October 25, 2013
Fly Casting Tip: Use Water Resistance to Load the Rod
By Kirk Deeter
It's good to have some spey casting techniques in your arsenal, even when you do 99 percent of your fishing with a single-hand rod. Don't get me wrong. The classic overhead cast is still most anglers' bread and butter, as it should be. Perfecting the stroke of accelerating and stopping the rod to generate good loops is going to matter most in the long run.
But what about those situations when you have obstructions like bushes or a high bank behind you? Smart anglers also know that the leading factors that spook fish are motions and shadows overhead. That's true on the trout stream or the bonefish flat. So minimizing false casts overhead helps you hook up more often. (I don't roll cast very often on the bonefish flat, but sometimes I do.) The lower profile roll cast is particularly effective when you're working a trout or salmon run perpendicular to the current flow. But there are a few simple tricks to remember to make spey casts and even simple roll casts work best.
It all boils down to three things: rod position, water tension, and timing.
Even single-hand fly rods average 9 feet in length for a reason. When casting—and mending, for that matter—you want to be sure to take full advantage of that leverage. In the context of roll casting and spey casting, it's important to load the rod with the tip of the rod in a relatively low position. You cannot generate the power you need to make a sharp cast when you start with your rod tip pointed straight at the sky.
You also want to take the slack out of the line, and create good tension as you start the stroke. When you are sweeping the line in front of you, in order to create a "D" shaped loop behind you, you want the line to rip across the water, creating the "white mouse" effect shown here (it looks like a white mouse scurrying across the water surface, or so the traditionalists say). You will feel this good steady acceleration load the rod—it's no different than a good steady acceleration of an overhead backcast loading the rod.
The real trick is timing the transfer of energy. You want to pause a bit to let the loop form behind you, then, when the moment is right, point the rod tip where you want your line to go, and fire away. If you wait too long, you lose the energy you built with surface tension. Don't wait enough, and you won't load the cast in full. Remember to finish that forward cast high, and stop the rod, as that will fling the line more effectively.
I recommend Simon Gawesworth's book Spey Casting for all anglers, and not just those who fish two-handers.Simon dedicates a whole chapter to single-handed spey techniques (which he says are his favorites), but the whole book great for reinforcing the principles of moving line forward, without much happening overhead or behind you. It will change the way you think about all casting.
Ultimately, only time on the water will help you get the feel. Take time on your next trip to tinker around with just roll casts, then try a few spey moves like a snap T or a single spey. Remember… low rod tip to start… good surface tension… accelerate… pause… and fire, finishing high. When you get it down, you will become 10 times more dangerous to trout than the angler who is simply stuck between "10 and 2" on the imaginary casting clock.