Story last updated at 9/25/2013 - 1:36 pm
Nothing beats a quality presentation. Whether it's a keynote speaker at a national conference or a soliloquy that transitions smoothly into the main act of a theatre play, it's the power of the presentation that captures the audience and sets the stage for all events to come. The same can be said in fly-fishing; it's the presentation that catches fish because it's the presentation that sets the table for your drift. And a good drift is hard to resist - even by fish standards.
In fly-fishing, there are many types and styles of presentations. For example, there are surface presentations and sub-surface presentations. In Southeast Alaska, we commonly use the traditional wet fly presentation that can either be fished on the surface or sunk deeply using tips or heads. Here the angler casts the fly down and across the stream and the angler controls the fly as it swings or swims broadside 45-degrees across the flow of the current. Another group of presentations are nymph presentations. These presentations set up the fly, usually an egg pattern, bead or alevin, to drift below the surface, allowing the fly to tumble naturally with the current at a specified depth. Still, regardless of which type of presentation we choose to use, all fly-fishing presentations share a common theme and that is to be perfect, for it is a perfect presentation that will capture a fish's attention and entice it to eat or grab our fly offering and that is the primary goal.
Perfect presentations come from experience and hours of on the water practice. Well-seasoned anglers are notorious for making perfect presentations. On the surface, it might seem to most fly anglers that they are just excellent casters or simply find themselves in the better fishing spots, but if you stop to observe them and dissect their methodology and technique, it will quickly become clear that they know exactly what they are doing and that every cast they make has a very specific objective. This objective is to achieve the perfect drift, and a perfect drift is set in motion by the presentation.
One way to become more proficient with your presentations is simply to take some time before you cast to mentally think through your entire presentation. This mental, Zen-like preparation can be viewed in two parts. First, stop and read the water. While reading the water, mentally map where "you" believe the fish might be holding and use this as a target location to concentrate your drift. Second, mentally design your cast from your casting armamentarium and also note any specific mends that you might need in order to drift your fly into that zone. This analytical process needs to be done before you begin your actual presentation. Over time, this initial "mental" preparation and thinking through your drift will become autonomic. Even so, this thought process is so fundamentally important and is the basis for achieving the perfect presentation and drift that many of the industry's most acclaimed fly anglers and guides consider it a lesson worth revisiting.
Now that we've discussed the thought process that leads up to your presentation and any mends that you might also need to ensure that your fly drifts to your target, let's examine a few additional subtleties that round out a perfect presentation. Generally speaking, most seasoned fly anglers will all agree that presentation has nothing to do with the particular fly that you are casting, but instead refers to style and how you fish. It's more about tactical awareness and the angler's ability to control the drifting fly. In other words, your tactical senses need to know that your fly is drifting with the current - being moved solely by the river - and not being dragged by your leader or even worse, swinging erratically like a serpent from a bowing fly line. And finally, only allow the water to move your fly while you act as a director and simply act to control it. You control the drift of your fly by angling and adjusting your body, leading with your fly rod, or directing the fly line and leader with your rod tip. Remember, you control the drift, but the river always moves the fly.
Good luck and tight lines!
Rich Culver is a fly-fishing freelance writer and photographer. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.