Fly Casting with Laura Palmer

laura-palmer

~ Ein Laura Palmer film~ presumably named after everyone’s favourite girl-in-a-bag -at least that’s my guess- well, caught my attention. whether it has to do with an inexplicable interest in like-minded producers what give weird titles to their stuff combined with a good dose of fly casting… i’m happily digressing just to get to this: here’s a really nice, short and sweet video of Wolfgang Heusserer demonstrating an equally nice variety of single-hand spey casts.
Circle-C, Snap-T, Jump Roll/Switch cast, standard roll cast, wiggles and probably fourteen others i missed because i was too busy watching the line being first manipulated, then flying about. all the great presentation skills a river fisher should imo, have down pat.

not a how-to tutorial, this one’s just eye candy. more than the line dancing itself, we’ll notice how effortlessly every action is done. it looks easy and that easy is a sign of someone who’s worked a lot on their skill. i hope you’ll enjoy.

Presentation Casts- DownStream Dry Fly

here’s another great presentation casting tip from Aitor Coteron.

along the lines of Jason Borger‘s downstream presentation ‘Undercut Drop’ (see diagram) and similar in concept as Jim William’s upstream ‘Pull-back-Slack‘, Aitor’s videos show us a super-easy way to get better drag-less drifts.
the common denominator casting-wise is these casts are all based on the same principles and casters of all levels can rejoice because there’s no need to learn and practice any fancy twists, curves, unreliable and wind-dependant tricky piles or wiggles either during-or-after-the-cast movements.
the bonus here is these casts are real, effective fishing casts of great value to any fisher: bread and butter stuff we can consistently rely on and not some iffy maybe-may or maybe-not presentation. in other words, the simpler the better.
everyone who knows me knows how much i love fiddly, curvy casts. outside of the fun factor, i firmly believe it make us better casters because we need to get creative and try to deal with several exterior elements like wind or body movement inconsistencies or whatever else you’d care to add but as more time goes by i try to get the same results in simpler, more easily repeatable manners and today’s videos are super-fine examples of just that kind of practical/effective reductionism.

Jason Borger ffw-undercutdrop

with either one we’ll want to:
– cast directly in line with the current. this is the key to making these casts work and means the angler needs to position themselves in the seam or just to the side of the lane to be fished prior to presenting.
in river fishing we’ll almost always have micro currents to deal with but the big nasty drag issues happen when we have to cast across conflicting currents and the most difficult part of dealing with drag is eliminated, or at least greatly reduced when the fly line and current seam are the same. it just makes sense.
– as previously mentioned, cast straight to the target and the best part about that is just about any fly angler already has that skill down pat. the only thing to keep in mind and as in any other slack line cast, we’ll need to plan the use of more line than when presenting ‘straight to the rise’.
– last somewhat denominator (but i’ll still put them in the same cast family because all rod tip mend movements are basically vertical) is all three casts require either keeping the rod tip high, where it stopped at the ‘stop’, (Jason’s Drop), or drop the rod tip (Jim’s Drop and Pull-Back) or Zeljko’s ‘Drag-Back’ after the ‘stop’ and before line touch-down.

“Very conflicting currents, like those shown here, are a killer for fishing the dry fly with an upstream presentation. Using a downstream approach (when conditions allow it) leads to incredibly long drag-free drifts. Master fly fisher Zeljko Prpic shows how to do it right.” and he sure does… enjoy !

 

and a variant with the very same ‘in-the-seam’ presentation as above but using a reach mend, rather handy when getting into the seam is difficult to wade to or off of the bank.
one last thing, the video says dry fly but this’ll work just as well with whatever fly you have tied on, wet, nymph or dry.

 
ps- Jason’s blog Fish, Flies and Water is currently under reconstruction but be sure to check it out regularly if you don’t want to miss out on the good stuff and, if you’re not familiar with Aitor’s blog One More Last Cast, you should be…

Fly Casting- Santa’s Underpowered Curve

if like most people you’ve always wondered what Santa Carlos (Azpilicueta) looks like when he’s fly casting here you go.SantaCarlos' Underpowered 180° Curve

often referred to as a good upstream presentation cast, the Underpowered Curve goes directly to the bottom of my list of actual casts to use. even if the final line layout seems really good from a theoretical point of view we’re throwing a whole lot of line directly over the fish whilst false casting and at final presentation and we’re left with an enormous, even ridiculous amount of slack to attempt to tighten up if we didn’t put off the fish and managed to get a strike. if we don’t get a strike, the whole leader and all that line will pass over the fish on its way back downstream before we can pick up and cast again and if that doesn’t put off the fish then its a really dumb fish not worthy of being caught !
accuracy wise, its also probably the most difficult cast to get just right in any repeatable manner even in ‘ideal’ conditions. any kind of wind severely compromises its success. in a sense, its one to keep in your bag of tricks as a last-resort presentation. at best.

