Brook’s Broadside Float

When we chased big browns in Chile, my guide, Claudio Ramos, told me to cast into the pocket water of the rushing stream and then mend as needed to keep the fly drifting broadside to the currents. “The big browns love to come up under the fly to take it as it drifts down.”

We used the biggest, articulated imitations that we had—5 and 6 inch monsters in black, black and red (the tope choice of the browns), black and chartreuse, and others. And the fish did exactly what Claudio described, roaring up to suck the flies out of the film zone.

This method of floating the fly is called the Brooks’ Broadside Float. Here’s an excerpt from my book, Long Flies, detailing the tactic.

 

Brooks’ Broadside Float

The late Joe Brooks was a most innovative and creative fly fisher who prowled the world in search of anything with fins that would eat his fly. He was not loath to rip into a huge tarpon or hang a fast-moving bonefish, but like most fly fishers, he focused primarily on trout and salmon. He loved the rivers of the Rockies, but especially he loved the Yellowstone and her sister rivers in Montana during late fall, when the big browns were moving about restlessly in spawning colors. When the aspen leaves were flitting to the ground, and new snow showed on the peaks of the Absaroka Mountains, he haunted the Yellowstone’s long pools up in Paradise Valley, with his favorite fishing pal, Dan Bailey, tossing long flies for big, hook-jawed browns that made the offerings of summer waters seem anemic at best.

His global fishing experiences had taught him that minnow eaters are not only aggressive, but are more likely to nab a baitfish when they can get a good cross-body grip on the hapless prey. From that, he developed his Broadside Float technique. Basically, it’s a dead-drift tactic in which the fly is allowed to simply ride the currents in a cross-stream orientation. Not so much used by today’s anglers, who seem to want the fly moving at all times, it is, none-the-less, a highly effective tactic that can be used solo or combined with other tactics for lethal effect.

In its simplest form, it is a cross-current tactic that can be used by either a wading angler, or when fishing from a drift boat. I’ll let Brooks himself introduce you to the basic format of this tactic from his book, Trout Fishing:

“In order to achieve the broadside presentation and cover the entire water, I like to start my series of casts at the top of the pool. I maker a short throw first, in the fast water up there, because good fish often lie in that turbulence. Then I extend each cast until I have reached as far across as I can and still control the line, or until I have covered all the water. Then I move down about fifteen to twenty feet and start the series over again. This way I can be sure of putting my fly past the mouth of almost every trout in the pool.”

“I make the casts across and slightly upstream, and lead the line slightly with the rod tip. If the line begins to belly, I mend the line upstream with a sort of backward and outward flip. This means that instead of the fly being dragged down the current far too fast by the bellying line, it floats freely, broadside, to the current and the fish…After a long cast you can sometimes, mend the line three or four times and keep the fly floating broadside that much longer.”

The broadside float was built on A. H. E. Woods’ Greased Line tactic for Atlantic salmon. Its chief difficulty is in making the on-the-water Flopping Mend without moving the fly out of position, especially on a short cast. Time has added a couple of nuances that can be built into this tactic to give longer dead drifts and more control.

The first of these are the aerial mends. At the time of the writing of Brooks’ Trout Fishing, the concept of the aerial mend was nascent, to say the least, and Brooks had not yet added this tactic to his bag of line-handling skills. Tragically, Brooks died only a few months after the publication of Trout Fishing, while plying the long pools of his beloved Yellowstone in the fall of 1972 with his old pal, Dan Bailey. I don’t know for certain, but I’d guess that he was using his Broadside Float that day, as it was his favorite tactic for the big fall browns of Montana’s waters.

A short three years later, Doug Swisher and Carl Richards, both fast friends of Brooks, introduced the idea of aerial mending to the angling community in their book Fly Fishing Strategy. This strategy has revolutionized the angler’s ability to introduce controlled slack into the line and leader, and subsequently use that slack to make on-the-water mends without disturbing the fly’s drift.

Cast slightly up and across, and Reach Mend upstream to positions the line nearly straight across. Raise the rod tip and pick up the slack that forms as the line drifts down. Use this slack to make on-the-water Flopping Mends in order the keep the line positioned as much straight across as possible. This keeps the fly drifting broadside.

1-Reach

Cast across and reach upstream. This will provide the needed slack for further on the water mends. Art by Jason Borger from Long Flies.

2-Flopping

Use a flopping mend to reposition the slack introduced with the upstream Reach, keeping the fly drifting broadside to the currents. Art by Jason Borger from Long Flies.

