Tag Archives: Orvis

Fly-rod Frustration for an Afternoon

I thought I was so smart.  For the past few years, I have not kept my fly rods broken down in cases. Instead, I broke down each section in half — two pieces secured with a hair pin at the top and a rubber band at the base. It made for easy access for early-morning trips. No fussing with stringing the rod up and attaching a fly. I was good to go in seconds — as soon as I could detach the hair pin and rubber band.

All was well until I wanted to take a bike ride with my rod. To do that, I had to put the rod back in a case and attach the case to my Patagonia backpack. Easy peasy, right? Wrong.

Because both my primary rods were rarely completely broken down, the ferrules became stuck and they were an absolute beast to loosen. I tried pushing, pulling and cursing for hours while I searched the internet for solutions. The best thing I read I was to apply ice to the male ferrule. That helped with one sticky section, a TFO I have for traveling.

But the base of my Orvis Helios was particularly fussy. No amount of ice and brute strength was going to break that seal. So I called Orvis and the tech rep recommended a slight twist and pull. My bare hands didn’t get the job done, so I grabbed my rubber kitchen mat and each ferrule for a better, and more secure, grip. A better grip yielded more control and, finally, I wrestled the two sections apart with a quick twist and pull. So, the next time you need to loosen your ferrules, grab a bag of ice and a rubber mat. Those tools of the trade should help you get back on the water faster when your stored fly rod won’t cooperate.

A bag of ice helps loosen sticky ferrules.

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The Roll Cast, a Neglected Tool

I need work on this. It’s amazing how we all want more distance, but sometimes a simple cast escapes us when we most need it, because we don’t work on it. This vid goes over the basics well.

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Back in the Boat

One of the great life lessons of fly fishing is it forces you to adapt. New water or a different species often demands a different skill. For me, the transition involved a canoe.

A move from Gainesville to Tampa a few years ago yielded the purchase of a Native Ultimate 14.5, then considered the premier fly-fishing paddlecraft.  I had to have one.

At first I used it quite a bit as I learned the Tampa Bay flats. But, it didn’t take long before frustration set in.  Managing a canoe solo while fly fishing is difficult simply because it’s darn near impossible to do two things at once — managing the drift and fishing.  You have to stalk the fish, stop the drift, put down your paddle, grab your rod and make the cast — all in a matter of seconds.

I spent much of the spring and summer trying to master these skills. Limited success resulted and eventually winter arrived and I started wading. The Ultimate sat in the garage for months. In fact, I wondered why I even bought it.

Fast forward to this summer when I moved to the Jupiter area. Flats fishing is non existent. It’s intracoastal and rivers. Paddle or perish. So I learned how to paddle and fish at the same time. To do that, you have to know how to paddle —- well.  Once I committed to that skill, I was able to fish more effectively, even with a fly rod.

Wading has its benefits. It’s quick and it’s easy. The Ultimate is a bit of a chore. There’s loading and unloading. And it’s more fun to cast wading than it is sitting down or standing in a moving object.  But the Ultimate allows you to cover more ground and you get a workout if you’re willing to paddle a few miles.

Honestly, I’d rather walk the beach or wade, but I’m glad I finally mastered enough skill to become confident with the Ultimate. I’m certainly more versatile.

Below is a video from Orvis.  It looks easy, but it’s not. Trust me.

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Getting Ready for Tarpon and Snook

Summer is almost here and the arrival of Florida’s suffocating heat means one thing if you’re a dedicated sight-fisherman.


In a few weeks, many Florida flats will welcome the popular game fish.  And fly fishermen will be waiting. Some will struggle, muddling along with the hope that enough shots will yield a Kodak moment. Others — albeit a small fraction of the long rod elitists — will catch and land fish regularly.

The difference, quite often, comes down to casting. The better you can cast, the more fish you’ll catch. Period.

Below are a few tips to consider while preparing to dance with the Silver King.


Practice makes perfect.

Saltwater fly fishing is a skill, yet many anglers treat it as a hobby. They fish, but they don’t practice and if they practice, they don’t put in enough time to truly hone their craft.

