After The Cast
Mend! Mend! Mend! I’m sure if you have fished with a guide either wading or in a drift boat you have heard this once or twice. Often the more you hear it the louder and more frantic it gets. The guide wants you to catch fish and have a good trip but he can only put you in a good position or location, give advice. The rest is up to you.
Fly casting is all about control of the fly and line before, during and after the cast. Before a cast is made you have to decide whether to stage enough line to make the cast or how to extend the line during the cast to reach the target. When you make the pickup and false cast, you have to manage that line, get the slack out in order to make the cast.
This brings us to the subject of the article, the presentation. When fishing moving or still waters, what is an important item to consider with our casting? The presentation or layout, right? We all practice a pick up and lay down with a straight layout but this layout is not necessarily what is needed when we are actually in a fishing situation. For example, imagine a cast straight across a stream or downstream, the first thing that happens, in this example, with a straight layout in moving water is drag. The unnatural drag does not go unnoticed by the fish, especially trout. While ol’ Mr. Bass doesn’t really care, Mr. Trout may look at your fly and turn away and wait for something better.
To eliminate drag we must reposition the line either in the air or on the water after the cast. This is what is called a mend. Webster defines a mend as “making something usable or to put in working order again”. A mend allows the fly to drift naturally with the current and increases the possibility of a fish taking the fly.
There are two types of mends that will help you eliminate drag. There are OTW, on the water, and ITA, in the air mends. To make an OTW mend the rod tip is raised lifting line from the water and then swept in an opposite direction of the drag on the line. OTW mends are good for in close mends as you are limited by the amount of line you can pick up with your rod. A long rod will pick up more line than a short rod but you still may not be able to get the mend out to where it needs to be. When you have rising fish near the opposite bank and across different current speeds an OTW mend may not get the presentation needed. Also on OTW can disturb the water surface and put the fish down for a while or send them to a safer location. A better choice could be an ITA mend. A simple ITA mend such as a reach mend is useful in instances where the cast is across a relatively uniform current. The cast is made and before the line settles to the water the rod tip is moved upstream to allow the line to be upstream of the fly. The rod tip then follows the fly downstream for a drag free drift with a fly first presentation. An ITA mend can be placed, with a little practice, where it can do the most good. An ITA mend can be placed near or far to deal with varying current speeds and it can be short or long, wide or narrow. For an ITA mend to be placed as far as possible the rod tip must move out and back as quickly as possible after the stop. A close in ITA mend can be made by moving the rod tip out and back as late as possible after the stop and before the line settles to the water. ITA mends can be placed anywhere along the length of line being cast by varying the timing of the mend. The length and depth of the mend can be adjusted by varying the distance the rod tip moves out and back and the time it takes to move out and back. Practice your mends varying the timing of the mend, the distance the rod tip moves out and back and the length of time you hold the rod tip out before it is brought back. This will give you a feel for what is needed to make the size and length of mends that are possible. Practice placing mends around a target, cones, paper plate or even a leaf because the mend needs to be placed as accurately as possible to be effective. Familiarize yourself with the various types of mends such as Reach, Wiggle, and Hump to name a few.
The goal of making a mend is to place it in a position opposite of where the current would move the line in a straight layout. You gain a few moments drag free drift while the current is pulling the mend out of the line. This will result in a more favorable presentation, which will increase the chances of a fish taking the fly. It is a rewarding feeling seeing a fish coming to the fly and taking it after a good presentation.