Deeter: The Lost Art of Swinging Wet Flies

In my family, there was a rule that little kids who were just learning to fly fish used wet flies. … Continued

In my family, there was a rule that little kids who were just learning to fly fish used wet flies. Only after you got old enough, big enough, and smart enough, were you allowed to switch over to dry flies and head upstream.

I suppose that tradition was borne of safety concerns… after all, if you’re going to send little fellers (and gals) wandering off into the river, it’s a good idea to have them walking with the current.

But the more I fish, the more I realize an ulterior motive to Grandfather’s rule. Traditional wet fly fishing is one of the oldest forms of the practice… and done right, it will teach you a lot about where trout hold in a river, and how they pounce on emerging insects. Sadly, I now fear that wet fly fishing has largely been forgotten, especially out West. Guides are so quick to set clients up with a double nymph rig and a yarn bobber. Sure, that works… but what are anglers really learning and feeling?

I wonder how many fly fishers are willing to take a chunk of their weekend visit to the Madison, or the Little Manistee, or the West Branch of the Delaware, to swing a Silver Doctor, Pink Lady, or a Governor fly. Heck, most of you probably don’t even know what those flies look like, they’re so far removed from the modern lexicon… but they still work.

I know, because I just spent a day fishing my favorite Colorado river in a way I hadn’t done in years… sweeping wet flies along the banks, and in front of boulders in the stream. Funny thing is, I think I caught more fish that way than I think I would have with dry flies, streamers, or nymphs. Cast… mend… let the flies sink… sweep the target… and make a twitch or two. You’ll feel it when it happens. In this day and age, it’s almost liberating. It brought me back, full circle, to where it all started. And it felt really good. Is anyone else a fan of retro wet flies?

Deeter