We’re back with more steelhead fishing nuggets from Scott Baker-McGarva at BC West.
This post contains the words “Jerry Wintle” and “Dean River” and that means that if you like steelhead, you should read it and learn!
Cast, Step, Swing – Like Jerry
Many, many moons ago, on my first trip to the legendary Dean River, I observed the nearly immortal and iconic Canadian fly flinger, one Jerry Wintle. Jerry stories riddled my Junior Steelheader days – stories of Jerry, usually with a fly purloined from somebody else’s fly box, picking everybody’s pocket, often with a dry line and ratty leader, a Hardy reel older than dirt, and a smile.
So to sit on a riverside log and watch was him was enlightening, and I wasn’t alone. Another camper sat beside me and we marvelled at the speed and rhythm with which Jerry fished down the run. The camper noticed his off-handed (cack-hand) casting, subtle yet minimal mending, and sure-footedness. I noticed he walked his swing. Every one of them.
Jerry never stayed put for longer than needed to cast. He didn’t four step the run, but rather made a cast, and added a quick mend. He then fiddled around for his always-present wading staff, all the while holding his rod left handed over the water, (river flowing left to right). Once in his hand, his wade steadied, Jerry stepped twice with his swing, dropped the staff, switched hands on the rod, and led the fly to the beach. He caught fish Jerry did…several at that.
In a purely technical analysis, Jerry’s stepped, or walked swing, did three things. It slowed the fly’s travel through the swing (it hung the fly in the fish window longer), it allowed the fly to sink slightly more, and it covered more water. Jerry swept down the enormous Ross Island run in seemingly mere minutes, and when finished, waded out, offered some small talk and “how many’s?” and walked back to the top.
In a sunk line presentation, walking the swing becomes even more critical, since the line sink rate is improved and the swing speed slowed. Adding in a feed of slack line while sweeping the rod to follow the line further dredges the depths and slows the presentation.
Of course the final benefit is key – cover the water. This is especially true in rotational angling. Get moving, fish through the run – you can always go back to the top and switch up your presentation on the next pass. Three times last week alone, I found a fish on my third pass through a piece of water. Having your foot stuck in the rocks or growing roots rarely pays off, plus others can get rather annoyed if they are behind you and you are painfully slow. Besides, moving along saves you from being the the subject of fireside jokes and ridicule.
It pays to be like Jerry.