After a lifetime of spin fishing all over the lowcountry, Jason decided he wanted to give fly fishing a whirl. My son and I decided to surprise him with a reel. We headed to Lowcountry Fly Shop to pick one out and I can't say enough nice things about the guys that work in there. I don't know the first thing about fly rods but they are always kind, explain as much as I want to learn, and help me pick out just the right thing. Jason loved the gift.
It has been about a year since he cast his first fly. He was determined, but the technique is different than spin fishing so it took a lot of practice. He certainly doesn't mind putting in time on the water, but I know that he'd love to catch more fish. I think that's why he was interested to hear John Irwin give a talk and demo on fly fishing at SEWE.
Captain John Irwin runs Fly Right Charters here in Charleston, SC. He has a ton of experience teaching anglers to fly fish and offered some very practical tips. Here's what I took away from his talk today...
When you fish, the power occurs when the rod bends. In fly fishing the rod bends due to the weight of the line. The weight of the line is what causes the rod to bend and load.
Keep a straight wrist
Rather than bending your wrist to move the rod, you want to keep a straight wrist and bend at the elbow instead. This helps you keep the rod tip moving on a straight plane and prevents inefficient arcs or loops in the line.
Push the tip of the rod in a straight line path
You want to keep the tip moving in a straight path both vertically and horizontally. Keeping your wrist straight will help you do that. In Montana, you see fly fishers cast over their heads, starting perpendicular to the water. In the Keys, you'll see people cast off to their sides with the rod parallel to the water. Here in Charleston, it's common to see people cast at a 45 degree angel, due to all the obstacles that come with fishing in the grass. These are all okay, you just need to pick a path and stick to it. Another helpful tip is to keep your thumb opposite the fish the entire time. Don't allow your wrist to break or rotate.
Apply power in an accelerated motion
When you're learning, it's okay to watch your line go back so that you can see your rod tip stop and your line unfold. This way, you'll know how long to stop, or pause, so that your line can fully unfurl. The longer the line, the longer the pause. If casting overhead, you stop on the forward motion when the rod is just below eye level and let the rod tip and line fall to the water together in front of you.
The motion is start and stop, start and stop.
What is it? It's when you pull on the line that's going out the tip of your rod with your left hand while you are casting. Why do it? It causes the tip of the rod to bend more than the weight of the line alone, and if the rod bends more, that means more power.
Start with your hands together. Start to cast back and simultaneously pull the line down with your left hand. Bring your hands back together as you stop moving the rod. Repeat as you cast forward. Separate your hands on the start motion, bring your hands back together on the stop motion.
Double hauling can give you the power you need to cast further and more accurately. Start moving your rod back (move hands apart), stop moving rod (move hands together). Add this motion to start and stop - apart, together. Apart, together.
If you have a lot of obstruction between you and the fish then you need to engage with the line in your left hand as quickly as possible.
Get line ready, before you see a fish
Get to where you expect that you might see fish. Estimate how far you will have to cast. Pull that much line off the reel into a pile in front of your feet. The line you need is at the bottom of that stack, so you'll want to cast or "clear the line" and then restack the line in front of you. If you have to pull additional line out later, be sure to clear the line again, before you try to cast to a fish. This will prevent your line from tangling and increase the likelihood that you cast right to your fish.
Remember, in fly fishing you want to cast as few times as possible.
Put everything together
1. Go to where you see or expect to see fish.
Reds will be tailing in the grass, looking for fiddler crabs, as the tide floods the marsh.
2. Get your line ready.
3. Hold the fly in your left hand by its tail. Have about 12 feet of line extending out of the tip of the rod.
4. Keep your wrist straight as you cast backward, letting go of the fly as you start.
5. Start and stop. Start and stop.
If you're going to double haul then apart, together. Apart, together.
6. Once you lay the line down, let the crab fall just a little then engage with your left hand. Pull the crab towards you by pulling on the line with your left hand in short, slow, smooth motions. Crabs move slowly and just a little.
7. Keep the rod tip pointed at the water and towards the fly. Don't jerk the rod up when you hook a fish, instead when you hood a fish...
8. Set the hook by keeping the rod tip pointed to the fish. Pull the line with your left hand in a long smooth fast motion, ideally a full arms length.
9. After you set the hook, continue to pull the fish in using your left hand to pull the line in, onto a pile in front of you. Don't worry about getting the line back on your reel.
You can catch most fish in Charleston (Reds, Trout, Spanish Mackerel) with an 8 weight fly rod. To catch bigger fish, you need a bigger rod.
If you're going to release the fish, you don't want to fight it for a long time and wear it down too much. To get the fish to you fast, don't let the fish get comfortable and don't rest yourself. If the fish moves to your right, move the tip of your reel to the left. If he moves left, move the tip to your right.
I know that Jason is anxious to get back on the water and to try out these tips and tricks. Who knows, maybe I'll give fly fishing a try this year, too!