Nine out of ten beginners, and a few that have been fishing a good while, that I watch casting flies on small
trout streams make straight-line cast. By that, I mean their fly line, leader and tippet lands on the water in a
straight line. That may be fine for showing someone how far you can cast or okay is your fishing a streamer,
but if your doing that fishing a dry fly or small nymph, you haven't finished the first grade of fly casting.
Unless that type of cast is made directly upstream, meaning not the slightest bit to the left or right of the exact
opposite direction the current is flowing, it will cause instant drag. If it does land such that your fly drifts
directly back down stream in line with the current, your fly will be passing directly over the same line or water
that you fly line, leader and tippet just passed over. In other words, it a trout was positioned downstream of
where you fly landed, your leader and fly line would spook the trout before the fish had a chance to see your
fly. This is called, lining the fish.
If the fly line lands slightly across the current, the resistance of the fly line on the water is greater than that on
the tippet and fly, and your fly line in essence "pulls" the fly downstream, which of course, causes the fly to
drag. The fly will instantly begin to travel faster than the water is flowing, and it will leave a tiny wake on the
surface that trout can instantly detect as unnatural.
Ever real insect that trout normally see on the surface of the water is floating at the same speed of the water.
Leaves, twigs, insects and other floating items don't drag on the surface. When they do, the unnatural
disturbance tends to scare the trout more than attract them. If your fly doesn't drift drag-free, it will tend to
scare trout more than it will tend to fool into taking it for an insect.
Most of the time, the anglers I see making this very common mistake, meaning they make an upstream cast
that straightens out their fly line, leader and tippet such that it lands on the water in a straight line, mend their
line as soon as they see the fly begin to drag. The problem with this is mending the fly line on the surface of
the water causes additional disturbance that may spook the trout downstream of your fly. In other words my
friends, any time you're mending you line on the water, you're attempting to correct a mistake. You are
trying to fix a problem you made with your cast. I'm not saying there is never a time that mending your
fly line isn't necessary. I am saying that mending your fly line tends to spook trout when in many, if not most
cases, it isn't necessary.
I'll make this as plain and simple as I can. When you are fishing small, pocket water streams, and making
upstream presentations like you most often should be doing, you should be making "crooked" cast, not cast
that straighten out your fly line, leader and tippet. These types of cast are called reach cast, curve cast and
even in the air mends. I prefer reach cast because they are easy to make and in most cases, all that is
necessary. Curve cast are more for getting your fly to land in a place an obstruction is preventing you from
making a straight-line cast. Just for example, you may want your fly to land behind a rock, when a straight line
presentation would put your leader or fly line directly over the rock. Curve cast are also far more difficult to
perfect than a reach cast.
When you make a reach cast, your fly and tippet, and in some cases part or all of the leader itself, lands to
your left or right of the fly line. The fly line, and maybe a portion of the leader lands in a straight line across
the water, but the tippet and a part or all of the leader lands from a few inches to a few feet, left or right of the
fly line. This keeps your fly line well away from your target where you want the fly to drift. It just as
importantly allows the fly to drift drag fee because of the slack in the leader and tippet.
To make a reach cast, you simple cast as you normally would, but you move your fly line to the right or left of
the target. While the fly line is unrolling, you reach, or extend your arm and tip of the fly rod out to the right or
left, away from the target. This will put an "in-the-air curve" or mend, whichever you prefer to call it, in the
leader and tippet during the time the fly line is unrolling, before it lands on the water. Depending on exactly
when you "reach", you can put a small curve or bend in just the tippet, or a big curve or bend, in the tippet
and leader. In other words, you can make the fly land above your target like it should, and the fly line land a
few inches, or a few feet, to the left or right of your target. It gets the fly line out of the view of the trout
and at the same time, prevents your fly from dragging.
When you see someone mending the heck out of their fly line, you are looking at someone who doesn't know
how to cast to trout. When you see someone that's not getting a drag free drift, you are looking at someone
who doesn't know how to cast to trout in a small stream. Learn to make crooked cast and you will improve you
success considerably. It's actually very easy to learn to do.
Casting Flies In Small Streams
by Alan Snider
Copyright 2019 James Marsh
August, 2019 Issue
Angie casting nymphs in Little River,
Great Smoky Mountains