Hopefully by now you’re all set for the season, and early season fishing brings with it a few interesting challenges. More often than not the unpredictable spring weather sees high water levels due to rain and snowmelt, and although trout may not be in the best condition after wintering over they are hungry and keen to take the fly.
We’ve all done it – smacked our fly rod with a heavy cone head woolly bugger or big weighted streamer – that sickening thud more than not results in broken fly rods – perhaps not immediately but often a connection with a heavy fly results in a stress fracture that will weaken and eventually break your precious fly rod.
For many of us, high water and lack of terrestrials mean we’ll be fishing lures, nymphs and streamers for the early part of the season. Summer will see trout looking up and taking dries, but for now, most anglers will be fishing subsurface.
Casting heavy bead-head nymphs and big cone-head streamers brings a unique set of casting challenges that can not only be frustrating, they can break fly rods, hook ears and cause plenty of tangles and knots.
Here are a few simple pointers to help avoid busted fly rods, damaged pride and the inevitable macramé that results from these heavyweight fly fishing tangles.
Shorten your leader
While fly fishing is most certainly the sport of exceptions, generally speaking, you will not need a long fine presentation leader when bombing out double tungsten nymphs or cone-head woolly buggers. A long leader behind this sort of gear tends to see flies flailing about madly. A leader of around 9 ft with a couple of feet of tippet is usually a pretty safe bet.
Open up your stroke
There are two simple things you can do with your cast to help avoid hitting your rod or yourself with a lead bomb.
Normally fly casters try to deliver a relatively tight narrow loop. Tight loops are more aerodynamically efficient than large open loops and are more accurate – particularly into the wind.
Imagine trying to push an open umbrella rapidly through the air (your large loop) – not easy and lots of resistance. Now close that umbrella (a narrow loop) and that same umbrella now cuts through the wind very nicely.
The problem with casting heavy weighted flies is that the terminal end – the end with the heavy pointy thing on it – tends to drop under the force of gravity, thus increasing the likelihood of smashing into your rod or head. Of course, gravity acts on everything including light dry flies, but the effect is far more pronounced with a heavily weighted fly.
Enter the wide loop. Often scorned by fly casters and regarded as the domain of the learner, wide casting loops are actually pretty handy things, particularly when casting weight.
A wide loop simply allows more room for that heavy pointy package to drop during flight – in short, it’s safer.
To cast a wider loop you need to open up your casting arc a little, take a bigger slice of the pie – and to do that just use more wrist. Yep, everything you were told not to do as a learner you can now do and call it great technique. Saltwater fly fisherman, you’ll want to be using this technique too.
Figure A shows a rod arc that for the purposes of this demo we’ll call narrow.
By Comparison Figure B – shows a wider casting arc that will create a wider, more open loop. I’ve achieved this by simply rotating more at the wrist, opening things up and taking a “bigger slice of the pie”
The second thing to do is tilt or cast the rod out to the side and away from your body. This not only puts the flies further away from your ears, it moves the rod, line and fly “out of plane”and far less likely to collide. We’ll talk more about casting planes and “tracking” in later articles.
Last safety tip, make sure you are wearing a hat and sunglasses regardless of the weather conditions. Hooks in eyeballs and ears are easily avoided if you’re wearing a pair of sunglasses and a lid. Have a great time out there!