For underwater presentations, I cast so my flies land first, always. I cannot think of a circumstance where this is not true. The weighted fly or added split shot hits the water first, and the tippet follows. The leader, maybe an indy, and then the fly line lay on the water next. But it all starts with a fly-first entry. This is real turnover, and I do it with nymphs, streamers and wet flies.
The same concept of turnover applies while fishing dry flies, with nearly the same cast. Full turnover on a dry rig means the fly goes out to the end of the line. It then recoils a bit and the leader shocks back. If we drop the rod at the same time, s-curves form in the tippet and leader, providing for a drag free drift. But the turnover concept holds true. The same casting stroke makes it all happen. Only the result is different.
On a dry rig, the fly line falls to the water first, because it’s heavier. So the lightest thing in the rig (the air resistant dry fly) lands last. But with a weighted fly or split shot, full turnover in a good cast means the fly makes it to the end of the line with some momentum in reserve. Gravity and our casting angle takes the weight downward, resulting in . . . a tuck cast.
The Deep Tuck Without Contact
I’ve seen the tuck cast presented as though it’s complicated far too many times. It’s nothing more than what I described above — just full turnover from good casting form, and a fly first entry.
With a solid understanding of the tuck cast, let’s address a finer point of the nymphing game. Like so many other refinements and intricacies of presentation, this point applies to all nymphing styles, but it’s best understood, and best controlled, on a tight line rig. Consider the following . . .
We can land with or without contact while using a tuck cast.
Deliver with a good tuck, and you can send the nymphs into the water with a steep curve and some extra slack. You can choose to be out of touch — on purpose, for a second or two — as the nymph plummets through the water column. With this steep tuck cast and a vertical entry, the nymph is forced into the water, and it’s followed by controlled slack. The nymph may then free fall into the strike zone.
That’s a good setup, and it’s extremely useful for heavy water, deep spots and more. Wherever you need the quickest drops, consider a tuck cast that enters without contact. Yes, you’ll lose some strike detection as the fly falls. But not much. And look at that word above. It is controlled slack. The situation is managed. We’re not throwing two feet of sloppy tippet in with the nymph. Instead, it’s just a few inches of slack, enough to allow a true free fall on the nymph.
Most trout that eat a fly on the drop move away after eating it — because trout don’t hold in the mid-column of a river. So they eat the dropping nymph then swim back down or keep coming up, therefore taking those few inches of graceful slack with them. The rig is quickly tightening after the take, and we get the signal on either a sighter or the indy.
The Shallow Tuck with Contact
I’ve recently had a few anglers tell me they don’t like a tuck cast because it puts them out of touch with the flies upon entry.
That’s not true, and it betrays a misunderstanding of the tuck cast.
Remember, a tuck cast is a fly-first entry — the result of good, solid, controlled turnover. And in the skinniest, ankle-deep water I still throw a tuck cast — always. This is certainly not to get deeper. Instead, I do it for precision and accuracy about where the fly lands. I also tuck to set up my tippet, sighter or indy at the best angles that help present the nymph to the fish.
In skinny water, I use a shallow angle tuck, so the fly simply arcs in. No extra slack, just a clean fly first entry, about a foot of tippet, often with immediate contact to my nymph. Because without immediate contact, even the lightest nymph sinks to the riverbed, and that’s not where I want it. Instead, the tuck cast puts all the elements of fly, tippet and sighter (or indy) in perfect position to lend immediate control over the system.
Versatility: A Troutbitten Theme
The tuck cast presents a fly-first entry, from very steep and vertical with extra slack, to almost flat, with immediate contact. That’s how flexible the tuck cast is. It’s useful. In fact, it’s critical to how I present nymphs and streamers.
Rarely do I choose either of the extremes that I just walked through above. Let me emphasize that: I rarely throw the steepest tuck cast or a flat tuck. Instead, most situations call for something in between the extreme ends of the spectrum.
I love throwing a moderate tuck cast in most water — one that lands the fly first, with the tippet following in a nice medium arc. In most river-current situations, that gives the fly just a few inches of grace in the tippet and allows the fly to free fall for a second or two. I can extend that free fall with a good Lift and Lead, or I can find my contact quickly and force the quick alignment of my system in complex currents.
That kind of versatility is the hallmark of the tuck cast. It is not a specialty cast. It’s a cast that the best anglers I know use all the time. Every. Single. Time for a fly first entry, and to prepare the tippet for what’s next.
Fish hard, friends
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