Fly presentation is one of the key components in fly fishing. You have a different presentation for dry fly fishing than you do for nymphing or streamer fishing. What this lesson will go over is the basics of moving water and how it can affect the look of your fly as it passes through the feeding lane.


During this lesson, we will go over the basics of fly presentation and mending. Fly presentation is one of the key components in fly fishing. You have a different presentation for dry fly fishing than you do for nymphing or streamer fishing. What this lesson will go over is the basics of moving water and how it can affect the look of your fly as it passes through the feeding lane. Don’t worry; we will discuss the feeding lane in later presentations. But I want you to have an understanding of how moving water can work with you or against you when it comes to fly fishing.

Upstream Presentation and Fly Line Angles

When I’m out at the water, the thing that makes me laugh the most is watching a fly fisherman pull into the parking lot, throw on their gear faster than ever, and haul off to find the “perfect spot” while I’m still enjoying the sun rise over the mountains. I watch them run downriver, fishing the entire stretch. What’s amazing to me is that they don’t stop to think that trout are looking straight at them!

You see, trout do not feed downriver unless they are chasing smaller fish in front of them. So the number one rule of fishing any section of water is to start at the bottom and work your way up.  

A Fish’s Perspective
A trout has great senses of sight, smell, and sound, but only from certain directions:

From this image, you will see that a trout’s sight line is in the shape of a cone. If you are outside of this cone radius, then trout are unable to see you. But the minute you move inside of that zone, they can see you and then they’re gone.

Trout cannot see behind themselves, so your best option to sneak up on them is to fish upstream. The best way to approach a fish, then, is from behind.

So let’s get some basic knowledge on a stream or river and the best angle for new fishermen to start with.

1. Upstream means that the water is heading towards you, not away from you. Casting in this direction, you will be parallel with the bank and casting towards the water coming at you.
2. 45 degrees, or quartering upstream, is a great way to start as a new fly fisherman. As you get more advanced, you can do straight upstream, but as a beginner you do have the ability to spook the fish.
3. Across stream is directly away from you. This can be difficult because the line does not have enough time to be mined before going into a downstream presentation.
4. 45 degrees downstream, or quartering downstream, is often used for emergers or salmon steamed presentation.
5. Downstream is parallel to the bank, casting towards the water that is heading away from you.


In the Drifthook Fly Fishing System, we focus on trout presentation. Unless you’re fishing streamers or wet flies, or fishing for steelheads or salmon, the object of dry fly fishing and nymph fishing is to present the fly with a natural presentation. To do this, we need to maintain the line so it does not pull the fly, or drag the fly in an unnatural way. So, how do we do this?

The easiest cast to accomplish this is the 45-degree or upstream quartering cast. This keeps the fly line away from the fish and the leader and tippet above them. Remember the leader and tippet are vertically invisible to them, but they can get spooked by your fly line.

Upstream Presentation

The upstream/quarter stream presentation will give you the most amount of water coverage with the least amount of exposure of your fly line to the fish. But as with all casts, the key is to keep your fly looking natural without the current pulling your line and making the fly look fake. There are two easy ways to tell whether your fly looks fake to fish:

1. When dry fly fishing, look for a “V” behind the fly. It will look like your fly is its own personal cigar boat cruising through the water. Trout catch on to this and realize that it is not natural.
2. When nymphing, check your indicator. If it is doing the same thing—making wakes on the water—then you know that your flies below the water are doing the same thing, and trout will know they’re fake.

After you cast 45 degrees upstream, you now need to look at your line for mending.

What is mending?

• The idea is to keep a tight line between your rod and the fly without disturbing the dead drift. When your fly is upstream you need to strip your line to make sure it is tight enough to set the hook when you have a hit.
• Mending is when the fly line is past you heading downriver and you need to adjust so it does not buckle and cause drag on your fly on the way down.
• As you can see here, the key is to not have any slack in your line. If your fly has a hit and you try to lift up for a hook, you will have too much slack to set the hook properly. Fish have a great sense of smell and taste, so you will only have a quick second to set the fly before the trout decides it is not real and spits it out.
• In most areas you will typically start stripping the minute your fly hits the water. The reason for this is because the fly is coming to you. If you are not constantly mending, then there will be slack.
• As soon as the fly goes past you, this is when you start mending.
• Again, mending is making sure your excess line is not making your fly create huge wakes in the water.

How do we do this?
When the line goes below your fly, you flip your line upstream. That’s it. I know it sounds like it should be more complicated. And don’t get me wrong, it takes a little practice to get the hang of it, but it really is as simple as making sure your line is not dragging your flies.

• Lift your line off the water and flick it. Don’t worry about what happens; you need to dive into it and play with it before you get an idea of how the line is going to react with the moving water.  
• Lift it, flick it, give it a little twirl, but keep an eye on your fly or indicator and see how it reacts.
• The key is to get the line out of the way of the fly and create a natural drift for the fly, but at the same time making sure you don’t have so much slack that when you do get a hit (when the fish bites the fly), you lose the fish.