The inshore species I like to target are in transition and to be honest I have not broken this code. Snook have migrated out of the backcountry and baby tarpon are only just beginning to show in their usual summertime haunts. Large tarpon may be showing up in the lower Keys backcountry but I believe these fish are just an appetizer for what will come. The large tarpon too have essentially vacated the mangrove backcountry.
I feel I was lucky to have battled probably my last of the winter season tarpon two weekends ago. That fish was significantly larger than what I usually want on a 9wt rod but that was the rod in my hand when the opportunity presented itself. To make matters worse the fly dislodged on a jump then buried itself securely in the tarpon’s dorsal fin. With little leverage to steer the fish and less chance of a mouth grab for the final release, the fish was broken off after the jumps and runs were done. Maybe the Everglades inshore residents that were so obliging throughout the winter are the ones that are first showing up down in the Keys?
The above difficult scenarios, repeatable almost every year, are the reason I had planned to get out of town and head for the mountains to try some trout fishing. Those plans were derailed by a minor homeowner’s emergency that requires my immediate attention. So that adventure is on the back burner for a while. At least I am ready to go when a window of opportunity presents itself in the future.
So what is an avid fly angler to do? Well, practice casting of course! A steady strong wind is likely the ultimate critic of a caster’s ability to generate tight loops. So I took advantage of the opportunity and diligently studied which techniques worked best for me, primarily on my back casts.
After a few hours each day this past weekend I eventually narrowed down what I needed to do to punch a strong narrow loop into a 15 – 20 mph wind at my back. There was nothing new conceptually. I just needed to teach my body how to move to achieve the desired result.
Some things stood out, however. Making use of the wind was one. If the back cast is a setup for the delivery, then the final false cast is a setup for the backcast. So, take advantage of the wind on the final false cast to create a taut primer for the back cast. Too much line speed on that last false cast was a bad thing as it shocked the rod at the beginning of the back cast. It was better to ease up a bit there. Just think set-up.
Then concentrate on a straight tip path, acceleration, and delay the haul until near the end of the stroke, where the hands explode away from each other.
That final part is where I found the most improvement. It is hard for me to describe, but it seemed that my final rotation was more about lifting the butt up than it was about rotating the tip down. If I completed the rotation that way my line and rod hand separation resulted in a reverse thrust or stab… and a beautiful tight loop.
Once I got that working I found I could ease up on effort and create nice back cast loops into the wind without “wooshing” the rod through the air and without the usual fatigue.
I had always heard that it was better to be a puller than a pusher, but in this case, I found a little push at the end actually seemed to help as long as I kept saying to myself, “just the tip”!
I’m not sure what was making me smile more: the improvement in my cast or remembering that line from the movie?