Fly casting with sinking lines.

June 1! All salmon fishermen eagerly await this day, throughout winter we dream of opening day. Many things must be planned, flies must be tied, a new sinking line must be adapted, books and films must be closely studied, casting practice, and social evenings with fishing buddies. It is really true that fly fishing is a winter hobby too.

Finally the season opening is soon here, I have survived yet another long winter. We salmon fishers learn to be patient both before and during the season. Patience is an important trait for a salmon fisherman, in order to pass the time while waiting, but also in order to succeed by catching salmon during the season patience is important.

This article will focus on fly casting with sinking lines, this is also the first challenge facing us on the salmon river at the start of a new season. Use Spring to practise fly casting, you will be more prepared for opening day. In order to lift the line off the water in the easiest way you have to practice the Roll Cast and the Double Spey, these are the techniques that are best used in combination with the Spey or Snake Roll casts.

Sinking line fishing.
Too many fly fishers never fish deep enough, many people find it hard to cast heavy sinking lines, and consequently choose not to. Of course it is a bit more difficult to cast a sinking line versus a floating line, but it is not so difficult that it is impossible to learn. I arrange specific salmon fishing and casting classes focused on sinking lines, these courses are very popular, and many people actually start using sinking lines on their single handed rods too after having participated on one of these courses. I will provide some good advice that may make it easier for you to master this type of fishing.

Fly casting heavy sinking lines is best performed using different spey cast variants or the snake roll technique, fishing heavy sinking lines using an overhead cast will be more risky in terms of being hit by the fly and/or the fly line on the forward cast. A sinking line has a much thinner diameter than a floating line, thus the energy will transfer more quickly through the fly line. The quick roll-out of the line during the backward cast can be difficult to control, and add to that a large, heavy tube fly and it can be hard not avoid being hit – remember to wear a cap and fishing glasses! Using a spey or snake roll cast will see you avoiding this danger!

Adjusting shooting heads.
In terms of sinking line fishing there are two things you have to consider:
1) You should have a selection of sinking lines that will help you to fish effectively regardless of water levels, depth and current speed.
2) The sinking lines must be adjusted correctly in terms of optimal gram weight for the fly rod and your casting technique; this will make it easier to lift the line off the water so that you will be able to effectively cast the line out into a fishing position again.
You can read about my recommendations for adjusting shooting heads in a separate article on my web page.

I recommend you try the new sinking lines from Guideline called “Ready to go”. These are shooting heads in fixed lengths/weights mounted with loops, and it is not the first time such a concept is launched. Even so, with the Guideline Power Taper’s many advantages the “Ready to go” lines will be the best you can use by far. I recommend the “short cut” lines, these come in all sink rates and actually all the way down to S6/S7. This range of fly lines is the product that has impressed me the most of all the new products I have tried over the last 5 years, in this concept you will definitively find your favourite line.

The roll cast is often used in combination with the spey or snake roll cast when fishing sinking lines, and this is much of the “secret”. If you perform the roll cast in a good fashion it is not so difficult to fish even the heaviest sinking lines, you use the roll cast when fishing on the correct river bank in terms of your casting arm.

The other casting technique I recommend is the Double Spey, this technique is really good for when fishing the “wrong” side of the river in terms of your casting arm.

Both the roll cast and the double spey can easily be combined with all casting techniques.


The roll cast.

For the roll cast, the arm/rod must be moved on an angle upwards and backwards towards the back stop.


1) When you start the roll cast you lower the rod all the way down to the water surface, which will make it easier to lift the sinking line off the water. Following this, the movement must go on an angle upwards and backwards in order to lift the line off the water, but make sure that the leader and the front part of the fly line hits the water again before moving the rod forwards. So, you must make a distinct stop with the rod before starting the forward cast, without this stop the leader will not get stuck in the water surface and create the tension you need for lifting the line off the water, and you will also not be able to straighten the line out in the right position in front of you.

The leader and the front part of the fly line must hit the water before starting the forward cast.


2) When you are on your way towards the forward cast it is important to stop the rod early. If you stop the rod too low in front of you, the line loop will open too much for the line to straighten properly. If you make the stop early/in a higher position, the rod will be more loaded with energy and have a higher position in relation to the water surface, which ensures a better roll-out of the line. This creates more forward line speed, and gives more time for the line to straighten out completely in front of you.

