The Art of the Hero Drift

The Art of the Hero Drift

I have often said through the years fishing is a game of mathematics. The more water you can cover the more fish you stand to catch. It’s pretty simple math when you think about it. Many that have fished the center pin know there effectiveness.
If you’re covering twice the water as the angler next to you, then you should catch more fish right? What if I told you the answer could be a yes and a no? Most people think that answer should be cut and dry but it’s not. Any experienced guide who fishes for steelhead will get after his client for making hero drifts.
Why would he care you ask? Simple when you have too much line out, there is always a belly of line. When you set the hook your hook setting power gets absorbed by that belly in your line. Thus causing you, not to get a good hook set, or worse yet you educated the fish so he or she won’t bite again.
A guide’s job at the end of the day is more than just providing some great scenery but an opportunity at some fish. Most clients remember the fish they catch that make it to the net but try not to remember all the fish they missed or lost. That’s why guides don’t want you doing a hero drift. They want you to have a chance at hooking a fish not educating them.
If you don’t have the right gear yet or the skill level than a longer drift is not for you. You’re better off running a shorter drift and reeling in and repeating the process. Once that part of the run has been covered thoroughly then move down and repeat the process. Why educate the fish, that fish is not going anywhere yet. Those fish will be in that part of the run, when you eventually make down there to fish it. That’s when the bobbers go down and you say FISH ON!


Let’s say you have the right gear and skill set for a longer drift, but you have other anglers in the run. That’s where you can help all center pinners out by showing some river etiquette.
This subject alone has given the float reel gang a bad rap. I spin, pin, swing and pull plugs for steel. I have had it happen to me myself. A guy 100 yards away and his float comes drifting by me. Some may think it’s funny but it’s not. As anglers we are all there to enjoy the resource. 
So let’s show some respect to one another. The guy with a center pin that shows up at a crowded hole and then tries to hero drift his way around the hole will find his line cut.
Now that we have that out of the way, let’s talk about gear and when it’s ok to make longer drifts. Let’s say your fishing on a weekday and the river has little traffic but your time is limited that day. On a short day trip you need to cover a lot of water in a short amount of time.
Now is the time to practice that longer drift, and cover the river thoroughly and then move on. What’s beautiful about this technique is you’re presenting the offering far enough away from the fish so you’re not spooking them with the sand, silt and noise. That’s why if at all possible always wade upstream. This can be deadly especially when fishing for over fished fish or your in ultra-clear low water. You’re covering lots of water thoroughly and undetected from a far.


Now to practice a longer drift you need the right gear. One of the most important things you must have is a longer rod. One that’s long enough to pick up that line off the water quickly for mending or for the hook set. A 9 ft. rod verses a 13 ft. rod is no comparison when presenting a longer drift. My personal favorite rod length’s depends on the stream but I prefer an 11-13 foot.
Next piece would be a High Viz Mono or one of the floating lines. That can be easily seen from a distance. You need to know if you have a belly or not in your line. That belly will slow your drift. The bait must keep perfect time with the cadence of the river. The fish know what current speed is and they know what speed that food should be traveling down the current at. When you get that belly in your line, no worries today’s floating mono’s or nylon super lines allow you to mend with ease with very little disturbance to the float. The longer rod is a must.
The actual float and cap color you use can also help big time. Not all float manufacturers are created equal, especially the paint they use on the tops of their floats. Trust me with my aging eyes I have seen it firsthand. I prefer to use the raven floats with bright orange tip top tubing or the Drennan floats. They use the right amount of fluorescent colored paint on the top of the float for me to see. The float needs to pop and stand out for greater distances.

Lastly I highly recommend you consider Snelling your knot to the hook. Most guys tie an improved clinch knot which will allow the knot to move around the eye of the hook and this creates friction. With friction comes leader failure, thus resulting in an educated fish that was lost.

Plus by Snelling the knot creates some incredible leverage. At longer distances you need all the leverage you can get to steer or turn that fish away from wood, etc. As you can see with the right gear you can stack the odds in your favor for a longer drift with the right set up.
Lastly I would like to point out that this technique needs to be used with caution and common sense. If a bow hunter who only practices out to 30 yards should not attempt a shot at 60 yards. But with the right equipment and practice that is possible with today’s modern archery gear. 

You owe it to the fish and other anglers to practice some river etiquette when you extend your drift. Do so within your means and skill set. But there is no doubt when using and perfecting the extended drift at the right time this will equal more fish.  There’s NO denying the math of it all. Cover more water, and present a drag free drift and that will translate into success. Get out this winter there’s a steelhead in the run waiting for you.




4 thoughts on “The Art of the Hero Drift

  1. Very good post. I never really thought about it but I think I have educated fish by running too long of a drift. Keep up the good work.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *