June 5th, 2006

Cast Where They Ain't
By James Castwell


By now you must have heard the tale that goes something like this. A guy is in the Bahamas after bonefish and within a few days his guide finally pays him a compliment. He has spotted a bonefish out in front of the boat and even made a cast to it before the guide told him where the fish was. He was quite proud of himself too, receiving the compliment, until the guide also mentioned that "it is better to cast in front of the head of the fish, then to cast in back of the tail."

As simple as that does sound, I can see it happening very easily. Bonefish are very hard to see, nearly impossible on many occasions. The scales are like mirrors and reflect the surroundings well. Instant traveling camouflage. Sometimes it is possible to see the shadow they leave on the ocean floor but not see the fish itself. All of which means that it is dandy to be able to see your fish, but even better if you can tell which way he is pointed. Crucial in fact.

I was on the phone tonight with Ray DuBois, a fishing buddy from Connecticut and we were talking about how a guy who can cast very well can spend one hundred percent of his concentration on fishing, not casting, when he is on the water. The fly just goes where it is supposed to, automatically. Or pretty much does. Don=t take that as arrogance or bragging. It is the way things should be and for many is how it is. But sadly, far too many will not take the time to practice casting, don-t know what to practice, or are just not good enough at casting yet. They have to concentrate on "fly casting" when they should be "fly fishing." And then they make the big mistake.

They cast to the wrong place. They cast to the rise. The rise is where the fish took something. It is the tell-tale ring pattern that tells you a fish was just there. In a stream it is moving with the speed of the stream. When you see it, it has already moved downstream some. Alright, upstream if there is a small whirl-pool effect, but mostly it went along with the surface water.

So where do you put your cast. Your dry fly. If it was a surface rise I presume you are using a dry fly. If the fish took "in the surface" it was an emerger and if the "rise" was just a bulge he took a nymph just under the surface. You probably saw his dorsal fin and tail. Anyway, you cast upstream from it. Right? Yes. But, how far upstream? This is where many guys get it wrong, not by a lot, but enough to either put the fish "down" or to at least make sure he will not take your fly.

Keep in mind that the fish tipped up and opened his mouth and something dropped into it. How far did he drift along with the current as he rose from the bottom of the stream? How deep is the water? Did he drift back with it or did he chase it downstream? Too many fly fishers will make the mistake of not casting far enough ahead of the fish and here is why.

The deeper in the stream he is, the farther the fish can see "out of the water" upstream. He sees out of the water at about a forty-five degree angle, so if he is down two feet, he can see out through his window about two feet ahead. He can see the impressions of anything on the surface farther than that. Footprints. Dimples on, or in the surface. Bugs or insects hatching or landing on the water. These will, or at least can at times, get him started. Get his interest going in the right direction. Some will go as far as calling it getting "keyed in." I think sometimes it really is a fact. Those impressions start the whole process of the rise.

If your fly is not far enough ahead of him, you're out of that inspection zone. Somehow, make sure you can get your fly presented ahead, way ahead of where you saw the rise. The fish has a taking area, or zone, but he also has a holding or feeding zone. A location that may be protected by a rock or something which offers him cover, slower current, a place he likes and still affords a shot at food. They are conservationists of energy and will always get all of the elements of success together for their best advantage. If they spend more energy getting food than they get out of it they die. Pretty simple. The inefficient ones did not live to reproduce.

Sometimes the difference between success and failure can be such a tiny thing like casting far enough ahead of a fish. Sometimes it is really all that makes the difference between getting a rise and not getting a rise. ~ JC

Till next week, remember . . .

Keepest Thynne Baakast Upeth

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