none of that sounds very good, right ? but here’s the but and the however: just as with the underpowered Controlling Casting Stroke Force (please read or reread as both articles are directly connected), the Underpowered Curve is a more than excellent manner to learn to use the correct amount of force in your other casts. just as with the overhead version: “practising to cast lines that don’t turn over completely and ‘relearning’ to add a little more force, just what’s necessary to get the job done as we go along. this is an additive method. we start with ‘not enough’ and add-on little by little until it’s’just right’.  it’s quite easy to control because adding-on seems to correspond better to human nature than subtracting; we tend to ‘want more’ as opposed to ‘want less’ is equally valid and productive and might even be considered as the next step, or part II of the overhead drill as it’s trickier.
we need to adopt a slower casting rhythm while casting off to the side in a lower plane all the while keeping line, leader and fluff from hitting the ground. on the delivery cast, the underpowered bit needs to be controlled very precisely. although we can’t push strings or in this case fly lines and this will get the physics geeks tsk-tssssking, it helps to think of it as if we where pushing the rod leg only. (i know, that might be a weird way to visualise the motion but it works for me and hopefully for you too)

as in the gif, don’t forget to ‘kill the cast’ by immediately lowering the rod tip to prevent loop unrolling. be sure to try the exact same cast with and without lowering the rod tip to see how it greatly affects line layout/turnover.
lastly, similar to the overhead drill, the Underpowered Curve also teaches an important aspect that’s rarely brought up; varying the casting force between the back cast and the front cast (or vice-versa). a typical but non-conclusive example of this casting force variance would be when fishing with a strong tail wind. we’ll need  to have a higher line speed on the BC going into the wind, requiring more force and a greater casting arc and less speed, force and arc on the FC where the wind will help push it out.

since practicing without any kind of target is generally pointless, as with the overhead drill, place little targets or reindeer here and there in front of you and place the unrolled loop over them.
even if it’s just a few minutes, do yourself the favour of including both drills every time you’re out practicing. these are seemingly strange and quirky things to do but they really pay off. i guarantee.
whether or not you decide to don the Santa suit is up to you but keep in mind that it would make the occasion that much more special.

video graciously provided by Carlos Azpilicueta. thanks buddy !

post note- i’ve always wondered what the person strolling by in the background of the gif was thinking as they saw this…

Fly Casting Practice- Controlling Casting Stroke Force

experience tells me that apart from improper wrist control, the second most common difficulty many fly casters struggle with is force application throughout the stroke and to be more precise, they use too much force. way too much.

there are several ways to create tailing loops and they all have to do with the rod tip rising after dipping below the standard straight or slightly convex tip path in one manner or another but i’m firmly convinced as well as many of my instructor colleagues that the main cause is improper; too early or too much force application and often both are combined.
leaving aside for the moment that rod rotation (where most of the force is applied and the rod tip is going its fastest) should be done at the end of the stroke, today’s casting drill tip is about force quantity and to understand the point of the topic i’ll ask you to consider these two questions:
1) how many times have you seen a fellow angler drive their fly into the water surface (when that wasn’t the intended presentation) or make tailing loops or have the fly kick back or hook to one angle or another before landing ?
2) how many times have you seen a fellow angler cast a pile at the end of the line when they wanted a straight presentation ?
i’ll be very generous with no. 2 and give it an approximate 10%. even if that approximation is just a roundabout figure its quite obvious that there’s an overall higher tendency leaning towards the ‘more than necessary/too much’.

now, there are two methods to adjust how much force is being used:
– the first is the standard ‘do your normal cast’ and try to apply less force until its all nice and smooth with super control.
this a subtractive method. it may work and there’s nothing wrong with it but its a hard way as its much more difficult to ‘hold back’ and ‘unlearn’ an engrained movement, specially when its something we’ve been doing for a long time.
– the other method consists of doing the exact opposite, practising to cast lines that don’t turn over completely and ‘relearning’ to add a little more force, just what’s necessary to get the job done as we go along.
this is an additive method. one that’s quite easy to control because adding-on seems to correspond better to human nature than subtracting; we tend to ‘want more’ as opposed to ‘want less’ and its a method that works very well for people of all levels in all the various types of fly casting whether it be close/middle/long range, stream to sea, little to big flies and single or double handed.

since years ago i had been working on an almost exactly the same presentation cast -the Dunkeld Dump– (named after the city in Scotland where i first demonstrated this cast to a group of fellow casting geeks) and of course using it a lot for river fishing but it was only last year that i realised what a gem this was as a practice routine on its own when friend, colleague and super-caster Aitor Coteron wrote this article that set off so many lightbulbs: To straighten or not to straighten. That is the question.

here’s a slightly different full-on angle of this drill from one of last year’s casting-geek meets in Spain.

to conclude, just as mentioned in the link, i highly recommend doing this exercise at every practise session, preferably at the beginning.
to add some variety and improve one’s force control while still working on accuracy, a great thing to do is place cones, tennis balls or whatever at different distances, even in a zig-zag formation and place the piles on the targets in sequence. dump and enjoy !

