by Guide Blog


Often in fly fishing we can be less inclined to employ certain techniques – understandably so. Fishing is a confidence thing and we all tend to have one particular approach that suits us best. But to be consistent on the water, and indeed in competition, then ‘pulling’ flies is the percentage method. Nine times out of 10 it works, so if you can master it you’ll be upping your catch rate.

Through the summer months the trout tend to be high up and so I watch for signs of fish. If you can see them rising, moving water or bow-waving under the surface, they’re often easier to catch pulling lures than with any other method. 

Although having the correct fly can make a significant difference, depth and presentation can be just as important – at times even more so.

Line Choice

When the trout are up high in the water, I look to use the following fly lines:

All of these will be teamed up with a long leader, keeping my flies well away from my fly line.

In most conditions the Stillmaniac Clear Intermediate is my first choice. I love the presentation it allows and the fact it disappears in the water. With fly line and leader beneath the surface, any unnatural pull on the line (typical when using a floater) is minimised even on the windiest of days. Takes are much more easily felt and you connect with a lot more fish than you would with a floater.

Although these lines are my ‘go-tos’ through the summer and autumn, of course there are times when you need to go deeper so an array of sinking lines is essential. With modern day cassette reels, this is quick and hassle free and the new Stillmanaic Cassette Reel takes some beating.

Fly Location

I mark my lines at three 10ft intervals from the tip. These are my three hang markers, where I pause in my retrieve – deadly for following fish. This pause often tempts following trout to take. The flies stop and start to fall, trout love it and as you pull after that pause you are often met with resistance. To get this right you need a retrieve that holds flies at the required depth and moves them in a manner attractive to the fish before, during and after the hang. This will require experimenting on the day: roly-poly; long pulls; short pulls. Mix it up and you’ll soon see which is the most effective.

Long Leaders

I like a long leader and try to make sure my flies are spaced well apart when pulling. A 22ft leader is standard with two flies, usually two Blobs ­– Orange on the dropper at 12ft and Black another 10ft away. This is my standard approach. Try not to over complicate things.

As for leader choice when pulling, don’t go too thin! Fish can hit hard and there’s always a chance of a double hook up when using more than one fly. I like Rio Fluoroflex Strong 11.2lb. At 0.229mm it has a low diameter for its breaking strain and is also soft enough for presenting imitative flies (often placed between two lures). However it’s strong and has excellent knot strength.

With the long length to the first dropper I can avoid spooking fish as my fly is well away from the line. It also helps with quick line changes, allowing you to pull all the tippet to the reel without getting the dropper caught in the tip ring. Simply snip the leader at the end of one line, change cassette and reattach the leader to the new one and you’re fishing again in no time.

Team Of Three

When using three flies I will have 11ft to the first dropper, then space the middle and point flies at 6ft intervals. However, I rarely use three lures. Instead I’ll still fish lures top and bottom but prefer a drab fly in the middle, normally a Cormorant or a Cruncher – great for the hang, as we’ll see.

I always put the brightest fly on the top dropper, an Orange Blob, Sunburst Blob or Cat. This fly often doesn’t catch as many as the other flies behind it, but it seems to draw the trout in, producing a lot of follows. A following trout will often take one of the other flies, usually the more natural looking, imitative one on the middle dropper on the hang. Being so bright the top dropper acts as an indicator too. Keep an eye on it as it comes up toward the surface because when a fish takes a fly further down the leader, it’ll dip or move left or right.  You can’t miss it and it’s super effective.

Blob & Booby (angles & manipulation)

When trout are really high up, usually when feeding on damsel, fry and mooching on terrestrials, I’ll often fish a Booby and Blob on the two-fly cast.

This allows me to fish at slightly different depths depending on the time I allow my line to sink or on the speed of my retrieve. Unlike other anglers I like to put the Booby on the top dropper and not the point, as it comes through the water with an attractive up and down motion which can vary according to the length and speed of my stripping. Fished on the dropper this movement is more exaggerated.

It also lets the Blob on the point move in a more subtle manner; two flies doing different things! The greater the distance between the flies, the less influence the Booby has on the Blob. It’s something that can’t really be done by any other fly combination. 

Confidence Fishing

Pulling flies, as with any other fly-fishing technique, requires a degree of skill and understanding. You need to think about how you’re fishing, where you want your flies to be within the water column and how you can manipulate them in order to up your success rate. All too often through the summer and into autumn anglers are quick to opt for a more relaxed fishing style, nymphing or dry fly. However, if it’s numbers you’re after then ‘pulling’, done properly and with a little thought, takes some beating.

Steve Cullen

Steve Cullen Fly Fishing

Steve Cullen YouTube Channel

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