As the industry changes it looks like the trend for bigger and more audacious flies is sticking around. I’m definitely part of the movement to go big with the flies. Tying and fishing deer hair flies and poppers on 4/0+ hooks isn’t your typical fly. Fish eat them and especially big fish. Don’t get me wrong 24”+ browns eat midges too, but why not go after them with a mouse. Largemouth eat woolly buggers, but why not get them on a diver on the surface. Today I’m not talking about fishing, but just the casting. If you want to deliver these flies out to your quarry then you need the right equipment and know how.
Now there are two different types of flies that I find the most challenging to cast. The non-aerodynamic flies and then the heavy ones. They pose similar problems of not being able to cast well, but for different reasons. First, flies like poppers, deer hair monstrosities, lipped flies, and articulated flies aren’t usually all that heavy, mostly have air drag. I wouldn’t be able to cast them on a spinning rod for example. Now there are flies that cast terribly because of the weight of the fly or the weight they take on in the form of water tension. Clousers are probably the most common. But anything with large lead eyes like crayfish imitations, or flies that have large tungsten beads, or made with water absorbent materials like rabbit strips, marabou, bucktail, etc. These flies are just heavy, not flies that bring on an unnecessary drag in the air by their shape.
To cast both these types of flies I always like to start with the rod. Most people think the rod is what casts the fly. Where in fact it’s the line. The rod is there to match and compliment the line in a way that allows it to work to its fullest design. The rods I use are fast action and have lots of power for their weight class. Mostly what I’ve talked about here sounds like it applies to the big rods 6 weights through 12 weights, but I’ve applied these methods down to a 3 weight rod. The line is what delivers the fly out there. The rod is the road for the line, which is the truck, that delivers your package, the fly. The line is what I would always dump my money into first. Spend as much as you comfortably can on the line and match the rod to the line. I like a weight forward line with a short, aggressive, heavy head. Lines that fall into this category are any of the lines marketed for bass, pike, or muskie. They now have lines for streamer, bass bugs, dorado, tarpon, etc so any line that is used for large flies has this taper design. So product names would be bass bug, big nasty, outbound short, titan taper, smallmouth, bass/ muskie, streamer taper, etc. Every brand has their pros and cons so just pick a brand you like. For me I like the Scientific Angler lines recently, but have used and liked Rio and Airflo. So honestly just pick a brand you like and look at the tapers to decide the line. After you find the right line you need to match it to the rod. As mentioned before, go with a fast rod. I like saltwater models for that reason. Now reels aren’t important so just pick one you like. My current rod and reel combo for smallmouth and rockfish is an Echo Boost Salt in a 7wt and the Scientific Angler Titan Taper Long 7wt. It casts like a dream. If you get the right line for the rod you never need to overweight the line. For a leader this is your next best place to improve your casting. If you want to spend as little money as you can for improvement in your casting and fishing customize your leader. I build my own whenever possible. For streamer fishing, my leaders change in length depending on the sink rate of my line, but they normally start with stiff monofilament or fluorocarbon. I like about 6 foot leaders for floating line and down to a 2 foot leader for full sinking lines. You want stiff material so the loop won’t collapse on you. When casting heavy flies, like clousers for example, the loop wants to close on you constantly. The stiffer the structure of the loop the less likely that’ll happen. This also happens when line speed drops too low because of air drag from a fly like a large popper. I usually use 30 pound or 20 pound line for my short butt section. This section is usually no more than two or three feet in length giving the leader it’s structure. If you go after tropical or saltwater fish the biggest tip I would give don’t exceed the breaking strength of the fly line. I’ve heard countless stories of people breaking fly lines in snags and on fish because they use 50, 60, 70 pound mono and their fly line core is only 50 or 30 pound breaking strength. Your tippet can just be more butt section if you happen to be going after GTs, peacocks, murray cod or other beefy fish. For toothy fish I like wire. Wire leader material pretty flexible so stiffen up you butt section by using tougher leader material or stronger material to maintain the leader structure. Finally for most guys here in North America we want want to stick to a 20 pound butt and whatever tippet is most applicable for the situation. For me with smallmouth and largemouth I use mostly 10 pound tippet. Now if I use a nymph I go lighter like 8 or 6 pound and if I use poppers I go bigger like straight 20 or step down to 15 pound. So keep an array of nylon and fluorocarbon for what you’re going after.
As far as a quick fix without changing your leader, line, or rod is to slow down your casting stroke. This means the fly won’t collapse the loop, but your distance is reduced drastically. Because you can’t exchange speed for power you lose distance. If that suits your needs then don’t worry about upgrading your tackle, but at this point in my warm water fishing I don’t want a second job casting.
If you have your own tips or tricks that work for you or a question regarding fly tying or fishing comment down below or email us through the contact page or directly at email@example.com