fly fishing from river and stream banks

Ike47

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I'm new to fly fishing and to the forum, and would appreciate any pointers on fishing from river/stream banks. Boats and wading are not an option for me (I'm 72 and have balance problems and arthritis, and generally weak legs), so most of my fishing has to be from the banks. My streams are all, delightfully, in mountainous regions (East Tennessee), so trees and bushes are everywhere. I'd appreciate any tips on avoiding getting snagged and on finding locations where there might be open space to fly cast from the bank.

One thing I've seen online is stripping baskets. They seem to be recommended for a few specific situations, and fishing from banks isn't mentioned, but I was wondering if using one might help?

I've also started trying to roll cast, based on info I found online (articles and videos), and that can certainly help, although I'm not sure I have the knack down yet. When I roll cast, even with a very strong cast, the fly line only travels part of the way, then the rest of the line just plops down around it. With about a 20 foot line, if I do about 5 roll casts in a row, the line finally goes out in a straight line for the whole 20 feet. But as I understand it, I should be able to do this in one cast, not 5. Any suggestions?

Any and all suggestions and advice would be appreciated!

Jerry
 

jayr

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A stripping basket in the Smokies would be worthless.

Depending on what exact stream you’re fishing, casts longer than 20’ can be rare on a lot of streams. Now, that being said, there are some streams/places in the Smokies where you can cast longer than that but considering your back cast and the length needed for that rules out longer casts in general. Not to mention the current pulling your line and leader giving a bad drift.

In fact, having a lot of line out will only get you hung up, caught in trees, rhododendron, etc. Not to mention giving you a bad drift on your fly.

Use the bank to your advantage as to being stealthy. Stealth in the Smokies is 90% of it. If you have to get in the water stay as close to the bank as you can.

Also, some smaller bluelines that are abundant in the Smokies don’t even hardly need wading.
 
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silver creek

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I'm new to fly fishing and to the forum, and would appreciate any pointers on fishing from river/stream banks. Boats and wading are not an option for me (I'm 72 and have balance problems and arthritis, and generally weak legs), so most of my fishing has to be from the banks. My streams are all, delightfully, in mountainous regions (East Tennessee), so trees and bushes are everywhere. I'd appreciate any tips on avoiding getting snagged and on finding locations where there might be open space to fly cast from the bank.

One thing I've seen online is stripping baskets. They seem to be recommended for a few specific situations, and fishing from banks isn't mentioned, but I was wondering if using one might help?


Jerry
I am going to answer your questions as if you are in larger waters since others may have this same problem who are not fishing in small mountainous streams

The purpose of a stripping basket is to keep the fly line OFF off where you are standing. Therefore, if you normally have the fly line lying IN the river or ON stream bank OR you have trouble with the line getting tangled at your feet; then a strippingbasket can help. From what you describe, I think a stripping basket can help if you are having trouble with the line at your feet.

Here's the thing with stripping baskets - it must have projections on the bottle that can keep the line from being tangled in the basket! IT does no good to strip line into a basket and have the line get tangled in the basket.

Consent Form | Salt Water Sportsman

Here is a DIY Stripping basket

YouTube


I've also started trying to roll cast, based on info I found online (articles and videos), and that can certainly help, although I'm not sure I have the knack down yet. When I roll cast, even with a very strong cast, the fly line only travels part of the way, then the rest of the line just plops down around it. With about a 20 foot line, if I do about 5 roll casts in a row, the line finally goes out in a straight line for the whole 20 feet. But as I understand it, I should be able to do this in one cast, not 5. Any suggestions?

Any and all suggestions and advice would be appreciated!

Jerry
If you can position yourself so you are on a point of the river bank that sticks a bit into the river or stream. This would be an easier position to roll cast from. Strip fly line INTO the water and et some fly line down stream. Then using that line that is on the water to load the rod, make a Single Handed Snap T cast to reposition the line, then go into a roll cast.

Snap T 90 – Fly Casting Video Masterclass

YouTube

YouTube
 

flytie09

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I have a pretty good idea with you living in E TN that you're fishing a particular tailwater I frequent. This river is one of the most difficult rivers I've ever come across to wade. As such...I suggest for safety sake in staying from the grating up to the weir. This is stable footing without the jagged rocks with deep slots as is seen through out the lower section. Aside from this area....fishing from the bank isn't really possible.

As far as how one gets good at casting from the bank or the shallows.....forget a stripping basket. You simply will want to practice and be proficient with basic roll casting. Raise the rod and line straight up towards yourself and perform a roll cast all in one motion. It is important to be fluid with your motion and don't stop.

Other casts would be to use waterborn anchors. One such cast is with a downstream water load...where your line has drifted below you and has straightened out fully. In a single motion you lift using water tension and snap it upstream. Other casts are 2-hand techniques like the snap T or basic skagit cast where you lift, reset the line slightly upstream from you, you turn and cast. For a beginner you're talking 20-30 feet being a good cast and really all that is necessary.

