The Quest for the Perfect Drift

Tactical trout fishing with POWER STRIKE Tapered leaders, by Álvaro G. Santillán

If there is something that obsess me as much as rising trout it is definitely a perfect long natural drift. It is a kind of art and art does not come easy. I love it though and I can enjoy of every drift close to perfection I am able to produce, despite the result. However, when the jury approves my piece, that is my kind of fly fishing climax. I may confess that quite often, I catch trout with not even close to perfect drifts and… it is not the same.

Anyway, all us, avid trout anglers, may agree that the closer to perfection is our drift, the higher the chances of hooking into a nice trout. There are many factors involved in our presentation. No matter which of them we choose, it would take more than a blog post to get the proper approach: fly casting, reading water, trout behavior, entomology, river tactics, tackle and even fly tying has its own part on this game.

In this post I would want to take a closer look to what it is for me the most important part of our gear when it comes to presentation: the leader + tippet. In my experience, the leader is the key in our set up to avoid dragging, which basically will bring us closer to the “perfect” natural drift. Usually, most of the insects are not skating by the surface, right? When we try to fight against that invisible enemy, the drag, slack line is our best friend. In fact, when I am guiding beginners, I try to show them how to stretch all the line when they are casting, but as soon as they get that step, I try to teach them how to avoid that, presenting their fly with precision but creating curves and slack line at the same time.

The most useful slack in the line that will avoid drag is the one that is close to the fly. Of course, a concrete amount of slack line in a ripple, current or whatever that is pushing will help, but in the end, all that tension could be absorbed by the slack placed closer to our fly. And I bring good news, because our Power Strike leaders can do that job for us! A long leader and specially a long tippet that, because its parallel thiner profile, will not be able to transmit the remaining energy of the cast, so it will collapse and create lots of slack line just where we want it, near the fly. Of course, it could affect your accuracy, but with a good casting technique and some practice, you will have it under control very soon under any circumstances.

During many years, I tied and designed my own leaders, using nylon of different diameters and boiling it to get the leader stretch I was searching for. The profile of the tippet is crucial when we want to play with leader set ups that can go up to 27´ (8 meters long including the tippet) and I wanted to have enough mass in the butt section decreasing at the right speed to control the turn over of all the front section. Those leaders are effective, but they are build with many sections, which means many knots and of course, time to build them. Nowadays, since I trust on the design of the Guideline Power Strike leaders, my set up has become easier and in addition I have a cleaner and safer leader, without those annoying knots.

Basically these Power Strike leaders have the perfect balance and profile to build your own set up, adding one or two peaces of tippet to get the I always add some extra sections. They are build with that purpose on mind and they are perfect to length them up. Depending on the scenery, the kind of water I am fishing and the behavior of the fish. I choose between the 9´ and 12´ versions and the thickness of the front part. The thickness of the front part is obviously related to the thickness of the tippet I am going to add, so for example if I want a 5X tippet, usually I would go to a 4X or 3X Power Strike tapered leader.

The election of the length of the leaders, which is proportional to the final length I want to achieve, comes to the scenario and the conditions I am fishing, as well as the kind of fly I am using (weight, volume…) and sometimes it is also important to think about the behavior of the fish we are targeting, fishing pressure, etc… The longer the leader+tippet, the subtler the presentation will be, of course. If I want to get a set up around 15´ to 18´, I will choose the Power Strike 9´ and if I am going longer than 18´, I would choose the 12´ version.

The overall compensation of the leader is important, but the length of the tippet for me is the key. As I explained, the closer the slack line is to the fly, the most effective will be avoiding drag and with an extra long parallel, thin section, we will get it for sure. Of course we can’t go crazy with it and we have to find the proper balance. Usually I add between 6 to 10 feet of tippet, depending on the conditions. With conditions, I am not only including the ones mentioned previously, I also play with the length of my tippet when I am not getting the desired drift and I am getting some drag or tension in the fly that is possibly affecting to my success.

For example, if I am casting to a concrete spot and I am noticing some drag or some unnatural behavior in the fly… and I am located in the best place to avoid dragging and I am doing my best presentation cast to get a proper drift, and even with that, I can’t get a good enough drift, I will length my tippet up. And many times it will do the trick or at least, it will add a couple of seconds to the natural drift before the drag enter in action. And sometimes that is the time we need to get the reaction of the fish.

Summing it up, use your leader in your advance, get the best of it and create your own strategy. Don’t be afraid of use longer leaders or tippet and get the advantage of the design of the GL Power Strike tapered leaders. Its tailor made tapered design suits most of the case scenarios out there, thanks to its turn over potential is the perfect companion when creating our own set up, searching for longer, well balanced and accurate leaders.

Tight lines / Álvaro G. Santillán

Leave a Reply