5) Dealing with Wind
Wind seems to be a constant problem in saltwater environments, and every proficient fly fisher must learn to deal with it effectively in order to increase fishing productivity and satisfaction.
To make a presentation that will turn over into a strong headwind, a tight, aerodynamic loop should be directed at a slight downward angle to the horizontal air current so that the front of the loop is aimed at the target. To accomplish that end, the backcast loop must be tilted slightly upward 180 degrees opposite the intended path of the forward cast.
With a tailwind, a tight loop needs to be angled low on the backcast for the best penetration. I find it easiest to make a backcast into the wind with the rod positioned off to the side at about a 45-degree angle. Then, I bring the rod to a more overhead position for the forward stroke so that the loop is directed slightly slightly above the horizontal plane in order to take advantage advantage of the tailwind for extra distance and a positive turnover.
A strong crosswind blowing toward the casting shoulder presents another dilemma because of the possibility that the line or fly could hit the caster or the rod. The simplest way to handle that situation is to face the opposite direction (with back to the wind) and execute the presentation with a backcast. Another highly effective method is to make a mostly sidearm backcast and then tilt the rod with the tip slightly downwind on the forward cast so that the line and fly pass safely leeward.
6) Mastering the Speed Cast
In comparison to freshwater gamefish, saltwater species are more transient and seem to be constantly on the move. More often than not, that mobility leaves little time for false casting and a presentation. Therefore, all marine fly fishers need to master some variation of a speed cast in order to quickly make accurate and frequently long presentations in time-demanding situations.
To prepare for a speed cast, strip enough line from the reel to reach the maximum intended casting distance—never come up short. To avoid entanglements, make a cast and then strip the line into an orderly pile so that the back of the line rests on the bottom and the forward section sits on top. Leave a manageable length of line outside the rod tip, about 15 feet plus the leader. The longer that length is, the faster the rod will load and the quicker the delivery will be.
Grasp the fly between the thumb and index finger of the line hand while tucking the line underneath the index or middle finger of the rod hand. Holding the fly by the tail or hook bend will eliminate any chance of the hook point accidentally penetrating the hand when the cast is initiated.
Begin the speed cast with a roll pickup for the forward cast and wait for the momentum of the moving line to pull the fly from between the fingers in order to help load the rod. Don’t throw the fly in the air or otherwise release it prematurely. Once the forward roll pickup has been completed, a normal backcast can be executed. Using the fewest number of false casts, feed out enough line to reach a fish. Shoot line on both forward and backcasts for the quickest presentation.
7) Understanding Line Cores
In most cases, a fly fisher will benefit from using a line tapered specifically for use in salt water. There are many taper variations, including those created for a particular purpose or fish (i.e. general saltwater, offshore, bonefish, striper, etc.). But these designations aren’t written in stone. Under many circumstances, one line type can be substituted for another. For instance, a bonefish line may be used just as effectively for redfish, whereas a tarpon line may work equally well when casting to big permit.
While taper plays an important role in casting performance, a line’s core material and its coating are equally significant factors; but they seldom receive the attention they deserve. Almost all saltwater fly lines have a core that is made from either monofilament or multifilament. Coatings can vary from soft to hard.
For casting in hot climates and warm water, lines that have a monofilament core and a hard coating are the preferred option because they maintain their stiffness for excellent shootability and a positive turnover even in extreme heat. Because of that stiffness, monocore lines also have an inherent “memory,” and they need to be stretched immediately prior to use in order to straighten any loose twists and curvatures that may exist. In cool environments, their composition tends to make them coil up like a Slinky toy, and they become exceedingly difficult to cast even after considerable stretching. On the other hand, lines with a multifilament core and a comparatively soft coating are the best choice for more temperate climates; however, they turn limp and cast poorly in the heat.
For optimal casting performance, a line should be rinsed off after each use to flush away any accumulation of salt and other contaminants. A line will also benefit from an occasional cleaning with a mild soapy solution followed by an application of line dressing approved by the line manufacturer. In extreme cases where the dirt buildup resists a normal cleaning process, a specialized micro-abrasive pad (available through most fly line companies) may be needed to recondition the line.
8) PracticeSound Fundamentals
The previous recommendations are meant to supplement a fundamentally sound casting stroke and not to remedy poor technique. Every efficient stroke should include these basics: a solid stop at the end of each forward and backcast; ample linear acceleration; straight-line tracking; and aerodynamic loop formation. In analyzing your skills, be objective, and if your casting stroke needs help, set aside time for improvement prior to making the first venture into salt water. You’ll save yourself a lot of frustration, time, and money; and the initial experience will be much more rewarding as a result.
Jon Cave is a fly-fishing guide, author, and instructor living in Oviedo, Florida. He is the author of Performance Fly Casting: An Illustrated Guide (Headwater Books), in collaboration with artist Joe Mahler, where these illustrations first appeared.