 

Fly Casting- The next Level ?

as the Advanced Fly Casting Demonstration title alludes to, is this advanced casting or not ? well, yes and no. let’s start with the no.

the no-casters will be quick to point out that all this fiddly-fancy rod waving is completely unnecessary; its just ‘trick casting’ to impress the peanut gallery which would probably scare off fish anyhow.
fine. assuming that the angler has decent control of their rod/line/leader/fly combo and can place the fly to the intended target with reasonable regularity, then that’s probably good enough for them. after all, a good chocolate cake doesn’t really need a scoop of ice cream or sauce to make the cake any better does it ?

well, i’m the kind that likes good ice cream and good sauce on good chocolate cake. they enhance the experience, offer a variety of tastes with the overall result of having a more complete dessert. ditto for fly casting.
now, i know very well that all this extra fiddly-fancy rod waving in itself isn’t going to lead to any more landed fish and to be honest, i’ll refrain from doing all this excessive stuff when actually fishing but !, its all going to make me a more efficient caster if i know how to do it at practice time plus, its a lot of fun and fun makes casting sessions a lot more productive than doing simple, basic movements over and over again.
but why ? casting as Klaus displays in the video needs a highly developed sense of spacial and temporal awareness and the ability to act/move very precisely on several planes in sequence with different rhythms and speeds all the while controlling varying degrees of slack in the line. in real-world situations, these capabilities allow the caster to improvise in real time, a little plus considering all the continually changing variables that happen when we fish.
this is hard-core multi-dimensional traverse wave casting and one that needs visualisation before and during the casts to not mess up ! very much akin to Zen-like activities, in a sense, movement needs to happen before thought or maybe more precisely, movements need to happen based on pre-visualisation and not a more ‘traditional’ step-by-step as-it-happens method. i don’t know if that makes sense but i can’t find a better way to describe it with words.

so, is this Advanced Fly Casting ? you bet ! but when/if acquired, we can consider it a hidden skill set that pops up when needed most, when situations get tricky and we still want to stay in the game while pleasing one’s self and not the peanut gallery. whether we chose or not to get to this level is a personal choice and most definitely non-necessary. at worst its eye candy but its a lovely candy that won’t make us fat like the ice cream, sauce and cake… enjoy !

Fly Casting- Pussy Galore and thoughts on Presentation Cast Accuracy


just the other day, a student asked me a very interesting question (and the kind i love to hear !):
“How can we be dead-on accurate when doing slack-line presentation casts ?”
well, the simple answer is we can’t, or at least not with any predictable consistency the competent caster might have when using straight-line presentations.

to further the simple answer, the reason we can’t be as consistent is that a line with slack in it isn’t under tension and therefore the caster isn’t completely in control of it no matter how experienced she/he might be.
the conundrum of this situation is:
– at all times we want to be as accurate as possible. if we can’t place the fly in a manner that will entice a fish we’re simply not fishing and if we do manage to hook up its just a matter of luck, not one based on our skills.
– including slack in our presentations, although not always necessary, is a fantastic way to catch a lot more fish. it’s that dead-drift thing with ummm, a turbo. sort of.
– any kind of wind from any direction severely compromises the outcome of any slack line presentation. the line/leader/fly gets pushed or pulled from the intended target.
– those are just a few examples but the sum of them mean we’re working in an unfavourable situation even if we have faith in our abilities.

however ! as bleak and hopeless as some of that may sound its really not hopeless at all, it just takes a little determination and maybe a lot of practice.
here’s an example filmed at least five years ago starring Pussy Galore !
a little info before the film.
– the idea here was to present the fluff in front of her cute little nose, upstream of the trout as it where.
– second goal was to try to entice her by using a ridiculously long, superfluous length of line to attempt this. once stretched out straight, the fluff might have fallen a bit short of the yellow ring in the background, that’s about twice the length from my feet to PG. i would never fish this way with so much slack mainly because its unproductive and pointless but the idea was to push the limits and see how much line control i could still manage even at this short range.

