Saturday, July 17, 2010

Casting Indicators on Stillwaters

This past week, I spent some time on a local private pond courtesy of a friend.  These waters were mere minutes from my house and proved a welcome change.  Small personal ponds like the one I fished allowed me to fish from shore, a rarity for most of the lakes and ponds I fish.  Often there is little or no back cast room or the bottom is so soft that one step into the shallows could be your last.

I chose a two fly set up, a damsel nymph on the point and a Pearl Shrimp on the dropper.  When I looked around the shallows I saw a fair numbers of small scuds scurrying about and the odd damselfly nymph. Recent throat samples confirmed that the fish cruising the margins were picking of stray scuds who ventured too far from the protection of the weedy carpet that covered the lake floor.  At one point I swapped the Pearl Shrimp for a #12 gold bead Pheasant Tail (GBPT) and started hooking fish consistently.  Landing them proved to be another issue at times but enough came to hand to keep me satisfied.  I figured the added weight of the gold bead got the fly down deep enough.  With about half an hour to go I finally relented and swapped up to a balanced leech beneath an indicator, a presentation method that has proved to be perhaps my most consistent producer.  For my guide trips earlier this year suspending leeches or chironomids below an indicator has proved itself to be the right choice time and time again.

(Photo courtesy of Nick Sliwkanich)

Most people casting indicators on stillwaters often get themselves into trouble in regards to tangles.  From my observations this is a result of trying to cast too far.  My preferred line for this method without a doubt is Rio's Indicator line.  This weight forward line features a light green front section and an ivory running line.  Its construction and configuration is all about casting indicators and the paraphernalia that seems to accompany them.  The junction of these two colors is the maximum you need to cast.

(Photo courtesy of Nick Sliwkanich)

Repeated false casts is one of the primary causes of tangles.   Modern weight forward lines are designed to shoot to the target.  Unlike the multiple false casts common to casting double taper lines, let the weight forward section load the rod and then shoot the line to the target.  Keep in mind, the slender running line behind the weight forward section is not designed to false cast, it is intended to shoot.   An indicator, swivel or split shot and a couple of flies, where permitted, is not a natural combination for a fly rod. It tends to fight back.  Reducing the casting distance reduces false casts there by lessening the tangle factor.  In addition the closer you are to your indicator the better able you are to see the subtle strikes that would not be visible at distance.  Using a smaller indicator keeps you honest too.  Use powerful smooth stroke and avoid 'punching' the line as this leads to tailing loops and tangles. Watch your back cast.  Make sure it unfolds completely behind you so the energy transfer from your casting motion can take place.

Finally, if you are using a Quick Release Indicator place the plastic peg on the fly side of the indicator.  This placement results in less tangles as the tippet and flies roll away from the indicator.  If you through a tailing loop it should not catch the peg.  When using Quick Release Indicators place a small swivel between your indicator and fly or flies, it provides a number of benefits.  The swivel acts as a stopper and should you break off the dense black peg will not slide off the leader and sink.

In many instances the short distances best suited for success can be covered with a roll cast. When hanging flies in deeper water, say over 10 feet, you may have to roll cast the line successively to cycle the fly or flies up through the water column.  Once clear of the water make one false cast and allow the weight forward line to do what it is designed to do, shoot to the target.  As the indicator and flies land watch for the distinct separate plops of the flies or flies, swivel and indicator.  If they land within inches of each other, strip in and investigate.  The tangle is often in its infancy and can be quickly cured.  Pinching the line or allowing it to shoot tight to the reel slingshots the indicator and flies providing the necessary separation for proper presentation and reduced tangles

To summarize;
  1. Avoid excessive false casts. Let the weight forward line do what it is designed to do.  No more than two false casts and shoot to the target on three.  After some practice you should be able load the rod with one false cast and shoot to the target.
  2. Try to cast only the weight forward section of your fly line.  Watching your indicator from a distance is not necessary and in many instances you miss subtle takes.  Not all indicators are the firm bubble trails to the depths we dream off.
  3. Let your back cast unroll in the same manner as the front cast to ensure complete energy transfer.  I am bad for this one at times!
  4. Place the indicator peg when using Quick Release Indicators on the fly side of the indicator.  The unfurling leader and flies has less to catch in the event of a tailing loop.
  5. Pinch the line or allow the it to shoot to the reel to slingshot the indicator, swivel and flies or fly over.  Look for separation between the components as a clue to a tangle free cast.
Dangling chironomids, leeches, scuds and other patterns beneath an indicator is deadly.  Particularly when fish seem dour and unwilling to chase a fly moving at a faster pace, such as when water temperatures are cool or unsettled weather disrupts normal feeding activity.  The next time you are struggling with your indicator setup consider these tips.  You should hopefully spend more time watching your indicator disappear beneath the surface than fumbling with a frustrating tangle that might have been prevented.

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