Archive for February, 2012

The Casting Coach

February 15, 2012

The casting coach.

The casting coach:

I have been fishing for longer than I can remember and guiding for a good part of that time and the one thing that stands out is that many anglers simply don’t cast well enough. It is not the fly or the leader design that limits most anglers but simply their lack of ability to put the fly where then want it in the manner they would wish.

Now that is a contentious issue, you can tell a guy he has an ugly wife, is less than well-endowed in the wedding tackle department or that he looks pretty dumb in his golf pants and he probably won’t take offense, criticize his fly casting and you are on thin ice. As an aside it was pointed out to me once that the English language is the only place you can be on thin ice and end up in hot water, but I digress.

Not only does this casting problem translate into less enjoyment when fishing, and less fish caught for that matter, but it is also I suspect a secretly troublesome little niggle in the minds of many, and yet they are reluctant to admit it. Particularly for those of us sporting a “Y” chromosome, we are supposed to be naturally able to cast a fly aren’t we? I mean who needs to be taught that? There must be something to this, anyone who has bought a golf club has headed to the pro shop to book some tee off time with the instructor and yet anglers the world over spend hundreds of dollars on rods, trips to exotic locations and yes even on guides but they don’t want to get help with their casting. So they learn from Uncle Joe or their mate down at the pond, the errors compound and bad habits become ingrained. It is just silly.

Indeed some four years back I became so concerned about this issue that I published a book, “Learn to Fly-cast in a weekend” based on the work that myself and my good friend Gordon McKay did on improving our own casting. We spent days if not months, reviewing material from Joan Wulff, Lefty Kreh, Charles Ritz and a variety of others from around the world. We read the books, watched the videos and tried to come up with a solution. In the end we did, we practised and critiqued one another and our casting improved, improved beyond recognition actually.

Then we did something even more difficult, we decided to work out how best to teach someone else what we had learned. That isn’t quite so easy but over time a method was born which worked. It worked for us and it worked for our clients at a variety of casting clinics and fly fishing retreats. It worked for men and women young and old and it differed significantly from what most instructors suggest. It even worked for two clients well into their sixties who ended up after a few days throwing the entire 30 metres of fly line with a couple of strokes. Something that impressed them enough to want to purchase my fly rod and I had to point out that it wasn’t the rod, it was their new found technique that was doing the trick.

So what works? Well I can tell you what doesn’t work, even though I have seen these ideas suggested in numerous places by some very well known anglers.

The casting clock doesn't work, if it did there would be more good casters out there.

Holding a book under your arm doesn’t work; using more force doesn’t work, putting your left leg forward, strapping your wrist up with some infernal and overly expensive brace or casting like the hands of a clock doesn’t work.  What actually works is so remarkably simple that you wouldn’t credit it. That book sold out, despite the fact that the publishers never saw the need to make it widely available. Add to that the cost of transporting the tome about the world and the obvious lack of eco sensitivity in chopping down trees and jetting heavy books around the globe the printed version had its limitations. Plus of course there is the issue of being too embarrassed to go into your local fly shop and admit that you want some help with your casting.

Well now after four years and not inconsiderable effort the problem has been solved. “Learn to Fly-cast in a weekend” has been revised, re-edited and produced in eBook format so that it is available to everyone, around the world. It can be downloaded in a format to suit your PC, your ipad, or Kindle and it comes in the metaphorical electronic brown paper wrapper, nobody even needs to know that you got one (just remember to clear the history on your browser).. So for a nominal fee of less than the cost of a few flies you can improve your casting once and for all. The system works, if fact I am prepared to guarantee it. If you get a copy of this book, work through the exercises in it and it doesn’t significantly improve your casting I will refund you the purchase price. Not only that but you can go through the first 20% of the book without even having to buy it.

You can download the electronic version of “Learn to Fly-cast in a weekend” from Smashwords if you have the nerve to risk upsetting someone you can send them a copy as a gift from the same link.

Hopefully it will also soon be available from other electronic book stores such as Barnes and Noble as a Nook Book.  If you are secretly thinking that your local stream is too bushy, the fish are too far away or you are tired of undoing all of those tangles then do yourself a favour and check out this book. For the price of a few flies you can’t really go wrong.

Happy casting.

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As hot as Hades.

February 8, 2012

As hot as Hades time to tinker:

Down here in the deep south it has been hot, very hot and that has meant the fishing for the most part is not at its best. Indeed many of the beats that were producing some quality fish earlier in the season, right up to Christmas day for that matter, are now luke warm and only really suitable for catching the smallmouth bass which seem to either move in or become more active in the warm weather. Personally I don’t even like to head out with the bass in mind, any trout that you capture are highly likely to go belly up on release, the water is just too warm and the oxygen levels too low for them to recover from what is probably going to be a pretty dispirited struggle in the first place. It just isn’t worth it.

