Cast Better: Camouflage your casting

To be good flyfishers, we “get out what we put in”. Flinging a line as far as possible and then pulling it back fast will catch fish; but not always. In fact it often results in limp bass bags and a bout of repetitive strain injury.

To spice things up Ilike to get up close and personal with my quarry. Approach each venue like an Apache Indian, carefully observe your target and when the time is right, spring your trap. HERE we covered close range casting tactics, but here we take things a step further. We are about to get down and dirty with trout!

Entering their domain stealthily our casts (some of them simple and obvious) deposit a fly enticingly within the fish’s window of vision. These are the casts and techniques that camouflage our presence while allowing for that all-important fish-catching requirement – good presentation.

What is good presentation?

THE term crops up a lot, which is not surprising because good presentation is what flyfishing is all about. The very best in tackle technology is useless if our flies land in a crumpled, tangled mess or enter the water with a commotion. We aim to cast so that our leader turns over correctly, landing as quietly as autumn blossom. Regarding flies, for wild fish in particular, use an imitative theme. Stocked stillwaters may be an exception to this rule as pellet-fuelled trout go on the rampage snaffling the gaudiest of lures. But as we progress to more challenging venues our fly selection must be more educated. Learn a little about entomology to help you choose the right artificial but remember that no matter how informed your choices or expensive your kit, good presentation will be achieved through practised casting technique.

Fly line colour

THE debate regarding fly lines rages on and demands an entire article. Do bright lines scare fish? Many New Zealand guides think so. Guiding in ultra-clear water, this professional view has some worth. But, Ibelieve it comes down to confidence. If you think a dull line may camouflage your casting, then go with it!

Position your fly well away from the fly line and think about the background fish are likely to view your fly line against. This is especially important when using a floating line as trout look up for their food. Fishing in heavily vegetated areas such as a river may well call for a dark green line, while bright conditions are perhaps best tackled with a white or even sky blue product. There is even an argument that, from below, the fly line will be viewed as a silhouette, although this depends on light conditions and the vicinity of the fish. If a fish is close enough to inspect the fly line in detail, it’s probably too close!


Fly line weight

IT is vital to balance fly line and fly rod but also to choose a line based on the conditions and the techniques being used. Lines are generally numbered 1 to 14 with a few highly specialised products that exceed this scale at either end. For simplicity, remember the lower the number the lighter the line. Alight line on a small stillwater would generally be a 5, although 6 and 7 are used regularly. Short-range fishing with small flies in calm conditions suits a 5 line because with good casting technique it will land on the water with barely a ripple. During windy conditions where some distance is required a 6 or 7 makes more sense; really windy conditions call for an 8. The heavier the line, the heavier it will land, no matter how well you can cast. Also, never forget that a heavyweight line coupled with a light leader often results in a break and small light wire hooks could be straightened out.


Copolymer or fluorocarbon?

FOR the ultimate in camouflage using slowly-fished subsurface imitative flies, I’d never be without fluorocarbon which reflects less light than other products available such as copolymer. But fluorocarbon sinks fairly quickly and may drag surface patterns down, so when fishing dries Iswap to copolymer and use a leader sink agent to help it cut just below the surface film.

Knotless tapered leaders

FLY lines are tapered at the tip to aid turnover. Aknotless tapered leader has a commercially produced taper, which provides perfect turnover in conjunction with a well-executed cast – ideal for fishing dry flies at close range. Alternatively, the tapering effect can be reproduced by water knotting varying breaking strains and diameter of level leader together.


A HAT and sunglasses are essential protective wear but other than that ‘going camo’ is up to you! There is a huge assortment of leaf-covered product on the market, much of it a fashion accessory rather than a method of blending into the background. The common view is that fly anglers should go for the ‘drab look’ but with careful movements and decent casting it should be possible to add a little pizzazz to your attire if you wish!

Imitative flies

THESE are designed to recreate the diet of whatever species we are targeting. For trout, the most common dietary items that we copy include bloodworm, buzzer pupa and adult midges. We also imitate seasonal occurrences such as the daddy longlegs or corixa (water boatmen). Goldheads have been incorporated into almost every pattern, adding sparkle and weight. But these elements could spoil your camouflage so, in the case of wised-up fish, carry a wide selection to cover every eventuality.


Cast 1 – Stealth cast


IS this really a cast? We are pre-programmed to head up to the water’s edge, pull out some line and then throw it blind to the fish. But what happens if a fish is just feet from the shoreline, happily mopping up various morsels and minding its own business? We use the stealth cast!

1. Pull a little fly line out of the rod tip, and tie on a suitable leader and fly. Ensure there’s enough fly line weight outside the tip so that it doesn’t rush back down through the rings!

2. With line and leader ready we creep carefully to the water’s edge. You could kneel or crouch but Ilike to lie down in the dirt! The key is to spot your fish without being spotted! Meanwhile allow your leader to sit poised at the water’s edge.

3. Watch the fish and understand its movements (polarised sunglasses will help). Trout often use a particular route or frequently feed from a feature such as a weed bed. Use this knowledge as you flick the tip of the rod, sending the leader and fly to the fish.

4. When the fly reaches the desired depth, use the rod tip to lift it through the layers and induce a take! If you hook up … hold on tight!

Cast 2 – Overland cast

STEALTH casting really does work, although some may find it bends the rules too much for their liking! Even if you are happy to fish such a short line, the stealth cast’s main drawback is that we need to position ourselves so close to the water’s edge that we could spook the fish before we start. In these circumstances a technique is required to present a fly at ultra-close range while camouflaging our presence. The overland cast is perfect and particularly useful when fishing with dry flies right in the margins. Stood well back from the bank watching as a fish sips at the surface Ifeel rather smug when a well-executed overland cast proves its undoing!

1. Stand or crouch well up the bank watching your fish. Pull line off the reel, judge how much you’ll need to deposit the line on land and the leader in the water. This will take practice.

2. Take the fly in your free hand and smoothly begin an overhead cast, allowing the fly to fall from your fingers in the process.

3. With the fly airborne, make as few false casts as possible as the movement may scare your fish. Once confident you have extended the correct amount of line, allow gravity to pull it down, ensuring you aim the rod tip high enough so that the leader does not splash.

4. It can be tricky to lift off dry land to reposition your cast. Be very smooth when you lift and even practise the cast elsewhere until you’re confident you can make the cast in a genuine situation. Sound overhead casting skills and accuracy are vital for this casting technique to be effective.

Cast 3 – High forward cast

MAKE sure the line doesn’t crash into the water (pictured right). Loud splashes spook fish near the surface. To solve this, think about the height you are delivering your cast. Aim the rod tip too low and the line will follow, piling into the water.

Instead, when making a cast, aim the rod tip at an angle, which allows the line to fully turn over and gently land. It is worth picturing a layer of air out in front of you and then casting the line so it is allowed to float to the water’s surface, using the air to cushion its descent.

This is not so much a cast but a skill that will need to be mastered if successful camouflaged presentations are to be yours, especially in flat calm conditions. See the sequence top left.


1. Make a normal overhead cast.


2. Release the line while the rod is still held high.