Thursday, May 23, 2013

Buck's Shots: Snags and Hang Ups--Who Needs 'Em?

Starting this month, we're publishing the great Fly Fishing column from the Fishing for History Magazine written by G. Buckley Juhasz. Buck is the former co-owner of the legendary Anglersmail, and has written for a number of notable fishing outlets including Fly Fisherman magazine. He is currently working on a collector’s guide to tied flies.


    Just about all of us experience times when the trees, bushes, and even the river bed will seemingly go on a fly collecting binge. How can you keep those frustrating snags and hang-ups to a bare-bones minimum? Its simple. Just follow the advice of a certain old-time Catskill comedian who ended many of his quirky stories with his well known punch-line, "Don't do dat!" 

    That's right. What you don't do before and during the cast will often have a decided effect on what occurs after its completion. For instance, Don't make your first cast from a fresh position until you have sized things up fully.  Front, back, overhead, to the sides, and on the water's surface --spotting potential fly grabbers will only take a few seconds. And don't forget to keep an eye peeled for any sub-surface obstructions where a hefty fish can tangle or break you off. And should there be a stiff breeze, try to time your casts between gusts. 

    Don't make more false casts than necessary. Why give those overhangs extra opportunities to create mischief? Selecting floating flies that require minimal drying, such as deer hair or foam beetles, can reduce the need for false casting to no more than one or two strokes.  If the cover is particularly tight, a heavily hackled pattern such as the old Bivisible can be slowly drawn over twigs and branches when a cast goes astray.  And of course learning to cast a very tight line loop is a must for any serious woodland fly fisher.

    Here's a very effective trick for spring creek anglers that Sid Neff showed me on the Letort over forty years ago. Making a cast over surface weed beds is at times the best, or only way to present your fly to a specific fish.  But attempting to withdraw or re-cast your floating fly without hooking the weeds can be nearly impossible if you are unaware of the following tactic. At the very instant you begin the lift, make a couple short and snappy up-and-down shakes of the wrist.  I have never been able to figure out just why this works so well, but it does. If my comments on this point do not work for you, I suggest you find someone who can give you a demonstration. It is that important.

    Finally, do you find it easier when nymph fishing to use one large split-shot instead of a string of small ones? Don't do dat! The smaller shot tends to get caught on streambed rocks far less often.

    Next month I'll discuss some methods of getting out of snags and undoing line tangles with the least possible loss and frustration. See you then.

-- Buck

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