– out of nine casts, six where ‘probable’ takes (had that been a feeding fish and not some over-exherted cat that had been chasing fluff for the last hour), the others fell short or behind her head.

i used to do this kind of exercise all the time, basically every day. i’m pretty sure i wouldn’t get anywhere near six ‘probables’ today because i haven’t practiced this in a long time and that leads to the last part of the simple answer which connects to a saying i like to mindlessly repeat: practice doesn’t make perfect but it makes better, and this better and not perfection is the goal with real-fishing-situation presentation casts.
all we can do is assess the casting/fishing situation of the moment the best we can, adapt to it and put the fluff in front of PG’s cute little nose because we’ve worked a lot on our ca(s)ts while nevertheless accepting that the chances of success are reduced. besides, it makes the catch that much more worthwhile and memorable when i works.

fun and games

a little bent-over from my recent trip last June in Malaysia.  following our casting demos where a whole slew of casting games to keep the attendees entertained while waiting out the thunderstorm.
this one’s rules where easy: feet behind the first plate, curve the line around the blue basket and place the yarn leader tip on the plate to the right in three tries.
just as in real-life fishing, nobody told me i had stand up. we do what we have to to try to get the job done…

marc-fauvet-limpcobra-sabah-flyfishing-fair_140530_0021

image via Juan Wei and SportFishin.Asia

Presentation Fly Casts- Getting more action out of your flies through line control

by Phil Monahan via Orvis News

its been a loooooong time since i’ve read an article with so much insightful, out of the box, and all around great line/fly control tips. woW !

i had to include this in TLC’s Presentation Casts category because P-casts are about different manners to present our flies fly but ! the lazy caster needn’t worry, apart from rolls and a reach cast that every single fly angler should know anyway, these tips aren’t really about casting in itself but more about controlling and affecting a fly’s movement after delivery through simple but well thought-out mends.
mostly intended for sunken nymphs and streamers we’ll also see that certain floating flies can really benefit from these techniques as well. as noted, we’ll maybe first think of skittering caddis but lets also add mice, frogs, terrestrial insects and even slithering snake imitations and other whatnot critters to the list.
worth noting as well is, since the casting part is reduced to a minimum, all of these methods will be a great asset in low light and dark situations whether your using a single or double-handed rod.

Fly-Fishing-Streamer-Illustration

“But once you’ve learned to use line mends to render your drifts lifeless, it’s time to think about using these same concepts to give patterns life—to activate the presentation. Rather than counteracting the effects of current on your line, you can instead use this tension to make a streamer dart erratically without pulling it out of a good lie, make a nymph rise in the water column, or work flies into spaces that you could never cast to. Using the current and your line to work the fly means you can keep it in the strike zone longer, fishing slower, or make multiple presentations within the same drift.” and that’s just for starters…

be sure to click the image for the complete article that’s sure to open a few eyes and help think out of the box.
this stuff’s the Shiz, enjoy !

Fly Casting- Back Cast Training

one of the more useful, yet commonly overlooked casting practice drills there is: accuracy to a target on the back cast.

it makes tracking perfectly straight a necessity and we have to move ourselves and the rod tip in the exact same manner as when delivering to the more common front.
this brings us closer to casting symmetry and that brings us closer to being a really good caster.
even if we’re not delivering there, being able to place the back cast in the exact alignment and casting angle not only sets us up to make better fronts casts but also to keep the back cast out of trouble and out of branches, grass, fences and cows.
delivering on the back cast isn’t just an exercise either as it’s of great use for casting longer lengths of line when there’s on-casting-shoulder wind. personally, i find this a lot easier and more consistent than casting and hauling off-shoulder as apart from turning around, i don’t have to change a single thing from my usual cast. it’s all good.
i hope you’ll give it a go and maybe even turn this into a little comp among your casting friends.

here’s yet another great video from Aitor Coteron showing us this drill. enjoy !

Fly Casting- the Cunning-Ling

an Off-Tracking Curve Cast demonstration by ‘Doc’ CK Ling

to me, ‘Cunning-Ling‘ sounds a lot better than ‘Off-Tracking Curve’ but let’s just say that the latter gives us the idea that it’s a presentation cast and not something else…
i had come across this cast several years ago during line layout research sessions and it sure is nice to see someone perform it so well on video for all to see.
easy to do and easily repeatable, this short range curve cast works well with all leader and fly types. this brings it into the world of real fishing casts and not show-off ones that are of little if any use on the water.

