Fly Fishing Traditions

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Saturday, October 29, 2011

Switch and Spey Casting Primer - Part V - The Switch Cast

The “Switch Cast” is also referred to as the “Forward Spey”, “Live Line Roll”, or the “Jump Roll”.

It is a non-change of direction cast just like the “Roll Cast”, but is much more dynamic. It is an “Airborne Anchor” cast. The “Switch Cast is mainly used as an adjustment cast to reposition your line to make a more standard spey cast. It is a linear cast which makes it a good candidate for a practice cast for getting the fundamentals of using an “Airborne Anchor”.

The “Switch Cast” has a “D Loop” with energy. It has less “Line Stick” so there is little energy lost in the cast. The “Switch Cast” is a much more efficient version of the “Roll Cast” but a little more complicated to do.

The Fundamentals of the Switch Cast

  • The “Switch Cast” starts with the rod pointed at the line on the water and then continues with a lift to nose height or about to the 9:30 or 10:00 position.
  • The rod then sweeps laterally to the side, staying at the same height, coming back and rotating the shoulders and the hips lifting the rod to 1:00 and there the rod stops until you set your "Live" anchor.
  • Remember this is an airborne anchor cast, the line will be in the air, you wait until it settles, see the splash and then you go. “Splash and Go”.
  • Once the line touches, “Go” and the “Forward Cast” unfurls like normal.
Keys to the Switch Cast

  • The key is to make sure there is enough speed to get the "Live"anchor to land in the right position..
  • If you pick up too slowly, the anchor lands too far in front of you. You will then have a small “D Loop” and the forward stroke will have to be much more powerful to execute the cast..
  • If you come back too fast, and the anchor point goes 10 or 2o feet behind you, the cast will be poor because the line or “Point P” is too far behind you.
  • The ideal placement of your anchor is just in front of you and to the side.

The "Switch Cast" is a great practice cast for learn the technique of setting an airborne anchor or "Live" anchor. If you add a "Perry Poke" cast before the "Switch Cast" you will have an airborne change of direction cast. Like with the "Roll Cast" practice, practice, practice.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Switch and Spey Casting Primer - Part IV - The Roll Cast

The two handed “Roll Cast” is one of the founding members of the spey casting family that is important enough to learn and to practice. Using the “Roll Cast” as a practice cast will enable you to get the basic principles of spey casting right. It doesn't have many practical uses as far as a spey fishing application except for repositioning the line prior to making a spey cast. It’s good for picking up sinking lines and getting them near the surface. It’s good for throwing a slack line straight, so you don’t have a bunch of slack sitting on the water prior to your cast, but its main and best use is for practicing and for learning the mechanics of the “Forward Casting Stroke”. It also allows us to introduce and learn about “Point P”.

Point "P"

The “Roll Cast” is a very good cast to introduce “Point P”. “Point P” is the point where the hanging line touches the water with a “Roll Cast” and also in other spey casts.

Most of the time “Point P” is the point the line is touching the water when the line is dangling below you, or after you have set the line to form your “D Loop”.

With the “Roll Cast” if “Point P” is in front of you, and you’ve got minimal amount of “Line Stick” and drag, and the “Roll Cast” leaves the water cleanly, you’ve executed the “Roll Cast” correctly.

A good pointer is that if that the line makes little noise as it leaves the water, you have little “Line Stick”. If “Point P” is established behind you when you set your “D Loop”, and when you go forward you;

(a) Hear the spray of water, the noise indicates that you have too much line on the water;

(b) Your cast will not launch cleanly and with power because there is so much drag. This is because the line is being held or gripped by the water behind you.

(c) You had too much “Line Stick” for your “D Loop”.

Make sure that you pay attention to where “Point P” is located. Make sure “Point P” is clean and in front of you when you start your pickup. Pull back to 1:00, hang it, hold it, drive parallel to your rail track and the roll cast will furl out easily.

The Fundamentals of the Roll Cast

The most important point about the “Roll Cast” in relation to spey casting is that it helps you hone the skills and technique of the "Forward Stroke". The "Forward Stroke" is the common element for all spey casts. Practice. Practice, Practice!

As far as the fundamentals of the "Roll Cast" the most important one is that the “Forward Stroke” is cast out parallel to the line lying on the water. Parallel and close. This “Parallel Principal” applies to almost all spey casts. Stay “Parallel and Close”.

The Railroad Tracks

When picking your target line for the "Roll Cast" think of the analogy of “railroad tracks”. If you are casting right handed, over your right shoulder, the line lying on the water at the start of your cast is the right rail track. Your “Forward Stroke”, your aiming point, is the left track running parallel to the right track. Rail tracks are parallel forever and ever. Keep your casts parallel and your cast will furl out correctly.

