Sunday, July 16, 2006

The Most Un-Appreciated Fly Cast

For the angler that fishes moving water, the most useful casts are certainly the slack line casts and mends. These casts eliminate drag and help produce the natural drifts that catch fish. High on the list of favorites are the tuck, the reach, the puddle and the parachute. But the cast that's moved to the top of my list is probably the most unappreciated, and is often denigrated to the point of being called useless. Not so, however; once you understand how to make and use the underpowered curve cast, it will catch fish.

There are numerous ways to throw a curve cast - there's the over-powered curve, the hook curve and the v-curve to name a few. The under-powered curve gets only a brief mention in most casting texts, and is usually written off as inaccurate and undependable. The U-P curve is usually made just by under-powering a conventional side-arm cast; the loop doen't straighten completely and lands on the ground in a curve. The U-P curve is pretty simple and not a very exciting cast at first glance.

Not exciting, that is, until you learn how to control it and how to use it. I prefer to throw the U-P curve with the rod in a more vertical position - more control and more options in presentation. To use a vertical rod, it is necessary to throw the loop off the side of the rod rather than off the tip (see photo above). On the forward cast, the rod is moved from behind the head, then out away from the body, and then back in front of the body at the end of the cast (see illustration at right).Because the line follows the rod tip, this gets the loop off to the side of the rod where it forms and unrolls in a horizontal plane.

To get the U-P curve to happen, just give the cast a little less power than is needed to fully straighten the loop on the forward cast. With the rod in a more vertical position and the loop forming higher and horizontally (A2, A3 & A4 below), it is easy to measure with false casts exactly where the cast is going and how much power is needed.

The power application is much like normal until the later stages of the cast (Photo A4 below), where instead of a power snap or accelerating to a stop the power just fades and allows the loop to collapse into a curve. The rod tip can be dropped here to "stall" the looop and/or line can be shot to widen the curve of the loop.

Obviously, I guess, this cast is good for throwing around obstacles but other casts can give the same effect. Where the under-powered curve really excels is getting slack upstream of your fly in moderate and faster currents, especially when fishing near to straight upstream. Yes, I know you can throw slack upstream with a tuck or puddle cast. But the slack here tends to be at the leader. The hump mend can throw some upstream slack into the line, but it makes a commotion and the slack generally gets thrown right on top of the fish. The U-P curve can position almost any amount of slack upstream of your fly, and position it to the side of your target so that the first thing the fish sees is your fly (not your line).

As far as being inaccurate, that is not a valid criticism. It can be just as accurate as any other cast, but like many others requires a bit of practice. Throwing the cast with a vertical rod rather than a pure side-arm cast significantly enhances control. A strong wind can affect the accuracy of U-P curve cast (as it can any cast), and when it's a headwind the open loop of this cast is a disadvantage in penetrating the wind. But by varying the amount of power early in the casting stroke, the first part of the loop can be thrown tightly to beat the wind (see photo A2) and at the end of the cast the wind can actually help stall the loop. With a headwind, the loop itself can also be thrown right into the water with power - this is not an under-powered curve but it gives the same effect since the loop doesn't straighten before it hits the water.

The under-powered curve can also be thrown to the non-casting side. Just tilt the rod over your head to the opposite side (e.g., to the left for a right-hander) and make that arcing path (shown in drawing, above left) to the other side.

Add the under-powered curve to your bag of tricks - it will fool some fish. Posted by Kent Edmonds. Kent is a freshwater guide in 50 miles southwest of Atlanta and is certified as a casting instructor by the Federation of Fly Fishers. You can reach him through his website -

Saturday, May 27, 2006

I'm not lying...

A lot of folks know I fish the river a lot and they regularly ask for reports. Lately, some are then telling me that they " fished it last week and it was tough." When I give a good report, it's not unusual to see raised eyebrows and questionable expressions. Nobody's actually accused me of lying yet but if you're into reading eyes, a few of them have come close to asking the question.

