I often spend time watching others on the river and observing their technique and whenever I head north for a Turangi winter fly fishing mission I see a number anglers, both visiting and local struggling to cast some pretty heavy stuff overhead style. There are easier ways, and it doesn't have to be so hard.
These days it's not all about fishing super heavy and deep, the Tongariro river has changed and so have fly designs and techniques, so more often that not you can fish a lot lighter that you might think. However there will always be days when the flow is up or the fish are sitting in faster and deep water and it calls for brute force to get down and in front of our quarry.
When fly casting, we are usually told that line speed is king, and a tight loop is a good loop. However throw a Tongariro style bomb, or a couple of split shot into the mix and our requirements change, fast.
If you throw a heavy fly back and forwards with speed then all sorts of mayhem occurs when your loop straightens: the fly will kick, bounce, tuck and in general cause nightmares for the angler like dropping the line and smashing off beads, tangling in the foliage behind, or copping a heavy fly to the back of the skull.
Heavy flies and tight loops are a recipe for tangles and broken rod tips, so let's consider five easy changes we can make to better handle these heavy flies.
Widen Your Casting Arc
By widening casting arc you open up your loop, keeping those heavier flies away from both the rod tip, and rod leg (bottom leg) of the loop.
Slow Down Your Casting Stroke
By slowing down our stroke we can immediately reduce our line speed, diminishing the kick which occurs when a heavy fly turns over at speed, and concentrate on flexing our rod deeper to bring in the more powerful mid - butt section to handle our heavier rig. Try casting a bomb and see how you go.
Go Up A Line Size
Quite simply it takes mass, to move mass. Slowing down your rod tip recovery by over lining isn't a big deal for as mentioned, we don't need breakneck line speed, and most modern fly rods can handle it. If you prefer, go up a rod size to match. A long belly line such as the Airflo Superflo Power Taper allows you to carry line, rather than shoot it, making it easier to control heavy flies at distance.
Eliminate Slack Line
Lift your flies to the surface before you begin. By simply beginning your cast with your rod tip low to the water, and taking in a few strips of line to remove any slack your entire cast will be more efficient: the moment you move your rod tip, you will be in contact with your fly.
Lifting a deep sunk fly from the water takes a lot of energy and can close your available casting arc significantly. To raise a sunk fly to the surface, simply raise your rod tip, slow and smooth so that the line / leader junction is free of the water. The mass of your line will now 'own' your fly, and lift it cleanly as you accelerate. A roll cast / roll cast pickup / C spey will also lift your fly to the surface in preparation of your cast.
Employ the Elliptical Cast
Simply, this is a back cast, and forward cast performed under constant tension, on different planes. Imagine you are drawing an oval with the rod tip, beginning with a side arm back cast and moving smoothly into an overhead forward cast.
The benefit of this cast is that keeps the fly away from the body / rod tip and eliminates the kick of a heavy fly straightening on the back cast. This is THE way to handle heavier flies.
So don't let your technique dictate how deep you get. By utilising the correct weight for the job, choosing your presentation, and delivering it with the right cast for the job you can own that pool.
Looking for more tips for your winter fishing season? Andrew Harding has ten really good ones.
ABOUT CHRIS DORE
Chris Dore is a battle tested fly fishing guide with over 15 years of professional guiding experience, battling the demanding, ever changing conditions that our New Zealand rivers throw at us.
In 2006 Chris became one of the first New Zealanders to successfully pass the internationally recognised Federation of Fly Fishers Certified Casting Instructors examination and has since taught many thousands of anglers to up their skillset.
For more in person and on river fly fishing advice and upskilling why not book Chris for a day or three?