This is a dirty trick. Those that consider themselves “purists” should not try this at home.
I stumbled upon this tactic several winters ago while watching a friend fish a small stream with a Tenkara rod. I’ve adapted the technique for my style of fishing, and have found it to be very useful!
Simply put it’s, jigging the fly through a pool.
I’ve had several days on the water the past few years (9-10 come to mind) where trout weren't committing to anything. I’d tried a bunch of different patterns with no success. I grew tired and wanted to shake it up so I took the same fly I was dead drifting, a small sz. 14 caddis with a CDC collar and drifted it through the same pool as I had several times before, but instead of the typical dead drift I jigged the fly from the head of the pool to the end, “BAM” a fish.
The next drift I did the same exercise, quickly lifting the rod then dropping it over and over 8-10 times through the pool. I ended that hour with 7 fish. On a day that previously brought 0 to hand. *Take note, there was no caddis hatch occurring at the time I was just prospecting with the pattern.*
Was that a fluke day?
Ever since that day I’ve been used this tactic regularly. Usually, I employ it after dead drifting through the pool a few times with no success. I remove the indicator (if I’m using one), add split shot, or tie on a heavier fly (if necessary), and jig the fly through the pool.
I’ve watched people, read about, and used the Liesenberg Lift, and other similar tactics, but this is not that. What I'm referring to is more similar to ice fishing or what my friends call "crappie tactics" where people drop their bait down and pulse it to entice a strike.
This is not one motion towards the surface, but a consistent, repetitive “jig” of the fly through the pool, riffle, or run. The goal is not to lift the fly feet in the water column, but rather a few inches then let it settle back down, then lift it a few inches again repeating the process the whole duration of the drift.
The moving motion of the fly seems to be a great attractor for fish, and they often have a good response.
This presentation causes rapid and fierce hits, but be warned, it does not always mean you connect with every fish that hits the fly. Sometimes, it seems, the fish take the fly when it's on the drop so you may feel a hit, or your sighter will jiggle, but by the time you set the hook the fish is gone.
Just like every technique, this presentation style is not a perfect strategy. I’ve had days were jigging the fly causes fish after fish to smash your fly. Other days, have been less impressive. However, It's stupidly simple, and I'm sure many people have already been practicing this technique for years, but it was a newer one to me that has been a game changer on slow days!
My suggestion would be to try this method out next time nothing is biting. Take of the indicator, stretch out your arm, and start doing subtle, paced jigs.