saltwater fly fishing

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2 fly rods lined and ready for action

As a Cape Cod Salt­wa­ter Fly Fish­ing Guide for more than twen­ty years, I have guid­ed hun­dreds of striped bass anglers aboard my 20’ cen­ter con­sole boat.  In those years my clients have been experts, novices, and every­one in between.  From most, I have learned, and some have even taught me a thing or two about fly fishing…:)

Now it’s my turn.  I want to sim­pli­fy or “demys­ti­fly-fish­ing”.

visit your local fly shop

Fly fish­ing can be very com­pli­cat­ed AND EXPENSIVE!  Or not!  Sure, it costs some­thing to buy a rod and reel, but I rec­om­mend that you take it slow.  Find an afford­able 8 or 9 weight fly rod & reel com­bi­na­tion and spend your mon­ey on a good fly line.  (Read on to learn more…)  Ask your local fly shop to “line your reel” and tie on a leader.  Final­ly, pur­chase four or five flies to get your­self start­ed.  Your local shop should be able to sell you a cou­ple of (easy-to-cast) pat­terns that work well for your tar­get species.

saltwater fly fishing

HOw far do I need to cast?

One of the most com­mon ques­tions I get from new clients is “How far do I have to be able cast to catch a fish?”. 

My answer is sim­ply, as far as you can con­sis­tent­ly cast and man­age your fly line.  I have told clients many times, I would rather see them make a 40’-45’ cast over & over again with­out entan­gling them­selves in the fly line, than nail a 70’-80’ cast once every three or four attempts and entan­gle­ments.  After all, you can’t catch a fish unless your fly is in the water.  It’s real­ly that sim­ple, and no, you don’t need to know how to “dou­ble haul” to catch a striped bass.

Dis­tance cast­ing and accu­ra­cy comes with good tech­nique.  Good tech­nique comes with prac­tice.  You will be amazed at how much your cast­ing will improve sim­ply through time and repetition.

we all learn differently

I learn by watch­ing and imi­ta­tion. I teach through demon­stra­tion. For oth­ers, detailed tech­ni­cal instruc­tions are the pre­ferred avenue for under­stand­ing how best to cast a fly rod. What­ev­er your pref­er­ence, the inter­net offers end­less infor­ma­tion and instruc­tion. Even the most expe­ri­enced fly cast­er can find help­ful infor­ma­tion through an inter­net search.

The Basics

No mat­ter what your learn­ing style, the mechan­ics of cast­ing a fly rod boil down to a few sim­ple concepts.

CASTING A FLY ROD:

1. FLY LINE IS WEIGHTED
2. CASTING A FLY ROD IS THE ACT OFLOADINGTHE FLY ROD WITH THE WEIGHTED FLY LINE
3. THE BACK-AND-FORTH ACTION OF A FLY CAST CREATESLINE SPEED
4. LINE SPEEDLOADSTHE FLY ROD
5. “LOADINGTHE ROD CAUSES THE ROD TO BEND, OR ACT LIKE A BOW
6. THE ROD’S BOW IS WHAT PROPELS THE FLY LINE WITH THE FLY ACROSS THE WATER

casting a spinning rod

First, think about cast­ing a spin­ning rod. When you cast a spin­ning rod, the weight of the lure “loads” the rod caus­ing it to bow (or bend), and it is this bow that pro­pels the lure out over the water. Cast­ing a spin­ning rod is real­ly cre­at­ing a sim­ple bow action, and any­one can learn to cast a spin­ning rod in just a few minutes.

casting a fly rod

It’s more com­pli­cat­ed to cast a fly rod, nev­er­the­less, it’s based on the exact same con­cept. The big dif­fer­ence is that the rod is “bowed” by the weight of the fly line, not by the fly. The back-and-forth motion of fly cast­ing is the act of cre­at­ing “line speed” to “load” and bow the rod.

When you cast a fly rod, YOU ARE CASTING THE WEIGHT OF THE FLY LINE.

It’s all about the fly line!!!!!!!

The image above dia­grams a typ­i­cal 100’ salt­wa­ter fly line. Note that the 30’ “head” of the fly line is thick­er than the remain­ing 70’ of “run­ning line”. It is the “head” of the fly line that is weight­ed.  When “load­ing” a fly rod, you are work­ing with the “head” or the first 30’ of the fly line.  The “run­ning line” shoots out fol­low­ing the head when you make your cast.

Fly lines come in var­i­ous con­fig­u­ra­tions start­ing with “weights” to match your fly rod. Float­ing lines, inter­me­di­ate lines, sink­ing lines, and are just some of the choic­es avail­able for var­i­ous fish­ing sit­u­a­tions. For inshore striped bass fish­ing, I like to keep it sim­ple with a ver­sa­tile and easy to cast inter­me­di­ate line. Ask your local shop to rec­om­mend a good line. Yes, it will cost you $100, but fly cast­ing is ALL ABOUT THE FLY LINE!

The Technique

Almost every­body has seen it… The Riv­er Runs Through It… star­ring Brad Pitt (if you haven’t, you prob­a­bly should).  Every­one remem­bers the beau­ty of the riv­er, the arc of the fly lines, and the for­ward and back casts of the anglers, an action that appears to be a bug­gy whip. 

Do you know what is real­ly going on?   Fly casting…

IMPORTANT BASIC FLY-CASTING TERMS:

For­ward Cast

Back Cast

Accel­er­ate

Stop

Load the Rod

Tight Loops

Shoot the Line

Water Haul

Orvis casting instructor demonstrating a fly cast
Click the image to view the video

This is a short video that out­lines basic fly-cast­ing tech­nique.  There is sim­ply no way that I will be able to effec­tive­ly impart to you in words what this five-minute video can show you.

forward and back casts

As you’ve just seen from the video above, what to the untrained eye appears like whip­ping the rod is actu­al­ly an easy and smooth accel­er­a­tion of the fly rod (for­ward & back) with an abrupt stop on either end. The weight of the fly line builds the line speed that bows the rod cre­at­ing the tight loops that car­ry fly to its des­ti­na­tion. (Easy for me to say…)

an important pause

A pause on both the for­ward and the back casts allows the line to roll out front of and behind you and adds to the momen­tum that cre­ates the loops in the line that ulti­mate­ly car­ry the fly to its destination.

the straight path

DON’T FORGET TO DRAW A STRAIGHT LINE with the rod tip TO MAKE THE STRAIGHT PATH. It is that straight path that adds dis­tance and accu­ra­cy to a cast. Keep­ing the rod tip on a plane (like paint­ing a ceil­ing or a wall with a roller) is the num­ber one tip that I find myself shar­ing with my clients.

weight of the fly line

Final­ly, do not under­es­ti­mate the impor­tance of the con­cept of CASTING THE WEIGHT OF THE FLY LINE (fly cast­ing) as opposed to cast­ing the weight of the lure (spin cast­ing). Know­ing this basic con­cept will help you to bet­ter under­stand the cast­ing videos avail­able on the internet.

practice makes perfect

MOST IMPORTANTLY, take some time to prac­tice your fly cast­ing in your yard, or at a local school grounds, or park. If you get frus­trat­ed (and you will), take a break, and come back anoth­er day. Of course, find­ing a good teacher can’t hurt!

Check back regularly for more saltwater fly fishing tips

And if you live on Cape Cod or in South­east­ern Mass­a­chu­setts, call me for a fly cast­ing les­son, or bet­ter yet… let’s go fishing!!!!

Capt. Avery Revere with a striped bass and a fly rod
Capt. Avery with a Barn­sta­ble Har­bor striped bass