Using the Rest of the Clock

By Capt. Mark Krowka

A smoother approach for reaching fish on the “wrong side” of the boat.
Hand stays (forehandedly) to the right of the right ear.

A good fly fisherman understands that time, effort and practice cultivate technique and successful execution. Among those techniques is the dreaded “wrong side” cast. Adding this to your arsenal will greatly improve the outcome of each day on the water.

In a sight-fishing scenario, anglers will frequently plead with a pushpoler to “please turn the boat!” They are avoiding the shot to the right (or left, if a left-handed caster). The adjustment is almost always costly.

Redfish, snook, bonefish, permit, tarpon and many other shallow water fish depend on their ability to sense danger in the form of noise, movement or displacement. The target may not visibly react when the attitude of the boat is altered, but its sensors are already tipped off. In popular fishing waters—and certainly the Florida Keys, where I’ve been guiding for many years—many of the larger fish have been cast to or even captured before. They recognize the vibrations of a rocking boat. When the fly line and fly slaps down, the alerted fish connects the dots instantly, and it’s all over.

Shot to the right, normally a weak backhand, is just a subtle change of angle of the rodtip overhead to allow the "bad" wind (blowing right into your right side), to keep line overhead and slightly over left shoulder. Note position of right hand only slightly different than on 9 and 10 o'clock shots.

A backhand cast is a better option, but few casters can properly execute it. The first noticeable error is the initial change in footing to face away from the target. During the time it takes for false casting, fish are moving, the scene is ever-changing and, frequently, the fly is committed to the worst place of all: where they were, but not where they are now!

The change of posture during the backhand delivery also promotes a swaying weight transfer from left foot to right foot. Once, on a slick calm day 40 feet from a rocky shoreline, I could hear waves from just such a “backhand dance” breaking along the coral. Try the same rocking in a calm, sea-walled canal, and you’ll be amazed at the size of the pressure waves pulsing outward. These mini tsunamis, as they surely must feel to the fish, judging by their reactions time after time, are fatal to the effort.

Let’s look at a better solution, using a right-handed caster by way of example (lefties will understand the adjustment). There is a far more effective shot to the right that captures all of the power and accuracy of a 10 o’clock delivery. When properly executed, you get none of the weight transfer that causes surging swells.

This cast still requires proper loading and double hauling. But with surprisingly little physical effort and movement, a caster can subtly change his or her footing to point towards the general 3 o’clock arena. The lane of the fly line must be kept tightly over the left shoulder, from initial backcast to final forward delivery. The right hand remains on the right side of the body, slightly above shoulder high, in the exact same position as a throw anywhere to the left of the bow. The tendency is to cross-face the right hand in front of the head and over to the left ear—an awkward motion that will reduce right-handed power.

The key ingredient of this stroke is a very slight change of angle in the position
of the rod. Allow the tip to swing just over the head on the left side, while rigidly restricting the path of the flyline as if the entire cast was swinging in a very narrow, only inches-wide, hallway. The more wind coming into your right shoulder (commonly called the “bad” wind) the easier it is to hold the line out in a safe path. Resist the temptation to pick up line and force it to the right side of the body; powerful shooters can get away with doing it for awhile, but eventually, somebody in the boat is going to get body pierced, especially when the wind ramps up. Angled correctly, and kept inside that corridor, the fly line should be nearly silent. When it is done wrong, the line can be heard laboring against the air.

Practice this transition until it’s second nature. Soon you’ll be able to effectively access the rest of the clock. No dancing around on deck, no pleading with the guide to move the boat—just quiet, smooth delivery. FS

First Published Florida Sportsman January 2014