If there’s a lot of slow water next to your shore, cast and reach the rod tip downstream. This places the slack down current on the slow water. The fast moving front part of the line has to catch up with the slow moving part, again reducing drag. Hey, this sounds a lot like fishing a dry fly dead drift—that’s because it is. Just imaging that you are fishing a dry fly dead drift, and you need to keep it oriented across the currents. Make the appropriate aerial mend to initially place the fly and line in the best position, and then follow with on-the-water mends, using the controlled slack introduced with the reach, to keep the line in the across-stream position.

This is my most favorite way to fish a big, unweighted magenta leech just under the film for Alaskan chum salmon. These big fish stack up on the shallow water that flows smoothly over sand and gravel bars that form on the inside corners of big sweeping bends. The fish on these “chum bars” will take the fly as it dead-drifts along, often breaking the surface as they roll on the fly. When a drift ends, I’ll hold the rod still and allow the fly to swing across to my side and hang straight downstream. Often as the fly just begins to move, a salmon will roll up and inhale the suddenly energized imitation. My, my, can they pull.

Closer to home I use the Broadside Float on the cohos (silvers) of the Great Lakes tributary streams. Like their chummy cousins in Alaska, they may roll up and grab a brightly colored imitation as it dead drifts into their view, or they may hunker down and wait deep for the fly to come to them. In this case, I add shot or use a weighted fly. When I find that the fish are deep and want the moving, fly, then I position myself so that the imitation will dead drift right to the fish via the Broadside Float, and then just a few inches in front of their noses, snap to life and begin the across stream swing.

The way that I most often do this is to cast more or less across so the fly will drift to the fish at right angles to the current. When the fly is close, I’ll strip a bit of line and dance the fly with an up and down jigging action of the rod tip. Works like a charm. I’ve had some very fierce strikes this way. This tactic works on every fish species that ever ate a fleeing minnow, crayfish, leech, or even insect pupae and nymphs. This is a long fly tactic with its emphasis on control.

John Beth and I were exploring a small Lake Michigan tributary for chinook (king salmon) one fall, and I spotted a truly big male. When the kings were first introduced into the lake, truly big would have been 50 pounds, but once the newly introduced kings and the alewife food base stabilized against one another, a truly big king was closer to 35 pounds, and this fish I’d just found was all of that.

It was at the top end of a small island, parked right where the currents parted, holding in water just deep enough to cover its rather broad back. The kings that were introduced into the Great Lakes are the “Tullie” strain. They’re chrome bright in the lake, but when the time comes to move up river they adopt a light olive coat that quickly turns black. Even though black, they fight with all the fierceness of the silver ones, and this big king looked like a heavy-weight champ. My only fear was that once hooked, the fish would tear off down river with such speed that I’d never be able to follow, and would consequently lose it in a log jam or from the line hanging up in the brush as the fish tore around the stream corners.

But, those types of thoughts have never stopped me from trying, so I worked into position to make a Broadside Float to the big king so that the swing would start just above it. I never had a chance to make a second cast. The moment the salmon saw the dead drifting black Strip leech, it bolted ahead and engulfed the fly with great gusto. I struck with equal gusto and leaned on the rod hard. Without even a pause, the fish tore off upstream like a behemoth, black engine of destruction, jerking me around in my tracks. The reel was doing its best to whine an octave above its usual scream, and all I could do was hang on. The salmon bulled into shallow water, leaving a rooster tail of spray, and ripped right up onto a long gravel spit. It had grounded itself. I ran up and tailed it, and got the shaking of my life. But I held firm, and got my photo taken with perhaps the most easily landed king I’ve ever caught.

Lest you get the idea that the Broadside Float is a tactic of long casts and big fish rolling up out of the depths, let me point out that this is great tactic for “picking the pocket” in streams of all sizes. The imitation is plopped into the pocket and just allowed to dance around in the currents for a few seconds. Often this is all a hungry trout or small mouth bass needs to react with great vigor. Even northern pike, on the big tundra rivers of the far north, will nail a fly plopped into the pockets they occupy. Oh, and by the way, the imitations don’t have to be as long as your hand, either. Micro long flies (little guys tied on 10 -16 3X long hooks) work wonders in small waters where the fish are correspondingly small. Try it all.

Pocket-water

This was typical of the pocket water we fished in Chile.

Exequiel

Note the pocket water behind Exequiel, and note the big fly hanging out of the trout’s mouth.

Pablo

Pablo was very happy with the results of the big flies and the Broadside Float.

