June 2nd, 2008

Controlled Slack
By James Castwell

When I end my forward cast by stopping the rod just above a horizontal line and pinch the fly line with the fingers of my left hand, the cast stops straight out and the whole works drops flat to the water; the fly, leader and line all landing at the same time. It is one of many types of presentation. Actually, usually not a very good one, as a dry fly would drag almost immediately. An improvement on this might be when I stop the rod a little sharper. This can cause a tiny recoil of the line, which often is very good. It causes several small zig-zags in the line as it lands on the water. Recoil cast is what it is and 'controlled slack' is what it produces. And as a person gets better at fly fishing he learns just how important 'controlled' slack is.

It's this resultant controlled slack which allows a dry fly to rest motionless, without any tell-tale drag as the currant plays with the fly line. There are other ways to control slack on the forward cast too. The 'S' cast some call it, and others might call it a 'snake cast'. It is done by doing a few quick wiggles with the rod tip right after the forward stop, just after the line has straightened out but not yet dropped to the surface. It seems that each new fly fishing writer dreams up his own set of names for these casts.

Another one is what I have called 'a terrible forward cast.' It is, really. It is the one you did back when you first started out and knew nothing about casting a fly rod. The one where you simply wave the rod forward, a huge circle, no stop at all. Almost dunk your rod tip in the water. This makes a great big pile of line between you and your fly, just like it used to. Except this time you are dumping all of that 'controlled slack' on a strip of fast water between you and a fish just on the far side of the riffle. It takes time for the water to work your fly line down the stream, meanwhile allowing your dry fly to float motionless for a brief period; hopefully, long enough for a fish to take it.

If you haven't played with these casts before, you might have handicapped yourself. There are many variations of these three too. Each one can be done to the required degree for each unique situation. Learn how to do them in as many ways as you can. 'Controlled slack' is just one of the many parts of line control necessary for improving your time on the water and your day a field. While it's agreed that distance can be important, accuracy can be, presentation can be, and how your pick your line up from the water can be, how you retrieve the fly line is, one of the most important elements of fly casting remains controlling your slack.

This year decide to make progress in your casting. Learn these casts and practice them. Practice your loop formations while you are out there too. Front and back. Practice making them both big and narrow and be able to change them on demand. The more line control you have, the better you will be at fly fishing and the more great big fishies you will get. Controlling you slack is just one of the many parts. ~ James Castwell

Till next week, remember . . .

Keepest Thynne Baakast Upeth

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