Proper Guides Ease Fly Casting

A growing number of fly fishers are realizing that extending line by false casting is time­consuming and needless. Instead, they are learning to gather line in large loops as it is retrieved and shoot it out again with a single cast.

Line manufacturers have made great strides in the last 20 years in developing fly lines that shoot farther and easier. Rod manufacturers have done little to take advantage of this, but the angler building his own or rebuilding an existing rod can.

Assembling a custom rod requires no special skill. Almost anyone can turn out a creditable job with only the rod parts, some glue, sandpaper, masking tape, varnish, and the simplest tools.

Instructions for the mechanics of constructing a fly rod are readily available. Public libraries, book stalls, and tackle stores are all sources for books or manuals which go into detail about rod building.

The focus of this article will be on simple things you can do to make a fly rod shoot line better and consequently easier to cast.

First of all, large guides let the line shoot farther with less effort. On most fly rods, the bottom or stripping guide, which funnels line into the others, is much too small. Even the best lines tend to take a set from being wound on a reel, so an extra large guide here is a definite asset in reducing line drag.

Unlike spinning and casting gear where a weighted lure or sinker is thrown and pulls the line after it, fly rods cast the line and the fly goes along as kind of an afterthought. After the line is extended, the leader lays the fly out in front of it.

Since there is no weight tied to a fly line to pull it through the guides, anything that restricts it even slightly can kill a cast.

Line sag between guides is the greatest other source of friction. As the distance between guides lengthens, line friction increases, and as guides are spaced closer, line friction decreases.

Of course, it's possible to use so many guides that their weight can adversely effect rod action, but the number on most mass produced rods can be doubled without noticeably changing action. (Incidently, another benefit from closer spacing is longer guide life.)

One of my favorite rods is built on an 8­1/2 foot fiberglass flank. The tip section has 10 No. 3 snake guides besides the tip top. The butt has three light wire foulproof guides. The largest of these, which is the stripping guide, has a 1-1/8 inch opening, and the other two are 7/8 and 3/4 inches, respectively. The stripping guide is 29 inches from the reel seat butt and the guide spacing gets progressively closer towards the rod tip. The last snake guide is only three inches from the tip top.

With this rod and a number seven weight­forward line. I can deliver a fly to any normal casting distance with a short back cast and no false casting. I can retrieve through as much fishable water as I wish and shoot the line back out without false casting.

Because the line slides easily, curve casting is easier and shooting the line under overhanging branches is a breeze. A shorter rod will require less guides, of course, and a longer one more.

Another favorite is a five­footer designed for fly fishing small brushy, wooded streams and spring holes. It has a 7/8 inch foulproof stripping guide 23 inches from the butt and six No. 3 snake guides.

For the past five seasons I have used this little rod for almost all my stream trout fishing, and I still don't believe some of the places it will shoot a number five level line.

(By the way, Cortland, a leading fly line manufacturer recently introduced a line "slightly stiffer than the regular, reducing line sag for a greater shoot." Called the 444 SL line, it was "developed for those anglers concerned about casting a longer line with less effort."

Always use snake guides on the tip section. They are practically weightless, but windings aren't, so don't use more thread than necessary. Too much weight will slow tip action.

Most in­use rod breakage occurs at the ferrule. Placing the tip section bottom guide as close to the ferrule as possible reduces line leverage and the likelihood of fracture.

Large guides and enough of them to keep line friction at a minimum can make the difference between a run-of-the-mill fly rod and one that's a joy to cast. Reworking rods you already own is often worthwhile.

If you are building a rod from scratch, you should know about "spine." All blanks have one stiff side. This is called the spine. Fly rods shoot line best with the guides mounted exactly opposite the spine.

This stiff side is much more pronounced in some blanks than others. As a rule, if you have a choice of more than one blank in the length and action desired, the one with the most decided spine will be best from a line-shooting standpoint.

To locate the spine, lean a blank against a table or chair and, pressing down slightly, roll it back and forth. You will feel the stiff side pass under your palm. Try it several times to be sure and mark the stiff side.

With a little practice, line shooting will become automatic. Hold the retrieved line in large loops around the palm of your "line hand". you will soon learn when to release it so it will slide off your hand and through the guides on the forward cast.

Making the first loops large and each succeeding one slightly smaller will prevent tangling. If sitting in a boat or canoe, just let the line fall in big loops on the floor. When you cast, the large stripping guide and closely spaced other guides will let it shoot out like somebody was pulling it.

A dirty line won't shoot. Occasional wiping with a cloth wet with household detergent and water will keep it sliding well.

Weight forward lines shoot better than level or double taper, except on very short rods.

[This article was excerpted from The Brunsell Articles, with the kind permission of the author, Bob Brunsell. The complete book of very interesting topics can be obtained from Bob Brunsell, 203 Blou Clower Lane, Bull Shoals, AR 72619. $18.00 Postpaid.]