 

Manuel Meets Chile Browns

Last year, when I was in Mendoza, Argentina, for a clinic with the guys at the Mendoza Fly Shop, I met Manuel Lineras. In fact, we shared a fine Malbec wine one evening at the fly shop. So, it was great to see him and his friends at the Patagonia Baker Lodge. We swapped fishing stories every evening, some with great excitement, and some with commiseration. Still, Manuel didn’t need much in the commiseration area. He did very well at each of the venues that he fished.

I fished the same waters, and had great success on a couple of them, but then there were a few days when success escaped me. Although my casts and drifts were perfect, I just couldn’t find any of the big fish. Such it is with fishing, especially when the fish are widely distributed over many miles of rushing waters. Still, it was wonderful to share in the success of the others, and every night we all toasted the river, the fish, and the success of those who found the big ones.

Manuel-and-GB

Manuel and I sharing stories of the day

Manuel-with-B-bow

Manuel with a nice Baker River Brown caught just in front of the lodge.

Manuel-at-Lago-GC

A really fine male brown from the narrows between Lago General Carrera and Lago Bertrand.

Manuel-on-Baker

Manuel caught this sample of the big browns in Rio Baker right in front of the lodge.

Manuel-on-J

A big brown on its spawning migration, note the huge fly hanging from its jaw.

 

Mauricio and the Chile Kings

When I was giving the fishing clinic at the Cantarias Lodge in Chile, Mauricio Salazar, one of the participants, showed me a photo of a 55 lb + king that he had just caught on Rio Pertohue. I pumped him for information because I was headed there in a couple of days, and he was kind enough to tell all the details. I asked him to send me photos and a story, and he was kind enough to do so.

Mauricio knew spin fishers had found that the Luhr Jensen K14 plug (similar to a Flatfish) was the number one king killer, so he developed a big fly on a 2/0 hook that mimicked the overall action of the plug. He chose blue and white as the color scheme.

Rio Pertohue was a bit high and off color due to rain, but he and his companions landed a few nice kings in the morning. Then it really began to rain in a serious way, and the river became even more discolored. Mauricio decided to try his new “secret weapon,” and began casting with the K14 fly. Moments later he was fast to a remarkable fish that withstood the steady pull of his 7 weight rod for about a hour. That’s some king!

King-by-the-tail

When you can’t get your hand around the caudal peduncle, it’s a big king!

King-with-Mauricio

They look nearly the same size, but Mauricio is the one that is smiling, the other is the king.

 

Chile Patagonia Baker Lodge Day 7 News Flash

I had to return to the lodge early to work on flight arrangements due to the strike of LAN airlines, but Pablo and Exequiel stayed and continued to explore the river. They headed even further up the watershed, and found the big browns. It was an afternoon to remember and they hooked and landed the big, heavy fish that fight like demons in the swift waters of the little mountain stream.

Ex-with-fish-2

Exequiel with a nice male brown.

Ex-fish-1

Exequiel with a nice female brown.

Pablo-fish-1

Pablo with his first female of the day.

Pablo-fish-2

Pablo likes the girls. Another nice female brown.

Perfection Loop

         I’ve had a number of inquires over the last year about the Perfection Loop. First, it’s used to tie a loop in the butt end of the leader so that leaders can be rapidly changed by looping on and off while fishing. The Perfection Loop is preferred in this situation because the leader comes straight out of the loop, not at an angle as it might if a Surgeon’s Loop were used.  Second, it is really fast and easy to tie—once you learn how. It’s the “how” part that always messes people up. Spend some time studying the photos and descriptions, and practice with a short hunk of 3/16 inch nylon or polyester rope. Once you get it, you’ll wonder why it seemed so difficult (it looks complicated but is not).

Perfection-Loop-1

Form a loop in the end of the material. It is critical that short end goes behind the long end. Look closely at the photo.

Perfection-Loop-2

Form a second loop by wrapping the short end of the material up and around and behind the long end.

Perfection-Loop-3

Lay the end of the material up between the two loops.

Perfection-Loop-4

Draw the second loop down through the first loop.

Perfectuon-Loop-5

To tighten, pull on the loop and the long end of the material. Do not pull the short end. To adjust the size of the loop, carefully push the loop back into the knot before it is pulled tight, and draw out the excess material by carefully pulling on the long and short ends. When the loop is the correct size (about 5/8 inch), lubricate it with a little saliva, and pull it tight. I normally stick the end of a pen or pencil in the loop to hold onto when pulling the knot tight.

Chile Patagonia Baker Lodge Day 6

We decided to get up very early and fish the rocky stream for big browns in the first light of morning. We started in the section just above the one we fished yesterday. Other in the party went further up river. Exequiel connected with a nice brown and we shot more photos that it deserved. But, since it was the only fish in two days, we figured that we had the right to shoot a ton of pics, and we did. We only had 3 other swirls or follows to the big, black, articulated leeches.

