Shorter Drifts - More Fish

Shorter Drifts - More Fish. It may be a bit counterintuitive. You so often read about the wonderful long drifts you can get with a tenkara rod. I am convinced you would be better off concentrating on short drifts instead. This is definitely true with respect to fishing nymphs and it's probably true with respect to wets as well.

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I've written about this before (probably several times) but a couple weekends ago was another case in point. I have been fishing with a tenkara rod (or equivalent) for almost seven years now. A very large percentage of my catches have been as I was picking up the fly to make another cast. On the day that prompted this essay, a solid two thirds of my fish came as I was picking up for the next cast.

On some days, nearly all the fish I catch are just THERE when I pick up for a new cast. (As an aside, when that happens, you do not need an aggressive hook set.) Because I fan the area with casts, take a step or two and fan again, every fish that takes my fly at the end of the drift has had at least one if not two drifts past his location already. (If I was fishing 20' drifts, he might have had seven or eight drifts right past his nose.) Why did he choose to hit only as I was picking up for the next cast?

I think it's because as you pick up for the next cast the fly looks like an ascending nymph. It's the same principle behind the Leisenring Lift or the Kite "Induced Take." Unless you are extremely quick in picking up to start the back cast, a nearby fish can grab the fly before it reaches the surface. Although much is made in tenkara circles of pulsing the fly, a fly ascending to the surface is a much more natural motion than a rhythmic pulsing!

Getting back to the idea of short drifts, if your average drift lasts four seconds, over the course of a day you pick up for a new cast twice as many times as you would if your average drift lasts eight seconds and three times as many times as you would with extended 12 second drifts. I believe a similar strategy (and for similar reasons) is one of the factors behind the extreme success of French Nymphing. Shorter drifts = more pick ups for back casts = more Leisenring Lifts = more strikes. Simple as that.


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I just had to go to the "lab" to test out your theory. I was in a smallish brook wading waist deep in some areas. I saw some small black stoneflies but couldn't get a take on nymphs and I didn't see any surface takes so while I was trying to figure out what to do I tied on a # 14 Killer Kebari.

I moved to another section and got a hit, on the lift. In the course of 3 1/2 hours of fishing two pools I caught eight nice brookies 10-12" , had 2 LDR's and missed two strikes. Every single fish was taken on the lift.

I didn't have a single strike as I was letting the Kebari come down the stream or cruising along the bottom prior to the lift commencing.

Brad C, Massachusetts


The Heart of America Fly Fishers had Kelly Galloup in for an all day seminar. He spent a lot of time on nymphing, both tactics and rigs.

Basically he said study the water, be stealthy, get close, cast short, keep the line tight and only fish three foot sections of a stream at a time. He also likes Amnesia sighters rather than indicators and said bugs only go up never down.

That guy so needs a Kiyose.

Alan L, Missouri