Cast Better: Long range fly fishing

WHAT’S the plus side of casting longer distances? This may seem like a very obvious question, after all most of us have a desire to add a few extra feet to our casts don’t we? I doubt there are many who would disagree with this statement, although there is, of course, a time and a place for everything. There are definite situations when long casting is not required such as some stalking techniques. But what about the situations that do require a long cast? Quite simply those who can cover more water will enjoy far more success. Typically, when a popular bank location is fished hard for a few hours, slowly but surely the fish will disperse, often to be seen rising just outside average casting range. It is now that the angler who has livened up his loops and dusted down his double-haul will continue to catch, while those who have spent a little too much time developing their tackle collection rather than their casting ability, look on in frustration.

Swinging Buzzers on the wind and throwing long with a sinking line to pull lures are just a couple of popular methods that can benefit from a honed distance casting technique, so the time and effort spent practising is well worth it. After all, the longer your flies are in the water, the more fish you will catch!

EQUIPMENT

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RODS: There is a massive range of gear on the market and for some this can seem bewildering. But, for most reservoir fishing situations look for a 9ft 6in to 10-foot rod capable of handling a weight forward 7 or 8 line. Middle-to-tip action rods are great for an easy casting action but if you want to achieve serious distance with ease, opt for a stiff, fast action blank coupled with snake rings or similar. Many rods are purposely designed to handle a range of lines, while offering fast blank recovery after the all-important controlled, abrupt stop that is required to send a ‘polaris missile’-like presentation across the water. A comfortable grip is also vital. New on the market are handles created from rubberised hybrid cork that won’t slip in the hand even when wet and offer incredible durability, a key concern when a rod is being flexed into the butt section. 

REELS AND LINES: A large arbor reel is best for storing lines in good open coils. Ensuring our line lays flat prior to launch through the rod rings will greatly assist its journey, especially if it has also been cleaned after every session. Weight forwards are perfect for distance work, although look out for a wide range of specialist line products that, coupled with good casting technique, will gain more valuable yards. Buy the best quality line you can afford to ensure a decent coating. Cheap lines are stiff, retain memory and far from smooth. Fly line choice is just as important as your choice of rod.

ACCESSORIES: Try a line tray when casting on big windswept reservoirs. This handy device will store the fly line as you retrieve, ready for the next cast.

THE CASTS

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Cast 1 – Standard long distance overhead cast

Overhead casting is the most common skill employed by stillwater fly fishers to propel their artificial patterns across the water. Highly effective, the desired result is achieved by throwing the line into the air to create a loop, loading the rod as it straightens out on both the back and forward strokes.

Coupled with practised technique it is possible to use this method of casting to produce high line speeds and great distances, but there are a few tricks which can turn an ordinary overhead cast into a jet propelled horizon seeker!

Having set up with your chosen leader and flies, start with around two rod lengths of line protruding from the rod tip. Your tip should also be positioned close to the water’s surface, which will ensure the rod begins loading from the moment the cast starts.

Make sure your hands are positioned close together during the cast, this will maintain tension throughout the rod and drift a little into the back cast to allow a longer stroke to further assist loading the blank.

Shooting line is paramount to gaining as much distance as possible. Aim to shoot several feet at a time and don’t feather the line during the cast as this reduces line speed. A maximum of three false casts should be enough and only shoot line each time the rod stops.

Make sure the rod stops high, especially upon final delivery, to give the line plenty of time to unroll and reach its maximum extent. Push the rod too low and the line will be sent crashing into the water, losing all momentum.

Cast 2 – Long distance overhead cast with double-haul

Double-hauling is not a cast in its own right, but a skill that can be used to achieve distance (and possibly catch more fish) when added to an overhead cast. The standard overhead will reach good distances but add a double-haul and you will reach great distances, by creating very high line speeds. Double-hauling is all about good timing while co-ordinating rod and line hands. It is a great technique for fast sinking lines, larger lures and air-resistant flies such as Boobies.

Once you can overhead cast effectively, the double-haul can be attempted. Start as you would for a general overhead with both hands close together and the rod tip low.

Make a smooth back cast while pulling downwards on the line with the line-control hand. Say “haul” as you do this to assist timing.

As the line turns over into the back cast, allow your line-control hand to rise up, feeding line back through the rings and meeting once again with the rod hand. Chant “feed” to assist with timing.

Once the line has turned over into the back cast, commence the forward stroke and add another smooth pull in a downwards direction saying “haul” to help your timing.

At this point your line-control hand should release line momentarily as the rod comes to a stop, moving back into position next to the rod hand to begin the process again. Chant “feed” to assist timing. Aim for a maximum three false casts, counting each back cast and double-hauling as you go.

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Make a smooth backcast while pulling downwards on the line with the line-control hand. Say 'haul' to help with timing.

As line unrolls into the backcast, let your line-control hand rise up, feeding line back through the rings. Chant 'feed'.

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With backcast line extended, start the forward stroke adding another downwards 'haul'.

The line-control hand releases a little line just before the rod stops, moving back next to the rod hand to begin the process again. Chant 'feed'.

Distance casting – with snags behind!

IT is true that the biggest, best quality fish often reside in the more difficult to reach areas. Tricky conditions may deter us from attempting these not so obvious locations but with a little casting practise and altered technique it is possible to take on these awkward situations. In this scenario we head to a steep vegetated bank, with deep water to fish a Booby pattern on a fast sink line.

The key to dealing with a steep vegetated bank is to maintain a high back cast!

Rather than trying to alter your casting stroke, achieve the desired angle change required to throw the line high by leaning slightly forwards. Gain distance by shooting line into the back cast rather than the forward cast and use a maximum of two false casts.

With the snags avoided, resume your normal fishing position and allow the sinking line to gain depth prior to starting a retrieve.

Fishery details

Many thanks to Clatworthy Reservoir in Somerset for providing the venue for this feature.

For information tel: 01984 624658 Website: www.wessexwater.co.uk

Also in the Cast Better series...

1. Casting in the margins

2. Camouflage your casting

3. Distance casting

4. Casting teams of flies

5. Casting in the wind

6. Reaching a tight spot

7. Good presentation at distance

8. Make your own shooting head

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