Cast Better: Reaching a tight trout lie

PLACING a fly accurately and at speed is vital when river fishing. But rivers are often surrounded by trees and vegetation, so a standard overhead cast is often hopeless. Thankfully many casts have evolved that make casting in enclosed areas easier.

The gear

RIVER fishing requires a stealthy approach. An eight-foot rod should suffice, although it may be necessary to go even shorter in particularly enclosed areas. Use light fly lines, dropping down to a 3wt or even a 2wt for very small brooks. Anumber 4wt or 5wt will usually be enough.

There are pros and cons with weight forwards and double tapered fly lines. The key point is that the front of a weight forward (WF) is much like a double taper (DT). The drawback of the thick DT line is the amount of space required on a reel to store it, so weight forwards get my vote!

Leaders must be tapered, particularly when presenting dry flies underneath low-level vegetation. Purchase nine-foot leaders and add a one or two foot sacrificial length of tippet to the end.

Flies should include the Adams, Klinkhamer and ‘F’ Fly. For nymphs choose Hare’s Ear, Copper John and Czech Nymph. Don’t forget to carry floatant to help dry flies ride the often turbulent water and, when fishing calm sections, use a sinkant to disguise the leader.

Stay mobile by using a lightweight waistcoat or pack to carry tackle. Jackets should have plenty of ‘D’ loops to hang accessories from and allow for easy attachment of a net on the back. Look for the magnetic net retainers available on the market to help with this.

Although some enclosed sections of river can be fished from the bank with the catapult cast, it’s usually advantageous to get into the water. Chest waders allow the angler to get very close to the fish.

Hats and sunglasses should always be worn for protection when casting a fly.

The casts

Cast 1 – The turbo roll cast

ROLL casting is crucial on rivers, especially in enclosed surroundings. When fishing for  trout or grayling with both dry and wet fly, the roll cast is useful for short-range accurate casts, without worrying about surrounding vegetation. As always, a smooth stroke is required, which takes practice, especially if heavy nymphs or highly air-resistant dry flies are to turnover correctly. Once the basic roll is practised, turn it into a ‘turbo roll’ by adding a well-timed haul and suddenly you’re able to fish through a river beat without being concerned about the trees!

Set up as for a standard roll cast, ensuring a ‘D’ shaped loop has formed behind the rod and that both the loop and line lying on the water are facing the target. Keep minimal line on the water’s surface.

Smoothly accelerate into the forward stroke. Tapping a nail into a wall with a hammer helps you visualise the correct power.

Meanwhile the line-controlling hand will turn this ordinary roll cast into the more efficient ‘turbo’ version with a haul as the forward cast is made. The haul must be in time with the stroke but as late as possible. With practice, the haul should coincide with the swift acceleration and stop.

A narrow loop should shoot effortlessly towards the target. Don’t haul through the stroke, as the loop will open, possibly kicking the leader up into the trees. Never haul too early as the cast will collapse.


Cast 2 – Side casting

Stillwaters are usually approached with a standard overhead cast, a highly efficient way of achieving distance, especially when combined with the double-haul. The ‘overhead’ works on rivers that allow a back cast with no obstacles to evade on the forward cast. But these standard techniques won’t catch wily wild brown trout happily sipping flies beneath overhanging vegetation. The vertical loop throws the leader into the snag as it unrolls and the disturbance created trying to free the terminal tackle will spook the fish. The solution is to use the side cast. This forms a horizontal loop travelling below low-level obstacles.

Start with the rod tip low as if an overhead cast is to be made. Imagine holding a screwdriver to create a balanced grip upon the cork handle.

Rotate the wrist so that the back of the hand faces the water/ground. The face of the reel and palm of the hand should be facing up.

Peel line from the water, accelerating smoothly to a stop. Allow the line to straighten into the back cast, just as if overhead casting.

Now apply a forward stroke.

Experiment with timing, and crouch lower if trying to negotiate very low-lying vegetation/obstacles. Timing is of the essence when the line is travelling close to the water so practise on an open field, making a back cast and allowing it to land. Look at the result. If it has straightened correctly then make a forward stroke aiming for a straight line.

If the line kicks off to one side, or lands in a heap check that the wrist is not being rotated during the cast or that the rod arc isn’t too big. Although it may sound obvious, remember that when casting short distances, a short stroke is required.