SWFF casting articles.
Welcome to the first instalment of UK SWFF casting
articles. We will cover everything from the absolute basics to the extremely advanced.
From loop formation to fine tuning a shooting head every thing will be covered
to make you more proficient in reaching those fish, with the minimum of effort
and with a good understanding of what is happening.
If asked to define fly fishing I usually reply
as follows "Delivering a relatively weightless 'lure' using a weighted fly line"
The fact that the fluffy thing on the end of the leader is not actually a fly
doesn't really matter. In fact, excluding some seaweed flies for mullet there
aren't generally that many flies to be found in and around saltwater.
Most "fly" patterns used for saltwater are quite
a bit larger than your average size 16 Adam's usually associated with fly fishing
and quite naturally an imitation of something a sea fish is likely to eat (but
not always). This can be anything from a fish to a worm, and a crab to a shrimp.
And they are usually BIG!
Casting something BIG brings a whole new dimension
to fly casting. We need to change certain things. And ducking is not an option!
We need a heavier outfit and we need a smooth and efficient casting style.
Is your casting "Pointless"? If it is we need to
take a look at it for saltwater fly fishing..
Firstly let's look at tackle.
As we are using a weighted fly line to deliver this "relatively weightless"
interesting morsel that hopefully will entice something to eat it, we are going
to have to look at a bit of physics. Don't worry though, no need to get your slide
rules out for this one. Basically we choose an outfit to match the size of the
fly (or lure) that we are required to cast. Generally a 7/8 weight outfit is used
for UK still water fishing due to the size of the flies being used. A bead head
Dog knobbler is just about right for a 7 weight. Basically, we require enough
Mass and energy in the fly line to carry the size of fly we are using. So working
up on scale, if we are required to throw a 4" deceiver pattern into the teeth
of a howling gale, we'll need something a little heavier than a 7 weight. We can
use a 7 weight but it is really rather an effort.
So what should we be using? Well, a 9 ft rod preferably
an 8 or 9 weight, a good saltwater-proof reel, a good amount of backing and either
a Weight forward or Shooting head line. As we are usually looking at lots of casting
and a whole lot of water, a faster action tip or middle to tip rod is preferable
for distance. We'll go more into tackle in a future article.
So what's involved in getting this fish or crab
imitation to the fish? Well, this is where that efficient casting comes in. Having
fished in saltwater in various spots around the globe the first thing that strikes
me with Salt water fly fishermen is their level of casting. It's generally a LOT
higher than that of fresh water casters. This is for two main reasons.
1) Hour after hour of practice in the name of fishing
2) If you can't cast well you won't catch much
and will give up.
So what do all of these casters have in common?
Pointy loops! If your loops are lacking in definition and you can't see
anything even remotely resembling a point, you will struggle. However, don't give
up! Getting them is not all that difficult. What we require is a HARD STOP.
To understand why we need to look a little at what casting actually is and what
happens during the cast.
We are basically throwing a loop of glorified string
using a fancy stick. We must be mad! But it seems to work. In making a cast we
are acellerating the line along its length, loading (or bending) the rod using
the weight of the line as we do. We then stop the rod and transfer the energy
in the rod into the fly line. During false casting we keep a hold of the line
and so the line forms a loop at the rod tip and unfurls delivering the fly as
it goes. In doing this we are looking for two essential ingredients. A smooth
application of power and a crisp stop. Once we have enough line out
of the rod tip (more on this later) we release the line and shoot it as far as
we can. And that can be a very long way! Without a pointy loop casting a shooting
head becomes almost impossible. Also, we do not necessarily want a narrow loop,
just a pointy one.
The narrowness of the loop will be covered in depth
in a future article and is basically due to the path of the rod tip during the
cast. The nearer we get to a straight line path, the tighter the loop will be.
As we are sometimes required to cast a more open loop due to the larger fly size
then tight loops can sometimes work against us. For the moment, let's stop the
rod crisply at about 60 degrees from vertical or about 10 o'clock.
The harder we stop (or alternativelky, the harder
we FLICK) the rod, the pointer the loop will be. Most people without pointy loops
fail to stop the rod, they just slow down at the end of the stroke. To see if
you do this try pantomiming the stroke you make and place the other hand in front
of it where you usually stop. If your casting hand hits your other hand it is
not a hard enough stop. There are various analogies for this. Hitting a nail into
the wall in front of you with a hammer is a good one. The hammer can't go past
the nail. It stops dead and transfers its power into the nail, driving it home.
Flicking the water out of a paint brush is another good one. Also try Joan Wulff's
technique of squeezing the water out of a sponge next time you are in the bath.
You want the water to hit the taps. Finally you can try flicking empty film cases
into a bucket using a wooden spoon handle.
All of these give you the hard stop required for
pointy loops. This may take a little getting used to but it will really make
Carl Hutchinson is a qualified instructor
with the FFFE and FFFUSA and runs saltwater fly fishing Mullet with www.corporateflyfishing.com
He is a member of the board of the British fly Casting Club and has fished extensively
in many saltwater locations and specialises in saltwater fly fishing for Salmon