Cross current drag

So i am relatively new to dragging, swinging, and skating flies.

I guess a lot of my focus has been on the drag free aspects of tenkara. Working to a natural presentation.

So…when there are fish around and that is not working…what to do???

Drag, swing, skate…

So it works, but I am trying to understand it all. When asked folk, they say it agitates the fish to strike. A friend explained to me…even though the profile is not of a fish… the motion is. Sort of like how salmon flies look like nothing natural and look like they were designed by Liberace. The idea is to bring attention to the motion not the profile or the natural representation of a natural forage. Sort of weird abstract concepts.

Like making a cat act like a dog…

On two specific occasions. I had a lot of fish feeding actively. Sucking off and breaking the surface…just porpoising. I could not identify the forage, but I assume it was small. My daughter and I fished for a while. We were using size 12 flies…we actually got several takes, but the fish were difficult to hook. It was a one and done sort of chance…then they just would not bother even inspecting the fly.

Finally right before we left, I sized down to a sparsely tied 14, one of the smaller patterns. I dead drifted a few times and could see a number of fish rise and refuse. Maddening. Then I started swinging and skating flies. That got them riled up but still refusing… I had one fish chasing after it and refusing it a number of times.

A month ago I ran into a spin fisherman who was leaving a pool that I knew held fish. I asked him if he had luck…he said no. So, I told him the details of the pool and I could see that there were fish in it. I acted as a spotter and told him where to cast. Noticing his technique we got to talking about it. He would cast straight across the pool. He noted his buddy who was an experience spin fisherman instructed him this way. It sort of reminded me of my buddy’ s instruction to me when targeting salmon. noting that the timing of the broad side presentation of the fly is very important to getting a strike.

So, on a couple of occasions I have employed this broad side presentation in tenkara. It is uncanny how it works. Even to fish that know of your presence. After fishing a stretch for an hour …I tried this broad side cross current drag and swing…and picked off two very nice browns.

I have done the same on another outing with large brook trout. Same situation…same result. In both cases the rod is held out at a 45 upstream and cross current. It is an awkward presentation, but it worked in both cases when everything else failed.

Does anyone do this too?
I still am trying to understand why it works, so if anyone can shed more light on it.
It seems to be some sort of irresistible trigger.

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I believe that @Paul_Gaskell talks about this in one of the DT videos that I own (edit: ironically, their “Tenkara Manipulations” video). I don’t recall the name of the technique right now (not do I have the video easily accessible).

Relatively similar to what you say, particularly in flatter, calmer pools when nothing else is working. Basically, when facing down stream, cast at a 90° angle to the stream back and “skate” the fly/kebari across the pool with any variety of manipulations. It can elicit some pretty powerful strikes.


If you find more info please post.

To note too that the presentation of the fly was basically straight perpendicular from my location. I would try to just swing and skate to fish below me, but seemed to work best and convert fish that were at my position. Really strange as it must be the nuance of the swing that gets them jazzed. Like straight across current is better than diagonal or arcing.

In both of my cases it has worked mid run of a moderate current that had structure.

If you have the video, watch it again; if not, consider buying it or borrowing it from a friend, it’s very helpful. I will try and share more later tonight after work.

As a side note. In western FF, swinging flies is very common and effective. Whether true or not I don’t know as I’m not an entomologist. However, I’ve read and been told that the motion supposedly imitates certain species of insects and the motion they make when trying to swim to the surface.

I am not sure which videos I have. Gotta look…and revisit.

entomologist…I am not…but should do my homework on.

There is some note somewhere that you do not need to know about entomology to fish tenkara, but knowing your forage is important to pick your approach. I may not have burned so much time on the wrong presentation or profile…or it may not have mattered. Sometimes zigging is better than zagging.

The rabbit hole gets deeper.

True enough. However, in some circles within western FF, it requires you to have a PhD in it. Haha.

Hahaha, as it inevitably does.

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@Gressak @Peder I do what you described all the time…both on the surface and below. To do it below the surface you have to leave some line on the water and hold your rod lower.

@Peder is right that @Paul_Gaskell shows some of these tacitcs and talks about this in his Manipulations video which I highly recommend.

One of my favorites is letting the fly drift down stream and pulsing upstream and dirfting repeatedly…you sort of twirl the rod like its a magic wand :grin: The pulse part animates the hackle and makes both sound and water disturbance like a bug is trying to emerge and get pulled down…tries and gets pulled down.

I have no idea why these things work :smile:

I have a slow calm pool near my office that on sunny clear days is impossible often to catch a fish on a dead drift. My theory is that…a perfect dead drift is almost impossible (at least by me) and in slow water on a sunny clear day…fish don’t have to “taste” everything in the drift to eat…they have time to “look closer”. The manipulation tactic must to a fish trigger “its alive” “its edible” “its sizable” “hurry up its getting away”…but this could all be me personifying the thinking of a fish.

On very small streams I find fish are much more aggressive. I have heard people say that in tiny streams with current there is much less food so fish must actively feed more. I often find a hit soon after the fly landing or pulsing in some form “notifies” fish in the area to attack!

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I have employed those other tricks too with success. I am sort of noting, on two occasions those tricks which may even be considered more naturalistic would not convert fish. In this case a geometric straight line across current did work…something that is incredibly un-naturalistic for an insect but closer to the motion of a struggling bait fish.

On a side note.
I dead drift slow pools a lot and it does work. It is painfully tedious and really hard to track the fly with no tension. Sometimes no motion at all can be the ticket. The fly needs to be nearly unweighed or appropriately weighed for the pool for it to work and not hang up. There is always the slightest of current and sometimes like the above…its what they want. I use this especially in the colder water, but have also found it to be true later when the water temps do warm up a bit.

Come to think of it. The day we fished together last year I employed that dead drift in a still pool. It was my biggest fish of the day. It was a fish in a still pool. It was suspended about a foot above bottom in a five foot deep pool. The fish was right below me. I dropped it down…pulsed…nada… Skated on top…not a movement. Then I dropped it down and it slowly drifted to the fish…it enhaled it!!! hahhahahaha.

i think it was this fish!


I looked …i do not own that one.

Might be a while before i get around to buying it. Seems like i might be taking the long road to learning …trial and error is a longer road but sometimes more rewarding

Look at that jaw! A gem!!

Yeah that was a beautiful fish. That is your tamo net…not sure if you remember, you were right next to me and did the honors.

We need to get out there again. I got my NY permit last week. Locked and Loaded… My daughter and I hit some NY water on sunday and caught those two browns noted in the thread. She was so excited and insisted on netting them and releasing them herself. I really was hoping she could cast to and land her first on tenkara. So far the fish have not been aggressive enough to take just any presentation. Sort of interesting as all the other traditional fly anglers were struggling as well. I did not see any landed, though one angler said he landed 4 at the same pool we got 2. He had been camped out there for a couple hours. That pool must have had at least two dozen fish in it. It was like a fish stew.

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