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Add Distance to your Cast

By David Putnam

Fly Lines: What are you really buying?

Practice, more so than premium gear, puts the fly where it belongs.

I just made a startling discovery about fly fishing tackle: I bought an 8-weight graphite rod, with a weight-forward floating fly line installed over a reel full of backing…for $79, from Cabela's. It's called the Wind River outfit. The reel looks like it'll perform fine on redfish and trout, bass and jacks and ladyfish, at least for a few years. The line's a weight-forward design. The rod could pass for a far more expensive one. It's shiny like a graphite rod should be, and the guides and grip look sturdy.

I took the new outfit to a nearby park and cast it for comparison against my pet $700 Winston rod with my newest distance-casting fly line, the Sharkwave Saltwater Fly Line, from Scientific Anglers. The line alone cost $100. The reel on the Winston is a $300 model, with promotional advertising copy as good as any on the market.

On my beautiful, state-of-the-art “fast-action” graphite Winston $1,000 outfit, I was able to cast the Sharkwave line farther than the $79 Wind River outfit…but only by 6 feet!

There's a message for all of us: You can't buy casting distance. It's all based on our casting ability as it is today. It's a little depressing, isn't it? If you work hard and squirrel away some fun money, study all the tackle catalogues, and buy online when you are sober, you might still do something really dumb. There's no replacement for casting instruction and plenty of practice.

No doubt, my new Wind River fly rod, in size 8—my choice for an all ‘round choice here in south Florida—will perform slightly better if I use a specialty fly line. A “redfish taper” floating line readily available from various line companies for around $90 will cast large flies easier, with fewer false casts. Or, maybe you'd be better off casting smaller, less wind-resistant flies to begin with, and sticking with the line that came on the Wind River reel.

My best redfish fly is a sparsely tied size 4. It allows me to make more graceful and accurate casts, which I do on occasion. I truly enjoy casting, and don't like feeling like I'm casting a gym sock instead of a fly. A “redfish” taper won't give me that desirable extra few feet of distance, so I may have to sneak up on my next “red” and see his beady little eyes before I cast.

Or heading to the Bahamas for a bonefish trip, I'd take the Wind River outfit loaded with Scientific Angler's floating “bonefish taper,” a specialty line that's stiffer than most, so it has less “memory” and doesn't kink as easily. (I might take two complete Wind River outfits and leave one as the guide's gratuity.) The bonefish line's got a longer “belly”—the middle portion—which means it's easier to carry more line in the air during false casting, and it'll “shoot” through the guides better and go farther.

Just a few feet farther, but still….Maybe you'll be in the Bahamas, and there at one o'clock, right in front of you, 60 feet away, is a live bonefish! Six feet extra would be good, right? It will cost you around $75 bucks. The bonefish line is one of my favorites. It really pays off if you fish from a boat, where you'll get longer casts than you have before. The color of it is “Horizon”…ostensibly the horizon's color during daylight hours on a bonefish flat on a nice day. Get out your credit card!

For all around saltwater use, I use an “intermediate” line with a sinking clear tip to which I tie a 6-foot fluorocarbon leader. It sinks slowly, under the surface waves if I'm in the surf, where I caught some nice snook this past summer. It allows me to have a more natural, deeper, straight retrieve of my fly, where a floating line will continue to pull the fly to the surface quicker as it's retrieved.

The intermediate line has increased my catches on south Florida grassflats. It's a Scientific Anglers line priced around $85, described as “textured saltwater clear tip.” It's got “AST” on it or in it…a mystery ingredient.

I'm not a professional caster. Maybe I'll stick with the line that came with the $79 Wind River combo deal. I don't need the newest $90 line if it won't help much. Do I? FS

First published Florida Sportsman March 2015

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