“You have to practice,” Peter Kutzer, an Orvis casting instructor, said. “You don’t see golfers going out on courses without practicing and taking practice swings. They go to the driving range. They chip and putt to help with their short game. You have to practice your fly-casting game as well. Chasing tarpon is not a poor man’s sport. It’s tough. You’re going to be a lot more successful if you spend some time practicing.”


Lighter is Better.

And if you do practice, go with a lighter rod at first, which should help shake off the rust from a long winter layoff.

“I’d recommend they get some time under their belt and if saltwater fishing is what they really want to do, then get some time with a 7, 8 or 9 weight,” Kutzer said. “Start with one of those rods. They’re a little easier to handle. They can help you develop some of that muscle memory with something a little lighter. Some of those heavier rods can be tougher.”


It’s OK to Break Your Wrist

One of the first things we’re told as novice fly casters is to never, ever break our wrist. That’s fine if you want to chase bass and brim at your neighborhood pond. Tarpon on fly requires sharp loops to pierce those nasty headwinds and generate casts of 50 feet and longer.

“When you’re an experienced caster, you’re looking for ways to increase line speed,” Keys guide Bruce Chard said. “When you snap your wrist and allow for more application of power throughout the casting stroke, you’re going to increase line speed. But, you’re timing has to be impeccable, and you can’t have good timing if you’re not an experienced caster.  I’m not saying you can’t do it. It just makes it a little more challenging to form a nice tight loop.”

The bottom line: If you’re a beginner, don’t break your wrist. If you’re more advanced, check out Joan Wulff’s videos on the power snap, but the learning curve is anything but a snap, which is why a stiff wrist is better for the newcomer.

“It has everything to do with that,” Chard said. “Usually when you’re a beginner, you have too much movement. You’re moving your arm. You’re moving your shoulder and everything all over the place. And we (as instructors) need to get them to quit moving long enough to have a nice short stroke and feel the rod load, stopping abruptly while keeping that rod on a straight-line plane. That helps them form a nice, tight loop. Once they start forming nice, tight loops, then you can do whatever your want to increase line speed, and there’s a number of different things you can do and snapping the wrist is one of them.”


Different Strokes for Different Folks

There are, in general, two distinct approaches to fly casting. On one side of the spectrum, there’s Joan Wulff. At the other end is Lefty Kreh. Joan teaches a more vertical stroke that pulls the butt of the rod through the last part of the motion. Her motion is compact with a minimum of body movement.

Lefty uses a more horizontal approach to the stroke. He pushes butt of the rod towards the target and uses more of his body with an open stance.


Dave Chouinard shows his winning form at the 2013 Big Gun Shootout.

Many top distance casters — Paul Arden and Peter Hayes — are pullers. Many weekend anglers are pushers. Kutzer believes in both methods and says good casters can make either work and quite often they have to, depending on the conditions. Lefty’s low-elbow horizontal approach can work great on a flats boat elevated above the water. But use that while wading a thigh-deep flat and your back cast will smack the water. Vertical is the way to go.

“What a lot folks see is their accuracy gets better,” Kutzer said. “They’re pointing at their target; they’re more lined up. When you cast vertical, it’s a little easier to know if you’re going too far back. The downside, though, to being vertical is you’re going to be a little more susceptible to the wind.”

That’s when you have to flatten out your forward stroke. But executing a quality back cast is pivotal. A poor one often ensures a lack of accuracy or distance. Or both.

“One of the big hurdles people deal with is being aware of what their back cast is doing and being aware of their tracking,” Kutzer said. “Tracking is huge. If you want to make a long cast, the easiest way to do that is to have a good loop on your back cast and to do that you have to track well on you back cast. Loop way around to the side, twist your hand and you bring that rod out and around, it’s going to be really hard to get that line nice and tight and get some distance on your forward cast.”


Fundamentals Matter

We can debate Joan versus Lefty and their merits of both for years, but Kutzer, as instructor, has to simplify the physics of fly casting into palatable bits for his students. Maybe we should do the same.

“Three things,” Kutzer said. “You have to make a rod bend. You have to make it stop. Twice. And that’s not easy because in everything we do (in sports) we almost always follow through. The third thing is you have to keep everything in a straight line.”

Sounds simple, but it’s not. Time to go practice.


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