I’ve always said that your fly line has as much to do with casting performance as your fly rod does. Even the most deluxe, high-tech graphite wand in the world won’t save you if your fly line is chapped, dry, and especially kinked.
Trying to cast a kinked line through a fly rod is like trying to push a corkscrew through a straw. Crooked lines cause crooked (and short) casts. And yet many of us don’t take the five minutes needed to straighten out our fly lines before we hit the water.
Stretch your fly line by attaching it to a fixed object and pulling on it, either all at once or a few feet at a time. I also like to rub my fingers (or better yet, a pad treated with line conditioner) along the fly line to generate some friction heat, which will help make the line more malleable. Doing so will also let you know if your line has any abrasions.
It’s especially important to stretch that line in the winter. Think of it like stretching your body before a jog on a chilly morning. Not doing so can only cause problems. I like to stretch my line before I head out into the cold, and then again as I pull it off the reel before I fish. Once you start casting a kinked line in the cool water, it will only set up out of shape, and you’ll never get things right until that line warms up again.
Which leads to another important point. Many lines are actually designed for certain temperature zones. Use a “tropical” line that was intended for hot conditions in a chilly steelhead river, and you might as well be casting a 90-foot section of vermicelli.
One of the big issues we have with winter fishing is ice forming in the guides of our rod. I think you can reduce that problem by 50 percent if you straighten your fly line before you fish. The other 50 percent? Well, that’s another topic for another day.