Fishing a Short Line

Many accomplished spey fisherman love to cast long, tight loops that sail across the river while the sun glimmers off the shimmering long belly line.  Perfect posture, effortless strokes while activating their glutes like the finest Tiger Woods golf swing in his prime.  This scene with the right light is a photographers dream.  However when the steelhead see this they typically snicker in delight.

Fishing a short line is an art form all to itself, and if you can do it correctly it will greatly diminish the amount of times someone picks your pocket in a steelhead river.  To start, its always a good idea to start a couple steps higher than you think.  The hardest part for most is that first cast.  No one likes dropping just the fly and a few feet of line out, but when you factor in the the length of the rod you get to 15-17 feet bellow you on a hang down pretty quick.

When fishing a short line you DO NOT want to mend.  If you have programmed yourself to mend every cast you need to check yourself into mending rehab immediately (ask us about a safe facility treatment center to check into).

A short cast needs to be handled with care from the second the fly hits the water. Finesse the rod to slowly follow the fly, and “will” it to sink and swim as deep and enticing as possible.  It is the action of your rod that will swim the fly so start with a high stick and focus on a balance between sinking it and swimming it.  Too much dead drift added and it won’t fish, not enough dead drift it will stay on the surface.

It’s easy to step in a run and yard off 15 feet of line to start comfortably fishing. Particularly with a short skagit line that is very uncomfortable to cast until it is fully out of the rod. However with some finesse and focus you can manage it. If you pay attention and do it well, your fly will swim deep and slow and you will pull fish right off you feet.  The most common fish that are missed in a run are the ones hanging around right where you stepped in so take some time to scour all parts of the river, not just 100 feet off the bank.

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