Short casts are best for preventing drag

How to deal with drag—one of the most basic, yet vexing fly-fishing challenges


When imitating a drifting insect, the goal is a natural, drag-free drift

My first time fly fishing, I caught almost a dozen little brown and rainbow trout on a dry fly. And it only happened because I didn’t know what I was doing. I was about 15 years old and sort of knew how to cast, but had no idea where to cast. Yet there I was, standing by a small river in the late-afternoon sun, watching fish rising. With a boldness born of youth and ignorance, I tied on a dry fly and made a cast. The fly promptly landed in the middle of the river, where slack line piled up behind it thanks to my poor technique and ancient, soft-action fibreglass rod.

Then the darndest thing happened: because of all that slack, the fly drifted naturally down the feeding lane, and a fish took it. Then it happened again and again after every few casts. I’d stumbled onto a solution for one of the most common problems when fly fishing in rivers: getting a drag-free drift. At the time, though, I didn’t really understand what I’d done, and remained foggy about what drag actually was, and what to do it about it, until sometime later. If you’re wrestling with the same thing, here’s a primer on dealing with drag.