Getting Unclassically Deep With Flies

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Getting Unclassically Deep With Flies

By: Frank Day

With today’s modern high density lines depths never achievable previously to fly anglers are becoming more attainable with the right techniques and tackle. Here’s a quick breakdown on how to successfully dredge the deeps

There’s a variety of high density sinktips now available thanks to the modern manufacturing technology. Sink rates of 3ips to 10ips are standard and made by most fly line companies. Many of these are high density shooting heads. While these are great for depth of 20-30’ with light or no current, getting deeper poses a problem. Many of them have a tapered design with a rear section that actually sinks faster than the front taper causing contact with the fly to be lost unless they are manufactured specifically to compensate for this. When fishing excessive depths, fly contact is essential for success. If you cannot remain in contact with your fly you have no indication of a bite and no leverage to drive the hook home when a fish eats your fly.

An excessively long fly line can also disrupt your contact with the fly and therefore the fish.

The custom cut tungsten tips in t-14 to t-20 are the best choice for truly getting deep. Rio’s 30’ bulk T tips are my personal favorite. They are even and sink uniformly and predictably. For length, the deeper I intend to fish the shorter I prefer them. Generally 14-20’ lengths fish best at depth in excess of 30’. T-20 is my usual preference as it has the most mass and facilitates the best turnover of larger flies. It sinks at roughly a foot per second. So in a piece of water where I know the exact depth I can count down a second for each foot; 30 seconds is about 30’.

This style of line is best fished as a shooting head style line with a thin running line attached. My preference is 30lb monofilament running line just like a standard winter steelhead setup. I don’t like floating mono or a thin coated fly line. This can be a hinderance to the sinking of the fly line. A thin neutrally buoyant line is best. Hi vis colors do well as you can watch them follow the head down. If it naturally tends to coil this can be an uncommon advantage. The head dragging it down will straighten it and just like the spool in a conventional reel stopping when the presentation is bottomed out the coils re forming is a visual indication that your presentation has hit bottom.

Fly selection is key. Generally for a faster retrieve and a more jigging stripping action I prefer excessively heavy flies. I often fish 1/16 through 1/4oz jigs with the appropriate forage tied on them. Any standard fly will work with the appropriate amount of lead on the leader. This can mean split shot or even the same 1/16through 1/4 oz of lead in the form of an egg weight or worm weight. To keep the lead in place a nail knot on the leader ahead of it will achieve this. The weight doesn’t necessarily need to be tight to the hook eye of the fly. Sometimes allowing for 2-3” of wiggle room will not only create a clicking audible that fish can hear and feel, it will give your fly the appearance that it is maybe chasing the weight attempting to eat it. This can draw out the competitive nature of predatory fish and simply seeing another feeding critter can draw them from a further distance than they would have moved to simply feed as well as increase their curiosity towards your fly. Casting these excessive weights can be troublesome. A roll cast to line it up with your target, and minimal false cast are best. Load the rod and send it.

Leader length can vary but the longer it is the more dropping action the heavy fly has. This is more determined by individual fly weight and casting ability than anything. Less skilled casters are recommended shorter leaders. Heavier flies will require shorter leaders for proper turnover.

If a slower presentation is what you desire fishing from the bottom up is best. With heavier flies they are generally fished from the top down. With a slower presentation those heavy flies will bottom out and simply drag the bottom providing less of an opportunity for fish to eat them suspended where you can feel it. Flies intended for the surface fish best in this scenario. A topwater fly designed to float will fish best provided it is not so buoyant that it doesn’t allow the line to sink. You can wait a little bit longer to compensate for the buoyancy of the fly and slowly crawl it across the bottom. This style of fishing is nothing new and has been popular in the European and more recently American lake fishing scene for awhile now, and is an extremely successful technique for representing bottom dwelling forage bases.

There you have it. A bit of insight on how to get deeper than with traditional fly fishing methods. Ultimately these are guidelines and general suggestions and the key to success is experimentation and fine tuning your system to suit your particular fishery. Figure out what works best for you in the location you’re fishing and the type of fish you are fishing to. Get out there and give it a shot and as always if you have any questions feel free to drop us a line at 503-622-4607 or email us at

I’ll send some photos when I get the chance. Our boat is getting internet by the end of the week so I should be able to email a few photos. The rockfish here are stupid and abundant and I’ve been catching them at depth of up to 100’ almost every other cast when I’m on em. Mostly quillbacks and copper rockfish but I have landed a few nice greenling.

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