Stillwater Fishing Technique - Hang and Bob
A few years ago I was thumbing through a fly fishing magazine when I came across an interesting article by Gary LaFontaine regarding a sinking-line, floating-fly technique he used for catching bass and trout suspended over shallow weed beds. One of the first things I enjoyed about the article was LaFontaine's writing style and his ability to mix fishing stories with theories and details. But more so than LaFontaine's writing style, it was his creative fishing mind that captivated my attention and did not let go.
In one of LaFontaine’s books on fishing stillwaters he describes a method he calls the “Hang and Bob.” The method is an adaptation of a British stillwater fishing method used in light to medium winds to present flies at a constant depth and slow-moving area to cruising fish.
Leader Setup for the Hang and Bob
With LaFontaine’s Hang and Bob, the flies are presented at a constant depth in a constant area to cruising fish. This is accomplished by attaching one or more flies as droppers at a 90-degree angle off a large, bushy dry fly or a strike indicator. The 90-degree angle puts the dropper line straight down in the water. The flies are attached to this dropper line at depths the fish are expected to be cruising at. The end result looks very similar to a standard dead-drift nymphing setup used for river fishing. There are slight differences in the setup, however, and larger differences in the way the setup is fished.
Best Weather Conditions
The Hang and Bob requires light to medium winds that cause the surface to ripple but not whitecap. The rig is cast straight downwind so that the indicator and dropper flies never move from their original location. This is important because it allows the flies to sink straight down, forming a tight connection between the flies’ movements and the indicator’s movements. The wind is actually a necessary and positive force with this method because as the dry fly or indicator rides the wavelets at the surface, bobbing up and down, it jigs the sunken flies up and down with it in a slow, tantalizing motion. Because the flies are taut with the indicator, when a cruising fish intercepts the dancing nymph, the indicator reacts and sinks immediately.
Ideal Flies for the Hang and Bob
Bead head flies are generally preferred with this technique because they behave similarly to a jig head. The flies used are often nymphs tied to imitate mayfly or caddisfly nymphs similar to those found in the water being fished. Good initial fly options are bead head pheasant tails and bead head hare’s ears.
One of the significant benefits of the Hang and Bob is the ability to simultaneously search for fish at multiple depths by attaching two or more flies, each a few feet apart from each other, along the dropper. I often start off with two nymphs three feet apart, with the first nymph two to four feet down from the dropper. Unless I know the fish are feeding on a specific nymph, I’ll also usually try to vary the flies being used in an attempt to maximize my chances.
To get the most effectiveness from the jigging nymphs, the nymphs should be attached to the dropper with some sort of loop knot such as the Duncan Loop. This allows the fly to swing freely from the line, adding more movement and realism to the fly’s actions.
When and Where to Fish
My success with this method has varied depending on the lake fished and the trout’s feeding habits. If you are fishing a lake or pond where the fish are stationary or very deep, this method is not likely to produce many fish. When I began trying out this method on mountain lakes, I would use a Stimulator as my indicator with nymphs tied onto the bend of the hook for the dropper. If trout were cruising the littoral shelf in search of food, I found this method to be very effective because the flies were in the path of every fish that cruised past them. In instances where trout were simply hanging out in a small area and not actively cruising for nymphs, this method was generally unsuccessful because the flies were never presented in front of any fish.
The Hang and Bob is the complement of an actively-retrieved fly, so when one fails the other may likely succeed.
I recently had an outing exemplify this point on a small pond where the wind was restless the entire day. After arriving at the pond I was occasionally able to spot cruising fish when the wind momentarily paused, so I figured the fish were up and active. I initially tried retrieving nymphs and buggers on a sunken line without success, then tried the same active approach on a floating line and was met with the same success: none. I would have tried the Hang and Bob as my first method, but I had a sinking line on my reel so I decided to give it a shot first. After rerigging, casting downwind off a point, and letting the Hang and Bob work its magic for a few minutes, I had a nice 15” rainbow on. Over the next hour I landed 3 more nice fish while missing a few more. While the action wasn’t jaw-dropping, it was steadier than the action of any of the other anglers fishing the pond and more than I originally had with my active retrieves.
So the next time you find yourself cursing at the wind while fishing a pond or lake, try fishing the Hang and Bob. It will keep you from casting all the time in the wind, and may get you into some cruising fish you would not have otherwise caught.
Though just getting ready to start fly fishing I will keep this tip in mind. Looks like a great site you have here.