Float and Fly Presentation 2019

Float and Fly continues to amaze me!

It works in all kinds of water and all kinds of conditions.

It seems to work best when other tactics fail.

It's not just a small fish tactic as you can witness in this video.

I've been told my success is also in part how I fish it, how I craft my own flies, modify my own floats and tie my own leaders.

While this tactic is regularly performed with spin gear I find it more fun and effective with a fly rod.

Longer than a decade I've experimented with this tactic. Now my future quest is to perfect it.

More Species...More Locations...More Fly Patterns....
Float-n-Fly Smallie on Greg's custom tied fly

My name is Greg and I am an Angler.

Today I want to talk to you about Float and Fly.

F&F is not a new technique. It's actually been around for many years in the gear fishing world.

What's odd is the gear fish world titled this a fly technique, yet rarely do I find fly anglers doing it!

Let's take a minute and watch this short video....key in Al Lindner Video

Why Fish Float and Fly or should I ask why fish float and fly on a fly rod? 
I hope to answer both of these questions in this presentation.

Questions for you...

1. What do you do when bass are ignoring your usual game?

I find it funny when some anglers speak out,"Anybody can catch bass!" Sure, when bass are willing to be caught. Fact is anybody who really pursues bass know there are times when very few anglers can catch them.

2. Would you like to extend your smallmouth season?

More and more I find better fishing earlier and later in season and have been pushing those boundaries farther and farther into cold weather.

3. Do you like to fish for multi-species?

Personally I really enjoy catching multi-species. F-n-F can appeal to many species.

4. Do you fish from float tube, pontoon, kayak or boat?

Utilizing a bobber, cork, indicator, float, whatever you wish to call it allows for a presentation to happen while you are also actively involved in vessel navigation.

If you have answered yes to any of these questions...

I wish to give you some a very compelling argument to add Float and Fly to your fishing techniques.

In this presentation I wish to share the merits of float and fly. We will cover the "how to's" including tying, rigging, casting, and presentation.

We shall explore the many uses, discuss the nuances as well as inherited limitations.

Bass anglers will benefit the most from this technique but be assured it possesses a multi-species attraction.

I've turned many days from poor to success with this technique and I am confident with this knowledge you can too.

Thank you for joining as I share my secrets of fly fishing with Float and Fly.

In the beginning
I learned of this technique of fishing years ago, probably from the in-fisherman video or something similar. Anglers in the Tennessee area were using it in winter time to target smallmouth bass. It was rumored to have been discovered by winter season crappie anglers. The way I understand the story, some winter crappie anglers came into a bait shop and was complaining about catching smallmouth when they wanted crappie. The bait shop owner was more interested in smallmouth therefore he questioned the anglers, took notes and put to test this tactic.

I would have liked to been that guy!

My Experimentation Started...
About 12 or so years ago. It was spring on the Columbia River and fishing had it's up and down periods. I first tried f&f on spin gear but quickly found it cumbersome for the tactic and immediately switched to a fly rod. It just made more sense to me to use a fly rod. AND, I am by no means a fly only angler. With a thing-of-a-ma-bobber and Northland firefly jig in pink/white I started catching smallmouth almost immediately.

No one, myself included, could believe that this little system could catch numbers and quality of smallmouth bass but more often than not it proved it's effectiveness.

Over the next several years I continued to experiment with float and fly. Rods, lines and floats where part of the experimentation of course but I had put a big emphasis on the fly design. At that time I felt to sell the fly it would have to move away from the form of a jig. Today I'm not as concerned about the fly.

I still struggle with this decision today as to what is really better, fly or jig. I think I've come to accept that it has very little to do with the actual fly and much more about a different type of presentation.

My early flies adopted a method of moving the weight forward of the 90 degree hook bend of a jig hook in order to obtain a horizontal presentation.

The fly represents a baitfish therefore I totally feel that the Neutral Balance, horizontal presentation is important for success.

Many anglers brush it off as "just tie on a woolly bugger" or "I fished a saltwater shrimp pattern under a float and that worked just fine."

I laugh and cry a little to every fly angler who thinks the woolly bugger is an acceptable replacement for a hair jig.

If you find success with whatever weighted pattern under a float I tend to believe their fly was probably on bottom. That works at times but it's not float and fly.

I actually will use a small indicator on a clawdad rig which I fish on bottom but it's not f&f.

You will also find balance like this in today's fly known as the balance leach. Some fly anglers are exploring the "balance leech" idea. I did too. I feel like the name, balance leech, just like "wooly bugger" is trying to hide the fact that it's a fly version of a hair tied jig.

I think I said earlier...I'm over it! It's a jig and I'm "ok" with that. Since I no longer concern myself with this fact it has opened up the door for me and allowed me to pursue jig type forms and seek out any difference in operation or success.

Also float and fly flies are not trying to be a leech or bug. They are baitfish imitators. I believe a very important part of this fly presentation, after suspension, is the horizontal suspended presentation. Jigs that present this way are said to have a neutral balance.

In my attempt to give this technique a new name I started to call float and fly "suspend fishing". I believe the key to success lies in "the suspension" of the fly.

I've learn this about bass, and you may know this too, The hardest bass to catch are when they get into a suspended or neutral state. In this condition bass don't chase streamers, they either ignore or refuse topwater, often if you can see them they are just motionless.
I believe a key to catching suspended fish is a suspended presentation.

Can you think of a gear tactic that calls on the suspended technique?
The Husky Jerk or the common name Jerkbait can be quite effective at times due to its ability to suspend when motionless.

In come the twinkie example. No matter how full you are from eating I bet if I hold a twinkie in front of you long enough you'll give in and eat it. I'll put money on that bet. Maybe beer would be a better example.

