Michael Bales, Head Guide, Alaska Rainbow Lodge

by Michael Bales
Head Guide at Alaska Rainbow Lodge


Guide Confessions: Cast and mend, mend again, mend again. Set the hook!

The Alaska Rainbow Lodge guides are legendary for putting clients on the fish. We guide many of the best fly fishermen in the world as well as first-timers. So why do some fisherman (pros and novices) tend to catch more fish than others? In our home waters, it’s all about the drift. The perfect drift is almost impossible for a hungry Leopard Rainbow or Salmon to resist. On the other hand, a poorly presented offering will be ignored again and again, even though you’re standing in the river with hundreds of fish literally at your feet! This is absolutely a fact whether you’re dry fly fishing or fishing sub surface with nymphs. So let’s get sharp on the cast, mend and hook-set techniques you’ll want to practice, or just think about, before you come to the Alaska Rainbow Lodge.

Making a long spectacular cast is rarely required. (It’s fun, I know, but rarely required) So cast your fly 45 degrees upstream. Mend the fly line upstream immediately. Wait a moment, now mend the line again upstream. If needed, because of fast water, mend the line again. We’re looking to create a nice s-curve in the fly line above the fly. This will accomplish two things: a totally natural drift of the fly and minimal slack in the line for a quick hook set.

This process of casting and mending to create an s-curve above the fly is 99% of the technique we use on our home waters. Our guides are experts in this technique and will help you perfect this, if you ask. The bottom line is that you’ll catch a lot more fish by getting this drift dialed-in correctly. Just ask your guide. He will help.

One last thing on the hook set. Set the hook downstream and toward the bank. Think about it…the fish are swimming upstream into the current, you don’t want to jerk the hook out of the mouth by setting the hook upstream. This is the single most common mistake we see in anglers day after day, year after year. Set the hook downstream folks– you’ll catch a lot more fish. And you’ll have a lot more great Fish Pictures! The subject of my next newsletter report.