Tom Rosenbauer taught me this one, but I’m going to steal it and share it anyway.
After you’ve dressed up your dry fly with that greasy, ginky goop that’s now left all over your fingers, don’t just wipe it off on your waders to leave stains like the syrup you dripped on your shirt at the pancake breakfast… use it to your fishing advantage!
Run those goopy fingers up and down the top two-thirds of your leader and grease that up a bit as well.
Why? Because the best leader materials might be made to float, but they float higher with a little help, and when leaders ride higher in the water, they mend easier.
And mending—essentially lifting and placing your fly line and leader upstream of your flies to create a drag-free drift, whether you’re dry-fly fishing, or fishing a nymph rig—is the single-most important skill that separates highly successful anglers from the rest of the pack.
I seriously, honestly, think that any angler who spent as much time practicing and perfecting mending—where the line moves but the fly (or flies) does not—stands to benefit more than the one who only practices and perfects the casting stroke. The perfect mender is WAY better off than someone who only cares about forming pretty loops and making long casts.
Using the golf analogy, mending and making a drag-free drift is chipping and putting, and casting is driving. Both are important. But more than half your strokes on a golf course are in the short game, and more than half of the success ratio when it comes to fly fishing for trout in a river is about good mending and a drag-free drift.
When you grease that upper part of your leader, it lifts off the water easier, with less friction, and less pull on the flies you’re trying to present to the fish.
When you’re spey casting, roll casting, and all that, you WANT that surface tension and friction factor, because that’s what loads the rod, so don’t grease the leader. But when you’re finesse fishing with a dry fly (or flies) those micro-mends matter, a lot.
So, you can wipe the leftover grease wherever you want, but rather than waste it, I’d advise putting it somewhere that matters.