anyhow, back to tracking and off-tracking:
we know that to cast a straight line we need to track the rod straight. this is what we call the 180° principle and it’s one of the hardcore foundations of fly casting. once we’ve learned to track and cast straight (and learned it well), the next step in the evolution of a fly fisher is to learn to go freestyle and be creative with what we previously learned and one of those, and in my opinion a very important one, is to learn to cast the line in voluptuous curves that will dazzle the fish. (well, the fish aren’t supposed to see any of this so not really but it’ll for sure put your ‘linear’ friends to shame and you’ll catch more fish and have more fun and satisfaction at the same time)
to do this we need to break away from the ‘2 Dimensional’ aspect of straight line casting and go straight into ‘3D’ mode because we’ll need to move the rod tip out of plane, what Ling refers to as Off-Tracking.
what we’ll see below is on the final stroke, the rod tip swings around behind him going from (his) left to right and this makes the line end up going from right to left after the casting stroke. when ‘off-tracking’, it’s good to keep in mind that line layout directions will be the reverse of what the rod tip did.
we’ll also notice that this and some other presentation casts take up a lot more aerial space to perform them, something we’ll need to take into account and check feasibilities before planning it’s execution.

another aspect i really like with this particular curved line presentation is that it’s composed of both a cast (the curved front part of the line is created during the casting stroke) and a mend ( the part of the line closer to the rod tip is repositioned after the casting stroke).
the mend part allows us to place the back part of the line judiciously to either avoid obstacles or to position it in an ideal manner to reduce or increase drag.
clever indeed and just another demonstration that there are a lot more efficient line layout possibilities than most fly anglers might think and all it takes is to break out of the box. (and a little practice !)

CK Ling is an IFFF-MCCI (International Federation of Fly Fishers-Master Certified Casting Instructor) from Malaysia. both Ling and Dron Lee are responsible for the UFO (United FlyAnglers Organisation) Malaysia (cool name) International Fly Fishing Festival. i was invited last year to demonstrate presentation casts but wasn’t able to go but the invitation still stands so…

Unless you’re good at casting, it’s useless to tie flies…

messy flies

well conceived, amusing and leaving a belly full of food for thought, here’s a fantabulous fictional ‘interview’ on Presentation vs Imitation, the Age-old debate parts 1-2-3 by Carlos Azpilicueta that i hope you’ll not only enjoy but benefit from.

“In this special article, I moderate an interesting, entertaining talk session on one of the most debated and less resolved issues in the history of fly fishing. Far from trying to solve anything, the participants contribute various original points of view that are bound to give more than one reader and flyfishing enthusiast something to think about.”


Quillan and Rodney are keen fly fishermen and staunch defenders of two different positions and approaches that, although they can complement each other, usually clearly and vehemently define which type of fisherman you are.

Some consider and defend the imitation concept as the key to success in fly fishing. They’re the Imitators (Quillan) and their main endeavor is to fill their fly boxes with all kinds of patterns. They’re usually great fly tyers and are very knowledgeable of everything having to do with fly dressing techniques and materials. Many of them are avid entomologists and some even use aquariums and binocular magnifying glasses to study aquatic macroinvertebrates.

The so-called Presenters (represented by Rodney) heartily defend their approach. The presentation approach gives priority to technical skill in casting and presenting the fly. Besides casting, they also love to read and understand the currents in the stream and everything related to how the angler manages on the stream.

Surely no other debate has filled more pages of fly fishing literature. And, to the satisfaction of many, I’m afraid it will continue to do so for many years to come.

Part 1
…positions get defined

Mod: Good afternoon, Quillan and Rodney. Since we already know your respective positions, we can dispense with presentations.
Rod: What we really need less of are imitations.
Mod: Sorry. It was just of way of getting started. I certainly didn’t intend to…
Quill: You certainly are touchy, Mr. Presenter.
Mod: I’m touchy?
Quill: No, I don’t mean you. I’m referring to my debating opponent, the expert flycaster.
Rod: Well, that’s precisely where I think the first error lies.
Mod: What do you mean?
Rod: Associating the idea of presentation with only casting.
Quill: Well, I relate my idea of imitation almost exclusively to dressing the artificials.
Rod: And that’s one of the great limitations of the position you defend. Presentation spans a whole series of concepts and approaches that are much more far-reaching than the simple cast: the fisherman’s position in the stream, reading the water, interpreting the insects, adapting the leader, etc. There are a lot of things you have to do before your dry fly is ever seen by a trout. And they’re all part of the concept of presentation. If you do them right, the fly will be successful; otherwise, you won’t have the slightest chance. I like to quote Gary Borger, “Presentation can be defined as the culmination of everything you are and everything you know and understand about the world of fly fishing.”
Quill: Then, no matter what you tie on the end of the tippet, if you do all those things right, the trout will take it, right?
Rod: Just as long as the size is right, and often not even that.
Quill: Your passion for what you do best, casting, besides revealing your clear limitations as a complete fly fisherman, blinds you and, thereby, irresponsibly confines any further development.
Mod: Let’s start focusing the issue and analyzing some of its more important points.

