Across the river a fish cleared water and crashed back down. The first cast fell short. Downstream the lure tumbled, the clack of blades on boulders, the flash of the chartreuse and brass. But not in the trench where the fish lay.
Try again. Two hands on the rod, held back at 45 degrees.
There was rhythm and balance, a sweet spot to find. The cast, the parabolic arc. Like a bullet, the lure sailed, almost to the far bank.
At the splashdown, I dropped the rod and began a slow crank, felt the thump of the blade. A fish pummeled the spinner then charged downstream and into the main current then reversed and streaked toward me. When the rod went limp, I thought I’d lost it, but then saw the line knife upstream. Moments later a 10-pound oceangoing rainbow charged into shallow water at my feet then streaked away again.
Steelhead could be anywhere in a river, but they tend to move upstream along the banks. Often people wade in and cast to the middle of the river when steelhead are at their feet. But there are times when the best lies are on the opposite bank.
On a river like the McKenzie, the Rogue or the Deschutes, sometimes the angler can’t reach that slot.
It is easy to be a better caster, whether with fly rod or spinning gear. And if the goal is to catch more fish, it makes sense to throw for distance. Extend a cast by 10 percent and over the course of the day, it is possible to raise more fish.
Imagine a 15-foot improvement when casting for rainbows on a big lake.
Over the course of a day and maybe 200 casts, that’s 3,000 extra feet of coverage. And fish out on the fringes are not as likely to be spooked as fish close in.
Friction is a killer
It starts with how we hold the rod. Most people start the cast with the rod horizontal behind them. The lure scribes a high arc and the line towers, subject to being blown off target.
For distance, use two hands. Open the bail and pin the line to the fore-grip with the tip of the index finger. Load the rod just past 12 o’clock, make a smooth stroke, close the arc, stopping the forward motion at 45 degrees, and release the line. To put the lure on target, stop the line before the lure hits the water. That’s proper form. Now we get tricky.
Remember that thing called friction. The line is the biggest problem. Want extreme distance? Use small diameter braided line instead of monofilament. Or buy a low-memory mono or fluorocarbon.
Monofilament comes off the spool in coils and rattles going through the guides. Every touch of the line is friction and every touch reduces casting distance.
Rod length plays a part in the equation. A longer rod can provide a longer cast, but accuracy begins to diminish. And pay attention to the guides along the length of the rod. The best guides in rod building now are made with ceramic, zirconium, titanium oxide and diamond polished. Yes, they are expensive and no, you don’t get them on the bargain rods.
Now look at the reel. Reels that are made for longer casts have either taller or wider spools. And the rim is a giveaway. Pick a reel with a bevel on the rim to reduce friction. And keep enough line on the spool to minimize the jump from spool to rim.
To improve an existing rod, examine the guides. Dirt buildup kills distance. Clean those guides and replace them if they are grooved from too much use.
Then spray on a line conditioner. Lines get dirty too and that causes friction. I like Real Magic because I can spray it on the reel and then up and down the rod for lubrication on every touch point. And this one thing by itself will increase casting distance.
Same thing with fly-casting. Clean and condition the line, clean and lubricate the guides and load the rod with a proper 10-and-2 stroke. That line will shoot like it did when it was new.
On the river this winter, pay attention to the seams closest to the shore. The fish could be lying right next to that opposite bank. Or they could be at your feet.
—Gary Lewis is the host of “Frontier Unlimited TV” and author of “Fishing Central Oregon,” “Fishing Mount Hood Country,” “Hunting Oregon” and other titles. Contact Gary at www.GaryLewisOutdoors.com.