Control the Descent - by Joshua Miller

Man kneeling by stream with fly fishing rod in his hand bringing a fish to shore

Identify more takes and catch more fish by controlling how the flies sink

by T&T Ambassador Joshua Miller

Euro nymphing techniques can be technical and multi-dimensional, and this style of fishing can allow us to present flies to fish in many ways. Specifically, one of those ways is controlling how the flies sink through the drift. I call this “controlling the descent”. When conditions are right, sometimes all it takes to catch one or more fish is managing slack and controlling the flies as they sink and drift.

Understand how your flies sink. Drop the flies tied on your setup into the water in front of you. Observe the speed that they fall through the column of the water. This will give you a good idea on how fast they sink and how much time it will take the flies to reach the target depth while fishing. Current, slack, tippet size, fly profile and weight are all factors on sink rate. Having an understanding of how the fly sinks can help us to have a better idea where the fly is during each drift.


Josh Miller tying a fly to his line with a ball cap and waders on standing in a river with a mountain landscape back drop.


Controlling the descent isn’t necessarily easy. Having a good foundation that includes the movement and mechanics of your cast is important to help set you up to control your drift. This could include stopping the rod early, or higher in the air to help manage extra slack. Longer fly rods, like the ZONE 1022 (10’ 2” 2wt) help make managing the line easier. A good cast and rod angle are necessary while trying to control the descent of the flies because you need to have an immediate connection when the flies enter the water. Using the same cast over and over while perfecting your movements will help the angler to be more technical, gain connection even faster and better control each drift.

Keep Connected. Make a cast and try to stay connected directly from rod tip to flies as they enter the water. Then, immediately start to lower the rod at a speed similar to what you witnessed when you watched the flies sink. This will help keep connected with the flies as they descend through the water. Also, make sure to move the rod tip downstream, preferable hovering over or slightly downstream of where the tippet enters the water.

When to control the descent. Active and reactive fish often eat as the flies enter the water, even within the first second of a drift. A controlled descent, or another way of saying it, a connected drift, helps us to identify quick bites. If there is too much slack in your line, these can be hard to identify. Slack, when controlled well, can help flies to sink, but can also easily create a disconnection. I've seen it so often - when I think I’m connected with the flies but actually, I am not. The flies become swept downstream of my sighter, making it very hard to identify a take. Newer anglers can benefit from controlling their descent which helps with connection and leads to better strike detection. Controlling the descent can be especially advantageous while fishing slow and cold water conditions. It can help slow down your presentation, ensure better connection, and help identify soft takes when cold weather can really impact the fish.


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