‘Vertical Drag’ and the Swift River

With my favorite freestones subject to the August heat and occasional dearth of rain, I continue to focus on the Swift.

I continue to find that the fishing is increasingly challenging each time. Flies that worked well in the past now are getting refused. Trout are becoming less concentrated in particular spots: they’re spreading out and have become meals to birds of prey and otters.

Still, I landed nine (photos of some are below) during my last outing, resorting to weirdo flies and trying to avoid drag as much as possible. One things I’ve noticed is that the Swift trout are sensitive to horizontal and vertical drag. I know well the former: when a fly on the surface is going against the current or moving too slow or too fast.

But, I’ve also noticed that the trout are also wary of vertical drag. This happens, for example, when a rig is heavily weighted and a nymph is sinking to the bottom quite fast. Trout see that and know the fly is un-natural.

So, I’ve been focused on avoiding drag along three dimensions.

Last, I ran into George from Orange, MA, again. Some call him “Wooly Bugger George,” as he loves using that fly. I met him last year and have run into him a few times this year. He is a wealth of knowledge and is one of the nicest guys.

He had an observation: wait until September and trout will be even more difficult then.

So, the challenges of fishing the Swift are evident. And, as it gets harder to catch trout, it has become a fun challenge.


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13 thoughts on “‘Vertical Drag’ and the Swift River

  1. Good points, the vertical drag can ruin a presentation. I find using a very long piece of tippet helps. Usually I'll take a 10 ft. 6x (sometimes 7x) and will add about 5 feet of 8x tippet to that. I seem to get better presentations than when I used to use different rigs.

    And any tips on flies that were working? Heading there tomorrow afternoon. Heard eggs and worms have been doing it. Any truth to this?


    1. I'd try anything "strange." One guy had good luck with a very small leech pattern that he twitched, for example. The trout have seen everything repeatedly, and so, bring crazy flies and just switch 'em often.

  2. Thanks, I will try those suggestions. Always have a lot of ants in my box! Was thinking I may do some mouse-ing at dusk too, they don't see a lot of that.


    1. Some old timers were chatting and saying that ants really do well at the Swift. I've yet to have luck with them, but it seems that some do. Some guys tried hoppers last time I was there and reported few takes. And, FWIW, Tom Rosenbauer, in one of his pod casts, states that ants tend to do much better than beetles and hoppers.

      Have a great outing, Scott!

    2. Many thanks Jo! I think ants work because of the smaller presentation, more of a finesse presentation if you will. If I manage to catch something lol, I'll shoot you a report! I'll even bring a camera and snap some pics, something I barely ever do these days!


  3. Was out last weekend with a buddy – we threw streamers (WBs) most of the time. Had a lot of fish following the flies, but not latching on. Did land one nice brown on a brown crystal wooly bugger, and had a 2-fer on at one point – small brookie took the bugger and big rainbow took the brookie, but couldn't land them. Any suggestions what to do when they chase but don't bite?

    1. Try trailing something behind the bugger, with a short, thin piece of tippet. A midge would be an obvious choice.

      I did pretty well at times at the Swift throwing a huge 5 inch, articulated, rubber legged streamer, with a small brook trout colored streamer trailing a foot behind. They'd follow in the big one and usually pull the trigger on the smaller one. Helped that it looked like a brookie I think.

    2. Troy, that's a phenomenal tip!

      Joe, I fish the Swift with a 000 wt. or 3 wt., and so, I don't throw big streamers there. One thing I try to remember is to vary the presentation: pulse the fly, strip it quickly, strip it slowly, pause the strip, dead-drift etc. I've hooked some Swift trout by gently stripping something a few inches when it's in front of them. My guess is that they sometimes strike out of instinct. And, don't by shy about switching flies. After a few casts and no takes, they seem to know if something doesn't feel right and will look for a new fly.

      So, I cast. Then, I change the presentation a few times. Then, I switch flies.

      Last, if you do find a loose pod of fish, that is a good thing. Many fish will create competition among them. I've had strikes happen when a few fish are investigating a fly and one of them pre-empts the others with a strike.

  4. By midge I really just mean a small fly. Say, size 20 or smaller. Really at the Swift you should be using size 24 or smaller, with the smallest sizes tending to get the most action.

    You can either go big with 2 streamers or finesse, with 1 streamer and 1 midge.

    Also, like Jo said, vary the retrieve to keep them interested. Helps get a few more to pull the trigger on it.

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