One problem with overhead casting is that our flies inevitably get caught
in trees and bankside vegetation. This can be particularly frustrating
on our small tree-lined westcountry rivers. Therefore as guides and instructors
we place a great deal of emphasis on teaching our clients to roll cast.
For beginners teaching the roll cast takes place on small stillwaters with little in the way of bankside obstructions. But many people - who have mastered the 'static' roll cast - then have a rude shock when confronted with a river for the first time. Dealing with swirling currents and overhanging trees is difficult.
They also quickly discover that the roll cast has one fundamental weakness. The basic roll cast is not an efficient way to make large changes in the position of the flyline on the water.
Here are some suggestions for overcoming these obstacles. These involve adapting some of the techniques developed in other branches of fly fishing - in particular the family of casts referred to as Spey casts.
We call our approach Small Stream Skagit Casting
Spey casting was developed to cope with situations where room to make
a back cast is restricted by bankside vegetation.
Spey casts also allow the angler to make large changes in the position of the flyline on the water.
It is possible to Spey cast using single-handed trout rods. However, Spey casting was developed to meet the needs of salmon anglers who typically:
Conventional Spey casting is associated with salmon anglers wielding long two-handed rods on wide rivers.Efficient Spey casting is based on several key principles:
These pictures were taken from the perspective of an angler looking upstream. An area of deeper water beneath the bank on the left holds good-sized trout. The area of shallower and relatively slower moving water on the right holds few fish.
The next two pictures show - from the angler's perspective - the position of the fly line in the parking area and after it has been cast into the fish-holding area
The fly line has been extended into the line parking area ..
then the fly is cast into the fish holding area
It turns out that the ' line parking area'can be used to overcome the other problems associated with using Spey-type casts to deliver a dry fly upstream.The line parking area can be used for several purposes, to:
Of course the fish holding area may be on your right as you move upstream. The next two pictures show the relative position of the two areas when the fish holding area is located on the angler's right hand side. Make sure to carefully position the anchor point so that it points at the target before making the forward cast. Do not make your forward cast over and across the fly line. Failure to observe this simple point will result in a crossed line which tangles the fly and leader.
As the fly drifts downstream through the fish-holding area, gently pull line through the rings to maintain contact with the fly. Avoid jerky or long pulls that could create unnatural drag on the fly. Then when you have returned the fly line to the line parking area, shoot this retrieved line into a roll cast before making your next cast into the fish-holding area.
In the restricted environment of a small river you may not be able to execute 'classic' Spey casts. Just remember the principles of Spey casting. Remember that the line will follow the path of the rod tip.
The next two pictures illustrate a situation where good trout may be found (in area B) towards the head of a pool just upstream of a prime line parking area. You can often pick up a good fish by paying careful attention to your fly when you place it into a parking area for the first time.
As you reach the head of a pool you may find that the line parking area is now downstream of your position. You can still utilise the functionality of the parking area. At the end of the drift this right-handed angler can use a snake roll to place the line in the parking area, followed by a cast over their left shoulder to send the fly back to the fish holding area which runs along the opposite bank.
Of course the idea of a 'downstream line parking area' is not new. Wet fly anglers are advised to step downstream after the line reaches the dangle.
The next series of photographs shows an alternative technique which has the advantage of allowing a large (90 degree) change of direction to facilitate a drag free drift along a fish holding area in front of the angler. We call this approach "Small Stream Skagit Casting".