When you and a buddy swing flies together through a piece of water, it really makes sense to fish as a team! Working together you’ll learn more about how the fish want the fly presented in a particular piece of water, and you’ll probably increase your catch rate too.
Here are some basic principles to use in ‘team angling’. The main ideas here are to give the fish as many different ‘looks’ as possible, and to even out some of the advantage of being the first angler through.
- First angler wades shallower. Some fish may be in tight, and the last thing you want to do as lead angler is tromp right over the top of them. Even if the second angler is casting the same amount of line, wading at different depths will show the fly at different angles to a fish in the same location, and that’s good. The anglers in the picture above are covering a deep, tanky piece of water (it was this year on the Dean, by the way, and it was loaded with steelhead and chinooks) – in most situations the lead angler would be standing much shallower than this.
- First angler casts shorter. Shorter casts combined with shallower wading will mean that the lead angler is covering different water than the guy in back. The guy in back probably doesn’t need to let his fly swing all the way into the beach (since that’s where the lead guy just walked), but he’ll be covering more water out towards the middle of the river. It’s not just about which water you’re covering though – it’s how it’s being covered. Longer casts are going to swim differently – in most situations they’ll swing more slowly – and that’s good given our mission of giving the fish different looks at our flies.
- Two different flies. Speaking of flies – don’t fish the same fly! Alternate color or size or profile to learn most about what’s working on that particular day on that particular piece of water. Even if you’ve decided that, say, a pink and orange leech is the fly of the day, try to fish different variations on that theme. More different looks are better, and if you’re the guy in back, there’s definitely a mental aspect here too – “maybe they’ll like my fly better”!
- Two different tips. We tend to not be really finicky about sinktip selection since lots of other factors contribute to how your fly swims, but you may want to consider fishing different tips through a run as well. We’d definitely use the classic approach of ‘lightest tip goes first’. This is especially true if you’re lucky enough to be fishing water where a dry line is applicable – dry line goes first for sure!
- First angler moves along. Even with all these variables, the first angler through has an advantage. Given that, if you’re the first angler you should move along and leave some juicy water for your buddy in back. See a nice bucket that you could cover with ‘just a couple more strips’? Stick with the shorter casts and move along. In a tight casting spot that you could only fish with your brand-new-experimental-triple-off-shoulder-Norwegian-blow-dart-huck? Yeah, save that for later and step on through. Tangle in your running line? Step down anyhow. If you’re the guy in front, passing on some nice looking water builds river karma.