Roll Cast Rules

  • One cardinal rule is never cross the rail track with your cast. If you cast upstream across the right rail track you will tangle and end up with a big mess.
  • Roll cast to the “Clean Side” or to the left of the right rail track.
  • Also avoid going too far off to the side and have a widening “Rail Track”. The train will fall off the track. You will lose your power and the cast will falter.
  • The “Roll Cast” doesn’t roll across the water; a cast that rolls across the water has little power. A good roll cast should unroll smoothly in the air and drop to the water like any other good spey cast.
  • Remember to aim the “Roll Cast with enough height for it to unroll cleanly in the air and drop to the water as one cast. The best way to achieve this is to start with the right amount of line out of the guides, the “Hang”, use a fast action rod and make sure you rod tip drives in a straight line and accelerates to a positive stop.

The “Roll Cast” is the perfect practice cast which enables to work on your fundamentals for the "Forward Cast: on almost any body of water. Once you have the "Roll Cast" flying properly you are ready for any spey casts that have a waterborne anchor.

If you add the "Perry Poke" cast before the "Roll Cast" you'll have a functioning change of direction "Roll Cast". I'll cover the "Perry Poke" a little later.

Get out and practice the Roll Cast, two handed, with a Switch Rod or a Spey Rod and you be ready to move on to the advanced spey casts.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Switch and Spey Casting Primer - Part III - The Forward Cast

The Forward Cast

Before looking at individual types of spey casts, which are change of direction casts, let’s look at the most fundamental part, the stroke common with all spey casts, which is the “Forward Cast”.

The forward cast is such an important portion of all Spey Casts that the fundamentals of the forward cast really should be looked at separately. All spey casts are done by different manipulations of the fly line, a drag, a pull, a flip of the fly line, before the final delivery and finish with the “Forward Cast”.

This section will focus only on improving and perfecting the “Forward Cast”.

The simplest way to practice the forward cast is with the “Roll Cast”.

The reason why it is the best is that the roll cast starts from a static rod position. You can set your “D Loop” with the line over your shoulder and you can then concentrate on your rod and hand positions prior to throwing the “Forward Cast”

The "Roll Cast" for Practicing the Forward Cast

The "Roll Cast" is the perfect cast to perfect your "Forward Cast".

By using the pause of the “Roll Cast”, once you have set your “D Loop”, you can to your rod and hands properly.

Use the pause to think about the starting position and how the cast should work.

When you are ready make the forward stroke.

To get a get a smooth tight loop your forward stroke must stop with a very abrupt positive stop.

The Fundamentals of the Forward Cast

Once you have set up your "D Loop" over your shoulder you need to get your starting position right.

(a) Concentrate on getting the arms in the right position to start.

(b) The top hand should be relaxed and at about ear height.

(c) The positioning of the top hand is dependent on the amount of line you are working. With a short belly line your stroke will be short (12” +/-) and in front of you. With a long belly line the stroke will be long reaching behind you and then accelerating forward.

(d) The bottom hand should be holding the rod at angle of approximately 45 degrees.

How the Power of the Forward Stoke is Developed

The power of the stroke comes from two aspects with short or mid-belly line lengths;

(1) The right wrist of the top hand snapping and coinciding with;

(2) The bottom hand powering or tugging back.

Both move at the very same time to maximize the power application.The power of the stroke comes from three aspects when casting long belly line lengths.

(1) The right wrist of the top hand snapping and coinciding with;

(2) The bottom hand powering or tugging back. Both move at the very same time to maximize the power application.

(3) The last aspect is that the right elbow locks straight.

The Forward cast Mantra “Body, Arm, Power”

Body, Arm, Power. This is the “Forward Stroke Mantra”. The three things that you want to concentrate on when practicing the Forward Stroke with the Roll cast is, Body, Arm and Power.

Body - The first thing that should happen with the forward cast is the body should be moving forward into the cast. Lean into the cast. Transfer your weight from the back foot to the front foot.

Arm - The arm angle is very critical to an efficient cast. The rod should be angled down from the ear at a 45 degree angle +/-. The rod should move forward with both hands at this same angle until the wrist snaps and the low hand pulls back simultaneously.

Note: A common error is to roll the cast forward, this throws the rod forward in an arch forming a big open loop without any power. Avoid an early tilt and rotation of the rod.

Power - Work on the simultaneous, wrist snap and pull back for the power stroke. The delayed tilt and continuous application will give you a tight powerful loop.

Common Faults with the Forward Stroke

"Hitting From the Top" - This is an impatient forward stroke. The forward stroke starts with a massive force. An over application of power, too soon. This stroke tend to climb in the air and falls with no power.Creep

This is caused by eagerness or anticipation of the forward stroke. The back cast is completed, the rod stays still for the required amount of time, and the forward stroke starts.

