One great way to put off the late winter doldrums is to practice fly-casting, and this time of year, I’m fine-tuning my skills at casting sinking lines and sink-tips. Before I tackle trout or bass or panfish, I’m slinging heavy lines into roiling rivers known for hickory shad, American shad, and striped bass. Casting these dense lines is very unlike casting floating lines, so it takes a bit of getting used to. Practice this in your backyard, and you negate the drag water places on a sinking line, and you can concentrate fully on the mechanics.

Most sinking lines sport thinner diameters than floaters, and with their weight and density, they cast like a rocket. The trick is taming the acceleration curve of a cast with sinking lines, and slowing down the casting stroke.

Let’s assume the line is in the water, you’ve worked the fly and are ready to cast again. No way you can rip the weighted line out of the water column, so you first must strip the line in until you can see the line-to-leader connection. Point the rod tip at the fly, and make a standard roll cast to pull the rest of the line and fly out of the water and extend it forward with a bit more line. Instead of aiming the roll cast towards the water, aim it above the water surface and be prepared to backcast as soon as it straightens out or, if it does land on the water, definitely before it has a chance to start sinking.

A haul on the backcast will help with line speed, and combined with the weight of the sinking line, generate enough power to pull extra line into the backcast. It’s important to hesitate a heartbeat longer on the backcast to allow the rod to load fully. As you punch into the forward cast, aim slightly higher than you would with a lighter floating line. Gravity tends to pull heavier lines down, so compensate with a higher target point.

It’s critical to minimize false casting with weighted lines, so practice casting with the single roll cast and a single backcast to shoot the line forward.

It’s really a great backyard exercise, and if you tie a bit of bright yarn to the end of the leader and let the cat out of the house, the two of you can have a pretty hilarious half-hour of worthwhile casting practice.

Photo: Maryland DNR