I have never quite been able to figure out why so many Texas fly-fishermen are so afraid to pick up a fly rod and cast blind. If I have heard it once, I have heard it a thousand times- If I cannot sight-cast, I do not want to fish. With that attitude, many fly anglers miss out on some really great angling opportunities.
Not too long ago I had the opportunity to share my skiff with a couple of sports from California for three days. The weather was horrible but they had traveled a long way to fish and wanted to make a go of it. We were socked in by dreary skies and having to watch the radar constantly to avoid getting caught in torrential rains. I informed them that in order to be successful, we would have to do some blind-casting. No problem, was the response. I could not believe my ears. This was not the answer that I was used to hearing but their positive attitude was like a ray of sunshine piercing the ominous skies. Somehow, and I still cannot believe it, with 60%-80% chance of rain forecasted, we managed to get out all three days and caught fish every day. In fact, I think our slowest day was five reds.
The point that I am trying to make is that- it can be done. But to be successful at blind-casting anglers must make changes not only in their attitude towards the method but also, in some cases to equipment and fly selection.
One of, if not the most challenging aspects of blind-casting that anglers must overcome, is to dispel the though that blind-casting is not cool. Many think that it is beneath them to be seen casting unless there is a visible fish in front of them. Fly-casters first need to realize that less than half of the days of the year are perfect for sight-casting, the remainder can be divided again by half with a portion offing some sight-casting opportunities and the rest being good only if anglers are willing to cast blind. Now let us take the guy who has very little flexibility in his schedule and might only have the opportunity to fish 8-10 days a year. Well, if he is unwilling to cast blind, the number of days he actually gets to fish have diminished exponentially. I had an angler that used to think that blind-casting was beneath him. Right up until the day he caught over 30 trout and 20 reds out of five foot of water when it was blowing 20 and the temperature was in the 40s all day long.
I think a big reason so many anglers do not like to blind-cast is because they get tired. Well, there is a cold hard truth that applies in this instance and it is- if you are getting tired from fly-casting, you are not casting correctly. Skilled casters are certainly more successful at blind-casting but they are also more successful at sight-casting. The beauty of blind-casting is a great way to practice casting and at the same time still be fishing. Take a look at it from this perspective- if you are trying to sight-cast on days with less than ideal conditions and you only get 3-5 shots and blow every one of them because of a lack of skill, why not spend the time blind-casting and practice while fishing.
As for tackle, not much really changes except in the choice of fly lines. If you are casting say a popper or gurgler against a shoreline, a floating fly line is most definitely the right choice. This could even be said of fishing a 3 deep marsh ditch or drain while bouncing a lead-eyed Clouser off of the bottom. But what about fishing in 3 of open water with a spoonfly for reds or a big deer-hair bug for a ginormous trout. In these circumstances an intermediate clear-tipped floating line is certainly more appropriate, especially when wading. When fishing from a boat, I prefer a full intermediate line with a clear tip for fishing depths of 3-15 and for anything deeper a full sinking line.
When choosing flies for blind casting, I will always try to match the hatch and choose a fly that is similar in size, shape and color to what I know, or think the fish are feeding on. However, when blind casting I realize that sometimes it is important to attract the fish so fly choice becomes less scientific. Sometimes it is a matter of putting something out there to get the fishs attention. Whether it is a popper spitting and sputtering on the surface, a spoonfly that wobbles and flashes, or a large muddler or whistler that pushes a lot of water. Some days it is all about just getting their attention.
While taking into consideration everything above, I should remind you that two very important aspects of fly fishing should not be overlooked when blind-casting. First and foremost is line control. A fly line is a fly-casters worst enemy in that it has a mind of its own and will nine times out of ten do exactly what it wants. Sometimes the difference in controlling the line is nothing more than taking a step back towards the cockpit or by shifting the loose line from the right to left side of the body. The important thing to consider is the hook-set, especially when fishing deeper water with an intermediate or sinking line. When working the fly keep the rod tip low (if not in) to the water and pointed at the fly. When the line comes tight, and only when the line comes tight, raise or sweep the rod to the side in a firm, powerful manner. The quick jerk of the rod tip that I see so many try to do on the bow of my boat has no place here.
All in and all done, Im with the rest of you in that I would rather sight-cast than to blind-cast but most importantly- I just love to fish, especially fly fish. The willingness to blind-cast will not only provide you more opportunities to be out on the water, but will also increase your success.
Until next month be gude and stuff like that!