Trouts Journal

3 Tips For A Drag Free Drift

Ivan Orsic / Oct 5, 2021

As the final months of dedicated dry fly fishing come to a close, it is a good time to take inventory of how well you did this past spring and summer. I will speak for myself here, but I am sure many can agree one aspect of our fly fishing game we can all improve on is our drifts. Specifically, drag-free drifts. For a majority of trout anglers, our opportunities to fish for trout come in two forms, stillwater (Lakes and Ponds) and moving waters, (Rivers, Brooks, Streams). When we look at both of these types of water the easier of the two to achieve a drag-free drift is on stillwaters - and that makes sense right? Typically on stillwaters, you are not dealing with heavy currents, or rapidly changing water depths that you see typically in a moving water system, hence the ability to achieve better drag-free drifts. Sure, sometimes there is wind but, that many times can be a benefit to the angler. However, when you fish moving water systems, there is a multitude of different factors that make presenting a dry fly drag-free a difficult endeavor. Thankfully today we are covering three (3) tips to help you achieve drag-free drifts when fishing moving water. If you are one of those people who is looking to better their drifts for the remaining months of the season look no further than these three tips for a drag-free drift.

" Drag is when your fly is pulled unnaturally on top or through a current in a moving water system. A natural or drag-free drift is when you fly mimics the actual movement in a moving river allowing your fly to drift naturally through a water system. "

When I arrived in Southern Oregon for the first time I believe that it was a total of 12 hours before I found myself putting the car in park at a boat put-in on a section of The Rogue River. With no, knowledge of the river whatsoever I took to wandering around the parking lot and naturally struck up a conversation with a gentleman half-drunk on a bottle of vodka at 10 am to see how the fishing was informing him of my newness to the area. These are my favorite types of people to gather info from, always willing to help but, that is beside the point. As we carried on with the conversation the man told me what flies he had been using and what had been working. As I thanked him for his time, I shook his hand and he looked me in the eye and said "MEND LIKE HELL AND YOU'LL FIND EM". Sometimes it is moments like this that stick with you and make an impact. From that point on, I mended and mended my line and naturally more fish found my fly. It should go without saying that mending your line is the single most important aspect when it comes to achieving drag-free drifts. If you take anything away from this post it is to "MEND LIKE HELL". If you are unaware of what mending is, mending is the act of using your fly rod to lift up your line on the water and reposition it. For example, if you standing in a river and the opposite bank is at you 12 o'clock and you want to drift your fly downstream, you will be making an upstream mend. In short, you most always want to mend the opposite direction of where the current is flowing. A little tip in order to see if you are mending properly is to keep an eye on your fly and adjacent bubbles or debris. If your fly is moving faster than the bubble or debris, MEND! If your fly is moving at the same speed as those bubbles or debris it is a good sign that your fly is moving with a drag-free drift. Proper mending takes time and is one of those things that can only be learned through time on the water. Take some time this fall put yourself in some moving water and MEND LIKE HELL.


When it comes to achieving a drag-free drift, increasing the amount of tippet you have on the surface of the water and decreasing the amount of fly line is the secret to success. When you examine tippet it is actually the only piece of rigging material with a constant diameter, everything else is tapered. Since your tippet has a constant diameter, if it is cast properly, the tippet will want to lay on the water in curves. The curves or "slack" in the tippet will help your fly maintain a natural drift - while the current tries to straighten out your section of tippet - and keep with the current without being pulled in unnatural ways. When we look at fly line, the weight of the fly line in comparison to the tippet is the killer here. That is why having less fly line out on the surface of the water is a benefit. If you have more fly lines than tippet out on the water's surface the current will naturally pull the heavy fly line and pull your tippet swinging your fly in an unnaturally in the water. Hopefully, this all makes sense here. It can get a little techy. Like the tip mentioned above the best way to practice this is time on the water.


How you position yourself on a river, plays a major factor in the two tips mentioned above. In some cases, your position on the water could very much eliminate the reason for the need for the two tips mentioned above. This tip might seem pretty intuitive to many but, sometimes the most simple ideas in fly fishing are overlooked. Before you step foot in a river, make sure you give the section of river you are wading into a good look. By doing this you will see where the heavy currents, the soft seams, and the back pools are. Once you have identified these sections, you are better equipped to make a decision of whether or not you should cast upstream, quarter your fly downstream, or cast right across the river. Also, adapting your position while fishing a section will benefit you as well. If you are in a section of river and not seeing any fish eat your fly do not just cast in one direction. Change it up!

It should be noted that the ability to recognize drag is an important skill and should be something every angler pays attention to. It may sound a little crazy but, it can be as serious as you catching fish or not. I hope you all enjoyed todays' read and if you have any questions or concerns regarding today's read shoot me an email at

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