Fly Fishing Traditions

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Friday, October 23, 2015

Trinity River Steelheading

I had the chance to fish the Trinity River a while back with my long time friend Blake Larsen and another old friend and guide Mike Hibbard. Mike typically guides the Trinity from mid September through January or February every year. He is one of the most respected guides on the Trinity River. We had a great couple of days to say the least.

Here is a video of our trip with Mike Hibbard. Thanks again for being the quintessential steelhead guide. You can contact Mike at

Trinity River Steelheading from Clay Hash on Vimeo.

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Which Stance for Fly Casting

The stance you use for casting can influence the movements that follow, such as how you move your casting arm and add force with your shoulder and body.  As with grips, each stance provides somewhat different advantages and disadvantages.

The Squared Stance

When starting from square one with beginning students using a squared stance, facing the target without dropping either foot back is a good idea. Why? The biggest advantage of this stance is its simplicity in relationship to the alignment of the casting arm.  Without moving your body, you can easily attain an elbow-forward arm position throughout the casting movements.  Such simplification of primary movements is important in achieving the consistency for which we strive and a building block for good form. Once good form and timing is achieved the squared stance is the preferred stance.

The Casting Side Dropped Back Stance

Another good option is the casting side dropped back position. This is often the second step for beginning casters once they have their elbow- forward arm position form down. If right handed, you drop your right foot back, as if preparing to throw a ball. It is recommended to start the students with the casting side dropped back 45 degrees.  The main advantage of this stance is in developing timing.

With the casting side dropped back position you are able to watch your back cast to see when to start the forward cast.  One thing to watch out for is that this stance may lead to rotating that side forward during the forward cast. This additional body turning sometimes rotates a caster’s arm and fly rod out of alignment, thus angling the fly line away from the intended direction. Having to realign your arm and rod for the forward cast can also complicate the movement, particularly if using an elbow forward half-throwing motion. So be aware and don't lose good form.

Although timing can be taught in various ways, it is said that most students, in fact, do learn timing best by turning to see the fly line straightening in back. However, it is probably best to have them drop the casting side back just enough to see the back cast, a peak so to speak, then return them to a squared stance when the timing has been corrected. Remember turning to watch a back cast is usually done when practicing, and seldom done when we’re out fishing.  I heard the expression. “Watching your back cast is bad form, except in bear country”.

If you’re casting a slow full flexing action rod, like a bamboo or older graphite, opening up your stance can be used with a lengthened hand movement for better form. 

How About the Stance for Long Distance Casting?

When it’s time to start practicing long distance casting it’s time to go back to dropping the casting side back.  Watching the loops coming off the rod tip on a back cast is the best way I know to learn how and where to stop the rod butt to form small loops in a long line on the back cast.  By this time, arm alignment should be fairly well ingrained.  This open stance offers another distance advantage, inviting long hand movements for a wider casting arc.

The Casting Side Forward Stance

Occasionally I’ll see a person casting to a specific fish and attempting to get a really accurate cast, using a stance with the casting side and foot forward, rather than back.  It is said that turning the casting side forward enhances accuracy by bringing the hand and arm that directs the cast into closer alignment with the eyes and the target.


It’s not a bad idea to start students with the grip and stance that works best for most people.  If you are a beginner, try the squared stance, with your thumb providing support behind the forward cast.  If you find yourself having trouble with timing, drop your casting side back enough to make it easier to watch your back cast.

If you are more experienced, I would encourage you to experiment with these grips and stances, considering the trade-offs in each change you make. Perhaps you will find something that works better with your cast than what you have been doing.

March Browns on the Lower Yuba

The March Brown Mayfly is sort of a ghost hatch on the Lower Yuba. some years you'd never know they exist and the next year there they are. This is one of the years that they are happening. How do we know. The best indication is when you spot clouds of dancing male march brown spinners hovering over the water. They are the big ones. The females are smaller. You will often see these spinners bouncing above the runs. The females The spinners that you see hatched a few days earlier.

The duns hatch and hang around the bushes and trees for a few days and then they molt into sexually mature spinners.  Their colors darken, their wings become much clearer and in the case of the males their tails and forelegs elongate. They mate and the females return and drop their eggs.

March Brown Nymphs

The march brown mayfly typically arrives with the onset of spring. It is a "clinger" mayfly and clings tenaciously to rocks in the fast water. Does the name march brown mean that the fly hatches in March, not necessarily. In our river it is more of an April event and the conditions need top be just right. Big spring storms with high flows happen and you'll never know there are march browns in the river.

In our river the march brown nymphs are very dark brown and almost black. That doesn't mean that they are available to our trout very often. They have the ability to cling to rocks like no other. They also tend to hide under and in the crevices during daylight hours. They venture out at dark They are adapted to stay out of harms way. But when the nymphs become mature they sport large dark wing pads they start to get restless as they begin to contemplate emergence. They start to migrate to slower water along the edges. Guess what, they loose they foothold and end up in the drift. This is when fishing march brown nymphs are the most effective, basically prior to emergence.