…historical view

Trout vision curiosities

  • The trout devotes almost half of its small brain to using and controlling its vision
  • Professor Muntz’ experiments show that trout not only perceive colours but also tones of the same color. The colors they most clearly distinguish are, in this order, red, orange and yellow.
  • Trout fry have four types of cones (vision cells responsible for color). This endows them with very good chromatic vision, thus increasing their ability to locate food. When they grow, their retina reverts to a three-cone system, like in human beings.
  • Fish stop feeding for a little while just after sundown. They need a few minutes to adapt their visual system to the new light.
  • Because the cornea of a trout’s eye sticks out a bit from its head, it’s much more prone to be damaged by careless manipulation or leader tangled around its head.

Rod: Hold on, Mr. Moderator. I’ve just been called irresponsible and limited. Me and several legends in the history of fly fishing, such as Charles Ritz and Marryatt.
Mod: All right. Defend yourself. Briefly, please.
Rod: Charles Ritz spent most of his angling life expounding that technique was 85% while the other 15% was imitation. Marryatt, for many, the greatest fly fisherman in history, used to say, “It isn’t the fly, it’s he who presents it.” And remember. He worked closely with Halford, the epitome of the imitation approach.
Quill: Come on, Rod. Insinuating that you’re to be lumped together with those great names, worthy of all my respect and admiration, is pretentious, to say the least. Your quotes date from a period in which the best imitations, what we would call realistic patterns today, were dressed by the great scholar, Halford. They were crude, floated poorly, hardly used any synthetic materials and didn’t apply a lot of the transcendental scientific criteria that appeared later. With imitations like those, it was logical to think that their presentation was decisive. They had to justify their frequent failures.
Mod: What scientific criteria are you referring to?
Quill: The research on light reflected and transmitted by insects and materials and the important advances in our knowledge of trout vision. One of the weak points of all of Halford’s patterns was the opaqueness of the materials be used: quills, floss, horse hair… Seen from below against the light of the sky, these bodies were inexorably dull and lifeless.
Mod: Do you maintain then that imitation has been gaining in importance in fishing over the years?
Quill: Absolutely. The most realistic imitations of only 10 years ago can’t hold a candle to some of today’s patterns. We’ve got a whole new category today, the clones.
Rod: Your thinking isn’t logical, Quill. Today’s reality isn’t just a shortage of trout. For reasons irrelevant to this debate, a lot of insect species are waning. So lots of the copious hatches we used to know are rare now. Which goes to show that imitation is a lot less important today.

Part 2
…the steak theory

Rodney: Maybe you think those clone patterns of yours are less prone to drag. If you do, you’re completely mistaken. The fish reacts primarily to the presentation and only to a lesser degree to the fly. Let me tell you something else. Only when the presentation is good does it make sense to consider the imitation. And always in that order. I’ll give you an example. It isn’t mine; it’s Nick Lyons’. The name’s bound to be familiar. You get served a nice, thick steak. And just as you’re about to cut off the first morsel, the steak budges a fraction of an inch to the side. I bet the fright it gives you is enough to kill your appetite. At any rate, I’m sure that steak doesn’t look so succulent any more.
Quillan: That’s a pretty funny example, Rod, but I see it differently. If a thick, dark red, rare steak were to suddenly move on my plate, I’d think someone had kicked the table. So I’d gobble it fast in case somebody’s after it. Now, if it was scrawny, tough and overdone, even if it lay there stone still, I sure wouldn’t even taste it.
Moderator: Hey, you guys are making me hungry.
Quill: Obviously for the first steak, the dancing Daisy one.

…the dry fly myth

Flies declining in English chalk streams

Only streams with such highly alkaline waters and such regular flows and temperatures can support such an enormous quantity of insects and rich aquatic life. Nevertheless many mayfly species and species of other orders have been declining in recent years, causing alarm for English chalk streams. One of the more bizarre theories attempting to explain this decline points to the great amount of unused contraceptive pills poured down the drains. They dissolve in the water and affect the reproductive capacity of many female insects.

