Fly fishing ‘the string’
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Yellow stringing is not the most common method of fly fishing rivers, in fact not that many anglers have even heard of the strange sounding technique.
Competition fly fishing has brought many new and incredibly effective methods to the scene but none have come close, in my opinion, to this remarkably successful technique.
So, you might ask, what on Earth is yellow stringing?
It is a style of fly fishing whereby the angler uses a very long leader to present weighted nymphs in the flowing waters of rivers.
This style of fishing has changed the way competition anglers approach fast water and has revolutionised the way I go about about catching river fish.
Yellow string fishing became so much of a game-changer that organisers of international FIPS Mouche fly fishing competitions banned it and the use of super long leaders.
However it is simply the best way to fish rivers if you’re not in a competition.
As you read on, I’ll explain what tackle you’ll need and how to master the technique.
First things first – the equipment
Yellow string will work on a variety of rivers from small to big and therefore you can use a variety of rod weights, depending on the water your fishing.
For bigger, faster flowing rivers I steer towards a 10ft 5 weight rod. Smaller rivers can be tackled with 2 to 4 weights in either 9 or 10ft lengths. Reels do not need to be anything special as their primary purpose is to simply store line. I prefer to use auto wind reels as I can move up the river quickly and not waste time clearing the line from around my feet.
These reels come into their own when a big fish is hooked and you need to get line onto the reel quickly without swapping rod hands. You can have a fly line on the reel but you’ll never use it when fishing this technique.
The main part to the setup is the brightly coloured monofilament, referred to as ‘the string’, and commonly used in breaking strains of around 8lb. With many types of string on the market, sometimes it is a case of using the brand you can readily get your hands on.
Important requirements are that the string should be brightly coloured. Colours such as yellow and red are easy to see but you can use whichever best suits you. Gold Stren is the most widely used for this technique.
You’ll need a different colour line to use as the indicator – if I’m using yellow as my leader, I’ll use fluoro pink or red as indicator.
A standard tippet can be attached, a good trick being to tie a short length of 8 or 10lb clear to the indicator then the tippet after that. If the tippet breaks you’re not cutting into your indicator to retie it when out on the river.
To get the best from the rig you will also need a sticky floatant such as Mucelin.
Fly wise, any weighted nymphs are fine to use when yellow stringing.
To effectively fish the majority of the river, near and far, I wind about 30 metres onto the spool. A braided loop on the end of the fly line is the best option as it allows a very easy connection for the leader. Once the leader has been spooled onto the reel, the indicator should be attached to that.
My preferred knot is a simple sturgeons as it is strong enough for most situations. Leave the bottom facing tags on both indicator knots about 3 cm. This will grab the water and give you more control over what the nymphs are doing as they move through the river. This is also where you need to use floatant on the string – being careful not to apply any to the tippet as it affects the way light nymphs sink. Now you’re ready to hit the river.
Where to start?
Most fly anglers that have fished fast-running water will know that rivers are made up of several different parts from the pool to the head.
Yellow stringing is effective in all sections of the river apart from the pool where there is usually minimal or no flow.
I concentrate my efforts on the pool at the start of the bubbly water. From there you can fish all the way to the chute of the pool.
Yellow stringing is particularly successful in pocket water – water often difficult to fish using other methods. When in New Zealand to fish rivers during the winter run around Lake Taupo, yellow stringing is my ‘go to technique’ to effectively present egg patterns.
The nuts and bolts of yellow stringing
To get the best out of the string always fish upstream and against the current. I like to work from the edge of the river and catch fish sitting near to the bank before moving further out into the running water. Take enough line off of the reel to fish comfortably and stay in contact with the flies.
Because you have no fly line to cast, you need to work with the water to get the flies ahead of you.
I prefer to let the flies drift back with the current. That way there is enough weight on the rod to lob the flies ahead using a water cast. With the rod tip at about eye height, get in contact as they drift down with the water.
The aim is to have the indicator slack on the water. This way you’ll know the flies are drifting naturally with the current. Having floatant on the indicator will hold the nymphs up, just like fishing them under a dry.
Once the flies have floated downstream and past you, jiggle the rod tip as they come to the surface.
Takes are easy to see when using this technique but remember to always watch the indicator and strike the moment it stops or moves. Even if it turns out to be a rock or a stick, still strike. On most occasions it will be a fish.
Each and every time this happens you will wonder why you hadn’t tried yellow stringing sooner.