“Creep” - This happens when while you wait for the back cast to anchor or get into position, you creep forward with the rod to almost in the vertical position. You then apply the power from the 12 o’clock position, once you have moved the stroke too far forward. When this happens you have lost your half your power stroke and run out of gas so to speak.

By the time the power is applied the rod is past the vertical position and forces the line to force downward and crumples into the water instead of flying out above the water.

To correct “Creep”, remember that when you’ve completed your back cast, your rod should be motionless or still, shift your body weight forward, maintaining the correct rod angle and then make the forward cast.

If your line is firing downwards into the water, work on not creeping.

"Thrusting" - Thrusting is common when transitioning from single handed casting and not pulling back with the bottom hand.

The bottom hand goes forward with the top hand and doesn’t pull back.

To correct “Thrusting” pull back on your top hand as you turn your wrist into the forward cast simultaneously.

"Rolling the Shoulder" - Avoid rolling your shoulder, or rotating the shoulder around as you make your forward cast.

If you roll or rotate your shoulder it doesn’t allow your cast to fire in a straight line. It will follow your rotation and not fire in a 180 degree line.

The cast will unfurl in a curving, sideways, fading direction.

The cast will land in a downstream loop with your flies upstream.

To correct “Rolling the Shoulder” square your shoulders to your target line when making the forward cast.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Switch and Spey Casting Primer - Part II - Anchor Groups

Anchor Groups

In this article, Switch and Spey Casting Primer - Part II, I want to discuss Anchor Groups.

The anchor for your spey cast is the portion of line that is lying on the water once you form your "D Loop". All spey casts will fall into one of two anchor groups, either the waterborne anchor group or the airborne anchor group.

Airborne Anchors.

The first group are "Airborne Anchors"

  • An airborne anchor cast is where the line is in the air, lands, splashes and goes. This is often referred to as a “Touch and Go”.
  • A good cast to perfect and practice setting up an “Airborne Anchor” is the “Switch Cast”
  • The “Snake Roll” is an example of an “Airborne Anchor” cast.
  • The success of any airborne anchor cast is dependent upon timing the touch down properly.
  • You want to time your cast so that the forward cast starts just as the end of the fly line and nail knot touches down.
  • The advantages of airborne anchor casts are that they are a quicker change of direction. It takes about 4/7th’s of the time compared to a waterborne anchor cast.
  • Another advantage is that it doesn’t make much disturbance on the water. The waterborne anchor casts make a lot of noise when you rip the line off the water.
  • The airborne anchor casts are silent if done correctly.
  • Using an airborne anchor cast with sinking lines doesn’t allow them to sink during your cast.
I'll discuss the fundamentals of a spey cast using an airborne anchor when we review the "Switch Cast" in a future article.

Waterborne Anchors

A waterborne anchor cast is a cast where the anchor is set up on the water, it settles, it stays in the water as you come around to form the “D Loop” and only when you start your forward stroke does it lift off the water.

  • A good cast to perfect and practice a “Waterborne Anchor” cast is the “Roll Cast”
  • A “Double Spey” is an example of a waterborne anchor spey cast.
  • These tend to be the easier casts to learn because you can break down the waterborne casts into segments.
  • Waterborne anchors also casts work well with large flies.
  • We will review the fundamentals of a "Waterborne Anchor Cast" when we review the "Double Spey" cast in a future article.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Fishing the Dark Side

When fishing tail water streams and rivers there can be a lot of movement of gravel and structure from seasonal flows. Your favorite holding spots for trout may not be there anymore and you may see areas with bright clean gravel. With the high flows from the winter, spring and in some cases through mid-summer there can be a lot of gravel pushed around.

Where there are corners where the river takes a right or left turn and there is a gravel bank, the gravel sometimes can be carved out and pushed downstream. This often leaves a long bright gravel bottom pushing down from the corner area. Trout don't like bright gravel. You will see a distinct line where this bright gravel has filled the center of the run. To the right or left you will often see a darker patch of gravel to the bank. This creates a seam from light gravel in the center to dark gravel to the edges. This is the darker seam that you want to run your flies through. Fish the dark side.

Another area where this pushing of gravel can happen is below the riffles where the riffle transitions to another run below. The gravel in the run above the riffle where it tails out typically has nice dark color. Once the water flows over the lip of the tailout it can sometimes dig out the gravel at the top of the riffle like a rototiller and when it does this gravel is pushed downstream like mentioned above. This creates another bright gravel to darker gravel seam in the run below the riffle. Fish the darker side.

As you drift down the river there are often areas mid stream where there are islands of darker gravel where the bright gravel has pushed downstream on each side of it. Fish the dark colored areas.

When you drift a river and you are fishing the runs look for dark spots which are typically boulders or rocks. When it is bright out fish will hold in front, alongside or behind these spots, They are mini sanctuary areas. In a freestone tailwater these areas can be prime lies.

Keep your eye out for the dark areas and there's a good chance you'll find willing trout.