River Methods and Techniques River Methods and Techniques River Methods and Techniques

River Fly Fishing Methods and Techniques

Steve will clearly and simply explain and show the tackle requirements, and without fuss and fanfare teach the skills for the particular discipline”. Oliver Edwards – Fly Fishing Writer, Author & Fly Dresser

In recent years many new fly fishing methods and techniques have been developed throughout the world and whilst some of these could be considered minor tactics they all have their place. Although of course we all have our favourite or preferred style of fishing one thing is for certain the angler that’s a “one trick pony” will catch less fish.

Thirty plus years ago it was rare to see anyone in the Yorkshire Dales fishing anything but “North Country” spiders, more modern methods eventually took over but recently these flies and associated techniques have gained something of a cult following. The “thinking” angler of course never stopped using spiders but also adopted most of the methods detailed below.

Our guides at Go Fly Fishing UK can teach you these methods and the correct and often subtle techniques for fishing them. Specialist rods and leaders are needed for some of these and the majority of our guides can supply them.

On certain southern chalkstreams and Derbyshire rivers fishery rules restrict the methods allowed e.g. upstream fishing only with a single fly, so clearly multi-fly and downstream methods and techniques cannot be demonstrated by our guides where this applies.

So, to learn more about these methods why not book a river guided or Masterclass day with Go Fly Fishing UK.

The methods:

Guided Fly Fishing

Classic Upstream Dry Fly

Fishing a single dry fly upstream often to rising fish but a prospecting approach often works equally as well especially on spate / freestone rivers. Dry flies can of course also be fished across and even downstream without drag.

Classic Upstream Nymphing

Fishing one or two nymphs, usually weighted, in slow to very fast water without an indicator, perhaps the most difficult of techniques to truly master correctly.

Upstream Spider Fishing

Two or more often three “North Country” spiders fished upstream using a very short line.

Across and Down

Usually practiced with a team of spiders or two spiders and a weighted nymph on the point cast around 45 degrees across the current and swung round. Scorned by some but a beginner friendly technique and can be very effective.

Stewart Style

A team of spiders cast slightly upstream and across and tracked down to fish dead drift (without drag); can also be swung round at the end of the dead drift.

The Escalator

Oliver Edwards term and technique for fishing a team of spiders downstream dead drift by using a reach cast (or “wet reach”), keeping the rod high and drifting the flies down the flow by lowering the rod.

New Zealand Dropper

Also known as the “Duo”, “Klink and Dink” or “Drymph” (dry fly and nymph). A great method for hedging your bets, practiced using a largish dry fly, usually a Klinkhamer, tied in line, with a weighted nymph or spider on the point. The dry fly can also be used with two nymphs or one nymph and a spider one of which is tied on a conventional dropper in which case known as the “Trio”.

Indicator Nymphing

Like “Duo” but using an appropriately sized strike indicator rather than a Klinkhamer.

High Sticking

Using one or two usually heavily weighted nymphs with a very short line and the rod held high, only the last couple or so feet of the leader are in the water. A useful technique for fishing very fast or pocket water.

Czech Nymphing

A technique for getting flies down using two or three heavily weighted Czech type nymphs usually imitating caddis larvae. The flies are flipped upstream using a tight line or tension cast and tracked down, only around a yard of fly line is used. Can be a deadly technique for trout and especially grayling but is perhaps over used these days.

French Nymphing

A relatively recent technique using a long “French” style tapered leader and one or two, normally small, weighted nymphs. No fly line is used. It gives a very delicate presentation and particularly useful for nymphing in shallow clear water and is equally effective on chalk streams of freestone rivers.

Leader to Hand

A very recent technique heavily promoted by Jeremy Lucas requiring a specialist rod and leader. No fly line is used and so delivers a very delicate presentation and long drag free drifts are possible. Casting is difficult and wind and accuracy are a problem, the jury is still out on this one.


Tenkara is the traditional method of fly fishing in Japan which has become popular in the USA and is now taking off in the UK. A specialist soft Tenkara rod of between 11 and to over 14 feet is used with no reel and no fly line. A furled or heavy nylon leader with light tippet gives very delicate presentation and line control. The casting technique is similar to standard overhead fly casting and it’s a very simple and enjoyable way of fly fishing.

Other key skills:

Stalking / Sight casting

Usually carried out on shallow clear chalkstream rivers but also applies on some of the clear limestone “spring creek” type rivers in the Yorkshire Dales, Derbyshire or the Cotswolds. Sighting an individual target fish, stalking to within casting range, not spooking it, working out the best approach to catching it then implementing the plan to try to catch the fish on the first cast.


Obvious but it’s staggering how many fly fishers don’t observe correctly and are often oblivious to what’s going on around them.


Know where the fish are likely to be and why they are there, an essential skill especially on freestone rivers where sight fishing is limited or indeed impossible.



Identification of insect species and correct fly choice to ‘match the hatch’, a working knowledge of entomology is another essential skill required by the river fly fisher.

Safe and Effective Wading

How to put yourself in the correct position in the river to effectively fish your chosen technique…and without taking an early bath!

What our fishing guides provide:


A full day with one of our fly fishing guides starts from as little as £169 depending on the time of year, location, number of people fishing and the venue. Our specific quotation will include the cost of the fly fishing guide, the fishing ticket, loan of any equipment including tackle, waders, flies etc. and collection/return from/to a local accommodation or railway station. Please contact us for a specific quotation for a day with one of our fly fishing guides for your preferred location and date.

To book one of our fly fishing guides or for more information please telephone 01756 748378 (north of England, Wales, Devon or Scotland) or 01252 851397 (south of England, not Devon) or email us at info@goflyfishinguk.com.

Environment Agency Rod Licence

An Environment Agency rod licence is a legal requirement in England and Wales, it’s the responsibility of the individual/s booking a guided day with us to provide their own, these are available from and Post Office or online via the Environment Agency website.

To book your river day contact us by telephone on 01252 851397 or by email at info@goflyfishinguk.com.

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