In 1999, when I transitioned into fly casting on the lakes, I quickly found the medium-fast action eight-and-a-half foot rods I was using on the creeks and rivers to be inadequate. Not enough rod. So I made my way into The Troutfitter in Syracuse, and bought a pair of used nine foot two-piece Sage rods. An RPL five weight and a RPL+ six weight. Both of these were two piece rods.
I believe Sage created these rods for the bone fisherman. They are very fast action with strong butts, yet light and accurate for small-to-medium sized flies. But I also think they were not enough rod for the avid flats fisherman. It is my impression that saltwater flats anglers prefer much more rod than a five or six weight, day in and day out. So for a time, in the late 90’s, there were many of these rods floating around for sale. These rods proved to be perfect for fly casting on the lakes.
Fly fishing on a stream or creek has much finesse involved. The angler is trying to thread the needle…Deliver the fly through the brush choked banks on fine tippet. Then there is fly casting on the open water. Finesse is important but strength and line speed are far more important. These two attributes were designed well into the RPL series.
Todays rods are even lighter, faster, and more accurate. My most recent purchase was a nine foot six inch Sage One five weight purchased from The Troutfitter in Syracuse. This rod is very accurate and creates fast line speed, but is lacking the butt for windy conditions. I like the added length built into rods designed for stillwater casters as they lend themselves better for mending and lifting of line. Most experienced fly casters would recommend nothing lighter than a seven weight rod for stillwater fly fishing. I find them to be too much rod however for the fish I am catching on average and unnecessary.
In all fly fishing situations water tension on the fly line is important for proper casting technique. It is the water tension that a good caster will utilize to “load” the rod. When fly casting on open water we are often casting 35 to 55 feet on average. With that much line off the reel a caster MUST learn to employ water tension on fly line to load the fast action rod. This “loading” of the rod during the cast is accompanied by a single or double haul technique to increase line speed and re-deliver the fly in short order. This is what I call the “Pick and Plop”.
False casting is something I hate. It is a bad habit and only necessary when fishing a dry fly. Even then it can be avoided. What I call the “pick and plop” eliminates false casting. On the lake, while the boat is under a controlled drift parallel to the shore, the fly casters pick up their line, using water tension and proper timing to load the rod for a backcast. Then “the haul” is incorporated into the cast (timing with this technique is key). Water tension and the haul technique team up to load the spine of the fly rod thus creating energy and fast line speed to punch a fly long distances from the boat.
Wind from 5 to 15 mph, if kept at your back, is tolerable with fast action fly rods. Control your drift so that the wind is quartering over your casting shoulder, and a good caster can slow down his cast, utilize the “Pick and Plop”, and deliver the fly nicely again and again while drifting on miles of lake. With the wind coming over the casters shoulder, the caster throws his backcast high, slows his casting down on the forward cast and keeps the rod tip high. This allows the wind to compliment the energy in your cast and allow the fly line to travel even farther.
As for fly reels, I have not much opinion. I only require that they pick up line fast and do not burden the caster with excessive weight or bulkiness. The Lamson Litespeed mid-arbor and Orvis Battenkill large arbor are my favorites.
Again, there are other nuances and details I have not included here that are key at becoming efficient with the Dead Drift Float Fishing/Pluck and Plop method of stillwater fly fishing. The mechanics of the cast are described in whole, but timing and a full understanding of how it is accomplished is best learned from the deck of a boat. My boat.
I once read where a certified fly casting instructor exclaimed that “the deck of a boat is not the place to learn how to fly cast”. I could not disagree more. It is THE BEST place to learn how to fly cast. There are no bushes, no trees, no other casters to distract…Nothing but air and opportunity. And, most importantly, there is still water all around you to provide the feel you need to develop the solid skills and basic mechanics of fly casting.
Fly line, leader construction, and fly selection are the final topics of this series on Dead Drift Float Fishing as it pertains to fly fishing. Coming soon.
If you are reading this and want to know more, or are confused…Feel free to call me anytime.