What Is Mending In Fly Fishing

Fish Rising On Clark Fork River

What is mending in fly fishing and what does mending fly line do? Mending in fly fishing means manipulating your fly line and leader to enhance or re-establish a drag free drift. Since almost all insect imitations require drag free drift, whether on the surface or sub-surface, mending in fly fishing is a critical skill.

There are many ways to mend in fly fishing. The most common is allowing the fly or indicator to land on the water. When you see the fly or indicator start to drag (drag being defined as any movement counter to the current), use the rod to adjust the line on the water, removing drag.

There are no hard and fast rules for mending fly line. Depending on how drag occurs, you may need to mend upstream, downstream, or add slack. When first learning to mend, sometimes you’ll mend the fly line, and drag stops. That’s what you want. Or you mend the line, and drag is accelerated. That’s not what you want. If you’ve mended incorrectly, on the next cast, do the opposite, see how that works.

One of the secrets to mending your fly line is watch where the line is being most affected by the current. Often, a single faster or slower seam (small section of current in a river) creates the drag problem. It’s a 50/50 chance that mending with your feet will help. Taking a couple steps up or down stream, or moving forward can allow the next cast to miss the tricky seam. While not a manipulation of the line, it works.

When fishing a smaller dry fly, mending is more difficult. The goal when mending is mend TO the fly, not through the fly. Much easier said than done. Most times, when mending the line, the fly or indicator moves as well. This isn’t important with indicators. They’re designed to float, and even if your mend drags it beneath the surface, the indicator quickly pops back to the surface. The same with the most popular flies for fishing dry/dropper. Flies like the Chubby Chernobyl, Morrish Hopper and other foam flies return to the surface as well.

This isn’t true for smaller dry flies. Once they’re swamped, they don’t return to the surface. Luckily, there’s another type of mending in fly fishing- aerial mending.

Aerial mends are made with the fly line still in the air. Instead of waiting for the line to land before manipulation, the caster manipulates the line while airborne. The most common aerial mend is the Reach Cast. As the cast is delivered, the angler moves the rod tip across their body. When the fly lands, the line is better placed for extending drag free drift.

Other examples of aerial mending are the Steeple Cast and S Cast. The Steeple Cast is thrown high in the air, falling with slack in the line, providing a drag free drift. The S Cast uses side to side rod tip movement to create S’s in the line as it lands. The S Cast and Steeple Cast introduce slack to prolong drag free drift in water with many varying currents.

No aerial mend is quickly mastered. Your first S Cast probably lands about 10 feet in front of you, with S’s that are 15 feet wide. Practice, practice, practice.

Mending in fly fishing is the most critical skill an angler can have. You can work around bad casting, poor positioning and other factors, but without a drag free drift, you might as well be playing golf. The bumper sticker, “Slack Is Evil”, is wrong. While uncontrolled slack lacks elegance, controlled slack is the key to success.

If you want to learn more about mending, there are multiple click points above to find more details on this necessary skill. We’ve also included a link to our beginner fly fishing resource at the bottom of this page.

Want to learn more about fly fishing for beginners? Check out the link below for a Complete Guide To Beginner Fly Fishing