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4-18-05 - Home Sweet Home - back in SE WI!

Waters Fished: Root River
Fish Caught: 1 personally
Outing Date: 4-18-05
Weather: Glorious - Sunny, nice!
Air Temp: 60's
Water Temp: 60 F
Water Level: 70 CFS, stable
Water Color: Stained, visibility 1'++
Fish Species: Steelhead
Pattern Fished: Egg Patterns
Pattern Color: Hot Pink was the best
Fishing Quality: Very Good

4-18-05 - John hooks up with a steelie..it comes off. Another steelie - on and off.
This time John really hammers the strike... And there it is, a great chrome hen for John! Nice fish!
Good C&R ensures there'll be more fish in the rivers for all anglers! While scouting upriver, I stopped to take some pics of John casting. A nice tight loop!
John has the traditional overhead cast down no problem! What's this? Creek Chubs weren't on the menu today!

I met up with John shortly after Noon on Monday, having just returned from Looperpalooza! John was worried he'd have a "fried guide" after such a long trip...NO WAY. I was eager to get back on the home water and whip the steelies into a frenzy.

For whatever reason, I decided we should fish Colonial Park. We met up and dropped in. John had specifically booked our trip looking for some casting instruction and improvement, so we started there. One of the interesting things about our guide was that John's steelhead rod happens to be a 9' 7wt. St. Croix Avid 2pc - the same rod I use as my current default steelhead rod. Well, he was lined up with 7wt. WF, mine carries 8wt. Bass Taper. He was surprised at the difference a slightly different reel and line can make in the same rod.

After helping John polish his roll cast I taught him the cast that Karl Kaufmann dubbed my "Lariat Cast". If I haven't explained it before, here's the mechanics and the use. If it has another name, by all means tell me! As John's day on the water was simply nonstop action that defies a worded description, this is a perfect opportunity to discuss the cast I taught him.

In a nutshell, you need the Lariat cast in situations where you would normally roll cast but can't. But wait a second, when do you roll cast. That's easy enough, you roll cast when you don't have room for a back cast. So then, assuming you don't have room for a backcast, how could you not have room for a roll cast?!?!

For starters, lets say you're standing underneath a low hanging branch. If you bring your rod tip up for a standard vertical roll cast, you'll get hung up in that overhanging tree. This is the most common situation you find yourself facing. The 2nd most common situation is when your roll cast would place your offering directly into a overhanging obstacle above the place you'd like to land your fly.

So the Lariat Cast (for lack of a better or appropriate name) is used in ultra-tight quarters. Being a cast that is done in the HORIZONTAL plane, it keeps your line AND your rod low to the water at all times. There is no back cast, and there is minimal room needed vertically. The only time you couldn't use this is if there was a big bush against your upstream shoulder! Now, I should thrown in here that it's also a really easy cast to use anytime you want to redirect your fly from immediately downstream to directly out in front of you, across stream. I use it quite a bit...hence why it was originally dubbed "MP's Steelhead Flip" by Rich Brown.

Some more casting shots. First, a traditional forward cast.
John sees the benefit in learning the Lariat cast. The line has come in front of him and is now sweeping out along the path that he swept forward with his rod tip.
Yup, John has that cast down...it lays out nicely in front of him. Time to put in an upstream mend.
John is at it again!
That's a great buck for John!
A headshot of a nice male steelhead!
One more look at that nice spring buck!
After John called it a day, he was kind enough to let me fish for 15 minutes before we left the river. SWEET! Thanks John!
(Copyright 2005 John McClelland)

Step 1 - So you start the cast at the end of your drift. The line is downstream from where you stand, parallel to the current. Assuming you've followed your drift downstream, your rod will be pointed in that direction, parallel to the water's surface, and your body will be facing across stream, perpendicular to the current. You will notice that I do not mention bringing the arm across your body in any of these steps - in some circumstances you will start with your arm across the front of your body, in others you will end that way.

Step 2 - While holding your line in your line hand, slowly sweep your rod upstream until it is parallel with the current while keeping the rod (and your arm) parallel to the water's surface as well. It is wise to use your arm fully extended and straight in this cast. Remember, you're NOT going vertical here. Should the current be slightly at your back, be sure to stop your sweep before the rod tip passes behind your body...going behind your body will bring the fly line INTO your body (not a good thing ;)

Step 2. - With tension between your rod tip and the line, apply stead casting power as you sweep the rod tip 90 degrees forward, raising the entire rod slightly as you progress through your sweep. The fly line laying on the water will move forward in front of you, following the path of the rod tip.

Step 3. - Gently stop the casting movement as your rod becomes perpendicular with the current. You'll have just swept out a 90 degree arc. You can adjust your targeted landing by stopping sooner or progressing the arc further...as a general rule the fly will land where the rod tip is pointed when the cast is complete. The fly line will continue to move in front of you as the belly of the line creates a closed loop between the tag end of your fly line and your arm.

Step 4. - Continue to hold your rod high and parallel to the water as the cast completes. As a general rule, this cast will result in your flies landing on target with a downstream belly in your line. Generally an upstream mend is required immediately following this cast.

So that sums up the Lariat Cast as best as I can in writing. If all goes well the flies land on target and were never more than a foot or two off the water's surface, and the majority of your fly line never rose past the height of your rod tip. If you screwed it up, you'll either have a tangle from the line collapsing on itself during the cast, or worse, flies embedded in your downstream leg.

Well John MASTERED this cast within the 4 hour span of our guided trip and put it to good use. I tried to keep count of his strikes and well, he ended up going something like 2/10 or so. It's worth noting that ALL our fish came from the same spot...the head of a fast deep run and the tailout and redd immediately proceeding the run. Our success on this outing was entirely focused on the fact that we found the only apparent pod of fish in Colonial Park that day.

When our guide was over, which was pretty much when John had his fill of a great day on the water (and his stomach was suggesting dinner was in order) he welcomed me take a few casts before we left. I personally gave myself 15 minutes to land a fish...it didn't take nearly that long to hook up. A buck had come up to sit on the redd and await the return of a hen. I drifted my egg sucking yarn fly by him and there was a big whoosh of water as the buck cruised forwards and across the stream towards me.

1 one thousand. 2 one thousand. 3 one thousand. Wait a second - SET THE HOOK! I literally waited a full 3 seconds not realizing that I had just witnessed one of the most vicious steelhead takes I've ever seen. Indeed, I reared back on the rod and found I was connected to a mean SOB!

John took his turn at playing guide and netted this buck...even grabbed the camera and got two EXCELLENT shots before we put him back in the water. I FULLY attribute my success on this hookup to the fact that the butt of my fly was looped yarn...I'm sure after he crushed it he would have spit it out, but the "Velcro" action of looped McFlyFoam in the teeth of a steelhead probably saved me from an entirely missed strike.

  MP 

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