** NOTE ** This is the second featured skill in the Troutbitten series, Nine Essential Skills for Tight Line and Euro Nymphing. You can find the overview, along with dedicated articles for each chapter and skill as they publish HERE.
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A fly first entry. That’s what you need, so the nymph enters the water before the tippet. And if you have it down, then you’ve already processed the second essential skill for tight line and euro nymphing. But it has to be great, because close isn’t good enough for turnover and tuck casting. And this second step is all about setting up a clean drift for the remaining skills.
A fly first entry indicates that you are casting the flies and not lobbing weights around. It’s that simple.
I cringe every time I hear a guide or teacher say, “Sure, just lob the flies back upstream.” Or, “It’s more of a lob than a cast.”
No it’s not!
Lobbing is a quick shortcut to mediocre results. Granted, it’s exponentially easier to teach beginners to lob the weight of nymphs around, but it’s a mistake. And lobbing ingrains habits that are hard to undo later. It’s also a fundamentally inaccurate way to approach things.
Casting the Nymphs
In this Troutbitten series, we’re breaking down the essential skills for tight line and euro nymphing. The first step is all about having the right angles and approach. And this second skill is about casting the flies.
All styles of fly fishing start with good casting. And lobbing is limiting, so we cast the flies. With tight line and euro nymphing, casting can be accomplished with any manner of leader designs. Good casting is more about the rod and the angler than the leader. Certainly, leaders built with more powerful butt sections, like my Troutbitten Standard Mono Rig, are more forgiving to cast than my Thin and Micro Thin versions. Leaders built for power offer more options for how we land the fly and place the tippet. But again, most any leader can (and should) be cast.
If the fly hits the water first, then you are casting. Good stuff. And that entry is most commonly called a tuck cast. However, the term carries some confusing connotation. We don’t tuck cast just to get deeper. And we don’t always throw a deep tuck to slam the nymph down through the water. Simply arcing the fly in at a shallow angle is the best way for a knee-deep riffle. But turnover and tuck casting is critical in all water types. Because when the fly lands first, we have control over every other element of the landing and the drift.
If any part of the leader, the sighter or the tippet lands on the water before or at the same time as the fly, then it’s not a tuck cast. It’s not a fly first entry and turnover did not finish in the air. Instead, line turnover finished on the water. In other words, you lobbed the fly in. And (one more time) lobbing is limiting.
Study the following panels, by Troutbitten illustrator, Dick Jones. This first panel shows the entry and drift of a good tuck cast . . .
The next panel shows the failings of a lobbing approach, when the line turnover does not complete in the air but finishes on the water . . .
Surely, trout can be caught both ways. But the fly first entry is a superior presentation. Because, with extra line on the water (as shown in the second panel) we lose control of many important things. Here’s more . . .
Casting the nymph and completing the turnover provides full control over the following:
Tippet Placement — With a fly first entry, we decide not just where the fly goes; we also have excellent accuracy over the angle of the tippet and how much of it enters the water. Remember, success is about maximizing the tight line advantage. So only the tippet that must go in the water goes under. Everything else remains in the air and dry.
Sighter Placement — A fly first entry sets up the next move, sticking the landing with the sighter. We want a sighter that shows contact and indicates strikes. But if the sighter is not in position immediately, if it’s not in contact or nearly in contact, both of these things will be lost. Even when we choose to float the sighter, we want our flies to land first. Then we allow the sighter to land in the same seam as the flies.
Contact or Not — With a good tuck cast and a fly first entry, we decide how much initial slack to provide the nymph. A deep tuck throws a bit of slack to the fly, allowing a better free fall into the strike zone. But a shallow tuck can land with or without contact. All of these options are open to the angler who can complete the line turnover in the air and land with the fly first.
The Rod Tip Tug
The best tight line anglers learn to throw leader loops that look just like a standard fly line cast. Parallel loops unfold in the air, and the fly turns over. By casting the leader and not simply lobbing weight around, the rod tip sends energy to the fly, allowing for a host of options at the end of the cast.
Remember, it’s a contact casting system, so at key moments throughout the cast, we want to feel the weight of the fly or split shot loading the rod. This is at the heart of accuracy and precision. Feeling the rod load with crisp stops and a tight casting stroke is how we cast under obstacles and punch the nymphs back into shady pockets. Anything else leaves us in the trees.
Cast with enough speed to flex the rod tip and push that energy through the leader to the fly. Even the weight of a light fly tugs on the rod tip when the loop unfolds at the backcast. That’s the signal to begin a swift, crisp forward cast. Again, the rod tip stops high, the leader loop unfolds, and we feel the weight of the nymph reach the end of the leader and tug on the rod tip. Then the fly, with continuing momentum, arcs down to the water with speed.
That’s the tuck cast — a fly first entry. And it is the basic skill of tight lining. If you’re still lobbing, then stop it. And learn to cast. Because doing so opens up a world of new opportunities. And because a fly first entry sets up every necessary skill that follows.
Fish hard, friends.
** Next up is the third skill for tight line and euro nymphing — Sticking the Landing with the Sighter and Tippet **
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