I was very clear about my objectives and the outcomes I hoped to achieve during 2018, my nominated fly gear gap year. As we are taught in goal setting 101, my goals were SMART: Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant and Time-based. Whilst they were iron-clad and bullet proof, alas, I was not.
As luck would have it, I got 17 days into My Floggy before blowing out my ACL (anterior cruciate ligament) in my left knee (Yes, I was fly fishing at the time). Lucky for me, I’d had 17 extraordinarily gorgeous days, chasing trout in the various wilds of Tasmania!
During those 17 days, I had the pleasure and privilege of fishing with Roger Butler from Red Tag Trout Tours, Christopher Bassano (captain of the Australian Fly Fishing Team), Ken Orr from Ken Orr’s Tasmanian Trout Expeditions (which incorporates Ken Orr’s Xtreme Guiding Team) and our personal friend, Paul Ellis. All of these wonderful men provided incredible mentorship and each gave me a few gems to kick start my year. I’ll share these with you a little further down the page.
The diagnosis of the snapped ACL had a devastating effect on my progress and from that early point on, my Fly Gear Gap Year was as debilitated as I was. However, I’m not one to surrender, so the story does not end here. Read on… I have so many gems to share.
Let’s revisit those stated goals (click on the goal to read my assessment of how I went):
– Develop a strong understanding of technical fly fishing equipment
– Build proficiency to a level of independence in all circumstances
– Encourage more people to try fly-fishing by showing that the challenge is universal, not individual. Therefore, everyone can attain fly casting skills, with dedication and patience.
– Provide infotainment and learning opportunities for novice fly-fishers.
– Ultimately achieve Casting Instructor accreditation (a gauntlet thrown at my feet by Matt Tripet, upon hearing of my FLOGGY)
Whilst I didn’t achieve my specific goals, I learned a LOT and I want to share those achievements with you, along with a few nifty little tricks I picked up. It’s too much to fit into one blog, so I’m going to spread the insights across the next little while.
In this particular blog, I’ll share with you what I’ve learned about the three basic classifications of fly line and how I’ve found them to cast, but before I get to that, here’s a list of what my subsequent blogs will cover:
- The little tricks I’ve learned to give me better casting distance and accuracy
- The Belgian Cast and when it comes into its own
- Exercises to break the habits of a spin rod cast
- Strikes and retrieves for different situations
- Handy tricks for ever-readiness
PLUS, I’ll make sure there’s a cool takeaway tip with each one!
So, without further fluffing about, let’s get into my observations and new understanding about line types and the difference felt when casting them.
When I started my fly gear gap year, I could cast adequately in good conditions and had quite a few fish under my belt. My motivation for taking on a year of fly gear only was that I felt like a bit of a fraud! Whenever I joined fly conversations, I’d proudly reel off my species and stories, but I’d ultimately feel embarrassed.
You see, I couldn’t justify why I was using the combinations of rod and line I had… heck, I don’t even think I knew! I was just handed a set-up and told to cast!
Being the woman I am, I needed a little more ownership than that. So, the first goal I had for my fly gear gap year was to understand the tackle more thoroughly, so I could choose my own “what, where, when”.
Like most beginners, I had always fished with a floating line. A floating line not only keeps your fly and line from dragging along the bottom, it also helps you learn about water speed variations (you can watch your line get caught in eddies or dragged more quickly in some sections of stream over others), visualising where your fly is in relation to the end of the line (this is really tricky! The end of the fly line is where most people visualise their cast ending, causing us to overshoot targets) and gives clues as to what path you are bringing your rod along (the shape of the landed line tells tales on how straight your casting strokes are).
When I first stepped into this Gap Year, I was only comfortable with a floating line. When I wanted to fish deeper, I generally fished a longer tapered leader with a sinking fly or flies, rather than changing to a sinking line. This system basically translated my soft-plastics fishing techniques to fly, allowing me to twitch the line to make the flies “hop and drop”, as the floating line stayed primarily on the surface.
I still rate this as a viable method when fishing for species like flathead, bream, whiting or anything else that’s living in shallower water
Of course, floating lines are actually designed for surface fishing and it stands to reason that most people learn to fly fish with floating lines and dry or surface flies, providing visual feedback of the whole setup. Besides, who doesn’t like chasing fish on the surface? Watching a fish take a lure or fly on top has to be fishings greatest thrill!
What I didn’t realise until I started playing around with the other types of line (intermediate and sinking), is that floating lines are also the easiest to cast and fish with, so I fully recommend starting out with one if you are someone new to the sport.
As I started exploring other fishing styles, I grabbed an intermediate line from Manic Tackle Project. Intermediate lines sink at a relatively slow rate, so the application that I had in mind was fishing shallow ground, but with a drawing motion on the fly, rather than a hopping one. A friend had tied me some amazing flies for flathead, using deer hair and heavy gauge hooks in an attempt to make them suspend (deer hair is very buoyant). The intermediate line allowed me to count the line down to depth and then keep it and the line suspended through the retrieve!
What I also learned about intermediate lines is that they are perfect for when you want your fly to sink slowly, as the line slowly drops through the water column.
To be honest, I didn’t notice any difference in casting difficulty between the intermediate and the floating line, but I was glad to have the understanding of line behaviour and leader length that the years on floating line had given.
Sinking My Teeth Into The Journey
A sinking line, however, is quite the different story! I didn’t jump into that deep end until more than half way through the year, when I decided to try my luck for carp and yellowbelly in some of our inland dams.
Sinking lines come in a variety of sink rates, which is the speed your line will sink-from very slow to very fast. The sink rate is measured in inches per second (ips) and this is listed on the fly line box when you buy it. Sinking lines are most often used when fishing from a boat or float tube, although I had success from the shore of the dams as well. The sinking line allowed my flies to get to the bottom, tracing to contour to where I could see the telltale signs of carp mudding.
From a casting perspective, the sinking line is slick and heavy. You can really feel it load on the rod, which is a real bonus for a beginner! They also allow you to cast lovely looking tight loops, but be warned… they also tend to collapse under their own weight, so I found it better to deliberately open those loops up a little.
One downside of the sinking and intermediate lines is that you cannot easily and quickly lift and reposition a good length of line, as you can with a floating line (and a bit of practise). You really have to strip the full line back in to cast again from scratch. That’s a bummer.
Having said that, I find casting a sinking line very satisfying. I’m able to shoot it much further — which I put down to its finer and more aerodynamic construct. It really demonstrated to me just how far my casting had come during the gap year (check out the video below). Waiting for the line to sink to depth, however, showed that my patience still requires a little work.
… my journey is not over yet!
Before I sign off, I promised you a little takeaway! Here’s a little gem I picked up on a Lake in the Tasmanian highlands:
Thread a strong rubber band through a loop on the chest of your fly vest or shirt, then through itself, so that it becomes a rubber loop in itself. When you need to dry your fly, simply place the gape of the hook into the loop and pull it, so that the rubber band is taught. Now, strum the rubber band a couple of times to disperse all the water. BINGO! Dry fly!
Catch you next time, when I explore the imperatives I’ve discovered for better casting distance and accuracy.