Saltwater Fly Fishing In The United Kingdom

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UK 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.

It's Pointless!

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 and

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.

Loops with energy

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.

Smooth application

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 a difference.

                   See you in the Forum

Tight loops.


Carl Hutchinson


Carl Hutchinson is a qualified instructor with the FFFE and FFFUSA and runs saltwater fly fishing Mullet with 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 in Canada.




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