Remember to stop the rod movement early, this ensures that the rod will be better loaded, plus the line will have more time to roll out in front of you.


Both these phases of the roll cast follows the same theory regardless of whether you fish with a single or double handed fly rod, the difference will be how you lead the rod, using the double-haul for the single handed rod and the scissor movement for the double handed rod


Double Spey.

It is very important to learn this cast regardless of choice of fly line, this is also the easiest cast to use for fishing from the “wrong” side of the river, there are not many fly fishers that are able to cast just as well from both sides of the river.

So…. when fishing from that side of the river where you have the upper arm downstream of you, you should use the double spey. For sinking line fishing this is the perfect cast! This cast not only helps you to easily get the line up from the water from a position where the cast has finished fishing, it also helps you to cast the fly out into the river at a perfect angle, so that the line sinks effectively through the surface current early enough.

The upper arm is at a horizontal position out from the body.


1) When starting the double spey motion, you lower the rod towards the water surface, which will aid you in lifting the line out from the depths down stream of you. Move the rod tip upstream, this should be done at a height where the upper arm is at a horizontal position out from the body. The arms are crossed when the upper arm points upstream, i.e. when the lower arm is in a downstream position. This signals that the motion should be stopped and then should be moved back towards the start of the forward cast. It is very important that the upper arm is moved towards the stop point of the back cast in the same vertical height as in the first phase of the cast, ensuring better control of the line and leader before starting the forward cast which brings the fly out into the river again. A common mistake in this phase of the double spey cast is to lift the upper arm higher and closer to the body during the motion towards the back position, and then the line will go slack, which leads to the leader not getting stuck properly when casting the line out towards the river!

Stop the arm movement when the lower arm is in a downstream position.


Upper arm in the same horizontal position towards the back cast.


Remember to move the lower arm away from the body in this phase of the cast, increase the speed of the rod towards the back cast.


Note the position of the lower arm in this phase.

2) When planning the application of power during the second phase of the cast is efficient to move the lower hand out from the body and at the same time start the movement towards the inwards cast. This ensures that the lower arm is positioned out from the body, giving you the best possible starting point for the forward cast. Also remember to increase the speed of the rod towards the back cast – this ensures that the spey loop is tighter between the water surface and the rod tip so that the rod is better loaded before the forward cast begins.

Also remember to synchronise the stop and the release in the forward cast (see own article about this phase of all the fly casts in the menu “Casting”).

Aerial mending.
The aerial mend is also important to learn in connection with sinking line fishing, when fishing a sinking line during Spring flood the purpose is to get the line to sink as quickly as possible so that the fly will get to the path of the salmon straight away. Therefore the aerial mend should be positioned upstream with a sinking line, creating a slack between the rod and the water surface, so that the line sinks faster down into the river. The angle of the cast can easily be 90 degrees during Spring flood fishing. The aerial mend is not that difficult to learn, you move the rod calmly upstream after you have stopped the rod movenentand let go of the line in the forward cast. The rod should be in an upstream position when the leader hits the water.

Casting/fishing tips.
To make the sinking line sink as quickly and as deep as possible for each cast, move one step downstream after the line hits the water. This ensures that you add even more slack to the line so that the line will sink deeper through the water than when using the aerial mend by itself. If you do both, you will fish very effectively.

Fluorocarbon leaders.
I recommend you use these types of leaders during the Spring flood fishing as fluorocarbon is heavier and stiffer than ordinary nylon leaders. This helps you present the leader better, also when using larger/heavier tube flies. The fluorocarbon leader will, together with the sinking line, pull the fly faster down through the surface current and what ordinary nylon leaders would do.


Related articles for June fishing.

Menu - Fishing:
Fishing with a fly rod during spring flood.
Is it the fly line or the fly that catch salmon?
Adjusting shooting heads.
The fly line box.

Menu - Flies:
The fly box for rivers in Spring flood.
Deadly tube flies for early season fishing.

Menu – Fishing School:
Guideline beat.
Hokkseggen beat.

Menu – Casting:
The stop points.
Snake Roll. Watch a short film clip on the Snake Roll cast and sinking lines.

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