I am telling the truth. But I know why they're wondering - when the Flint gets low and clear, the fishing gets tough. Well, not tough as much as different...the tactics are different, and the fish are a little different too. The techniques that were spanking `em in April don't work so well now. The deep holes are slow and almost stagnant, and shallow fish are spooking 100' away.

The good news is that the fish are still catchable - neither hot weather nor warm water shut down the shoal bass. Years ago I had an old-timer on the Flint tell me, "Son, thar's a bass under every rock in that river - all ya gotta do is get your bait down to him." While that may be a slight exaggeration, the part about being under the rock is dead on. The fish may come up to a top-water real early in the day, but after the sun gets up the fly is definitely going have to be right in front of him, down under that rock.

The long, "water-covering" casts are usually a waste of time. What's needed now are the "pocket-picking" casts and presentations. The fly that is dropped down into that crevice, or swims slowly deep down through that slot is the one that's going to get bit. Seldom can that cast be made from 25' away; often, I'm getting within a rod length or two of the pocket I'm trying to fish. Many of the casts look much more like the casts on a tiny mountain trout stream,and the drift is a "high-stick" that leads the fly the chute.

The photo at left is a spot we fished Tuesday, then yesterday I slipped off and fished it again by myself. From the bottom of the photo to the top of the little grass island is about 20' long and 6-10' wide. The dark spots are moss-covered rocks whose tops are 2"-10" under the surface; the water is about 2' deep (at the most). Tuesday, two 25' casts that hung up and created quite a commotion had blown the section. The angler wasn't really concentrating on the area very hard anyhow, but rather heading for that shade just upstream. He should have, however - yesterday I took 3 shoal bass from this run, one of them was pretty nice.

That's not to say what a good fisherman I am, but rather what a difference in approach can make. Very slowly and very quietly I had gotten in close - my first cast was just leader. It hit a 6" slot, dropped 8" and was promptly slammed by a bass that came from nowhere - I saw him eat. The second fish came on my 10th or 12th cast after I had moved up to cast from around the spot that fish #1 had come from. I had fished it almost all the way back to me, and the fly was out of sight, drifting into a horizontal ledge. I began to pick up slowly, wiggling and jiggling the rod tip in the process. The shoalie, about 2 1/2 lbs, interrupted my jiggle.

At first glance, this spot might seem an unlikely spot to hold fish. But closer examination shows a pretty good current flow (fed by the cooler, shady run upstream), plus a food-rich environment (rocks, moss, & current), and shady spots for the fish to lay up and to stay hidden from predators. The key to catching these fish was to get the fly right down in front of them. Not much way to make that happen in a spot like this one without getting almost on top of `em. The other key of course - getting on top of `em without spooking `em in the process.

We've all heard it a 1000 times - presentation makes the difference. That's certainly the case at many places on the Flint right now. And over here, getting into position is a major part of the presentation. So don't give up on the Flint (and don't think I'm telling tales) - just fish some different spots from different spots, and fish `em a little differently.

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Goods things about fishing...

There's all sorts of good things about fishing. I'm not about to tell you that the catching part isn't really important (anybody who does is either lieing or they're crap anglers), but there's plenty more - beautiful water and good friends high amongst them.

Friday I got it all, and maybe best of all, the "friends" part in spades. I've known Rex Gudgel for several years and we share the love/addiction of the fly and casting the fly rod, but we'd never gotten to fish together. Then there's Jason Stacy - Jason and I have spent innumerable hours on the water together. He was the guy I could always call, even late the night before, and he was ready to fish. But he moved to Birmingham last year and we hadn't fished since.

Jimmy Harris of Unicoi Outfitters has invited both Jason and I to come up and fish some of the water they guide on, but we'd never quite gotten it together. This time we did; all except Jimmy who was enroute to Argentina on "business" (oh yeah, right - the tough life - didn't take any rods with you, did ya, Jimmy?). But Rex volunteered to carry us out to Frog Hollow, a private section on the Chestatee River.

This is a river in name only. By my standards it's really just a medium sized stream, wadeable almost everywhere and less than a cast across. And there is probably prettier trout water somewhere, but I'm just not sure where right off hand.