The upper reaches are faring only slightly better, a long hike will put you into steep sided kloofs which get a bit less sun and are nearer to the source of the water flow, meaning that the temperatures are not quite as extreme, but still plenty hot enough and the low water makes for tricky angling on these catch and release waters, even when the fish are “on the go”. In short it is all a little depressing and the heat seems almost as oppressive as the forced imprisonment of the closed season and heavy rains during the winter months. The fishing is open but you can’t really fish that much. There is one hold out which however does offer sport, it is a longer drive to a notoriously bushy river with troublesome access and a reputation for heavy going and good numbers of snakes but it holds a magical secret. The water stays cool.

The river runs out of a bottom draw dam, providing a constant if not particularly robust flow of cool clear water. The bottom structure of dark rock makes sight fishing very tricky but at least the trout remain a good deal more active for most of the day and even when they aren’t actively on the surface they can be drummed up with well-presented dries in the low clear water. Actually the stream receives a lot less attention than some of the others and although it has a reputation for being a tad unreliable at the same time you probably won’t need the minute midges and 8X tippet required on the other streams.

The river has had its fair share of misfortune over the past few years, there have been floods, rock slides, big enough in parts to result in the damming of the stream entirely. There have been bush fires and the associated ash run off and the fishing hasn’t been of the best quality for a while. It just seems that perhaps the place is making a comeback.

On a recent visit there wasn’t a rise to be seen but we captured fish throughout the day and most rewardingly a lot of baby trout, the progeny of the resident fish who seem to be doing a good job of repopulating the river which was for a while in decline. None of the streams hereabouts are stocked, we rely on self-sustaining populations of non-indigenous but established and adapted trout. The adaption is a key issue, with the water temperatures frequently running into the high twenties during the summer months the average European or North American fish would undoubtedly flip over on the first sunny day.

Still, things are not at their best and the hottest days are better for tackle tinkering unless a case of sunstroke is on your bucket list of things to achieve before you cross over to the other side.

So I recently set about making and posting a video clip of a great leader connection method that I have used for years and for which I have frequently been requested to provide detailed instruction. I have for a while now provided a .pdf file with graphics on how to achieve the “Super Glue Leader Link” but with the warm weather and too much time on my hands I decided to video the process.

I am, as any regular reader will know, a fan of long leaders, some would say foolishly long leaders but the rub with even modestly extended terminal tackle is that the link between the fly line and the leader will constantly enter the tip top guide of the rod and frequently through many other of the guides as well. This is a recipe for annoyance at best and at worst disaster. Braided loops, knots, whip finishes and needle knot attachments all have a dreadful tendency to get stuck. Making casting troublesome and landing a fish on fine tippet fraught with danger.

The super-glue leader link obviates any of those problems, with nothing to catch up one can cast out the leader without trouble, survive the final plunge of a good fish at the net and avoid all the hassle of picking up week on the knot whilst actually fishing.

The trick to the process is the use of the correct type of needle, a sewing machine needle as opposed to the standard hand sewing ones. The sewing machine needle has the distinct advantage of having the eye at the front, near the pointed end which makes threading it into the core of the fly line a relative breeze. I have improved the process further over the years with modifications, the best of which is to place the needle into a fly tying vice which makes getting the needle into the middle of the core even easier.

The steps then to glue your tapered leader into the line are as follows:

  • Place a fine sewing machine needle into the fly tying vice such that it is horizontal.
  • Take a braided core fly line (mono cores cannot be linked in this way) and thread it up the needle, taking care to keep the needle in the middle of the line.
  • When inserted sufficiently far up into the line, allow the point to poke out the side of the fly line to expose the eye.
  • Thread the thin end of a tapered leader through the eye and pull the needle back out of the line, thereby threading the leader through the core.
  • Pull the leader through the line, as the taper thickens the fit will become tighter and tighter.
  • When you only have a few centimetres of line left to pull through, rough up the leader with sandpaper or a diamond dust hook sharpener to enhance the grip of the glue, trim off any unsanded portion with a pair of sharp scissors and add a drop of super-glue.
  • Finally with care and speed, tug the last remaining tag inside the fly line before the glue sticks but without pulling it all the way through. Allow a few moments for the glue to set and you have a newly installed leader with a super smooth connection that won’t foul in the guides or weeds in the water.

I can fit new leaders to all of my river reels in the space of a morning and when things cool down and the fishing is back on song I shall be ready.

There is a direct link to the video clip below, the “Super-Glue Splice” is but one of over a hundred tips on tackle rigging in my eBook “100 Fly Fishing Tips, Tricks and Techniques” available for download from Smashwords.  If you like this little trick you may very well enjoy some of the others in the book. Happy tinkering and tight lines.