#2. Turnover and the Tuck Cast: Nine Essential Skills for Tight Line and Euro Nymphing

by | Jun 27, 2021 | 13 comments

** 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.

— — — — — —

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.

READ: Troutbitten | Fly Fishing the Mono Rig — It’s Casting, Not Lobbing

River. Dog tired from a good fishing trip.

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.

READ: Troutbitten | Fly Fishing Strategies — The Tuck Cast
READ: Troutbitten | Turnover

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  . . .

What Control?

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.

Yes, please. Photo by Austin Dando

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

 

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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.

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13 Comments

  1. When you talk about the leader turning over the flies it doesn’t seem like that could ever happen with heavy flies e.g 2 x 4mm beads. The weight of the flies can still straighten the leader in the air allowing a fly first entry. Is this a cast or a lob?

    Reply
    • Oh my. Yes, it surely DOES happen with heavy flies. Tuck casting is easier with heavy flies. But with good casting form and the right leader to do some work, it also happens with light flies. Please follow the links above to the dedicated tuck casting article. Or click here:

      https://troutbitten.com/2019/04/16/fly-fishing-strategies-the-tuck-cast/

      Light or heavy, once the flies reach the end of the line, they tug on the rod tip, as described in the last section of the article. Well, they have to go somewhere next, and with enough momentum (good speed in the cast) that extra momentum goes DOWN. The flies hit first, and we then have control over WHERE and HOW we want the tippet. Honestly, this is where everything else begins. Without this cast, we’re very much at the mercy of the river and the currents. Few anglers have a good tuck. So they sometimes compensate with super light tippets and leader designs. But nothing beats a good tuck.

      Make sense?

      Dom

      Reply
      • Yeah that makes sense. So momentum is the important thing no matter whether the energy is coming from the leader or the flies.

        I’ve recently been realizing (partly through advice on this website) how much better of a drift I can get when fishing a bit closer in. I’ve been compensating for my crappy drifts with heavy flies but I’ve found some really cool small pockets where I can now catch fish if I get close enough to keep the tippet and flies in the slower water 🙂 It’s really cool to have new lies to fish on a familiar river.

        Reply
        • Right on. You got it. Cast with more speed. Without it, really we are just lobbing weights around. With it, we have control over all aspects of that tuck cast and so much more.

          Also, I agree with fishing close. Fishing too far is the biggest mistake anglers make with tight line rigs.

          Hope that helps.

          Cheers.
          Dom

          Reply
  2. This is making me think about the difference between lobbing and casting. You lob a football. You punch/energize the throw and let it go. If you do the same while casting you shock/punch the rod and then loose touch with the line. This is similar to overpowering a cast and getting tailing loops. The solution is to progressively lean power into the cast to your full and sudden stop. Zero to 60 from a standstill by progressively stepping on the gas, not all at once. Anyway, great article and love the diagrams.

    Reply
    • Hi Stephen,

      Couple things:

      I don’t think we lob a football. The way you describe punching/energizing the throw and letting it go sounds more like casting to me. But the best analogy is throwing a dart. Thinking of it that way works wonders.

      “If you do the same while casting you shock/punch the rod and then loose touch with the line.” YES!! Please understand, that with the tuck cast, that is exactly what we are trying to do. It allows us to land without immediate contact, and yet have excellent control. With a good turnover, it’s our choice what we want to do with the tippet and leader. And we can tuck it in steep or shallow — so we can provide slack for the nymph to free fall, or be in touch immediately.

      Dom

      Reply
  3. Can’t wait for a video of Dom casting nymphs and dry- droppers. Keep up the great work!

    Reply
    • Just remember that the rod should do the work. Good casting is about speed and crisp stops in a tight V. Short rod motions, very little arm motion. That’s what makes the rod work for us.

      Cheers.
      Dom

      Reply
  4. The Tuck cast also produces the max beetle “plop” when trying to entice a lateral line response and possibly the best “eat” of the season.

    Reply
  5. Dom are you familiar with the oval cast that Devin Olsen and Lance Egan talk about in their videos? It has been a while since I watched their content on it, but from watching and trying myself it seems a bit more like a lob than a cast- but maybe that is my misunderstanding of the oval cast. Any thoughts?

    Reply
    • Hi Austin. Yes, I’m familiar. Those are all good videos.
      Is the oval cast a lob? It can be or can not be. Does the fly hit the water first, with all unnecessary tippet up? That’s the answer, really. I fish an oval style cast when I throw streamers on the Mono Rig a lot. I call it a circle cast. And I can lay that in — lob, Or I can tuck it in – fly first.
      That said, I do find that it’s harder for people to learn a good tuck with an oval cast, because people tend to do it too slow and not break down at the stopping points — they just go all the way around.
      Last thing — the rod should not lay down and then come back up — that’s a bad habit, ingrained by casting without enough speed. There’s no good reason to lay the rod down and then pick it up to the drifting position — just stop it at the drifting position. With the right amount of speed in the cast and a well built leader, it’s easy.

      Cheers.
      Dom
      Dom

      Reply
  6. “If you’re still lobbing, then stop it. And learn to cast.”

    Lol, I love this statement! I will be repeating this to myself on the river when my bad habits creep in. I am still learning the nuance of the tuck cast but it has been one of best strategies I’ve learned (thanks Dom) to increase my fly fishing skills.

    Love this series, looking forward to the next article. Keep up the amazing work Dom!

    Reply

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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.

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