by T. Edward Nickens



I learned to swing fish on a Southern shad river. Neither my buddy nor I could afford a motorboat, so we anchored our canoe behind river boulders and hurled homemade lead-core lines. Our shad darts swung into current seams that trailed downriver. Primarily a flyfishing technique, swing fishing is also deadly on river smallmouths when fishing with spinning tackle.

Fly Basics:
Pick your pattern–a Zonker for trout, a crayfish fly for smallies, or a Clouser for stripers. Cast down-and-across into the fast water. As the line swings into the current seam, adjust depth with the rod tip. (A high rod tip puts tension in the line for a slower sink rate, and vice versa.) As the cast straightens, point the rod tip toward where the line disappears. Let the fly dangle there for a count of three, then retrieve line using short strips or longer pulls.

The Crosshairs:
Target specific lies by allowing the fly to drift into a position so the swing carries it into a feeding lane slightly upstream of a log or boulder. Drop the rod tip sharply, and the fly could fall right into a fish’s mouth.
Spinning Tackle_:
Guide tube jigs into cover. As the lure swings into the current, alternately raise and lower the rod tip to position the lure upstream or down, or to adjust its speed by pulling it into slower or faster currents. For downstream adjustments, open the bail briefly and let the river pull line for a new swing trajectory.

From the May 2012 issue of Field & Stream magazine.

Illustration by Robert Prince