C: Fly Fishing for Trout: April 2009 Archives

High Sticking Techniques

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High Sticking by Wayne Eng

Note: As the blog editor for my local fly fishing club, I have included a club article to help those fly anglers who are new to nymph fishing.

Our guest speaker for the March meeting of the Klamath Country Fly Casters was Wayne Eng, a licensed guide who plies his trade on the Upper Sacramento River. Wayne cites Jim Gade, who fished these waters from 1949 to 2004, as to the origin of high sticking. "Native American Wintu women tied simple weighted flies for the trout because they got tired of digging for worms. Some of these weighted flies were adapted to a very short line technique we call today high-sticking, which was popularized by the late Ted Fay and his partner Joe Kimsey.... The technique was simple: a fly rod, a short leader, two weighted flies, which they drifted in pocket water on a short line. This system still works today as effectively as it did over a half century ago. Although we have tweaked the system with strike indicators, lead, and different bugs, the game remains the same--get your bugs down to the trout with as little line on the water as possible."

Pocket Water
"Pocket water is a mini-ecosystem, usually in faster water, created by big rocks or obstacles in the water. These rocks and obstacles create 'pockets', which provide three basic requirements for the fish: food, shelter and cover."

Rigging (See descriprtions at the end of the article)

"Strike Indicators are a visual aid to indicate the drift and take. Some usual materials are yarn, corkies, or colored line. One characteristic of yarn is that yarn floats higher for a more natural drift. It is easy to see, but sometimes yarn can be harder to cast. Some of the characteristics of a corkey is that they float lower, connect to split shot quicker, they are easier to cast, and they work great when a slightly faster than natural drift is needed. The placement of the indicator should be a little greater than the depth of the water you are fishing and above the split shot."

Reading the Water
"Rocks shape the river and create lies and habitat and concentrate the food source. Knowing how to detect feed lanes and see the rocks that create pockets will help you find the trout. There are two types of rocks you care about: primary and secondary. A primary rock is a rock above or just below the water that splits the river into right and left lanes (known as feed lanes), forming what looks like a big VEE in the water. Fish will be stationed in or next to these food highways. Generally, trout will be in the feed lane if it is slow, or they will be in the seam next to the fast water. A secondary rock is a submerged rock, which is a relatively tall rock in or near a feed lane that creates a cushion. This cushion provides a place where trout can hold with little effort and wait for food."

"In this type of water, presentation can be more important than a specific type of bug. The reason is that trout are sometimes not as selective because they have little time to inspect the offering. By presentation we mean drift the bug in areas where the trout hold and in a natural manner so the trout think it's food."

The Three L's: Lob, Lift, Lead and Set
"Lob the cast. With a short line loading the rod downstream using water tension to cast, form a tent with the rod and fly line. Raise and rotate the rod hand and in a chopping motion, drop the forearm toward the target (usually slightly upstream). This will allow the flies to sink to the desired depth. After the cast 'lift' the rod horizontally so all or most of the line to the indicator is off the water, leaving a slight bit of slack for a natural drift. Lead the tip of the rod above or slightly downstream of the indicator. This position will help with the hook set. (When thinking of lead, think about 'Walking a Dog'. If the leash is too tight, you are choking the dog. If it is too loose, the dog can get out of control.)" The hook set is when the indicator does anything other than drifting naturally, such as slowing, dipping, pausing....When in doubt, quickly set the hook downstream by moving your rod tip towards the water. This will pull the hook into the trout's mouth and keeps the rig in the water and not flinging in the air. Remember that most tangles happen in the air and not in the water."

High Stick Rigging
(1) "The original rigging, according to Joe Kimsey who was Ted Fay's partner, consisted of a 7.5 foot 3x or 4x tapered leader. Attach a split shot for the water depth. After the split shot add a Dropper Loop. Add six to eight inches of leader material and attach the first fly. From the Dropper Loop (Google for instructions) continue for 16 to 18-inches to the terminal fly. Attach the fly with a Duncan Loop, which allows more movement in the fly.

(2) Select a 6 to 7.5 foot tapered leader from 3-5x. Add split shot. Add an additional 6-8-inces of leader and tie a triple surgeon's knot. Note: the first fly is treaded into the section of this portion of leader between the split shot and the triple surgeon's knot. In this manner, the fly may slide up and down this eight-inch distance freely. From the triple surgeon's knot add 12-14-inches of tippet and attach the terminal fly.

(3) Here is a simple but effective rigging. Add split shot followed by tying on a fly. From this first fly, tie another piece of tippet to the bend of the hook and attach the terminal fly.

(4) Dry and Dropper with Split Shot: Using a large buoyant fly such as a salmon fly or a grasshopper, add 24-inches of tippet to the bend in the hook. This tippet material should be 1 or 2x lighter tippet material. Add split shot in the center of this dropper tippet and a small bead nymph to the terminal end

(5) Dry and Dropper without Split Shot: Using a large buoyant fly such as a salmon fly or a grasshopper, add 10 to 20-inches of tippet to the bend in the hook. This tippet material should be 1 or 2x lighter tippet material. Add a small bead nymph to the terminal end."

Strike Indicator Placement and Split Shot: "The distance between the strike indicator and the split shot should is a little greater than the depth of the water you are fishing for running a 'tight line'. One advantage of a corkey is that it is easily adjusted for the water depth."

Wayne Eng, Licensed Guide
(530) 235-4018