Many times while fly fishing, a soft and accurate presentation is pretty much necessary if you want to catch a fish. Trout anglers know all about this, as they often deal with spooky fish in shallow, gin-clear water. One sloppy or harsh cast is often all it takes to blow out an area and send you walking downstream to the next spot, likely mumbling (or maybe screaming) a few choice words along the way. I've been there and done that plenty of times, that's for sure. From line type to leader setup, using the proper equipment is certainly very important, but the cast itself plays a huge role in any situation requiring perfection. When fishing during times like these, have you ever considered holding your rod differently?
For most fly anglers most of the time, the rod will be gripped with the thumb on top of the handle. Whether casting dries for trout or presenting a giant popper to trevally, this grip provides great comfort along with control, accuracy, and makes it easy to apply power when chucking a beastly bug a great distance. Despite it being a popular way to hold a fly rod, it's certainly not the only way to go about it. I've seen a couple other grip styles in my time, but the one I'm leading you on to here is where you extend your forefinger on top of the handle.
Is this hand grip the only way to make a careful presentation? Of course not, and some folks may just prefer the old thumb-on-top style. For me, however, when I'm in a very "light duty" situation and want to make a shorter, pinpoint cast, the extended-forefinger grip feels very natural. Rods of lighter line weights often have a tapering handle design like a reversed half-wells or cigar, and on these grips I find that having the forefinger extended is quite comfy. I don't feel like I could generate any impressive casting power using this grip style, but as I said, it feels very natural to me making soft, shorter presentations in this manner.
One other thing I like about having the forefinger out is that it seems to help my accuracy. As the cast is finished, I'm basically pointing directly at the target which mentally helps me pinpoint where the cast needs to go. See that little pocket over there behind that boulder? BAM! I can put the bug right in there....most of the time!
Individual preference will come into play regarding how you grip the rod in this manner. Personally, I like having my forefinger extended flat or nearly flat as shown in the pics above. I've seen some folks do this while others may keep more of a bend or arch in their forefinger. As far as the rest of my fingers go, I simply wrap them around the grip or my thumb may extend forward as well.
Aside from not being as powerful as the thumb-on-top grip, the only (very minor) nuisance here comes when it's time to strip or hold the line. At this point, the forefinger must then be swung around to the underside of the handle so that the fly line can be hooked underneath it in the typical fashion. It takes about a half a second to do, but it's not quite as fluid as having your forefinger already in position under the rod such as in the thumb-on-top grip.
The next time you hit up the spring creek, panfish pond, or whatever, try this grip out—you may really like it!