Fishing the Wet Fly by John Bailey
EXTRACT FROM JOHN BAILEY'S FISHING ENCYCLOPEDIA
WET FLY FISHING
When you're nymph fishing you are trying to imitate a real-life food item. It might not be an exact imitation but it's a good general impression. Traditional wet fly fishing, however, is a little bit different. A traditional wet fly will try to deceive fish into thinking that it is natural but it is more an impression of life than any exact replication. But wet flies are not all the same: for example, the Connemara Black does look somewhat like an insect being pushed by the current. Not exactly, but sort of! However, other traditional patterns like the Dunkeld or the Silver Invicta fall into the category of attractors. By this we mean they look a bit like food items but the flash in the water and catch the fishes' attention and tease them into an attack. With flies like these you are really exciting the fishes' curiosity.
The main reason these flies work is that you are generally fishing them in shallow, rough, quick water where the fish don't have much time to make up their minds. The light, too, is being refracted and the current is whirring food here, there and everywhere. The fish see your flies, find them interesting and make a grab.
In general, wet fly fishing is carried out on wilder, untamed rivers most frequently over stony or even rocky bottoms. This isn't the method for the placid, weedy chalkstream. You're looking for quick, riffly water between one and four or five feet in depth. You will often be wading, getting yourself into positions that you can't hope to reach from the bank. To some degree, you're fishing blind, just covering as much water as possible, keeping very mobile but, as with all forms of fishing, there are skills involved. For example, read the water thoughtfully, looking for the little pots and holes behind larger rocks or the creases between fast and slower water. Remember that fish in this quick water will always be looking to conserve their energy by hanging in places where they've got a bit of sanctuary from the current. But they will still need to be able to see what is happening around them, keeping a beady eye on what's trundling past them.
Wet flies are fished across and down rather than upstream which is typical with a nymph or dry fly. The cast is made at about forty-five degrees downstream across the river towards the far bank. What you're doing is allowing the fly or your team of two or three flies to follow the current down, gradually moving across it to end up on your side of the river. The major skill here is to avoid the current catching the fly line and pushing at it, making the flies work unnaturally quickly across the current or even causing them to skate across the surface. You must slow your fly line down to give the wets time to fish at the right depths and the right speed and to accomplish this, you mend your line to prevent the current dragging it. Mending is an essential technique in most forms of river fishing but never more important than when fishing the wet fly.
You won't miss takes when they come because your flies are moving quickly, forcing the trout into fast, decisive action. You'll either feel a take with your fingers or you'll see the line tighten quickly and positively across the stream. The fish is generally self-hooked and almost the first thing that you will know is that your rod will be bent and the line will be ripping through the water. It's an exciting, dramatic and effective method.
Wet fly fishing might not have all the sophistications of the dry fly or the nymph. After all, you're not imitating food forms precisely and you're not targeting specific, sighted fish. But, wet fly fishing does demand a good reading of the water and that all-important skill of constant line mending. And finally, fishing the wet fly keeps you fit. Good wet fly rivers are often in wild, hilly terrain and it's a method that keeps you on the move, forcing you to walk, to wade and to put yourself physically.
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