Fly Fishing Tips: Get My Drift

By Andy Whitcomb

May 30, 2016

In fly fishing, not only is it important for a fly to land like an insect but it also needs to drift like an insect. “Drifting” a fly is the art of doing nothing, correctly. Here are three fishing techniques to achieve a more convincing drift.

Photo courtesy of Jay Heckethorn.

Fly fishing is not like regular fishing.  It can be tricky to propel a microscopic fishing lure forward through the wind, without it grabbing obstructions such as overhanging limbs or tall reeds in back. If the cast goes well and the fly lands on the water like an insect, the next fishing technique is to continue to keep it looking like an insect through the entire drift. When an insect is floating on the surface (or even riding current underwater like a nymph) it should do so in a way that does not create an unnatural drag or ripple to alert fussy trout.

Here are 3 fly fishing tips to convince fish to get your drift:

1. Pay attention. Watch your fly closely through the drift and when the last little “J” of the fly line swings and straightens in the water, lift and recast before the fly creates a ripple and looks “wrong.”

2. Mend it right. Pull in just the right amount of fly line so that the speed and direction of the drifting fly matches the current.

3. Consider fly casting angles. Stay low and out of sight. If you cast too far upstream, strip quickly to match the speed of the fly being carried to you. If you cast too far down stream, you’d better hope the fish like streamers.

One fly fishing technique calls for “stripping” in line to give the fly motion. However, for high pressure areas and finicky trout, sometimes the best way to entice a surface rise is to do nothing, correctly. Be sure to check for additional fly fishing tips, including how to get started and more information on flies and other fly fishing gear.

Andy Whitcomb
Andy Whitcomb
Andy is an outdoor writer ( and stressed-out Dad has contributed over 380 blogs to since 2011. Born in Florida, but raised on banks of Oklahoma farm ponds, he now chases pike, smallmouth bass, and steelhead in Pennsylvania. After earning a B.S. in Zoology from OSU, he worked in fish hatcheries and as a fisheries research technician at OSU, Iowa State, and Michigan State.