I field questions from Troutbitten readers, listeners and watchers every day. And there are common themes within the questions. The same things give people trouble on all trout streams, all around the world. This Q&A series is a chance to answer some of those questions.
Here’s the latest . . .
This one comes from John K. And I’ve received it in many forms for many years.
Dom, I have a technical nymphing question for you.
When nymphing with split shot or drop shot, and even while using small flies with thin tippet, how do you prevent tangles on droppers?
I’ve heard you say that bad casting causes tangles. I fish mostly tungsten flies, and I get tangled with them too. My flies are usually 18” apart.
I get this question a lot, and you’re right, it’s bad casting that causes tangles and not the rigs themselves.
Some anglers try to do too much too soon. It’s best to start with just one fly and keep things simple. Once we achieve real accuracy, consistently landing both the fly and the tippet where we’d like, only then should we try to cast two flies.
Even then, graduating to two weighted flies is the next step. And wait until control over this rig is consistent before moving on to flies with the addition of split shot or drop shot.
This is just one way to do it, of course, because an angler can certainly move straight to split or drop shot if solid casting is already there.
Yes, it always comes down to casting. And full turnover is the key. The weight must get to the end of the line to have real control over the system. And this only happens with good, clean turnover.
Beginners are often taught to slow the cast and aim for wide, open loops when weight is involved. But I disagree. The open loops can help at first, but available presentations with such a cast are limited.
Slowing down the cast creates arcs instead of loops, which can be fine in open areas or where drifts can also be long. But under tree limbs or in complicated pocket water, clean casting with full turnover and a precise entry with the nymphs and the tippet is critical.
Learning the tuck cast and developing control is the key to casting with any weight and keeping things separated. The tuck cast happens with good speed and crisp stops — with great casting form. So on the forward stroke, the flies/weight get to the end of the line and tug on the rod tip. That tug is something all nymphing anglers should learn to love, because it’s the key point of contact with our nymphs. We feel the tug on the rod and understand the force and direction of entry. That’s how the tuck cast provides full control over our flies and keeps them tangle-free — one two or even three of them.
Surely there will be mistakes, but refining your casting skills is the way forward.
Last point on casting here: the rod tip must always travel in an oval. It need not be a large oval, but the backcast and forward cast cannot happen in the same plane. I often think of it as out-and-around and then over the top, or a vertical entry — perpendicular to the surface. That is my baseline. And remember, there are crisp stops at the points of that oval. My friend, Josh Darling, once said that it’s like a football — there are points at the ends of the oval.
As for rigging, thinner tippets tangle more, and so do longer tags. I don’t care for split shot or drop shot on anything less than 5X. But I will occasionally create dropper tags from 6X (attached to a 4X or 5X mainline) for the smallest nymphs that I fish.
Longer casts also present more situations to tangle, so fish as close as possible. (That’s always a good rule of thumb.) And keep false casting to a minimum.
Fishing is most fun when we’re in a good rhythm, so I’ll do whatever it takes to get into that rhythm. And if my techniques are off for some reason, I’ll probably choose to fish one fly, keep it simple and keep fishing.
Fish hard, friends.
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Enjoy the day.
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