The fly fishing glossary: Chuck to Dead Drift Nymphing

This is the sixth installment of The Fly Fishers Glossary: Snippets From the Underbelly of Fly Fishing, Fly Tying, Fish Biology, Dusty old Facts, Hallucinations, and the Plain Truth as I know it, by Jay Nicholas.

Archaic term meaning to cast a fly, as in, “Chuck it out there Dude”. “Chuck” is a synonym for huck, pitch, wing, and wang.

Modern fly fishing terminology has replaced these terms with techno-weenie designer names applied to various cast-forms. Examples include the Snap-T, the Double Spey, the Snake Roll, the Perry Poke, the Wombat, and the Bloody-L. As is usual in the Fly Fishing Industry, all of these newfangled casts are merely a device to increase sales of DVDs and attendance at casting clinics and all of these fancy new casts are really a version of the antiquated “Chuck” cast.

Chuck is the fellow retained by wise fly anglers to keep an eye on their magnetic rod holders while they scout for steelhead from the North Umpqua Highway. The retainer fee for Chuck’s service ranges from two-bits if you drive a 1962, un-restored Volkswagen Bug, to a hundred-bucks if you drive a Land Rover. Chuck will pay you fifty bucks if you let him drive your Cadillac Escalade up to the store at Diamond Lake to buy an ice-cream bar.

This is a versatile term is used to assign a relatively high level of impact as in, “the guys are crushing the Silvers offshore”. One could refer to collectively “Crushing” a boat-load of fish. One fish, on the other hand, can deliver a “Crushing” grab. Ten-thousand bucks invested in a trip to New Jersey to fish for mercury-tainted, tight-lipped, hatchery-bred salmon is guaranteed to produce a “Crushing” disappointment.


As in, “I’m gonna “Crush” the next jet-boat guide who drops a client in front of me in this run”.

“Dude, get over your ‘Crush”, she’s a waitress, this is Anchorage, and you’ve got a girlfriend/wife back home”.

As in, “George just crushed us. His casts were so awesome with that new Q-axis 12189-4 Boronic Spey rod. We didn’t stand a chance. He was fishing two pools ahead of us and we were just peeing in our waders”.

Cul de Canard
Get this. This is how creative the slick suits in the fly fishing industry are. This is a fly tying material that is, quite literally, from the butt of a duck. These are the fluffy little downy feathers that ring the duck’s butt-orifice. That’s right folks. Give me a break. How far will marketers go to make a buck? These silly feathers make one hell of a messy looking fly but there have now been tons of books and articles written about how wonderful this material is and how any fly made from the material will out-fish the pants off anything ever fished before. They tie dry flies with this junk. They tie wet flies with the stuff. They tie nymphs with it.

ducks butt Photo by spacepleb

What a bunch of nonsense. I could spray WD-40 on belly button lint and tie a fly that looks at least as good as a fly tied with duck whatever feathers and it will probably work just as well too. And then I could give it a fancy name like “lint de bell budon” and charge a bundle for it.

Thank God that, so far, steelhead and salmon flies still have a little self respect as a consequence of having not been contaminated with these duck-butt feathers.

Dark salmon, steelhead
This term is routinely used to describe salmon caught by other anglers, as in, “Like Dude, this other guy, he caught a dark fish but I released a chromer”. In this context, the term dark refers to an advanced state of sexual maturity and the corresponding hormonal, pigmentation, and body shape changes that accompany these maturational states by salmonids. It is understood that 99% of fly anglers fishing alone do not, ever, catch dark salmon or steelhead. Just doesn’t happen.

Great Lakes King Salmon Fishing

Any salmon or steelhead flyfisher, when asked to divulge details of a recent successful fishing adventure to local waters is, or will soon be, a deceiver. Recent means anytime in the last ten years. Successful means having felt at least one pull. Local waters is defined as anyplace within hitch-hiking distance.

A fly pattern claimed by Lefty Kreigh. Now fancy that. Even the name Lefty sounds a little shifty doesn’t it? These flies are killer saltwater patterns and a must-carry for anyone who wants to have a virtually successful trip to the tropics. And please, people, don’t let my sarcasm detract from the likelihood that this is indeed an original pattern of Lefty. I just wish I had invented the damn thing. But then I might be known as Rightie.