Back at the lodge, we discovered that the others in the party had done much better. Twp big browns were landed and another of gigantic proportions (in the 15 to 18 pound range) was lost to a broken hook. We will have to have our next excursion in the upper waters of the river.

JeiniMeni-River

The swift waters of the freestone stream were perfect for spawning browns, but we only managed one nice one that Exequiel took in a deep, swift run.

Ex-with-brown

Exequiel deserves a big smile from the rest of us. A very lovely female with still a bit of her silver lake gown.

Chile Patagonia Baker Lodge Day 5

We travelled to another stream today in search of big browns. Arriving just after lunch, we spent the afternoon fishing intensely on the rough and rocky stream. Intensity of intent means little if the fish are not cooperative. Again, it was a hot, bright sunny day, and only four fish flashed our flies. It was a pleasant day for fishing, and the 3 mile walk was totally forgotten as we pounded the water hard for the few scraps of fish swirls that we got.

Jeinimeni-Valley

Magnificent country and a spawning stream for huge browns o All we found are fish that swirled the fly.

Chile Patagonia Baker Lodge Day 4

Today was a true test of fishing skills on the Cochrane. In fact it was more than a test of skills, it was an exercise in frustration. First understand that the Cochrane is not an ordinary stream. It is a “U” shaped channel in the sand. Further it is really deep, and is lined with brush and trees. Casting is not just a challenge, in some places it is impossible. One cannot get in the overly deep water, and the vegetation is so dense and to preclude any serious thoughts of casting.

However, in a few places, one can find openings, and if there are trout there, well, one may cast to them. They even take the fly very well. But them, the true wild rumpus begins. There is no way to fight them but to just stand and watch the fish bury itself in the dead branches, bottom vegetation, and undercut banks.

I hooked two very sizable browns on a size 16, black foam beetle on 4X, One rubbed the fly out in the bottom weeds, the other parted it like spider webbing on the sunken branches of a big bush.

I did manage one reasonable rainbow that was feeding in mid currents in a open area where I could move up and down stream about 100 feet in either direction. That was enough to control the fish and get it to hand.

Cochrane-River

The impossible river, the Cochrane. Any fish with true size will tangle the angler in brush and weeds in a heartbeat.

GB-with-cochrane-bow

A nice rainbow, to be sure, but tiny compared to the big browns that sucked in the beetle and quickly parted company with me.

 

Chile Patagonia Baker Lodge Day 3

Today Exequiel and I fished the Rio Baker together. The action started about the time the sun fell onto the water in mid morning. And then it was very good. We caught many fish in the 15 to 18 inch size on small nymphs fished in the currents around a mid stream gravel bar.

I was using my Hardy 10 foot 3 weight Zenith rod, and the fish gave a powerful accounting of themselves in the heavy currents of the massive river. There were any number of doubles.

Later that day we floated and cast huge streamers for the big browns of the Baker, but the high overhead sun and warm weather  had the big fish on the bottom of the 30 foot deep river, awaiting better feeding conditions. None-the-less, it was a great float on an impressively beautiful river.

Doubles

Doubles were common. In this case we netted them at the same time with one net.

Bow-with-Hardy

The Hardy 10-3 got a good workout on the health rainbows of the Baker.

Chile Patagonia Baker Lodge Day 2

Pablo Perez and I travelled with our guide, Marcello, to the short neck between Lago General Carrera and Lago Bertrand to fish for big browns. The water of the lake is impossibly blue, and yet clear at the same time. We could easily see to the bottom in 20 feet of water. The fish are in preparation for spawning and use this area to build their redds. It seems unlikely waters, 15 to 30 feet deep, but the current is strong where the waters of the big lake gather to exit.

We fished big, articulated, black leech-style flies on 300 grain sinking heads, and found a number of nice fish. Pablo hit the first big one, which proved to the be the biggest of the day—a lovely 5 kilo female (12.5 lbs). A bit later I found a very fine 4 kilo (9 pound) male to accompany her. Later, Pablo found the brother to my fish. We both caught other fish of 2 to 3 kilos (3 to 6.5 pounds), but these three were the “big boys” of the day.

Pablo-with-5k-brown

Pablo’s decidedly trophy sized female. Note the blue of the water.

GB-with-4-k-brown

I’ll smile anytime I catch a brown of this size!

Pablo-with-4K-brown

A second big brown to compete the brace of big boys.