With only a few short months away until we start our season in Alaska, we couldn’t help but think about chucking big gaudy flies and rigs to the plethora of species that call our river home. Whether it is heavily weighted flies, split shot ridden nymph rigs, or ‘dredger style’ sink tips, there is nothing delicate about fly fishing in Western Alaska.
We may take the ‘chuck and duck’ a little too literally at times, but we love it! Nonetheless, no matter where you are fishing, if you are planning on fishing heavy flies and/or rigs, there are a few casting principles to consider. Here’s a few tips to help keep you “chucking” without “ducking.”
- Widen Your Casting Arc. Without getting too technical, good tight loops are achieved by a straight line path of the rod tip. Although this is usually the main objective of a good cast, when casting heavy rigs, tight loops are not always the best option. The added weight of your fly and/or rig can cause the top leg of your loop to cross over the bottom leg often resulting in a tangle. Therefore, it is important to widen your loops when casting heavy rigs. To do this, make sure to widen your casting arc on both your forward and back casts. Rather than creating a straight line path with your rod tip, think of drawing a convex arc with your rod tip instead. This will allow you to open your loops to effectively cast even the heaviest of flies.
- Slow Down. This goes hand in hand with widening your casting arc in order to open your loops. It is important when casting heavy flies to slow down your stoke in order to let your rod load. Remember, you are casting more mass and thus must bend the rod deeper in order to throw it. Rushing the cast will most likely not allow the rod to load enough, causing gravity to take hold of your heavy setup, resulting in a tailing loop. Slow down and let the rod load.
- Get Your Fly Up. Make sure your fly is high in the water column before attempting to pick it up into your back cast. Attempting to pick your fly or sink tip up straight from the depths will cause your rod to load fully while lifting the fly to surface, leaving little energy left to form a proper back cast. Smoothly lifting the rod, stripping in line, or even roll casting can provide the energy needed to get your fly near the surface before making your back cast.
- Belgian Cast. The Belgian cast is a great cast for casting heavy rigs, especially in windy conditions. Also known as an elliptical or oval cast, the Belgian cast consists of casting on two different planes. The back cast is made low and to the side, while the forward cast is made over the top. By changing planes between the forward and back casts, you are able to cast wider loops resulting in less chance of tangling, while also keeping the fly away from your body at all times.
- Up the Line Size: Depending on the weight of the rig you are attempting to throw, it may be best to increase your line weight. Over-lining your rod is a great way to help turn over heavy rigs. It takes mass to move mass, and there’s no law that says the rod weight and line size must match. If your fly is not turning over, try going up a line size.