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Reach for the long leader

In summer low flows and evening rises on big rivers, it's time to try a long leader with a reach cast


One on the dry fly from low water.
One on the dry fly from low water.

All over UK our hatches seem to be the same this year. In a word, poor. Doesn't matter if you are in Scotland or in Kent, the story's the same. If there are insects hatching, then the trout don't appear to be too bothered with them. Until this week, when I noticed decent rises were happening as the light faded.

The river has fallen to very low levels following a number of rainless weeks, so the water is thin, and slow, which makes it difficult for dry fly fishing, as the fish have so long to scrutinise the fly, and they aren't hurried into taking it. However, if you head for the pool-tails, the current speeds up here, and also sucks in a lot of the surface food. The trout know it, too.
It's time for that old Malcolm Greenhalgh tactic of the really long leader. By long, Malcolm meant 13 feet, but I've extended that now to 15 feet, mainly because I can get away with it, as I can wade deep in a wide river, and my back-cast space is clear. The whole leader is built on a 9ft or 12 ft tapered leader with added sections of 3X, 4X and 5X.

It appears that the fish are taking mainly small olives at this time, and the fly of choice is a size 16 Deer-hair Emerger, with a short Crystal Flash tail, dressed on a Buzzer hook. I can see this deer-hair wing from distance in the gloaming. However, I mix up my attack with a Pheasant Tail Spinner which sports a large white poly yarn post, as there are often many spinners dancing in the evening air.
The tactics are two-fold.

First, spot your rising fish, the best rise to cover is one slightly downstream of your position. Then deliver the fly to fall in line with it, but make the cast with an exaggerated upstream reach cast as it shoots. It's easy to get lazy with an upstream reach, but you need to make it a good one as pool-tail currents gather pace quickly and soon impart drag on the fly. So make a point of stretching out your casting arm and almost using the rod-tip just as a teacher would use blackboard pointer to touch the water as far upstream of your upstream shoulder as possible before the fly settles on the water. Now, you can track round with the rod, and end up reaching with it far downstream to prolong the drag-less fly drift for as long as possible.
The other night, I was working on a fish that I couldn't get to come to the fly, until I tried this very same cast. It was on the limit of my casting distance with a three-weight, and it was the best fish of the night. On the Spinner.

I'll write about the second option next time.

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