A bow and arrow cast is good for smaller blueliners....but not much good for larger streams including the tailwaters near you.

A final option would be to hire a guide to allow for easier fishing from a boat...or find a buddy that might have one. This takes out the struggles with wading. Easier said than done...I've been looking for 15 years myself.
 

Lewis Chessman

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Hello, Jerry, and welcome.

Can you tell us the rod length and line weight that you're using, please? Maybe what line(s) you've tried, too. It may give us a better mental picture of what's happening in the cast. If you're happy to post a photo of a typical run on your waters, do. One man's ''stream'' is another man's ''river''. ;)

Re: the line tray. Bear in mind that they're quite bulky things and you'll be carrying it all the time, even when it's not needed. If you are already unstable and covering rough ground it might be more trouble than it's worth to you.

You mention arthritis but if your fingers are still pretty dexterous I recommend teaching yourself to form loops of line in the retrieving hand as you strip back from the cast. I often fish overgrown grassy/reedy banks and the line is guaranteed to snag if it's just dropped to the ground as the fly is brought back in.

Try pulling back a one foot 'strip' at the start of fishing a cast and let it fall. Bring in another foot of line but don't drop. Pinch between forefinger and thumb and bring the hand back to behind the rod-hand index finger (which at this point is lightly trapping the line against the cork). Still holding the line twixt thumb & finger, pick up the fly line for another strip back. Repeat, one pull and drop, one pull and make a new loop over the finger.

As you do so, the line will line up on the index finger, forming loops below. Try to collect and hold the loops in order as you gather them. This will help them fly off the finger when you shoot the line in the next cast and not tangle.

It takes a little time and practice to do effectively but I believe it's well worth the effort. There is much less chance of snagging veg without the line at your feet and I think there's less friction, too. Also, with the line 3 ft higher in the hand, I think less energy is lost lifting it towards and through the rod rings. Anyway, I'm sure I cast further if I 'loop'.

An alternative, also requiring a degree of manual dexterity, is the 'figure of eight' retrieve where line can be gathered and held in the palm of the hand - how much depends on the individual! It is a useful technique not only for line control on the bank but because a figure of eight retrieves the fly in a constant motion unlike the strip. Speed comes with practice!

Do you already use a wading stick? I'd suggest a lightweight, collapsible stick if you're not too good on your pins. Many can be broken down in an instant and stored in a sheath on your belt when not needed but, by god, when you do need one they're invaluable! Not just for wading, they make any terrain safer and easier without being inconvenient and cumbersome. Useful for crossing tributaries too, if needs must. They needn't be very expensive, just ensure you make as little noise with it as possible when in the water. As jayr says, stealth is vital.

One last point .... ''Always fish the skinny water first'' (Sidney Spencer) is one of the best bits of advice I've ever had. Fish can lie incredibly close to the bank on undisturbed water. They feel protected so if the current is carrying food to them then it's an ideal habitat. So don't feel distance is imperative, it seldom is.

I often see guests walk up to, even into, the river and start hauling the fly to the far bank. Why? If they were stood on that bank they'd be heaving it right to where they were now standing! Far better is to begin standing well back and fish the near-bank first, before footsteps and shadows have sent the fish fleeing 50 yards downstream.
Then start hefting the fly to the far bank once you've emptied the near! :D
 

jayr

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Jerry, after giving your post more thought I have a few questions.

What is the rod(s) you are using? Make, model, length? What line are you using on it? Weight, taper, etc.

Also I assume you mention fishing on or near a weir, is this the Clinch I assume? If so, fishing the Clinch and fishing in the Smokies are two very different scenarios. Finding a rod that will fish both well is very difficult if not impossible.

I have also given more thought to using a stripping basket in the Smokies. Not only is it going to be useless, it may get you hurt. Not having the ability to see your feet due to obstructions is not good. Too many obstacles such as roots, tree limbs, snakes, etc. Also, if you have that much line out on just about any of the streams in the Smokies, you have way too much.

Fishing in the Smokies there is constant movement as there has to be. Standing in one spot for more than 10-15 minutes will not net you many fish. Those fish are wary as all get out and the pools can/should be fished and then you move on in a matter of minutes. The stripping basket will also stick out and if it's white, spook these wild fish.

ETA: I could see the use of a stripping basket on the Clinch. You have much longer casts and thus more line out. I still would be careful not having a full view of what is before you though.

On the Clinch much longer leaders are needed than in the Smokies.
 
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dennyk

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Hi Jerry and welcome to the forum! We do share arthritic and balance conditions. As Lewis mentioned in his above post get a sturdy wading staff even for fishing from the bank, it will become your best friend. I have mine in use every time I go fishing and it never leaves the cab of my truck. The above posts cover casting techniques pretty well, just focus on practicing them. In time it will become a thoughtless process.

Good Luck!

