The wet-fly swing is deceptively complicated. In fact, you could make a strong case that the swing is the most complex of all presentation styles. Casting angle and line mending significantly influence both the speed and the depth of the fly. If you strip line after the fly hits the water or take your steps downstream after you make the cast, you introduce a whole new set of variables to the swing. By comparison, presenting a dead-drift fly to a salmon is child’s play.
Casting angle is the first and most important decision you make when fishing a wet fly. The angle of the cast does more to influence the full spectrum of fly speed than any other single technique. I use a hypothetical protractor in order to measure casting angle. I define 0 degrees as the point directly downstream from your casting position. A cast perpendicular to the main flow is made at 90 degrees or directly across the current. A cast that equally bisects these two imaginary lines, at an angle of 45 degrees, forms a standard “down-and-across” presentation with a wet fly.
Topher Brown and Camp Bonaventure guide Matthew Flowers with a fresh June salmon.
If a guide asks you to “bring your angle up” or to “cast more square to the current,” he wants you to make your next cast “less down” and “more across” than your last cast. If you want to speed up your fly, cast more across the current; if you wish to slow it down, decrease the angle of your presentation until you are satisfied with the speed of your fly.
Atlantic salmon (as opposed to Pacific salmon or steelhead) during the summer months prefer a wet fly that moves along at a fairly fast clip. If you’re not sure how fast to fish a wet fly for Atlantic salmon, it is far better to fish a fly that swims a little too quickly than one that moves a little too slowly. I like to tell my clients, “You want the salmon to see your fly, but you don’t want them to get too good a look at it.”