Tips For Casting a Sinking Fly Line
Updated: Nov 6, 2021
For the angler that has thrown nothing but floating lines, moving to a sinking line can present new challenges. Due to the different design and heavy, dense configuration, these lines can be quite a bit more clunky and tougher to cast overall. You can't just show up and start casting a sinking line as you would a floater; some technique changes must be made. Casting these lines often isn't pretty or graceful, but in addition to keeping the fly down in the strike zone, they can also be very efficient at cutting through wind and achieving serious distance quickly.
Not too familiar with sinking lines? Try reading some of our past articles first to familiarize yourself...
Here are some tips to keep in mind when casting these highly-effective lines...
Start With Less- Unlike a floating line, a line that sinks has way more water resistance which makes it tougher to pick up and recast. Because of this, much more of a sinking line must be stripped back in before it can be pulled out of the water successfully. Just how much line will need to be retrieved before a new cast can be started depends on sink rate, the rod's action, and the skill of the angler, so that's more of thing you just have to get a feel for through experience, but often times it's not much at all!
Back when I used to striper fish a lot with super-fast sinking lines and large weighted flies, I can tell you I had to strip most of the line's head back in before I knew the line could be cleanly lifted from the water to begin a new cast. As mentioned, it shouldn't take long to develop a feel for exactly how much line you can pull from the water. However, manufacturers offer helpful cues such as different colored heads that can be used to help gauge how much line to strip in. With enough line stripped in, performing a quick roll cast or two also helps to elevate the line in the water column for an easier pickup.
Tip low- Make sure the rod tip starts right at the surface of the water when beginning the cast. Doing this helps remove extra slack from the line and gives you the fullest range of motion possible when pulling the line out of the water.
Open the Loop- When casting a typical floating line, the goal is often to get a nice tight loop for the best line speed and efficiency. However, with a sinking line it can be a different story, especially with the fastest sinkers. These lines feel quite a bit different and if coupled with a large, weighted fly it can make for an even bigger handful. Compared to floating lines, sinking lines are thinner and cast with more power. This makes them shoot and cut through wind much more easily, but also makes them more prone to causing tangles or smacking the rod tip or the back of your head.
Using a more open casting loop and keeping the rod tip angled more outward helps keep the fly/line further away from you and separates everything in the air. Since sinking lines generate more power while casting, a tight loop also isn't needed—they will shoot nicely even with the loop opened up. Using a more open casting arc (dropping the rod tip a little more on the front and back cast) will open up the loop, but for the heaviest line/fly combinations a Belgian Cast can be the only way to make safe and consistent presentations. Click here and go to the section "Casting Technique/Speed" for more.
Be Smooth- One reason for using the Belgian Cast is because it is done in one smooth motion under constant tension with no stopping. Heavy sinking lines generate a lot of energy while casting and using a typical casting stroke (where you stop the rod in the front and back) would jolt the rod and line resulting in a loss of line control. No matter what kind of cast you're using, be smooth with it. Same goes for when picking the line up off the water to make a new cast—pick it up in a smooth, fluid, controlled motion.
Use a Fast Rod- A softer rod can cast sinking lines, but fast and especially extra-fast rods are perfect for them. The faster the rod, the less deeply it will flex and the more power it offers for hucking heavy lines and weighted flies.
Practice Safely- Learning to cast heavy lines can be dangerous and it's not something I would recommend learning with a fly tied on. These lines can feel really clumsy and require you to adjust your casting accordingly. Practice in a nice open area and without a fly tied on, preferably on a calmer day to start. If you can practice at a small local pond or something similar that is a bonus as it allows you to truly get a feel for how the line acts in the water and how to manage it.
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