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Kaj Busch:  

Kaj Busch - 'Bushy'

Trouble Shooting on Fly

I guess we all know the feeling we are finally out on the water, with the prospect of actually catching a fish on fly tackle, when something goes diabolically wrong. Of course there are plenty of things that can go wrong, but it is generally something fixable. Once you identify a particular problem there is often a way of fixing it outright or getting around it, at least to an extent.

When I think of fishing problems my mind goes straight to casting! If you are having a crook day, that is likely to be the number one bogey. I know that on some days I just can’t seem to get a cast to work and I’ll bet I am not on my own there. When this happens, life can be very frustrating. You can cast in the park, right? So why can’t you cast when it counts. There are usually a couple of reasons. The first one will be wind. A bit of a breeze really throws people (including me) right out of gear. It happens like this because people expect casting in a breeze to be difficult, so they compensate by trying too hard and they lose timing. As the timing goes, frustration really sets in and even more brute force is added to the equation. Now the rod is pushed erratically through the air and the loop has all sorts of woofs and waves in it. Your cast goes exactly nowhere.

Horror casting days can be fixed more easily than you think. We can’t work miracles, but if you just take a minute to relax and slow down your casting, and then concentrate on bringing the rod through in a plane, things are going to improve and your casting will be at least as good as it was in the park. If your casting is relaxed and straight, the line will basically cut through the wind well enough for you to present the fly properly. Remember that wind affects the mind far more than it affects fly tackle.

Excitement is another common cause of the casting yips and it certainly affects me even after using a fly rod for too many years. I can remember running along a beach on Cape York after a couple of big golden trevally and putting in some absolutely shocking casts. To make matters worse I was on camera at the time. The cure is the same as for wind - relax, slow down, and push the rod through straight. Feel the line loading up the rod. There is actually a huge difference between casting in the park and casting a prized fish for all of us. It is just a mental problem that you can control if you think about it. Slow down and relax.

There are a couple of common presentation problems that rear their ugly heads at times. Perhaps your leader just won’t straighten and the fly lands in a heap of tippet. If you are using a long leader for spooky fish, finish your cast with a little ‘shoot’ and then grab the line hard just before it gets to the water. The main fly line will come to a sudden stop and the leader will straighten right out. Another solution to this problem is to stand fairly upright when casting and to stop the rod tip abruptly a little higher than you normally would. This actually accelerates the line along the loop you have made and the leader will often then shoot out straight.

One of the mysteries of fly fishing is that wet flies float and dry flies sink when you first take up the sport. This can certainly be frustrating but there is a reason for it, and it can be fixed. Wet flies usually float because beginners use too many false casts before the actual presentation cast. Even a heavy wet fly will be perfectly dry after it has made fifty trips back and forth before you actually let it fall on the water. Try to minimise the number of false casts and keep wet flies wet by soaking them frequently in water or putting them in your mouth to soak them in saliva. The mouth bit doesn’t sound too hygienic but it really does work and I think that the saliva might add a bit of scent appeal as well. Watch out for the hook point though. If you end up in a doctors surgery with a six pound tippet hanging out of your mouth and a Mrs Simpson stuck in your tongue, you won’t be the first!

Dry flies sink because learners often use cheap flies with poor materials and they fail to recognise drag at an early stage. As soon as your fly skates or is pulled under by the current it is getting soaked and it generally isn’t fishing properly at stage anyway, so pull it off the water, give it a few vigorous false casts to dry it even further, and then re-present it. Experienced fishers often only leave dries on the water for minimum time, right where they think a strike will occur. Mugs leave the flies on the water too long and they get soaked and start to sink. I constantly re-grease my leader and apply floatant to the fly frequently as well. I hate junk dangling around on my vest, but line grease and floatant are so important and they have to be used so often that I make and exception for them and they do dangle right on the front of my vest. If you get a loud popping sound when you pull the fly off the water, it means that your leader has sunk and the fly has been pulled under and then out of the water very rapidly. This scares fish and soaks dries, so keep your leader greased.

There are only about another million things that can and do go wrong, but if you keep an eye on this little lot then I’m sure that your fly fishing day will be a little bit more enjoyable.


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