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The Importance of Lightweight Flies and Tackle

Published: 11th April 2022 | Author: Eric Kelley

I’ve been fortunate enough to relocate back to my home state of Pennsylvania. I now call Central PA my home. I’ve been looking forward to the Spring of the year for so many reasons here in PA. But, fishing is by far and away the #1 activity I’ve been obsessed about. Since coming home I’ve been really successful fishing lightweight flies and tackle. And, I want to share that success with you.

I know I know, “But you guys have a ton of flies that offer oversized beads!” Yep, we do and there’s good reason for that. Heavier flies do catch a ton of fish when used with the correct methods. This is no secret. Heck, I carry a ton of patterns on me that are very heavy. Sometimes, though the water you’re fishing just doesn’t call for those types of flies. So, to help you understand where and when I use what flies and techniques, I broke down a day of spring fishing.

A Stealth Box loaded with a range of fly weights.

Spring Is Here

With early spring in full-swing, BWO’s have been making their appearance. I love fishing every stage of a baetis hatch but, I particularly love nymphing it. I’ve been thinking about a certain stream nearby that is notorious for fish holding tight to the bank. They’re in the shallowest pockets and runs you can imagine. Fooling these fish can sometimes be easy with traditional methods but, I’ve really been enjoying light line methods with lightly weighted nymphs. I knew for certain that applying these methods is certainly the way to go about things on this particular water.

Mostly, what I’m using as far as tackle when using these methods are the Hardy Ultralite LL 10’8” 0-2wt or my Hanak Superb XP 10’ 3wt.

My leader build is one of two things: a custom hand tied French leader (which I only use when fishing one fly to super picky fish) or a micro-leader build which is usually a 25’ level section of 6lb mono, connected to about 12” of FM Sighter material and then straight to my tippet which is either 7x or 6x Masterclass Fluorocarbon. Why the light tippet you may ask? Well, the finer your tippet the less resistance it has when cutting through the surface film and sinking. This is especially true for fluorocarbon. If you think about it, the currents have less to grab when fishing so fine so in turn, this allows your flies to sink quickly.

Soft Pockets

If soft shallow water lightweight flies and tackle make all the difference.

Small soft pockets are not an uncommon sight on the waters I fish. They always hold a bunch of fish no matter the time of day. I managed to pull three fish from these two pockets with an up-stream presentation while casting two mini perdigon style flies tied with 2.0mm tungsten beads. When I approach structure like this (or any stream structure), I break it down by placing a small grid over the area I intended to fish, and make sure to fish every square as thoroughly as I can. It sounds silly and a bit geeky but I’m out to catch fish. I want to be as efficient as possible and doing this really makes me focus on presentation.

This fish came right out of that soft pocket.

These soft pockets offer the angler great opportunities to spot fish but, at the same time also allow the fish a crystal-clear pocket to see into the world above. Keeping your distance and your profile low can allow for you to catch fish that dwell in these lies. The truth is, you wouldn’t be able to catch these fish with heavily weighted flies. The entry of your flies into these pockets or even the surrounding water will scatter these fish in a heartbeat. Believe me, I’ve seen it play out numerous times before. It’s frustrating! Small flies with just a bit of weight are the key here.

Slow Glides & Side Channels

Water tailor made for lightweight flies and tackle.

Side channels such as the one pictured above will always hold fish depending on time of day and structure within. Notice how in the first picture the main current out to the right of the target area is moving at a very steady pace. However, the water dramatically slows on the glide to the left below the fallen tree. This is a prime lie for fish. What it does is a couple of things: It provides a resting place from the main current and an easy spot to set up for eating anything that comes into view without the fish expending much energy.

You can fish this using a handful of different methods with a nymph setup. Floating your sighter with an upstream presentation from directly below is a very good option. However, I like to approach such runs from the opposite bank and fish the section from a downstream angle of 45 degrees or so. I feel that this gives me the best way to pick through the glide from bottom to top.

Another great soft ideal for lightweight flies and tackle.

The second picture is actually one of my go-to spots for a quality fish or two. It’s just a textbook lie for trout to ambush anything they may deem as food. Notice how soft that water is in the target area. There’s much current flowing through there at all. Personally, the way I approach this one is from the opposite bank. Because of the brushy overhang at the top of the lie, making your approach from a slight downstream angle and fishing up gives you the best advantage for a couple reasons.

First, you can gauge your cast a bit better to avoid getting hung up in the brush. Second, a slightly downstream approach is always better for this type of target water because you get a better drift and are able to make a better presentation with your flies. And, you’re behind the fish’s field of view which again, as in the first “soft pockets” bit I just wrote about, is advantageous for the angler.

This fish was the first of many from the soft glide in the picture above. As before, two tiny nymphs placed carefully as I worked through the lie from bottom to top were exactly what the fish were looking for.

Shallow Riffles

Sometimes these set ups can be some of the most difficult. At the same time, they entice you the most when you see them. Many times, I’ve watched anglers walk right through where they should be fishing while on their way to fish what they think is the prime part of the lie, the middle. This little riffle accompanied with its two soft side pockets was absolutely stuffed with fish. What’s even more funny is this little
“by-way” off the main river doesn’t exist in the summer months. But on this day fish we’re lined up looked for drifting nymphs on the left and right of the main current pictured here. Would you like to guess what they were after? The micro perdigon set-up. The up-stream method from directly below the run is what gave me the best option to fool these fish.

Big fish can sit in unlikely water.

Some of the biggest fish sit in the most unlikely water you can imagine. This was the biggest fish taken from the shallow riffle above. It was the last fish that came to net and was sitting in the soft water to the right of the main current pictured above.

Some recommendations as far as flies go from our catalog for these types of angling methods are:

Tech Junkie Perdigon

Weiss’ BP Light & Dark

Jakes SH Perdigon

Flashback PTN

Also, Look for some more new additions to the line-up later this season!

In parting, I would like to urge the readers to experiment with lightweight flies and tackle when you come across some of these stream structures that I’ve mentioned. By using a micro diameter leader, accompanied with a section of hi-viz sighter, this allows you to be incredibly versatile when making your presentations in shallows, soft currents, and small pockets.

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