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  • Writer's picturePaul

How to Cover Water Faster

Updated: Nov 4, 2021

Image: David McKenzie

When fly fishing, covering water can sometimes be critical.

No, I'm not talking about merely picking apart a small zone, but rather moving quickly and firing off as many casts as possible over a vast region. In some areas it can simply be tough to know exactly where the fish will be holding. Whether it's a huge area of open water or a long shoreline where lots of places look juicy, presenting the fly rapidly and with a high rate of efficiency will get you into fish faster. Hooking that first fish of the day is often the most important because it can give you clues as to what areas the fish are holding as well as what fly they'll respond to. From there, it can often help you be more specific in your presentation the rest of the day.

Here's some ideas to help you speed things up and (hopefully) catch more fish...

False Cast Less- Some fly anglers, specifically those with less experience, tend to false cast way too much. False casting a ton is often a result of not feeding out enough line on each stroke. If someone is only letting a foot or two of line slip out on each stroke, it's going to take many more strokes to get the necessary amount of line outside of the guides. Whatever the reason, false casting a lot eats up something that many of us wish we had more of on the water — time. The more time your fly spends in the air, the less time it spends in the water where it can actually catch fish.

Fish a More Noticeable Fly- Flies come in all sizes, including some that are pretty dang tiny. A very small fly is often necessary, so there can be no getting around changing that. However, making a fly more noticeable helps you cover water faster. How? By increasing the size, noise, color, and/or flash of a fly, you'll be able to get that fly noticed faster and even draw fish in from much greater distances.

When I'm fishing a subtle little streamer, I tend to not space out my casts too far. I want to make sure the fish in the area see it, and even for the ones that do, sometimes they might not want to move very far to grab such a small meal. On the other hand, a larger fly gets noticed easier and represents a larger meal which often prompts a fish to move further to grab it. As long as water temps aren't too extreme and water clarity is good, I feel like I can spread my casts much further apart with a big fly and still cover water very effectively.

Besides fishing a bigger size, some other ideas for making a fly more noticeable include using colors that contrast better, adding flash, or tying on a small rattle chamber. Topwaters like poppers and divers are also excellent attractors because of both the surface commotion and the bloop bloop sound they give off when stripped.

Recast Quickly- When stripping a fly, often times only a small part of the presentation is spent in productive water. The end of the cast and let's say that first 10 feet are where the fish will be, while the rest of the water between you and that zone might be pretty much dead water. Rather than stripping the fly most of the way back in to recast, it's faster to pick the line up as soon as possible after the fly exits the good zone and get another presentation back in there. It takes practice being able to gauge how much line you'll actually be able to lift up off the water properly, but after awhile it'll just come naturally.

Note that with sinking lines the increased resistance makes picking up a lot of line much more difficult and you typically have to strip in quite a bit of line before another cast can be made. To speed this up, once the fly exits the productive water, I like to put the rod under my armpit and use both hands to rapidly retrieve the line far enough so I can cast again.

Get Closer- Getting as close as possible to my target area (without screwing up the spot) is something I often try to practice. Unless I'm faced with conditions like bright sun and calm, clear water, I like to fish at shorter distances than many other folks might. Fishing a short line helps with accuracy and general line control, but it also makes casting faster and easier, too. If you can fire off a more accurate and faster presentation at 30 feet instead of 45 feet, the odds for catching some extra fish goes up!

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