Today we’ve got a bit of a conversation-starter for those of you out there who like swinging flies for steelhead. Scott Baker-McGarva, head guide at BC West, gives us some thoughts on mending line. Have a read and let us know what you think.
To Mend or Not to Mend?
Many years ago I wouldn’t have even given this idea a moment’s thought, as a mend was an integral part of the down and across presentation, placed right in there after ‘cast’ and before ‘step’ in the cardinal rules of anadromous fish pursuit. But in recent years I have both debated this notion with others, and observed a lack of mending in a swing still being productive. Now this is always in warmer, summer/fall water situations, conditions where, as it was argued to me, ‘you want the fly swinging as soon as possible, regardless of direction or speed, as the more aggressive summer fish will chase it!’.
Now this ‘speed’ thing is what drove my reluctance to consider the technique (or lack thereof) of not mending – after all, the slower the swing (speed), the better look the fish gets…right? This is why I step after casting in the first place, to slow the whole thing down, and this was beaten into my sub-consciousness at a very young age by the Steelhead Gods.
One guide I worked with in particular, (let’s call him the ‘Reverend’) who, with decades of experience, got quite upset if his guests insisted on mending and not letting the fly swing asap. So, given we rotate guests, I would guide the very same angler sooner or later, and my thoughts were if I didn’t promptly go and de-program them of the Reverend’s ways, they will merrily flog all day without mending and suffer a horrible fish-less outing. But the Reverend is wise – he wouldn’t preach such ideals if they don’t work for him, and it was noted that often before I could get to them, they caught a damn fish! So how do you argue what ‘to-do’ and what ‘not-to’ do when ‘not-do’ is successful? Hmm?
Now some deep thinking reminded me that if one adequately casts across and down stream each time, a mend is less important as the line straightens quickly and the fly swings shoreward, but those almost 90 degree casts can produce horrible bellies, causing seemingly unnatural accelerating fly swings, so surely this is key to the ‘no mend’ technique? No…apparently not, because Mr. Steelhead doesn’t seem to mind at all…maybe taking a lesson from his Atlantic Salmon cousins, which don’t seem to mind hard swings and are probably to blame for of this non-conformist business in the first place. Further, it was probably an atlantic aalmon angler, on their introductory steelhead trip, who decided his technique was just fine for these wily steelheads – after all, they were no better than his ‘king of game fishes’ and he wasn’t interested in changing techniques unless they didn’t work.
So, to mend or not? Is there a right or wrong way? I see some mend so much it defies reason – one would think a girl is about to jump rope on the water. Yet all these differing techniques seem to be equally productive for summer fish at the end of the day.
Funny thing is, my tactic hasn’t evolved past cast at a reasonable downstream angle, mend once, step as it becomes tight, and let it swing to the beach…just sayin’!
What Do You Think?
OK, we know a lot of you like swinging flies for a anadromous fish, and we know you’ve got some strong opinions. We’d love to hear your approach to mending – leave a comment and let us know!