobber float.  If taught correctly, this is all easy to learn, and you will be amazed by how much more time your flies are spent fishing over the course of a day.  If you are a fishing guide, and teaching the water load is the only trick you have up your sleeve, I beg you to buy the DVD Spey to Z and watch it over and over and over again. Start to implement it in your own fishing, and when you are comfortable with it, start working it into the way you guide.

Trout on the Swing was last modified: March 20th, 2017 by flywateroutdoors