Denny
 

Ike47

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Thank you all for all the responses and advice and good ideas. First, since a couple of you asked, I'm using two rods (long story): a 7 ft 4-5 and an 8 ft 5-6. Both are TFG rods. They came with reel, fly line and leader. I'm not sure what the fly line is, double taper I think, since it seems thicker as you let out a fair amount of line; but for all I know it could be something else and I'm misreading it. I've long ago (having been fly fishing all of a few weeks now, lol) replaced the original leaders. I'm using 5x leaders and mostly 5x tippets, although I've tried 6x as well. But the 6x is harder to work with (e.g., tying flies) and seems to break off a lot easier when it snags, in the water or out.

As for a walking stick, I use a 7 foot very straight and sturdy branch which I've used for hiking for decades. I don't try to negotiate any terrain in the Smokies or around the Clinch River without it. From advice given, I think it would be helpful too if I tried wading just a foot or three into streams, without getting into very deep water. But I'm going to want more experience from the river banks before I try that. :)

My eldest son is coming down in a few days and I'm going to be teaching him how to fly cast. (He hasn't fished since he was a kid, and that was bait casting.) Talk about the deaf leading the blind! In any case, you all have given me lots of ideas to try, and improvements to make. I'll share how they are working for me as I continue to practice.

One follow up question for now: I noted in my first post that my roll casts seem to take 4-5 casts (one after the other) to get the line all the way out. Is that normal? Somehow I doubt it. It gets my tippet right where I want it, but as the line gets further out each cast, I fear it's long scared away any fish in my target area before my fly finally gets there.

Oh, and one more question for now: the bow and arrow cast looks very useful, especially in the Smokies' streams. But is it just for dry flies (which basically would mean, wait till spring; or will it work with nymphs as well, which I'm using now in the winter?
 

jayr

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A roll cast should only take one cast, but that will come with use and practice.

A bow and arrow will work with dry, dry/dropper and nymphs.

Make sure especially in the Smokies, not to false cast too much will spook the fish. Dress to blend in. Again, stealth is key. Move slow and deliberate. Use the natural background to hide your movements. Do not wear bright clothing or hats. I cannot stress how important this is especially in the summer when the water gets lower and clear.

Would those be TFO fly rods, not TFG? If so, which models? Just curious,
 

Ike47

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Thanks! I'm on Little River Outfitters general mailing list, but I hadn't seen that daily report. I've now signed up for it. Great stuff!
 

flav

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I think you're on the right track about taking a step or two into the water to roll cast. You don't have to really wade, but moving into the flow a few feet moves you away from brush that may catch your line and you need open water next to you to "anchor" your roll cast. It'll,make a big difference.

Also, from your description, it sounds like you're retrieving your fly line most of the way in and having to work out to 20 feet of line before you can make a decent roll cast. If you're doing that you just need to always keep 15 or 20 feet of fly line outside your rod tip, then you can simply lift your rod at the end of your drift and go directly into your next roll cast.
 

trev

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I extend the line by wiggle feeding it downstream in S or Z pattern, then throw the upstream c and complete the change of direction cast. The first time the fish sees the line is on delivery. Sometimes making waterhaul cast from that dangling line to upstream parallel to my bank and then use that as a launch for a change of direction.
 

Rip Tide

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Roll casts are easy once you get it into your head that it's the same as any forward cast.
It's just that there's no back cast involved.
The most important part is that you get the line moving.....The whole line!
Once the WHOLE line is moving bring the rod bring the rod tip behind your ear and make your forward cast as usual.
 

Ike47

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Thank you, but I don't quite understand. I thought the whole line should be sitting in front of you, on the water, then you bring the rod tip behind your ear and cast. What do you mean by getting the whole line moving before you cast?
 

Rip Tide

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When you make any cast, the whole line needs to be moving.
With any forward cast, you can not make a '"pick-up" without the full line moving
That's a fundamental of fly casting.
If your line is not moving, you can not make a cast.
A wiggle will do it. It just has to be moving.
 

silver creek

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When you make any cast, the whole line needs to be moving.
With any forward cast, you can not make a '"pick-up" without the full line moving
That's a fundamental of fly casting.
If your line is not moving, you can not make a cast.
A wiggle will do it. It just has to be moving.
Thank you, but I don't quite understand. I thought the whole line should be sitting in front of you, on the water, then you bring the rod tip behind your ear and cast. What do you mean by getting the whole line moving before you cast?
Rip is stating one of Lefty Kreh's rules of fly casting. One of his first rules is that a fly cast cannot start UNTIL the end of the fly line (or in your case, the fly) starts MOVING! That is what is meant by “getting the whole line moving before you cast.” In other words you CANNOT get the rod to begin really loading UNTIL all the line is moving.

4 Principles of Fly Casting - Gulf Coast Fly Fishing School

Lefty Kreh's Principles of Flycasting


In other words you CANNOT get the rod to begin really loading UNTIL all the line is moving. And here's another important factor. The greater the amount of the rod stroke is used to REMOVE slack in the fly line, the less of the rod stroke that there is left to ACTUALLY make the cast.
 
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