It’s long been said that great presentations catch fish, not great casts. Its one of the most governing truths in fly fishing. Mending, the act of repositioning the fly line after the cast, is what makes this possible in moving water.
Make no mistake, like casting, mending is a skill, and those that are able to consistently perform efficient mends to produce effective presentations undoubtedly catch more fish. Period.
However, the majority of anglers only mend after their line has landed on the water, but there are many advantageous to mends actually made in the air, known as aerial mends. By definition, aerial mends are made from movements of the rod tip after the rod has stopped on the forward cast, but before the line a settled on the water. There are many different aerial mends, but by far the most popular (and arguably the most versatile) is known as the reach mend (also known as the reach cast).
When fishing a single hand rod, the reach mend allows both upstream or downstream mends to be made mid-air before you’re line has even touched the water, which has a number of advantages whether you’re banging the bank from the boat or drifting the inside seam on foot. Contrary to popular belief, it also has a number of advantages when swinging flies with spey rods too, the least of which are as follows.
- It keeps your fly in the game longer. The length of time from when your fly lands to when you finish your mend is all time that your fly isn’t fishing. That may not seem like a lot of time, but it adds up over the course of a day which could translate to less casts, less runs, and ultimately less fish. On the other hand, if the same mend could be performed in the air, before the fly ever hits the water, that means your fly is going to be in ‘the zone’ quicker and in front of more fish over the course of the day.
- It makes additional mends more effective. For situations that require more than one mend, an aerial mend can make far easier work of additional mends made after the cast has landed. Put it this way, whatever manipulation of line you’re able to perform in the air is such that you don’t have to perform once the line has landed on the water, allowing your fly to fish appropriately sooner.
- It can bail you out of difficult casting situations. Aerial mends, specifically the reach mend, can help ‘cheat’ your way out of tailing loops that might be inevitable in really tight casting situations. Take the photo above as an example. Swift current makes casting directly across the river (at a ninety degree angle) desirable to allow the fly to sink to the appropriate depth. At the same time, an upstream breeze has forced the cast to be made off of the left hand (upstream) side. Further, limited back cast room makes it nearly impossible to sweep around far enough to produce a cast directly across the river off of the left hand (off-hand) side without producing a frustrating tangle from a tailing loop. The fix? A downstream reach mend! An off-hand snap-T is made off the left hand side, after the loop has formed the rod tip is dropped to the right as line shoots of the guides, thus opening up the loop to keep the line from tailing. The fly lands directly across the river as intended despite difficult conditions.
Aerial mends are great tools for increasing the amount of time your fly is swinging effectively over the course of the day. Our favorite aerial mend, the reach mend, is performed exactly the same way whether you’re casting a single or double handed rod, and you can see how by clicking right here.