Don’t Drag, my Fly, Drift Free!

Piling the cast for the nymph to drift deep and naturally

Anyone marginally interested in the casting world tends to regard fly casting and distance casting as synonyms. It is the same in fly fishing shows: anglers trying bunches of new rod models with their eyes fixed in the far end of the casting pond; it doesn’t make any difference if they are holding a 9’#9 devised for bonefish in the flats or a 8’6″#4 destined to spring creek finesse. I can’t blame them, in the end most of the visual material available on the net is about putting a fluff as far as possible.

What I did never get is why devoted casters and instructors (specially if they are river trout anglers) promote that very same connection.
I can’t think of a more harmful approach for the development of fly casting, at least in Spain. The river “trouter” doesn’t see distance casting as a problem solver for everyday issues presenting a fly, and though I agree that being proficient at long distances makes controlling the line at medium range much easier, that is a relationship that isn’t at all evident to fly fishers.

As you may suppose by now I am not a distance caster; take it as a mild way of saying that I am crap at putting a fly really far away. In my view two fundamental elements pave the way to becoming a distance expert: a single family house and a big garden outside; I lack both of them. The possibility of keeping a rigged rod behind the door at all times helps a lot. Practice makes perfect and for getting your fly thirty plus meters away you need a lot of it!
I have my training lawn at 35 minutes from home, which means more than an hour just to get there and back; add some substantial time for the actual practice and the result is that my opportunities for training aren’t many. But even having a practice field close to my house I doubt I’d be much better in the distance game. No that I wouldn’t be very happy reaching astronomical distances, but spare time is limited and I prefer to spend it improving drag-free drift techniques, which, when looking for real proficiency, are as time consuming as distance itself but much more in tune with the kind of fishing I practice the most.

Have I missed being a good distance caster when fishing? Of course I have! Baltic pike and Patagonia sea-run brown trout come to mind. But I have lost count of how many times I have missed the ability of getting a perfect drift of my fly in the maze of micro-currents of my favorite fishing venues.

Around a year ago I was mentoring a candidate for the IFFF CCI title. After months of in-depth looking at the theoretical test it came the day to check for weaknesses in the practical part. The first tasks on loop control were good. Then I asked for the Reach Cast (or a Reach Mend by the current IFFF standards). He barely moved the rod tip sideways as without any purpose, resulting in a very poor line configuration on the ground, try after try.

You have to make each cast with authority not only for the examiners to see but when fishing as well” I said.

Then an idea started turning around inside my head.

Do you know what the practical uses for the Reach are? I asked.

Practical uses? I thought it was an exercise, something for the examiner to check if you have a good control of the line!” He replied.

Amazing! I can’t think of a single day on the river not sending dozens of Reachs out there, and there I was with a would-be casting instructor who didn’t have a clue about one of the most practical fishing casts available!
Of course he was very good at sending the fly thirty plus meters away.

In my opinion this shows that we, casting instructors, are approaching things in a wrong way. For instance, the invention of “trick casts” intended just for showing off doesn’t exactly help in reconciling -in the eyes of the fishing community- casting with fishing as the two sides of the same coin they actually are.

So here we go with some dry fly downstream drag-free presentations by master angler Zeljko Prpic:

8 comments on “Don’t Drag, my Fly, Drift Free!

  1. flyslinger says:

    Ah, so the day where I move out from my 4. Floor flat in central Copenhagen, and my kids have left home, and I get a garden, I will be closer to become a expert distance caster 😂 😉


  2. paracaddis says:

    Unfortunately I suspect that like many other “exams” some people only learn to regurgitate the answers without developing their own understanding of the concepts. Such that a roll cast pick up for example becomes “for lifting heavy flies out of the water” sort of answer and nothing more inventive such as “allowing one to keep a long leader out of the rod guides at the end of the drift” or “to re-position the line on a different plane so as to avoid an upward back cast into a tail wind”.. I suppose it is a flaw with most examination structures, although certainly it can be addressed with more “why would you do that” sorts of questions. On my local streams I probably use a reach mend most often to land the line deliberately on the rocks, which assists with delay of the onset of drag… I haven’t heard many people put that forward as a good use of this particular task.:-)

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Aitor says:

    Very interesting views on the roll pick-up! 🙂

    I don’t know how many times I have read in manuals, forums, study groups… that the use of a curve cast is to avoid big stones emerging from the water. In my kind of fishing I prefer to lay the line over the stone.


  4. flyslinger says:

    Oh Aitor, I didn’t miss the point of your text, only took issue with the stupid part 😉 that part you clearly missed… I fully agree with the overall notion of your text, just not all of the content.

    Liked by 2 people

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