Take a close look at this photo, and you can probably guess the challenge at hand. This is from the White River in Colorado. There are rainbow trout eating mayflies on the surface of the slack water directly beneath the bridge.


Unfortunately, the water between me and the rising fish is too deep to wade in, and it’s moving faster than my target water, which makes a drift presentation tricky. One other complicating factor: There’s a stiff breeze blowing from downstream-up (that’s right to left in the photo). How do we tackle this one? Here are three tips that will help..
1. I use a spotter fly** to help me pick up the subtle takes in choppy water. In this case, I tie on a size #10 Stimulator, and then trail a size #18 Parachute Adams (the fly I expect the fish to eat) about 18 inches off the hook shank of the top fly, with 5X tippet. The Stimulator is for me, the Adams is for the fish; if I see any splash or rise near the fly I can see well, I set the hook.

2. I use a reach cast. Sure, I could sidearm cast under the bridge, but the wind and current make that tricky. I don’t want my flies trailing the line downstream, because the current will quickly grab the line and drag the flies. A reach cast is a simple overhead cast, but at the last instant, I reach my casting arm across my body (upstream). In effect, I’m mending the line while it is still in the air. I cast to the side of the bridge, then drop the line under the bridge with a sideways motion.

3. I drive my flies to the surface, which might cause them to land with a splash, but in this choppy water, that’s okay. I want to pinpoint my flies directly in the run, and I don’t want that wind blowing them off target.

In the end, you might get yourself a mere two-second drift. But a drift that shows those flies floating helplessly, naturally, for two seconds is far better than a sloppy drift that lasts five seconds or more.

In this case, I caught seven small rainbows. Whenever you come upon a bridge, take your time to look for rising trout. Bridges can be a dry fly fisher’s best friend… provided you know how to work the right cast and drift.