A Primer on Mending for New Fly Fishers

Now mend your line.” Those words from Bob Granger, one of my fly fishing mentors, still ring in my ears. I needed all the help I could get on mending for new fly fishers.

Curtis, another fly fishing guide, recently said: “Better menders catch more fish than better casters.” I am convinced he is right. So here is a quick primer on mending for new fly fishers.

What is mending?

Once your fly line is floating down the river or stream, mending is simply flipping the mid-section of the line upstream of your fly line.

So if the current is flowing from right to left, flip the mid-section of the line to the right. The end result is that your fly line should resemble the letter “C” as it floats down the river — with the back of the “C” on the upstream side of the current.

Why is mending for new fly fishers important?

Mending is critical because it eliminates drag.

If the mid-section of your line gets ahead of your fly, it will drag it through the current. Your dry fly will resemble a water-skier, leaving a wake that will send trout scattering for cover. Your wet fly will zoom through the current more quickly than any nymph normally drifts through it.

The point, then, is to get a natural drift. Your fly should look like a normal morsel floating freely on top or underneath the surface.

When is mending important?

The answer is, almost every cast. Every cast needs to be mended at some point.

It’s possible to put a mend in the line during your cast. On your forward cast, simply draw the letter “C”—normally if the current is going from left to right or backwards if the current is moving from right to left. Otherwise, you will almost always need to mend your line once it lands on the water.

How can I avoid disturbing fish while mending?

First, do your mending well before the fly enters the hot zone. If you are casting a dry fly to rising fish, cast well above this spot. If you are nymph fishing or even dry fly fishing when nothing is rising, then cast well above the zone where you figure the fish will feeding.

Second, practice mending so you don’t disturb your dry fly or your strike indicator. The first few times you try to mend your line, you’ll probably jerk your fly or strike indicator a couple inches.

Of course, that’s not the end of the world if you’re mending well before your fly reaches the hot zone. But it’s best to eliminate this. You’ll get a feel for it with more practice, but the key is to lift up as much fly line as you can from the water before you make your mend.

How can I mend longer casts?

The more line you have on the water, the more difficult it is to mend it effectively with a single mend. Longer casts require multiple mends, depending on the current. By multiple, I mean two or three — not seven or eight! Instead of trying to mend the entire line in one flip, concentrate on moving the section closest to you. Then move the rest of it in another mend or two.

What is stack mending?

You can also use the technique of multiple mending to create “stack mends.” Stack mending refers to the creation of successive loops of line on the water. This allows for a much longer drift before your fly ever begins to drag. You might be surprised at how many trout you’ll catch towards the end of a long drift. Stack mending makes longer drifts possible.

So don’t just stand there after you make a cast. Do something. Mend that line.

The fish will not thank you, because you’ll fool them more often. But you will be a more satisfied fly fisher.

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