In the fish world, age is just a number. Fish don’t care that the greased line fly fishing method is well over a hundred years old. They still fall for the presentation and it always leads to an eventful experience on the water.

What is Greased Line Fly Fishing?

The greased line method requires a cross-river cast which will lead to a drag-free broadside drift of the fly, usually a streamer. Anglers should keep their rod pointed downstream and mend slightly downstream until the fly swings.

In simple terms, greased line fishing is using a wet fly on dry/floating line.

Streamer used in Greased Line Technique
Streamer used in Greased Line Technique

First, before we dive into details, read some history. Fly line used to be silk and anglers would put grease on the line to waterproof it and ensure it would float. Since the fly line was silk, they would have to remove it from their reel at the conclusion of their day, dry it out and then re-apply the following day. They wanted their fly to sink at the proper pace and this was one of the only ways to ensure success.

Fly line technology has advanced. There is no need for greasing fly lines anymore. A floating line works perfectly.

Greased line fishing is a method used by fly fishing purists due to the intricacies of the process. But, with enough practice and patience you will see results.

When to Use the Greased Line Method

Anglers will find the most success with the greased line method in slower moving or shallow water. The method requires time for the fly to sink and it is imperative that it stays broadside while drifting. The fish see it as a wounded prey and need time to analyze and strike it. Just like any other fly fishing method, presentation is key. If it doesn’t look natural, there?s no chance you’ll land fish.

Learning to Casting and Mending

When using the greased line method, cast your line across the river and maybe a hair upstream. Most people will use a two-handed rod when fishing this method. This will ensure enough time to complete the proper mends.

Mending is a skill that requires a feel of the water. Greased line fly fishing is no exception. As soon as the fly hits the water, anglers should immediately do a slight mend of the line downstream. This will ensure a broadside float of the fly. Keep mending the line slightly downstream until the fly begins to swing.

Unnatural drag is killer. A fish won’t think twice about turning away from something that doesn’t look like it belongs. Trout, steelhead and other fish are savvy enough to recognize when something seems out of the ordinary.

When learning to mend, imagine yourself trying to swim across a river. You will likely try angling yourself a bit upstream to fight the current. Now, think of yourself swimming across the river with a heavy rope tied around you. The current would take the rope and start forcing you downstream. As a result, you would fight the current, face more upstream and eventually get pulled down backwards. No prey behaves like this. They use the current to their advantage.

If a fly goes down stream backwards, it would be naturally pulled out of the mouth of a fish. If it is drifting broadside the proper way, it would give the fish time to inhale and retreat back to it’s hiding place.

Along with the mending, pay close attention to the tension of your line. Keep the line somewhat tight to keep the broadside drift. The line can be slightly bent, but as soon as it begins looping, strip some back towards you.

The Swing and Strip for Fly Fishing

Every fly fishermen gets excited when a large streamer begins to swing through the current. They imagine it floating right in front of the face of an angry predator and are ready to set the hook.

The greased line method allows for this same swing. As soon as the drift is complete, you can fish it the same as any other wet fly swing. Let it complete its course and begin the process of retrieval.

When retrieving, strip in short little pulls. Strip towards you and let it sink, almost like a jigging method. This causes enough disturbance and entices those large fish into eating the streamer.

The Fly Rod Tip is Key

Regardless of experience level, everyone knows that fly fishing has numerous moving parts. Beginners focus on casting and mending, but often forget about rod tip position. The greased line method requires proper placement of the rod tip in order for it to be successful.

Follow the fly line. At first, keep the rod tip high when the line is directly across from you. As the fly drifts downstream, begin pointing the tip downstream, closer and closer to the surface. It will keep that broadside drift throughout.

What Equipment Do You Need?

This method is easiest with either nine or ten foot single-hand rods or 12-to-14 foot two-hand rods. It all depends on the size of your river. Single-hand rods provide more versatility. However, when fishing large rivers, two-hand rods allow you to cover more ground and gives more sense of control.

Also, you will need some sort of floating line. Spey lines are best for two-hand rods. They allow for greater casting distances and you don?t need as much back-casting room. The less effort you have to put into to casting, the longer you will last on the water.

As far as leaders are concerned, 10 to 15 feet is ideal. The longer the rod, the more leader needed. Single hand rods can stick to 9-10 foot leaders and two-hand rods should be near 15 feet. The pound test should be around 10 to 15.

Recommended Flies for Greased Line Fly Fishing

You want something that can get deep. Since you are using a floating line and are trying to focus on keeping the fly broadside, you need flies that will fall down the water column.

Also, depending on the type of fish you are after and the season, your fly choice will vary. I’ll provide you with quality flies that can be used in each season with the greased line technique.

  1. For summer, try a Neo Classic Methow. It has a hook size of three and can be found in multiple color patterns. It works great in lower water conditions and is useful as a swing fly.
  2. For fall, don’t be afraid to try a Woolly Bugger. It works as a swinging streamer and is versatile. It accurately represents a wounded baitfish. It may not be the most detail-oriented fly, but it is successful in every season and situation.
  3. Winter streamers need to be able to reach the bottom. Rivers are usually high with snow melt or rain and flies need to stand out. Fish are territorial and aren’t hesitant to strike something that invades their space. Try a Rambulance. It’s bright and boisterous. Fish will strike it because they are curious.
  4. You can try Egg Sucking Leeches in the spring. They will work and have the versatility that make them useful in multiple seasons.