A river located in the State of California. The Deschutes supports one of the most abundant fly angler hatches between Warm Springs and Maupin during the month of June. Adhering to biological axioms, when the carrying capacity of the Deschutes is exceeded, surplus angler production is compensated by White Horse Rapids, where they are converted into Buzzard and stonefly nymph food.

A potentially great but thus-far undiscovered fly fishery on the Deschutes lies in the river below Maupin, where tens of thousands of summer steelhead lay in wait for a fly to clobber. Only three guide-parties and seven individual fly fishers, heading for the North Umpqua, got hopelessly lost and wound up fishing the lower Deschutes for summer steelhead during 2008. These lucky anglers found a natural paradise where they cast over marauding schools of steelhead every evening in perfect, windless fly fishing conditions. Two Sierra Club interns on a bird-watching excursion stopped to offer gourmet snacks and wine to these lucky fly anglers, who gracefully accepted. These flyfishers found that cleated wading shoes and Spey rods were unnecessary on the Deschutes, as wading was safe on fine-pebbled gravel bars and casts of only thirty feet were sufficient to reach the best steelhead lies.

Dead Beat
Any fly fisher.

A special application of the term beat. English fly fishing tradition refers to a section of river where an angler pays a fee for exclusive fishing access. A dead beat is a section of river where an angler has paid an exorbitant sum of money to gain exclusive access to water that contains no trout, salmon or steelhead whatsoever.

Dead Drift
A technique of presenting a fly in a manner that it drifts at “exactly” the same speed of the current. This is impossible, but the myth of a “Dead-Drift” presentation is so attractive that it is inextinguishable. This persistent drive to achieve a dead draft has led to the development of a variety of arcane, hilarious, and largely un-executable casts (e.g., the S – cast; Waggle cast; Reach cast; Drop cast; Left- and Right-hand curve cast; and the 30-foot-leader-with-an-8x-tippet cast).

Any water currently being fished for steelhead, especially if located on the North Umpqua, is most often a dead drift, meaning there are no living steelhead anywhere near the angler’s fly.

Dead Drift Nymphing
A method of fly fishing entirely justified when fishing for trout and carp, but which is considered unscrupulous and unethical if employed while fishing for steelhead. See also “Unsavory Behaviors”. Dead drift nymphing usually employs some sort of strike indicator or Thingmabobber and delivers one or more flies to the fish underwater. When the indicator-bobber goes down it might be a fish. More likely it is the bottom. Professional Guides use this angling method as a clever ploy to convince clients that they had a chance to catch hundreds of trout or dozens of steelhead, if only they had set the hook more quickly, or by moving the rod horizontally downstream instead of lifting the rod upstream (which is instinctive).

An indicator – free method of dead-drift nymphing is referred to as “High-Sticking”. Approximately six hundred-and-thirty-three articles on High-Stick-nymphing were published in flyfishing magazines during 2008. See also “High Sticking”. The actual number of fly fishers practicing high-stick nymphing was about nine, and they were all fishing Great Lakes tributaries.


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5 Responses to The fly fishing glossary: Chuck to Dead Drift Nymphing

  1. Oh geez, they have moved the state line for California up to the Deschutes already, That is the worst news I have ever heard. Was the McKenzie spared? =)

  2. Rob R says:

    the men in white coats can’t be far behind you…

  3. jay nicholas says:

    David: the McKenzie? I dunno. Are you referring to the beautiful clear river with exciting rapids and wild redsides and cutthroat and the healthiest population of wild spring chinook above Willamette Falls? And located close to a zillion people who all own Koffler boats? And within striking distance of The Caddis Fly? And the sole reason for the creation of two billion Possie Buggers?

    Never heard of it. Is it stocked?

    . . . . . and Rob. Now now, buddy, I’m just callin”em like I sees ‘en.


  4. Hah! How many Possie Buggers you think the fish on the McKenzie saw this year? Followed closely by Mr. Ice Dub Prince. I had a guy this summer who was new to fly fishing stop me above Blue River and ask where he should fish. I asked what flys he had and he opened his brand new fly box and almost all that was in it were several Possie Buggers, Ice Dub Prince, and Moorish October Caddis. Wonder where he came from. =)

    Keep up the glossary JN. They are a riot.

  5. Matt Dunn says:

    What about ‘chum love’?

    Chum love- the dramatic increase in traffic a website experiences when Moldy Chum links to them.

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