There are some fly-angling methods based entirely on fixed-line gear. By fixed-line, I mean a length of line that is attached directly to the rod, such as with tenkara. Gear systems for this type of angling often have much-longer-than-usual rods, with lines that are designed specifically for shorter range, non-shooting use. Long rods reach flies over currents and easily move modest line lengths, and no reel means no secondary line control requirements.
A fixed length of line, though, means that approach tactics require a different thought-process than with variable line-length systems. This goes doubly when fishing flowing waters.
Since the line doesn’t change length, you have to be the variable.
For any cyclists reading this, view this type of angling much like riding a single speed or fixie. There is a mind-set change in how one approaches the street or trail, but there is also a freedom and sharpening of focus that comes from never making a gear change.
I’m not going to get into angling techniques here, but I do want to take a brief look at casting and mending. I’ll do so from the perspective of flowing water fishing, so I’m talking about fixed-line gear meant for actively casting and mending.
In my experience, the greatest change for most anglers when first using dedicated fixed-gear rods is the pace of casting. With long, limber rods, acceleration is reflected more as a sense of a deliberate, connected increase in momentum in the system. This is opposed to the sometimes rapid moves that can accompany shorter, non-fixed gear where shooting line is the norm. For me, the pace is that of a patient connection to line and loop.
Mending with longer, fixed-line gear is much the same as with other gear, but one has to take into account no slipping or shooting of line. Both aspects dictate mind-set change, but can be practiced do a degree with non-fixed gear by eliminating shooting. Of course, one big advantage of using long-rod, fixed-line systems is the ability to move a lot of line with an easy mend. While you have to take into account the inability to add more line, a long rod makes it pretty easy to set up and adjust one’s line position. The combination of easily moving and adjusting line through casts and mends can make fixed-line systems a distinct benefit in certain situations.
For me, the greatest angling advantage comes in working waters that have tight, complex drag situations, such as small streams dotted with boulders. Holding most of the line off the water means essentially no drag at all, and the stand-off distance offered by a much longer rod helps with approach. In some cases, the fly can be worked in ways that are unmatched by other types of fly-fishing gear.
For me, fixed-line fishing is another, interesting approach to the fly fishing puzzle. It provides a different sense of connectedness and skill use, and can offer a chance to approach old waters in new ways.