Dry Fly Fishing — The Crash Cast

by | Aug 27, 2019 | 6 comments

Casting styles change with the water. The same stroke that lays a dry line with perfect s-curves in a soft flat is useless in pocket water. As the river picks up speed, so must our casting. Effective drifts are shorter, so we cast more. Mixed surface currents greedily pull out built-in slack over to the next seam. So our casting matches the currents. It’s more aggressive. Faster.

But fishing rough or mixed currents doesn’t mean we give up on a good dead drift. And the best stroke for the job is one that I call the Crash Cast.

The Difference

Good drifts on a dry fly require slack in the tippet and leader. And that never changes, regardless of the water type.

To be honest, I fish riffles, runs and pocket water with my dry flies far more than I do flats and pools. The sounds of flowing water draw me into the kind of places where I must brace against the currents. Even on smaller streams, I gravitate to moving water. And no matter where I fish, I usually end up in some of the fastest water around. (I catch larger trout there too.)

I’ve written about the Stop and Drop. And that basic stroke is perfect for flats, pools and glides, especially with a George Harvey leader design. Build up line speed, stop the rod high, then drop it parallel to the surface. Do everything right, and you’ll have s-curves for days.

But the Stop and Drop needs time to unfold. After the stop, the leader recoils and falls to the water surface in graceful s-curves, and that takes a second or two. But in faster water? It just doesn’t work that way.

Do This

Let’s stand in the middle of some classic pocket water. The river is fifty feet across on a wide, high-gradient bend that’s dotted with a dozen or more protruding beach balls — boulders that form at least twice that many currents moving through the gradual river bend.

Just to prove that it doesn’t work here, try the Stop and Drop. Cast up and across twenty-five feet. After the stop, part of the leader drops to the surface. And as soon as it touches, it’s pulled downstream. When the rest of the leader lands, it too is pulled downstream. With no chance for our happy s-curves to form, the dry fly finally hits the water. It touches down with a straight tippet and rips down through the currents. The trout laugh about all that.

Even if we overpower the stop — trying to send our fly to the river first — it rarely works. Because the fly has more air resistance than the leader, it drops slower.

But we’re learning something here . . .

There’s some good pocket water down there

The Crash Cast

Instead of stopping the rod tip high, bring it further forward. In fact, stop it just above the target. That’s right. Stop it nearly parallel with the water. Keep the power in the cast. Keep the speed and the hard stop, but aim lower.

READ: Troutbitten | Put More Juice in the Cast

READ: Troutbitten | Ten and Two

Variations are infinite for what happens next. But generally, the butt of the leader and the midsection crashes to the water, with perhaps some fly line with it. The tippet section then unfolds toward the target. And if you manage the power and the angles just right, in relation to the current, the soft tippet lands with s-curves behind the fly.

Essentially, we’re placing a pile of leader on the water so it can unfold or simply ride beside the dry fly, down through mixed currents. The leader has to go somewhere, right? So land it in a pile. It may seem a mess, but it will unroll as the currents pull and tug it downstream. And, ideally, the tippet lands with enough slack to feed the dry fly for at least a few feet.

The Crash Cast in pocket water. Illustration by Dick Jones.

If you get ten feet of drift in this kind of water, reach around and pat yourself on the back.

Sidearm casts work well for the Crash Cast — either full sidearm, or any angle in between a vertical and sidearm position. Try working with the natural line curve that’s part of any forehand or backhand cast. Lay the curve upstream of the dry, if you can.

This is Not a Pile Cast

The pile cast comes from a similar concept — to land the leader with plenty of slack to unroll before the dry fly.

But the pile cast aims the rod tip high to make it happen. And it takes even longer for the leader to land than the standard Stop and Drop. It’s a good cast for flats, but again, useless in pocket water.

And that’s a Pile Cast

Where? When? Variation?

I use the Crash Cast just as often as the Stop and Drop. And truthfully, I’m sure I mix the two into the same cast at times. The principles are the same — stop the rod tip deliberately to finish the cast, and land the leader with slack to feed the dry.

If you throw a Crash Cast over rising fish in a pool, you’ll spook every trout and all the crayfish below them. It’s not a good cast for soft water, just like the Stop and Drop isn’t ideal for faster water.

But in a mixed, rough river, trout don’t care if you crash the leader onto the surface. And by forcing the leader to the water quickly you can position it wherever necessary for the drift ahead.

Crash the leader to the surface, and let the tippet roll to the target.

Is it easy? Nope. Not at first. But with time, the concept and the movements are intuitive.

Fish hard, friends.

** Read all Troutbitten articles about dry fly fishing here **

 

Enjoy the day.
Domenick Swentosky
T R O U T B I T T E N
domenick@troutbitten.com

 

Share This Article . . .

