Placing your fly at the right depth is one of the keys to success when fly fishing lakes. Having a selection of sinking lines of varying densities gives you the opportunity to place your fly at the correct depth. A varied selection of sinking lines is one thing, while understanding how to use their sink rates to your advantage is another. Incorporating the countdown method into your tactical repertoire allows you to get the most out of each sinking line.
Sinking lines sink at varied rates measured in inches per second. Choosing the correct sink rate line is based upon a number of factors. Water depth is obvious. When prospecting deep water using faster sink rate lines makes sense. But this isn’t always the case. Selecting the correct line is not a race to the bottom but a blend of targeting the right depth in conjunction with a retrieve pace that keeps the fly there for as long as possible.
Once you have figured what sinking line best fits the conditions you now have to use a method to systematically cover water. So once you locate trout you can repeat the process to continue catching fish. Enter the countdown method.
Pattern weight and leader length also plays a role. Weighted patterns accelerate a line’s sink rate. I favor un-weighted patterns. The only time I weight flies is when it aids the action of the fly. Weighting the front portion of the hook on a leech pattern to provide a seductive jigging action is a good example.
Using the correct leader length ensures your line and fly are working at the same depth. Too long a leader results in your line working at the timed depth while your fly tracks somewhere above. As a rule, the faster the sink rate the shorter the leader. I use leaders between 9 and 12 feet on my slow sinking lines. For faster sink rate lines, type III or greater, my leaders range between 7.5 feet and four feet. Clear water and multiple flies dictate longer leaders. When using more than one fly I like to keep them 3-5 feet apart so they work independently. I prefer to keep my line and flies further apart when I am fishing clear water lakes.
Understanding the sink rate of your line and using it to your advantage through the countdown method allows you place your fly in productive water on a consistent basis, a habit that should increase your catch rate.