Chucking heavy gear

Chucking heavy gear

Tracy&James | Sunday, 12 July 2020

There’s currently a thread on casting heavy outfits on the board, as such I thought I’d share some of my observations. ‘Heavy’ in my book is perhaps #10 plus, but I wouldn’t argue if someone said heavy starts at #8. When saltwater fishing my Bonefishing outfit is a #7, this feels light enough to cast all day – not that I do cast it all day, in fact if I have 20 casts during a day’s Bonefishing it means that I’ve seen a lot of fish.

My default ‘heavy’ outfit is a #10, chosen in order to deliver the size of fly necessary to tempt cudas and sharks when fishing in the Bahamas.  These flies are obviously tied to represent the baitfish that predators prey upon and are generally in the 6 to 8 inch size range (15 – 20cm).  Now these are not huge flies compared to some of the pike flies I’ve seen used in the UK, however the difference is that they need to be delivered at speed, accurately and sometimes at a significant distance. It’s not unusual for lots of the shots at decent sized sharks to be at 75ft plus (22.8m + these conversions are for you by the way Lasse).  From what I’ve gathered, pike fly fishing is largely a game of blind casting, so perhaps the ‘castability’ of the flies is less critical (I will say I haven’t purposely fly fished for pike though, so I may be wrong on this account).

For the sake of this article I decided I’d weigh some of my typical predator flies – they come in at an average of around 3g dry, I’m not sure how much water they retain when being cast but it must be some.  On top of this I have a ~12 inch (30 cm) wire bite tippet which must add a gram or so, as such I can easily imagine that I’m trying to deliver 5g or so in total.

This then brings up an interesting question – what weight of fly line is necessary in order for this to feel like fly casting and not just lobbing the weight of the fly.  I actually think this would make a good experiment, obviously the results would be very subjective, but from my own experience there is a definite transition from feeling the ‘clunkiness’ of the weight on the end of the leader to a feeling of smooth casting.  I guess this is at around 40ft (12m) of #10 fly line for me, thus around 25g of line.  So maybe that’s the magic number, i.e. the fly is 20% or less of the total weight in the air?  I’d be interested to hear other people’s thoughts on this.

With regard to casting this outfit, I like to get the rod tip far out of the way of so much flying metalwork.  This means I use a wide arc, akin to the ‘170’ (2.97 radians) cast but lacking the speed to create morphing loops.  I don’t think I’ve read a definition of the ‘170’ cast that properly describes it but, to me, just using a very wide arc does not mean the cast is a ‘170’ – for this I think you have to generate sufficient line momentum that results in the characteristic ‘bouncing bomb’ backcast.  Much as I’d love to do this with my predator outfit, I simply cannot muster that much speed given the air resistance of the big fly.  I also suspect my poorly tied flies wouldn’t survive being ripped through the air at such a velocity and I’d end up delivering a bare hook to a confused looking shark.

As such, I cast with a wide arc and accept that I’m going to get a pretty wide loop.  Because of the momentum of the heavy line this is still good for an easy 90ft plus (27.4m +), and it removes the danger of clipping the rod tip.  I spend a lot of time on the flats thinking about Bernd’s dangly bits (BDB) and the dire consequences of having them slapped in my face or my rod.  Unfortunately with relatively low line-speed and the constant of gravity, the ‘dangling end’ (BDB to those familiar with my FPs) where the end of the fly-line and leader dog-leg downwards is almost an inevitability.  This, combined with strong tropical winds means I’ll gladly trade tight loops for safety.

In terms of practicing my casting before a trip, I find one of the most useful drills is to vary the work load between the hauling hand and the rod hand.  Obviously it’s easy to get to the situation where you’re doing 100% of the work with your rod hand – you just stick your hauling hand in your pocket, trap the line under your grip and cast (actually I find this is a good exercise for other reasons – e.g. it forces you to ‘shape’ your forward cast in order to avoid a large, rounded loop).  However, for casting heavy gear I like to go the other way i.e. try and do more work with the hauling hand than the rod hand.  In practice, with a fixed length of line, I progressively take power out of the rod input and try and add it back in with the hauling hand.  Taken to the extreme, this ends with you hauling like you’re trying to win a distance competition whilst moving the rod like your casting a dry fly to a small trout 20 feet away (6.1m).  Obviously this looks ridiculous, but if you can remind yourself on the flats to switch on the competition haul, it works wonders.

Incidentally the first time I ever cast over 120 feet (36.6m) in a #5 distance competition was the day after I arrived back in the UK from a saltwater trip where I’d spent a lot of time chucking a #12 for giant trevally.  I think during the course of the trip I’d worked out the most efficient way of delivering such a heavy line, i.e. by switching the work-load to the haul.  This obviously stuck with me on my return – I still didn’t win the casting comp mind you, but that’s another story.

Hope you have a great week,