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Helpful Hints

A few simple hints for fly fishing courtesy of Bob and Vera Carlson who are top of the game in the lake district. 


This is probably the most important aspect of any fishing and particularly for fly fishing. Look around you and see what insects are in the air and water.

That should give you a clue as to which fly to start with. When actually fishing watch the end of your fly line. Any sudden movement, no matter how slight, will be a fish – so strike.

If you wait for a tug you will miss most fish which have taken your fly.


As a rough rule of thumb hold the handle with your thumb on top then – during your cast – keep your elbow tucked in to your side. Do not break the wrist too much or the rod will drift back past where you wanted it to stop and all power of the cast will be lost.

Start the cast with the rod tip close to the water and the line straight. You should have 7 to 10 yards of line beyond the rod to allow the rod to load on the back cast.

Lift the rod steadily until it is at about the 10 o’ clock position and then flick it back briskly, stopping it as the rod butt reaches the 1 o’ clock position. Done correctly the line will travel past you and flex the rod.

Once the line is extended straight behind reverse the back cast by taking the rod briskly to 10 o’ clock, let the line go forward and lower the rod tip towards the water. Take your time in the cast as flailing quickly will get you nowhere.

You will hear a gentle swish if it is done correctly. If you hear a great big whoosh then you have got it all wrong. Do not push with your shoulder on the forward cast thinking it will gain you distance. It will not.

Remember – the rod does the main work and there is no need for multiple false casting to gain good distance.


Rods are often broken during assembly, particularly fly rods. To prevent this happening to you hold the rod low with the reel handle uppermost and double the end of the line over.

Pull line up through the rings and then pull about a rod length in a straight line out of tip. If you pull line down from tip it puts an unnatural bend in the tip and can result in breakage.

By keeping the rod low when pulling the line out it will not all fall back to the reel if you accidentally let go of it.

It is essential that your fly line matches the rod’s optimum casting weight which will be marked on the rod just above the handle. Normally buy a line of the same size.

There are exceptions and if a rod is dual rated and you use a double taper line then use a line of the lower rating. For weight forward line use the higher rating. For shooting heads you can generally go one size above the weight shown.

Fly Casting in Awkward Places

Do you never bother to fish parts of rivers or lakes when there are steep banks, bushes or trees to interfere with castings and making the back cast impossible?

The solution is incredibly easy and will enable you to cover fish that are unlikely to have been spooked by other anglers and these fish are often the older, wiser fish.  All you need to do is perform the roll cast and if  done correctly your flies will be sent a long distance and into the path of fish.

Every fly fisher should know this cast because if you fish with a sinking or intermediate line the easiest way to get your fly to the surface at the end of the retrieve is to execute a roll cast immediately prior to the overhead cast.

Practice it and then try it out on those fish that think they have found cover that is away from all the anglers.

Fly Lines

Most modern line is made out of a form of plasticiser which covers an inner core. There are some lines made in a different way but these tend to be non stretch and are often susceptible to horrific memory problems.

Lines are normally about 30 yards long and shooting heads about 10 to 12 yards long. The normal format is double taper which, as the name suggests, is tapered at both ends and has a long level middle section. In theory it is possible to turn these round when a section gets worn but in reality the end nearest the backing will be lightly coiled after months or years stored on the reel.

The other main type of line is called weight forward. This line has its main weight in the first 10 or 12 yards and only this section is aerialised. Then the rest of the line is shot out on the cast.

This is a very easy line to use as long as you remember to only put the heavy front section in the air. A useful tip is to mark the line where the fatter head begins and this will be your reminder that the optimum amount of line is out for casting.

A lot of fine cracks in a weight forward line in the thin running section means you have been casting with too much line in the air making it hard work for yourself.

Always clean your lines with a special cleaner every 3 or 4 trips to keep them in good condition. You will be rewarded by much easier shooting properties and they will last longer


When fishing with more than one fly you attach a point fly to the end of the leader and tie on droppers.

These are short lengths of nylon which can vary in length from about 4″ to 12″. 8″ is a good starting point bearing in mind each time you change flies you shorten the dropper.

There are several useful knots; you can normally use the Blood Knot or the 3 or 4 turn Water Knot. We prefer the latter as it is easier to tie and seems more reliable. Remember that when using the Water Knot you use the lower section of line for the dropper and cut the top off.

Droppers have a habit of catching around the main leader. One way to reduce this is to stroke the dropper out until it stands at right angles to the leader, then pop a dab of fishing glue over the knot and the very base of the dropper.

Some people who can not master knots put droppers on by tying tiny metal rings to the leader and then tying the droppers to these rings. The disadvantage is that their weight tends to pull the flies quickly out of the fishing zone

Floatant and Sinkant


It is vital to continually degrease your leaders as it helps them sink. It also helps get rid of the shine which is very important in bright conditions. There are lots of different products Ledasink being a popular choice


Modern fly lines do not need floatants to float as they contain minute bubbles in their construction.

However when using dry flies you want your flies to float and you will need to put a floatant on them. This is vital in streamy water. Lots of makes are available but our favourite is Gink which lasts for ages from one small application. Do not put too much on, however, as you will often want the fly to sit in rather than on the surface film.

Normally you do not grease a leader but if you want to fish a fly just sub surface it is very useful to do so. In this case lightly grease the leader up to the depth you want the fly to fish at. If you want to be 6″ under the surface do not grease this last bit.

Fly Line Care

When out fly fishing we all stand on the line or let it drop into the mud. Gradually a layer of dirt builds up on the line and dramatically reduces its efficiency. the line becomes much harder to cast and possibly even starts to sink.

The answer is very simple. After every 6 or so outings treat the line to a special cleaner and conditioner. Simply pour some on a soft cloth and rub onto the line. You will be horrified at how filthy the cloth will become. Repeat and then buff the line. Try casting and it will be as if the line is turbo charged.

Get into the habit of cleaning your lines often. It helps prolong their life, keeps them supple and vastly improves casting distances. If you don’t believe us then try it. We know you will be amazed at the results. There are suitable products here at Troutflies UK which will do the job!

General Tips

Remember that fishing line degrades so at least once each season safely discard all old leader line and replace it. If you don’t it could cost you the fish of a life time.

Balance your equipment by remembering that a 5 weight rod is for use with small flies and light leaders and that a 9 weight is for lure fishing. If you try using fine leaders on, say, a 9 weight rod you will leave the hook in the fish on the strike as the rod is too powerful for the leader.

If you are killing fish remember to spoon the fish for clues as to what they are eating. By doing this you can put on a suitable imitation and catch plenty of fish.

For help using the fishing flies head HERE