Since 2014 and 600 articles deep
Troutbitten is a free resource for all anglers
Your support is greatly appreciated

– Explore These Post Tags –

Domenick Swentosky

Central Pennsylvania

Hi. I’m a father of two young boys, a husband, author, fly fishing guide and a musician. I fish for wild brown trout in the cool limestone waters of Central Pennsylvania year round. This is my home, and I love it. Friends. Family. And the river.

More from this Category

A Simple Slidable Foam Pinch-On Indy

A Simple Slidable Foam Pinch-On Indy

One of the joys of fly fishing is problem solving. There are so many tools available, with seemingly infinite tactics to discover, it seems like any difficult situation on the water can be solved. Perhaps it can. For those anglers who search for answers in tough moments, the prospect of solving a puzzle builds lasting hope into every cast. And after seasons on the water, the game becomes not how many trout we can catch, but how many ways those trout can be caught. Then, when presented with conditions that chase fair-weather fishers off the water, we rise to the moment with a tested solution, perfectly adapted and suited for the variables at hand.

There is not one way. There are a hundred ways. And the best anglers are prepared with all of them.

One of them is the slidable foam pinch on indy . . .

Tight Line and Euro Nymphing: How to Lead the Flies

Tight Line and Euro Nymphing: How to Lead the Flies

Leading does not mean we are dragging the flies downstream. In fact, no matter what method we choose (leading, tracking or guiding), our job is to simply recover the slack that is given to us. We tuck the flies upstream and the river sends them back. It may seem like there is just one way to recover that slack. But there are at least two distinct methods — leading and tracking.

Let’s talk more about leading . . .

What water type? Where are they eating?

What water type? Where are they eating?

Fast, heavy, deep runs have always been my favorite water type to fish. I can spend a full day in the big stuff. I love the mind-clearing washout of whitewater. No average sounds penetrate it. And the never ending roar of a chunky run is mesmerizing. I also enjoy the wading challenge. The heaviest water requires not just effort, but a constant focus and a planned path to keep you upright and on two feet. Constant adjustment is needed to stay balanced, and one slip or misstep ends up in a thorough dunking. It reminds me of the scaffold work I did on construction crews in my twenties. I always enjoyed being a few stories up, because the workday flew by. When every movement means life or death, you’d better stay focused. I always liked that . . .

Tight Line and Euro Nymphing: Leading vs Tracking vs Guiding

Tight Line and Euro Nymphing: Leading vs Tracking vs Guiding

Eventually, after decades of drifting things for trout, I discovered other ways of fishing dead drifts.

And now, I try to be out of contact as much as in contact. I ride the line between leading the flies and tracking them — choosing sometimes one and sometimes the other. And I’ve come to think of that mix of both styles as guiding the flies.

Think about these concepts the next time you are on the water with a pair of nymphs in hand. What is your standard approach? What are the strengths of leading the flies? What are the deficiencies? When does tracking the flies stand out as the best tactic? And when does it fail?

Why do we miss trout on a nymph?

Why do we miss trout on a nymph?

Late hook sets are a problem, as is guessing about whether we should set the hook in the first place. But I believe, more times than not, when we miss a trout, the fish actually misses the fly. However, that doesn’t let us off the hook either. It’s probably still our fault. And here’s why . . .

Loss of contact, refusals and bad drifts. All of these things and more add into missing trout on nymphs. So how do we improve the hookup ratio?

Fishing Light

Fishing Light

You’ve probably been wading upstream on a favorite trout stream and seen another angler’s lost tackle. Maybe the whole mess was in the streamside trees, with split shot and bobber attached, or a misguided F13 Rapala with rusted hooks. Maybe you’ve snagged a pile of monofilament stuck in waterlogged branches and lodged against a rock. And when you’ve seen all that mess, maybe you were stunned by how heavy the tackle was. Are you with me? . . .

What do you think?

Be part of the Troutbitten community of ideas.
Be helpful. And be nice.

6 Comments

  1. This is perfect! Thanks for this description, Dom. It gives words to something I THINK I’ve been doing for a while now. Wasn’t ever sure it was the right thing though! But maybe it is . . .

    Thanks for this dry fly series. Can’t wait for the rest.

    Reply
  2. I don’t get much opportunity to dry fly fish, mostly nymphing. If I practice on grass would I still be able to see S curves?
    Looking forward to seeing a video on this one.

    Reply
    • Hi Mike,

      I have to say, regrettably, no. This cast won’t perform well in the grass. Everything will just kind of pile up. The magic of this cast is what that tippet section does at the end. Even though the butt and middle land seemingly in a mess, you can still control what the tippet ends up doing. Probably sounds more difficult than it actually is. Then again, it’s not real easy either.

      Anyway, grass would eat up the cast too much.

      Dom

      Reply
  3. Thanks, Dom. You keep me thinking. I’m already a better flyfisher thanks to you, and I look forward to continued improvement. Tight lines.

    Reply

Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published.

Recent Articles

Recent Posts

Pin It on Pinterest