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How To Fish Runs Or Glides For Trout - Part 1

Fishing water in runs (often called 'Glides') can often be the most therapeutic of all forms of trout fishing. Water flow is slower than in riffles, current lines are usually reasonably easy to see, and mostly it should be a relaxing water to fish.

Downstream fishing runs

Basic downstream fishing in runs

Could not be easier - toss a cast across the river, let the lure or wet fly sink as it travels down the far bank. Then let the fly or lure swing across the river, and once it is below you, twitch the fly back toward you with a twitching retrieve.

Actually if the current is even between both banks of the river, and the bottom is about the same depth right across the river then it is about that easy. And if you fish a whole run like this taking a few steps downstream between each cast it can be a very relaxing way to fish. Occasionally this method catches some fish too!

In fact I fished with an Englishman who took this way of fishing to a whole new level. He would get in the river at the head of a run, wade out to the centre, and cast downstream. Then he would wade slowly down the river, slowly swinging his rod to one side or the other, or moving himself from one side of the river to the other, swinging his lure into or past every nook and cranny. He caught fish - lots of fish. He only recast after landing a fish.

Increasing catch rates requires placing the fly or lure in front of more fish more often. So before just casting away across a run, or walking down the middle of it, consideration needs to be given to where the fly or lure needs to be.

Hopefully, before you actually started fishing the run, you will have done some reconnoitering, and either found a fish or two, or identified some probable lies. If you 'map' these fish or lies in your mind using bank-side features, you will make placing your fly or lure in the right place much easier.

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Fly-fishing Runs Downstream

How a run is fished depends almost entirely on the depth and speed of the water:

Cast, sink, swing and retrieve sequence

The technique for using each of these line and leader combinations is much the same. Cast across the river, and as soon as the line hits the water, flick in an upstream mend. Lift the rod tip high above your head to lift as much of the line off the water as possible.

The aim of the immediate upstream mend, and lifting the line off the water, is to allow the lure and/or the line to sink as quickly and deeply as possible, before the push of the current starts the line swinging across the river.

This is the key to successful downstream fishing.

The fly-line and the fly must be placed in the correct position to ensure that the fly swings across the face of the trout. It must be placed in that position before the fly begins its swing. It is virtually impossible to adjust the swing of a fly once the swing has begun.

Quick Tip
Lure Speed

If you are using a new lure for the first time, you need to find out how much lure speed is required to gain a good action.
For instance many ‘spinning’ lures are not designed to spin. Rather they are designed to wobble. Even lures with spinning blades are best retrieved at a rate that just allows the blade to 'flop' over - retrieving so the blade spins like whirling Dervish will give plenty of exercise but no fish.

To gauge how much speed is enough, cast out a short distance, and retrieve the lure so that you can see how much speed is required to gain a good action.

As the fly-line begins to straighten below the angler with the pull of the flow of water, begin to lower the rod tip, until the tip is just a few centimetres off the surface of the water. Follow the line around with the rod tip as the line and fly swing across the river.

Once the fly has swung across the river, it can be retrieved upstream in a slow, jerking and twitching manner for a few metres then picked up and recast. Some prefer to retrieve the line to the point where the fly-line is nearly all back on the rod. In my experience this is pretty much a waste of time, and more importantly it diminishes the time the fly spends in the productive water.

I usually only retrieve the line for 5 or 6 pulls, then quickly strip the line in for the next cast.

Strike detection

Strike detection is usually not a problem when fishing downstream like this. Most often the trout moves to grab the fly, either as it swings past, or as it starts to be twitched upstream. The line is usually tight to the angler, rather than the slack built into the nymph technique. Most often the fish either grabs it and it gets hooked or it does not. One of the joys of downstream fishing is the usually much more sudden and powerful strikes.

But, there are times when fish take flies fished downstream like maiden aunts sipping tea with the Vicar - very delicately. So careful attention to what the line is doing is important.

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Spin fishing runs downstream

Fishing spinning tackle downstream is much the same as fishing fly-fishing gear. Cast across the run, leave a little slack on the water to allow the lure to sink, then allow the lure to come up tight and begin to swing. In shallow or slow moving runs some winding may be necessary to stop the lure hooking up to the bottom, but it is important to remember that most lures need little speed to provide a good action.

Once the swing is complete, wind the lure upstream with an irregular wind.

A variation is to use a lead-head jig with a soft-plastic bait. Cast across, as above, and allow the jig to sink but as the jig swings lift the rod tip a little (15cm or so) and quickly drop the rod tip back towards the water. Repeat this yo-yo motion right across the swing. Once the swing is complete, begin winding in, but regularly pause to allow the jig to fall to the bottom.

Downstream fishing nymphs and dry flies

Downstream fishing a dry fly or nymph

Most nymph and dry fly-fishing is done by casting the line upstream, and then letting the fly drift back towards the angler in the most natural way possible. But it is not the only way.

Sometimes for a variety of reasons it is impossible to get into a position to cast a fly upstream to a fish or probable lie. So presenting a fly downstream to the fish may be the only option, but this does not necessarily mean using wet flies/lures or wet-fly-fishing methods.

The technique is relatively easy, and similar for both nymph and dry fly. Make a short cast downstream, ensuring that you have plenty of loose line in your line hand. At the end of the cast when the fly-line is still in the air, give the rod tip a couple of slow twitches side to side. Twenty or so centimetres should do the trick. This should throw two or three short ‘S’ curves in the fly-line, just above the leader.

Quick Tip Let the Nymph Rise

At the end of the drift, if you are using a nymph, allow the line to come up tight and lift the nymph up from the bottom. It is amazing how often the fly gets hits as it lifts toward the surface. It may look like a natural nymph making its way to the surface.

The trick is to feed enough of the loose line in your line hand, by small flicks of the rod tip, to allow the nymph or dry fly to drift downstream in a dead drift. That is at the same rate as the current. The key to achieving this is to maintain the small ‘S’ curves in the fly-line just ahead of the leader. If the ‘S’s are there the nymph or fly is drifting without being pulled.

At the end of the drift let the line straighten, and if nymphing give the nymph time to rise to the surface.

The greatest difficulty faced when fishing by this downstream method is how to achieve a good hook-set.

There is so much slack in the system that setting the hook can be tricky. Once again use the rod tip close to the water to ‘strike’. Sweep the rod in a big arc, starting with the rod tip close to the water in front of you, and ending with the rod tip still close to the water, out full arm stretch 90 degrees from your body. At the same time pull on any loose line using the line hand. Actually I use this striking method all the time, [here is why].

Fishing runs - [Part 2]


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