Many anglers do not like casting weighted lines or flies, but that's simply because they're using conventional casting techniques. It's frequently described as "chuck-and-duck" casting, and it's never graceful: Weighted flies break rods on impact, hit fly fishers with stinging results, or even worse, the hook becomes impaled in flesh or clothing. Tungsten-coated sinking lines don't fare much better using the chuck-and-duck method, so many people simply avoid them.
The truth is, we would rather cast sinking lines than floating lines. With proper casting technique, dense sinking lines load the rod better, penetrate the wind more easily, and require less effort.
Throughout our film The Complete Cast, we emphasize that there is no one way to cast. Successful fishing, whether for trout on a woodland stream, tarpon on the flats, striped bass in a deep rip, or steelhead on a large West Coast river, requires different casts for different situations.
Each cast is determined by three factors: the physical makeup of the individual, the tackle, and the fishing conditions. A petite female teenager will not cast the same way as a stronger, larger man. The tackle also determines the type of cast, so delivering a dry fly requires different technique than casting a heavy saltwater crab imitation. Current fishing conditions also demand adjustments; you would not cast a fly on a calm day the same way you would if it was windy. Regardless of these, variations, the four basic principles we constantly teach always apply.
Conventional casting technique dictates moving the line and fly directly away from the target, reversing 180 degrees, and returning the fly in the exact opposite direction. But with weighted lines and flies, this abrupt reversal of direction is an accident waiting to happen. The resulting bounce causes tangles and numerous other problems, including a high possibility of impact with the rod.
Joe Mahler Illustration
The correction is simple. Avoid the abrupt change in direction and instead make the line travel on a continuously smooth curve during the backcast, eliminating any abrupt change in direction.
When the rod tip travels in a curve during the entire backcast, so will the line, leader, and the fly—like a boat trailer following a truck around a turn. The curving backcast continues into the forward cast without stopping, keeping constant pressure on the rod tip.
Once you're around the U-turn, simply continue speeding up smoothly into an elevated forward cast.
Your hand should increase in speed until it suddenly stops at the end of the forward cast.
The entire delivery involves blending the back and forward strokes into one smooth motion. Avoid any punch or snap in the cast. It requires little effort on your part but gives you great control.
Begin your cast with the rod tip just inches from the water, and keep your backcast low and parallel to the water. This way, you are in a better position to produce an upward trajectory on your forward cast.
Imagine a horseshoe positioned vertically, and try to sweep the rod tip around the inside of the horseshoe. The faster the rod tip travels around this imaginary curve, the deeper the rod loads. With heavier lines and flies—and by hauling with your line hand—the rod will load even more.
Remember that the line goes in the same direction that the tip was going just before it stopped. A common mistake is to make a forward cast that directs the weighted line or fly back at the caster or back at the rod. Instead, make an elevated forward cast that directs the line and fly above and away from you. Your final speed-up to a stop should start while your rod hand is behind you, and it should rise in an upward trajectory.
This smooth, elliptical backcast that finishes with a rising forward cast will smoothly and safely direct the flies away from you and toward your target. The technique works for full-sinking lines, sinking-tip lines, and floating lines with long leaders, two flies, split-shot, and an indicator. We've used it even with 18-foot leaders and weighted flies for spooky New Zealand trout with great success and no tangles. The Complete Cast clearly demonstrates this technique.
Ed Jaworowski and Bernard "Lefty" Kreh" have authored many books on casting and are both members of the Temple Fork Outfitters (TFO) advisory staff. This article is based on Chapter 9 of their film The Complete Cast available on DVD or Blueray for $50 at dealers and at tforods.com.