by Floyd Dean
The Hook Cast
Three life-long fly-fishing buddies arrive on the Henry's Fork of the Snake River in Idaho in late June. Bamboo rods and a ton of dry flies in hand, no nymphs no wimps. This was to be the start of a great Dry Fly Only fishing week. The sun was sinking low in the western sky, still time for the evening hatch. A quick stop at the local fly shop was informative. The Green Drake hatch was on and in full swing. A Green Drake Royal Humpy #12 fished near the soft seams with an up stream mend and a very soft lay down would be the key. That fly would work well all day, dark to dark. They were told each one of them should catch at least 10 to 20 fish that evening. They could not miss.
(We at the Golden Gate Angling and Casting Club know that the foundation for the humpy was really the Horner Deer Hair tied by Jack Horner. When it got tied in so many colors to imitate various Mayflies some folks changed the name to 'Humpy' and even the 'Goofus Bug').
After 3 hours of hard fishing, trying every thing the three could muster, only one small Rainbow Trout arrived at the net. The next morning found our trio standing in front of another fly shop, not wanting to admit defeat. The first fly shop must have given them false information. The second fly shop said the exact same thing only they added that they should use the Hook Cast to soften up the lay down. Our trio said thanks and, not wanting to show their fly-casting shortcomings, stepped outside, looked at each other and pondered what in the devil was a Hook Cast? They were too proud to ask the guy in the second fly shop to show them. So, the rest of the week was spent in frustration catching only half a dozen fish.
Later that year, they attended the local fly-fishing show where a well-known fly-casting guru was giving a demonstration. They asked him to show them the Hook Cast. He gave them a quick demo and invited them to sign up for an advanced fly-casting clinic the next week. The trio swallowed their pride and did so!
The Hook Cast, to my knowledge is the most placid way to lay a dry fly on the surface of any body of water. If landing a fly on the water with the smallest amount of disturbance is paramount, then The Hook Cast could be your deliverance.
A form of the hook cast was used in the movie A River Runs Through It. 'The Shadow Cast' as seen in that film, is really the result of a forward hook cast up river and a backhanded hook cast down river. The premise of the movie was that if you did it low enough and slow enough you might get a fish to rise like magic. Sounds good, might be a little like a cat watching a ping pong game from the fish's point of view. Actually, it's a great way to present a fly either up river or down river. Eventually, you have to put the fly on the water or you might catch the evening bat hatch.We as Dry Fly Fishers must imitate how a food source looks and acts as it enters the world of the trout. The fly-fisher must present his imitation fly in a manner to fool the trout into thinking it is a real insect. Years of evolution and experience have taught the crafty trout what his food looks like and how it behaves on the surface of the water.
With the Hook Cast you will learn to cast, for example, a # 12 Adams, as if it were a # 22 Blue Wing Olive and not have it smack the water like a large frog sending all the fish fining for cover. If a small frog landed on a gin clear still body of water it would make a small splash. A small grasshopper might make several small ring shaped ripples. A small May fly size #18 might make a small dimple in the surface. A size #26 midge will make the smallest disturbance of all, not visible to the human eye. However, to a trout with it's finely honed senses, even this minute disturbance sets the trout into a feeding mode like a triangle dinner bell at a Texas Bar-B-Q.
How do you cast a # 12 Adams and have it land like it was a # 22 BWO? You know if you lengthen your leader to 16 feet, add 4-feet of 7X tippet giving you a 20-foot leader, this might get the job done. However a 20-foot leader, # 12 fly on 7X tippet is a formula for a break off and very difficult to cast with control. A 9-foot 5X leader will give you better all around performance and control but will hit the water a little too hard. The Hook Cast will soften the lay down and solves this problem.
To begin, get out about 30-feet of line, you will be using a side arm casting stroke. However, the rod will be in front of your body and parallel to the water. Cast palm up with your feet comfortably under your hips, keeping your balance. Make several false casts back and forth to get the feel of the cast. You will be stopping the rod at 10 and 2 on a horizontal clock. On the final delivery cast, just as you stop the rod at 10, kick the rod tip up a little, (about 6 inches or so) by flicking the wrist up a smidgen just at the forward stop point. This flicking of the wrist upward at the proper time, as you make the stop is what creates The Hook Cast.
Where the tip of the rod goes, so does the line, leader and fly. Its like a rising curve cast. The key is that the fly must kick up, stall out and fall ever so gently like a gossamer spider web to the water. The higher the flick of the wrist upward the higher the fly moves up,
With the conventional cast, energy and gravity are always pulling downward on the fly as it turns over, even if the cast is low and close to the water. If you use a conventional dry fly cast overhead, the fly will land harder on the surface of the water. The Hook Cast removes the turn over energy from the fly. All that remains is a little gravity and a short fall to the water.
Now that you have mastered the forehand hook cast on the forward cast, try it on the backhand back cast. Stop the rod at 2 and flick the wrist up. Now, put it all together for the Shadow Cast as in the movie, A River Runs Through It and see if you can get a fish to rise.
İFloyd Dean 2007 www.FloydDeanFlycasting.com