"Good morning, Don," a top CEO in Standard Oil said as he left the lodge to fish with me for two days on perhaps the best blue-ribbon trout water in the country. "My fishing partner and I have never cast a fly line before and we just want to have fun, put some 18- to 20-inch rainbows and browns in the net ... that would give us bragging rights over the dinner table at the lodge. Besides that, my fishing partner has a replaced shoulder and, to be frank with you, we are out of shape physically."
Although remarks like that may seem rare, they are common when you are guiding for serious money. Guiding is an occupation for those who have a love for teaching and the patience to introduce a person to the wonderful world of fooling a fish with an imitation fly. It is not for everyone.
The method that I developed while guiding for years I call my "sling cast" and, to be honest with you, when those two long days of netting trout were completed, my clients still could not cast a dry fly. Both of them listened carefully that early August morning - a prerequisite to learning different casting skills that are not published in the of best journals.
I prefer to anchor my drift boat in quiet water adjacent to moving current, or wade slightly downstream below a riffle that will hold good fish. That way I can teach my sling cast, and mending with four to six BBs attached - my standard approach when fish refuse to budge from the bottom.
Most importantly, in a few minutes I can have my clients slinging variable amounts of lead - the key to a successful day on the stream.
I like those holding areas because the current is moving rapidly, it is a good food source, the fish must make quick decisions for taking a fly and you can make mistakes in presentation and still catch fish.
To your 8 1/2- or 9-foot fly rod, attach a floating line to your reel and a 9-foot leader tapered to a 3x tippet at the end. With a blood knot or your choice, tie on about 20 inches of number 4X monofilament to the 3X.
To make sure your flies get down into the water column, attach two to four BBs that have no ears above the 4X. Now tie on a fly that is an attractor, such as a size No. 12 Copper John. Cut a section of 5X tippet 24 to 30 inches from your spool and attach that to the bend of your fly (Copper John) with a uniknot or a standard improved clinch knot.
At the end of your 5X tippet, fashion an imitation that represents aquatic insects always present in the stream, such as sow bugs or freshwater shrimp in limestone streams.
Place a soft indicator 2 feet from the tip of your rod on the 9-foot leader. I like poly-chartreuse.
Chose a section of stream that has ample water behind you after you have waded out into the water. That is important because you don't want a bank or brush to hinder the backcast.
A medium-size stream such as the Loyalsock, Big Pine or Lycoming is just perfect. As you face the stream, imagine that the flowing water in front of you would be at 12 o'clock. Below and to your right is 5 o'clock and on the left is 7 o'clock. These two spots are behind your position as you face the stream.
Assuming you are a right-handed caster, flick or gently sling out your line and rig to the 5 o'clock position while pulling the line and leader in a straight line with no slack. Remember, it is difficult to throw slack because there is no tension on the tip of your rod.
From that position, with your thumb on top of the cork, get the end of the line moving. A bad mistake is most casters will try to apply their power to the cast at this point.
As your rod drifts forward and parallel to the stream and you feel the pressure at about the 2 o'clock position, cast slightly parallel with your forearm, wrist, and the ROD TIP only, and that will allow you to shoot an adequate amount of line as you quarter your cast upstream and across the water to your front.
As you get better, you may want to air mend upstream before the line strikes the water's surface.
It is important that you keep your line above the indicator mending throughout the entire drift through the pool and that will push the two flies ahead and allow a natural drift of the flies.
You could find it difficult to shoot line from the 6 o'clock position after a long drift, so flick a little line up to about the 10 o'clock position and get a good 5 o'clock angle before your upstream cast.
And, remember, if you are a right-handed caster with water flowing from your right to left, it is the same but with a nice backhand cast.