Written by: Andrew Grillos, Montana Angler Fly Fishing
A fun and effective method of trout fishing is the down-and-across streamer or wet fly swing, and the popularity of trout-Spey fishing in Montana has grown exponentially over the last few years. The simplicity of spending a day stepping down a run, casting and swinging, is a refreshing change from the usual day of trout fishing. The electric “grab” is also a big part of the excitement with swinging flies, since takes are always on a tight line. The down-and-across presentation is fairly passive, as you swing a fly through likely holding water. Then, out of the blue, a trout will aggressively grab the fly in a satisfying and exciting take!
As trout anglers, we tend to bring everything but the kitchen sink when it comes to fly selection and accessories. Trout-spey fishing is a great change because you can leave all the extras at home and just head out with your rod, a sinking tip or two, some leader material, and a small assortment of Spey flies.
The lifetime learning curve associated with fly fishing means there’s always something new to try. Whether it’s in preparation for a big British Columbia steelhead fishing trip or just a new way of catching the fish in your local stream, becoming familiar with two-handed casting is a great new challenge for every fly fisherman. Even the most skilled and experienced anglers enjoy the challenge of learning something new.
Another great reason to try Spey-fishing for trout is that it will make you look at holding water a little differently. Most anglers planning on nymphing a run would head right for the deep, defined transition zone at the head of the run and would likely cover that small section of the run very thoroughly with drift after drift. An angler looking at a run with swinging flies in mind would likely start out standing near the top of the run, but would target the water a bit below the defined seams at the head of the run, then focusing their efforts through the more consistent flow of the middle of the run and all the way to the broad, flat tailout.
Swinging is also a great way to cover the water in many of our larger Montana rivers. The longer casts achieved with longer rods and different casting technique allow the angler to fish their fly through holding water that likely doesn’t get fished by the angler with a single-hand rod. The Missouri, Madison, and Yellowstone Rivers are all examples of large rivers that lend themselves to the swung fly. The long, broad runs of these rivers give the angler a lot of room to continually cast, swing, step, and repeat, as they work their way down the run, as well. The typical rule of thumb is to take a few steps downstream after making each swing, thus fishing downstream rather than typically working your way upstream, as you would while nymphing a run.
The simplicity aspect is another great reason to occasionally go out and just swing flies. Once you’ve got your trout-Spey rod set up and dialed in, all that’s really necessary for a day’s fishing is to bring a spool of leader material and a small assortment of flies. It’s nice leaving the fishing vest or pack at home and just heading out with waders and a couple small items in your pocket.
Swinging flies for trout also forces the angler to slow down a bit and fall into a slower fishing rhythm, focusing on fishing under tension while the fly swings across the current. The short drifts and frequent casts you make while nymphing a run make for a very active and fast-paced day of fishing. The long, slow presentations as the fly swings across a run force the angler to be deliberate and patient, and gives him or her a chance to daydream or look around and enjoy surroundings a bit more. It’s much more relaxing than focusing on a dry fly or a bobber bouncing along the current.
Andrew Grillos is former steelhead guide and trout-Spey convert in Montana.