Mod: One thing is certain, fellows. Halford’s flies haven’t survived the passage of the years. And they caught thousands of extremely selective trout, feeding on duns and spinners on the surface of the crystal-clear waters of the mythical English chalk streams.
Rod: True. But they can’t have caught so many trout when they ended up disappearing. Walt Dette says that a fly pattern that doesn’t catch trout ends up disappearing no matter how pretty or how well-dressed it is.
Quill: Only a tenth of the hundreds of Halford’s patterns ever proved to be really effective.
Many hours on the stream have convinced me that today’s realistic patterns always work much better than a general pattern. When the insect is available to the trout, of course. I also maintain that the only realistic imitations that function as such are underwater patterns. I’ve got a theory about the dry fly.
Mod: Please be so kind as to share it with us.
Quill: Certainly. For some time now, I’ve been convinced that dry fly fishing has never existed as such.
Mod: Do you realize the transcendence of that statement?
Quill: I certainly do. The dry fly, taken as an imitation that floats like a mayfly dun, for example, is a myth. There is no way you can make an artificial float the way a natural fly floats. Try as you may, it’s physically impossible. Because of the weight of the hook, because of the materials (all absorb more or less water) and because it’s tied to a tippet that unbalances it, falls from above and adds extra weight.
Rod: Put that way, it sounds logical.
Quill: All the innovative patterns that have attempted to achieve this floatability have failed throughout history. What I’m saying is a cinch to prove. Take your best dun imitation and gently place on the water in a glass. Observe it for a few seconds. Do the same with an inverted hook pattern, a single-wing (thorax type), a palmer, a funnel dun, a compara dun, whatever you want. See the huge difference between the way they float and the high-floating, subtle, graceful subimago? Once you place them on the water, they all break through the surface tension to some degree. Note the tail filaments. Those of the natural flies barely touch the water. Those of most artificials are grotesque, indecipherable, semi-submerged appendages. And you placed the imitations on the water gently. Now tie them to a tippet and drop them from a certain height. Dismayingly revealing.
Now try it with one of Halford’s classics. I can’t understand how this fellow could think trout took these imitations thinking they were adult ephemeropteras. Those hooks were quite a bit heavier than today’s too. And the materials he used weren’t as hydrophobic as today’s either. In spite of all this, a beautiful, romantic story was born: the dry fly.
Rod: Sadly enough, I think the leader often makes them more stable. It’s funny. I set out the other day to count all the patterns, current and old, that try to imitate a Baetis Rhodani subimago. I soon had no less than 24 different imitations for this fly. And, except for the possible size variations, it’s undoubtedly one of the best defined in color and physiognomy. Nobody uses many of those imitations anymore. It’s certainly makes you think.
Mod: What does it make you think?
Rod: That there are only two possibilities. Either, like my debating opponent says, it’s absolutely impossible to even come close to properly imitating these insects or, as I’ve been saying, the root of the problem lies elsewhere, in what really makes the difference between the success and failure of any fly. At any rate, I thought you defended the imitation concept above all.
Quill: I do, and well above presentation. But referring almost exclusively to today’s realistic patterns.
Rod: Current realistic, underwater patterns.
Quill: Exactly. Although CDC gives you very good floatability—usually the first two drifts, you’ll get very few drifts with the artificial floating like a dun.
Mod: Then, when you tie on a dry fly or what you think is a dry fly, what are you actually tying on?
Quill: An emerger at some floatation level of all the various possible levels. Just that. Definitely not a dry fly as we’ve just defined it, in any case.

Part 3
…about magic wands

Rodney: Aside from this interesting “theory”, as you so aptly call it, I think the pattern-buffs, whether they extol exact imitations or not, are actually trying to compensate deficient casting techniques. The worst is that lots of them aren’t even aware that they’re doing it.
I’ve got another theory.
Moderator: Your turn then.
Rod: I call it the magic wand syndrome. Man constantly strives to find utensils to make life easier and save toil and sweat. Even knowing there are no miracle products for losing weight or lightning-fast systems for learning Russian in 6 months, we’re always willing to try out something new, just in case. No matter what…to avoid suffering and pain. Fly fishing has two magic wands. Rods that cast yards and yards almost by themselves. They make unbelievably delicate presentations, even against a headwind. Then you have the infallible flies that no fish can reject.
Quillan: I hope you aren’t insinuating that I go around selling magic wands.
Rod: In a way, you do. What you defend can be bought. That’s why most all fishermen change the fly before changing the cast or the presentation. And that’s why most angling forums, debates and discussions always focus on this or that pattern. It also explains why there’s a lot more literature about fly tying than any other angling-related topic. Fishermen keep trying to replace practice and training with a new rod or a new pattern. So they keep failing. They refuse to accept that the only magic wands in fly fishing are training, study and hours of effort. And, Quillan, you can’t buy those in a store.
Mod: Mmm, interesting.
Quill: And quite wrong. There’s a lot more skill involved in the option I defend than in yours: knowledge of fly-tying materials, manual dexterity, creativity, imagination, an artistic flare and, particularly, knowledge of entomology. Though I’m sure you consider how you handle the butterfly net more important then recognizing exact species of mayfly under the binocular magnifying glass.
Rod: He who fishes better catches more fish than the guy with the better imitations.