Rex got us in the water and suggested flies and presentation. He was hung up on the guide thing and wasn't going to fish, but we twisted his arm and he strung a rod too. `Turns out we needed the guide thing, as we're used to big stripers and 15 lb tippet - we busted off the first 4 or 5 fish. But Rex got us squared away and we managed to land a few.

Just as catching is important, size ain't immaterial either. Well these fish are big and plenty healthy. I suppose they are fed supplementally, but they're at home in the water and plenty picky - no junk flies or big stuff - today they wanted small realistic midge larva in #18-22's.

I can only give you the highlights - some writers might do it justice, but not me. But anglers will know what I mean. The pre-dawn ride with the cd blasting, catching up, telling lies & getting pumped.....parking in the pasture with the stream sparkling and babling through the trees, adrenaline making it a chore to string the rod......the first tightening of the line on a drift and the power of a big tail as it surges upstream.......Jason's agony after the giant busts him off as it rips equal agony as a bigger one ;) busts me....finally landing a good one & getting the photo (pressure's off now, but we want more - gluttons!).....side-splittimg laughter as Rex fights a big fish after his reel handle drops off.....wolfing down a fat sandwich at the general store after the morning's fishing - still pumped but settled down and really enjoyting it now.......the long ride home, pleasantly exhausted....remembering with a friend.....

If you haven't fished with Unicoi, I suggest that you should. Visit their website for info.

Sunday, February 05, 2006

The Southern Fly Fisher: Download Lefty? How's That?

The Southern Fly Fisher: Download Lefty? How's That?
Now this is pretty cool - watch videos online for a minimal charge, then purchase if you want.

Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Keys to angling success....

Some anglers catch a lot more fish than others. Undeniably, luck plays a part ("I'd rather be lucky than good..."), but there's more to it than that. It's been said that you make your own luck - there's something to that.

I fished with George & Janet again Sunday and we had a phenomonal day.

We have been out 3 times in the last six weeks, and the results were considerably less than phenomonal on the first 2 trips. We did catch fish (George even had a day with a bass slam - spotted bass, shoal bass, striped bass & hybrid striper), but it wasn't easy. Even on George's slam day, the 4 slam fish were joined by only 1 or 2 others (at left is one of George's stripers).

In spite of the tepid results, George and Janet came to fish again on Sunday. And they got their just rewards - many big hybrids and a couple of good stripers. Most of the fish ate top water bugs (a subtle, film-floating, dead-drifted Wotton injured shad).

So, here's the point - #1 Key for Angling Success - you gotta' go to have a chance. The 2 previous trips had been less than stellar, the weather forecast was lousy, but these anglers were ready to fish anyhow. Well, the rain quite shortly after daylight, the temperatures warmed up, and the fish were eating. A lot of angler would have stayed home, but you can't catch `em if you aren't on the water.

This brings to mind another angler, Joel D. from LaGrange. I have a guide friend who fishes for stripers with me pretty regular on "scouting" trips when I don't have a guide trip. I got the impression he was a little ticked that Joel had caught a huge stripe back in August - thinking that Joel only fishes there occassionally when he fishes it often. And being a very skilled angler, he felt he was much more deserving of the fish than Joel. The fish, by the way, was 43 lbs - caught on and 8-wt with a big deceiver - pictured on right - more details here.

Joel will tell you that he's not a real proficient fly angler (actually he's pretty dang good). But the thing that Joel does best is fish hard. That could easily be Key #2. The other day we went up the river and I was anchoring in the shoals (not an easy task). Before I had the anchor set, Joel was on the stern making a cast. He was hooked up to a nice stripe before the anchor ever caught.

While the importance of observation in many situations cannot be minimized, you must have your fly in the water to have a chance. Joel epitomizes another aspect of "fishing hard." He'll throw into any spot, no matter how tough or how likely the fly is to hang-up. And hang-up he often does - but lots of times he'll hook up too.

And maybe the most important part of fishing hard is to really fish every cast. Not just throw it out there and strip it back, but make it move like the bait and be keenly aware and ready for a hit all the time. Joel is sometimes get so intent on his fly that he won't even hear you talking to him.