I don't think fish are any different. Given an opportunity eventually they will give in to the easy meal.

If nothing else maybe curiosity takes over.

But that's not all

In my years of experimentation I've also learned that this technique is not just for neutral fish. In part I believe this delivery system is mostly different than anything else they are use to seeing.

One such revelation I've encountered hundreds of times is the extremely high percentage of comeback strikes.

Example; you're fishing a streamer and a smallie takes a swipe but refuses it. Drop f-n-f in and it's a done deal.

I actually started to adopt a two angler system where front angler fishes a streamer and rear angler fishes f-n-f. This tag team approach can be crazy effective for comeback strikes.

Often in this situation the streamer guy just becomes the attract-er and calls the fish up to look meanwhile coming up the rear, the f-n-f guy is catching most the fish.

The Buddy Program

Another "done deal" with F-n-F is for those times when your boat partner has a fished hooked and you see other fish under his fish, "Buddy's", Drop that F-n-F in and hook up for a double.

Around boulders and heavy structure

Good anglers know that bass hang around rocks and structure. But many times we can't seem to coax them out with usual offerings.

Float and fly has that ability to go in, hang around long enough to entice a strike when other, faster offerings get pulled away before the fish makes up his mind to commit.

Another revelation I've had is drifting river current seams and tailouts. I've always known bass will hang out in these places but have never found streamer methods to consistently succeed in these water types. F-n-f has become my go to for these approaches.

In this case it starts to resemble trout nymphing. Regardless it can extract some big fish when other methods just don't seem to work.

Wind blown points and riprap

Another advantage of f-n-f is no matter how windy it gets you can still see the strike. When I started experimenting with this technique on the windy columbia river I soon saw how effective it was at taking fish off the railroad riprap banks. I always knew fish would suspend off these but they never seemed to produce as good as they should.
With f-n-f you can make your cast close, throw some slack in and let the wind carry it into the riprap. You might have to adjust depth a couple times to dial it in but when you do results will follow.

The fish above was caught during a kayak bass fishing tournament that I won.
Also a great technique for kayak anglers. Anybody who as fished from a kayak knows that fly fishing is next to impossible. Too much going on with boat control and fly control. With F-n-F once you have placed you cast you can set rod down and control your boat while you fly does its work.

Fish Hang on

It's surprising how long fish will hang on to the fly in this presentation. It gives you time to get your line in control and set a solid hookset.

Really helps non fly fishers get into fly fishing. Maybe you have that son/daughter, brother or friend that just can't seem to break in to fly fishing. I've turned many into fly fishing finatics with teaching them float and fly. One, they see the strike. two, they don't have to spend all their time casting. Three, they enjoy the fish battle.

Expand your season. You can take this technique late into fall and start early in the spring. Depending on where you are you may even be able to enjoy winter fishing it.


When does it not work?

It really helps to have ripple on the water. I find this method nearly drops dead on glass calm days. You can impart your own action and that helps but still doesn't seem to be as effective as natural wind. A small ripple is all you need and I've seen it work in water rough to the point of almost unable to fish.

How to fish f-n-f

I'll start this off by telling you to fish this as if you are fishing a topwater popper.

Cast to likely structure, let the rings settle, move it a little, pause, move a little, pause. If you like where it is sitting don't move it at all.

While this is fishing with a float, it's not sitting around and waiting for something to happen. Yes, there are days fish move slower than others but in general 5-15 seconds in one spot is long enough. Move on!

The only exception I've found to this is crappie fishing. It sometimes takes crappie longer to commit, even so maybe a minute max.

Cast tight to structure. Use the wind to let it float deeper into structure.

Fish weed edges, current breaks, bluffs, jetties, rock piles, boulders, etc.

What about floats...This subject could turn into an all night discussion. 

Things to consider when choosing a float...

  • Needs to float your fly or jig
  • Is depth adjustment critical to your day of fishing?
  • Will your float show you bottom or an upward strike?

I'm favoring a pencil style for two reasons: 

  • First, they will identify when the fly becomes tight to the float by standing up. If they don't stand up then your fly is probably on bottom. 
  • Second, a pencil style will identify a rising or upward take by falling over. A rising take is when a fish has picked up your fly on a raise. Raising strikes can be very hard or impossible to identify with round floats. 

Hook is always clean in top of mouth:

One of the most impressive traits of this technique is the clean hook entry and clean release. Top lip every time and rarely do fish throw the hook.

About 95% off time hook is in top lip

Preferred Rods

I like a 7 weight. I've used 5's, 6's and 8wts but I think the best all around float and fly stick is a 7wt with a mod-fast action and 9ft.

Preferred Fly Lines

I like a line that has a medium to long head. Somewhere in 40-50 foot range. S/A Titan Long, S/A Anadro. S/A Infinety is also good but you might want to bump up one size. Any nymph/indicator line usually works well.


Varies with application. For Lake fishing I usually make my own with fluorocarbon material.
I start with 4 feet of 0.020" or 30lb tied to a tippet ring
Then tie on 2-3 foot of 15lb
Then I blood knot 2-3 foot of 6-10lb depending tippet depending on application and water clarity.

For river fishing I'll go with a tapered leader in either 7.5' or 9' - 2x, 3x, or 4x and use a air-lock type of strike indicator for easy quick adjustment.


Loop knot or Rapala knot...Funny story about that. Which came first. Way back a fly guide friend had asked me if I knew how to tie a loop knot. Well I knew the rapala loop not but not knowing if that was the knot he was talking about I said show me your loop knot. He did. Then I proceeded to tell him "oh yeah, a Rapala knot! He got very offended. I'm like it's on every rapala lure package I've ever seen. Which came first...I don't know.


Are you ready to tie some flies?

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