Assess the wind direction first

When fishing the drift, it is usual to assess the wind direction and row to a starting position estimated to allow the boat to drift in a course which avoids bank anglers, but at the same time covers the major headlands, or waters where known weedbeds or alternate shallows and deeps hold fish. If a long, uninterrupted drift can be established, it is often very effective, although it is frequently necessary to take short drifts, rowing upwind to resume a parallel or similar drift.

When the wind is fairly brisk boat anglers usually look about for wind lanes caused by headlands, woods, or shoreline contours which affect the wind. Wind lanes can generally be seen quite clearly as areas where the wind creates long strips less broken than the surrounding water. This effect is usually due to relatively less wind turbulence on the surface, and since it often causes large numbers of wind-borne creatures to be deposited there, fish soon learn to feed along these areas, and can indeed often be seen moving among them. To fish such a lane on the drift entails placing the boat at the head of the lane, drifting with the drogue out, and occasionally giving the oars a tweak in one direction or the other to keep in the lane.

Sooner or later, the drifting boat arrives on the shore at the end of the drift and it is necessary to row upwind again to resume. In high winds this can be a daunting business, requiring a sustained and lengthy pull at the oars. There is usually one bank at least slightly sheltered from the wind, and the tactic is to set the boat across wind at an angle, rowing gently enough to hold your position and allowing the wind to ‘sail’ you t into the sheltered bank. Once in the lee of the bank, you can usually row up with little effort, taking advantage of bays and inlets and only venturing into the wind when you have to pass headlands. When the boat is sufficiently upwind, you can take up position for the next drift.

Fishing the drift usually entails what is called ‘short lining’, which means making casts of 10-15 yards only, then giving the fly time to submerge before retrieving it slowly. As the fly reaches midway position, the rod is raised slowly, bringing the dropper fly up to break surface. This is then tripped across the surface by further raising the rod and retrieving line as required. The fly is thus made to trip from wave to wave in a very effective manner. Often fish will slash at the dropper, and then the rod top must be lowered slightly to allow the fish to turn before striking. Fishing the surface in this manner can be very successful, and if two anglers each fish a team of three flies, at least to begin with, it often enables them to establish the taking fly or flies.

The rate of retrieve can, of course, be varied at intervals, and an occasional longer cast serves to clear any twists imparted to the line by short lining. Anglers must cast alternately to avoid tangles during the back cast, and each should keep his fly in his own sector and avoid poaching. Casts should be fanned out to cover the whole of the sector to ensure that the water over which you drift is thoroughly explored.