…slight point of encounter

Mod: Don’t you guys believe that, in the ultimate analysis, the guy that makes the best presentation with the best imitation will catch the most fish?
Quill: Yeah, but that hardly ever happens.
Rod: You’re right there.
Mod: Hummmph! Please enlighten us.
Quill: The angling styles of the great majority of fly fishermen are much closer to one option than to the other.
Rod: Almost always closer to imitation. Obsessed with changing flies to solve all their problems.
Quill: More and more anglers are focusing almost exclusively on presentation and stock their fly boxes with only a couple of patterns.
Rod: Yeah, but they’re still a small minority.
Quill: It’s funny but usually the guys that catch the most fish know little about casting. I think I know why.
Mod: Why?
Quill: Because they make the best presentation they know how to make. They get as close as they can to the fish and, with little more than the leader, they drift the fly past the trout’s snout. No technique, no special training. That’s all they do. And once the fish sees the fly, either it looks a lot like what it’s eating or see you later, alligator. And that, Rodney, summarizes everything you’re trying to defend.
Rod: You’re describing a special type of fishing done in certain streams under specific conditions. That kind of fisherman does catch fish in his usual streams but he’s very limited in any kind of river where he can’t get so close.

…dragging isn’t always decisive

Quill: I maintain that a realistic imitation doesn’t need an impeccable presentation; it can even drag a bit.
Rod: Never. The trout, for example, is much more finicky about a poor presentation than about a specific fly pattern. If a trout knows anything, it certainly knows how to tell the difference between something that floats and drifts naturally from something that’s forced.
Quill: What poor presentations do is highlight the deficiencies of a given imitation. Natural insects are continually subject to whimsical eddies and micro currents. They rarely drift in a straight, predictable line.
Rod: True. That’s what makes a proper presentation so difficult. The imitation has to follow the not-so-uniform drift of the natural insect.

…conclusions

Mod: Let’s try to wind up with some last thoughts, OK?
Quill: I’d like to end on this note: the vast difficulty, study and work required to create almost perfect imitations always pays off on the stream. Very few fishermen systematically use this type of fly, but they undoubtedly catch the most fish. Today’s artificial fly, with current knowledge of the art of fly-tying, stands out as much more important than presentation. Never, until very recently, has this been so clear.
Just about anybody knows how to cast and make more or less presentable presentations. But very few can tie patterns that truly imitate natural insects and then use them for fishing. That’s the real source of this controversy.
Mod: Your turn to finish up.
Rod: Fly fishing is about placing a fly on the water without spooking the fish and making it drift naturally. No matter how good your imitation is, it’s always going to be tied to a tippet, which, in turn, is tied to a thicker leader and a much thicker fly line. Between you and the fish, there’s almost always going to be a multitude of currents that are sometimes absolutely indecipherable. You’ll be surrounded by vegetation and obstacles and the wind is rarely going to be your ally. This whole reality interacts with itself and changes with each step you take and each minute that goes by. In the stream, I sincerely prefer to rely on my skill and knowledge more than what I have in my fly box.
Mod: Many thanks to both of you for this interesting debate. Happy fishing until next time.

Fly casting Presentation casts- Off the shoulder curves and pile-curves

from the ‘A driveway runs through it’ series
in slow-motion and color enhanced to see the line, leader and fluff better.
(i love the slomo bird songs !)

sharing this here today more for the visual aspect (for those who enjoy this kind of fly line flying stuff) rather than a how-to of the actual casts, this was a simple test film i did for myself years ago. i wanted to have an after-the-act visualization of the line in the air and its consequent layout. the slomo editing takes image quality a few notches down but gives a better sense of the line’s propagation.
the make-believe situation was fishing upstream in an encumbered stream to imaginary trout represented by the rings. just a rod length to my left was the cabin, in front to the right cedar tree branches (they’re like velcro when the fluff lands in them !) prevented casting over the casting shoulder, there was a phone line 4 meters above and bird-haven bushes behind me. the camera was free-held in my left hand while the right arm was performing the casts over my left shoulder.
in a real fishing situation, i would have reeled in at least a meter of line in to make it all more manageable and to have an easier time in case of a strike.
although there’s only one serious ‘fish-lining’ over the first ring (to cover the fish with the fly line and scaring it because something strange just landed over its head) most of the casts would have had a good chance to interest the ‘fish’ in either ring. in a way, what i’m most surprised/pleased with is how my left hand managed to stay pretty well on track. as such, i’m thinking the left hand did a better job than the right.

here’s the same video unedited and in real time.

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