A quarterly newsletter from Clear Creek Fly Casting LLC.

Your source for efficient, controlled, effective fly casting

Spring 2019

Welcome to the Spring 2019 newsletter. Hope you enjoy it and learn something new about fly casting and fishing. Here is information about getting ready for the upcoming season, upcoming events and opportunities, and information about line tapers. If you have questions, comments or suggestions for topics for the newsletter, please let me know at
I’m covering some perhaps mundane—yet important—topics in this issue, but I find these are often overlooked. It is far better to fix little problems now rather than have the leader separate from the fly line while you’re fishing, for example. (Don’t ask me how I know that!) Casting is a perishable skill, so it’s a good idea to refresh this also. Some recommendations for practice are given.
2018 was a very busy year with lessons and increased responsibilities with Fly Fishers International. I am working organizing Certified Instructor Exam events and help with education efforts for North America. This includes many group and individual lessons here and elsewhere, as well as helping author the new FFI Fly Casting Skills Challenge. Additionally, I have been working with about 6 Certified Instructor Candidates as they journey toward certification.
I have arrived at three priorities for myself as a professional fly casting instructor. First and foremost, I strive to improve fly casting/fishing skills and knowledge for all of my students (which includes me). Second, I strive to improve fly casting and fishing instruction for all instructors, regardless of credentials.
Third, I strive to mentor new Certified Instructors at both CI and MCI levels. All I do as an instructor is geared toward these three goals.


Contact me for more details about any of these at

Fly Fishing Rendezvous: I will be at the Rendezvous again this year along with other Certified Instructors, Instructor Candidates and the FFI Learning Center on May 4-5 at the National Western Complex. We will have casting demonstrations, some instruction and you can probably try your hand at the FFI Fly Casting Skills Challenge.

Fly Fishers International Fly Casting Skills Challenge: Although I don’t have a date set for an event for this, the Bronze, Silver and Gold levels are great ways to have fun challenging yourself to improve your skill and learn new ones. I’d love to have a group get together and do this. If your club or group of friends wants to try it and set up a workshop or clinic around it, just let me know. To learn more about it, go to Education > Learning Center > Casting > Fly Casting Skills Challenge. You can simply do it on your own, or have a Certified Instructor score it and help you with achieving the challenges. A recognition Certificate and pin are available through FFI.

Casting Instructor Certification Mentoring: Instructor certification from the FFI is an accomplishment that will help you become a better instructor as well as caster. Let me help you understand the expectations of the exam and become a better caster and teacher! I mentor exam candidates and administer exams, so I understand the tests and what it takes to pass. Most importantly, it will help you be the best teacher you can be in all phases of fly fishing.


Are you ready for Spring and the upcoming season?

Even if you’ve been fishing all winter take a little time to check out your gear and improve your casting skills for warmer weather. Your gear will last much longer. Casting is a perishable skill, so getting rusty over the winter is to be expected. (Even Certified Instructors must practice to maintain skills.) This is especially true if you’ve been nymphing all winter and not overhead casting.

  • Is your fly rod OK?
    • Inspect and clean the ferrules, guides, grip and reel seat. Usually wiping it down with a wet cloth and then drying it off are all that are needed. Use cotton tip applicators to clean under the guides where grime tends to collect.
    • o If you frequently carry the rod in a car top carrier, check for wear related to rattling around inside one of those. Earlier versions of these had such a problem, less so now I’ve heard.
  • How is your fly line?
    • Clean it with soap (NOT DETERGENT) and water, rinse it well, and wipe it down. Dirty floating lines don’t cast or float well.
    • Modern fly lines do not require dressing. If you insist on dressing the line, use a dressing that the manufacture recommends. There are some petroleum based line dressings still on the market that are disastrous for today’s fly lines, so be careful. Do not use Armor All, WD 40 or fly floatant. I’ve stopped using line dressings and prefer to simply wipe down the line with a damp cloth about every 3-4 fishing days.
    • Do not store fly lines in the trunk of your car or in the car top carrier. Heat and sunshine cause early line degradation.
    • If there are cracks and rough spots, you may need a new line. If there is a crack and hinge point at the line/leader connection, fix it. The line/leader won’t cast well with this problem. If it’s at the loop at the tip of the line, cut it off and nail knot the butt section of your leader here. If you already have a nail knot connection to the leader but the coating is cracked here, fix that as just described. Clean the line with a soft damp cloth every 3-4 fishing days.
  • Is the reel OK?
    • Clean your reel with water or Windex and dry it thoroughly. Most modern reels do not require lubrication. If you use any lubricant, be very sparing as excess tends to pick up dirt which causes extra wear.
    • Make sure the reel attaches securely to the reel seat on the rod. I’ve seen reels that have been dropped no longer hold fast to the rod due to bent reel feet.
  • Is your vest or pack ready to go?
    • The time is now to reorganize fly boxes.
    • Do you need a new hemostat or nipper?
    • If you use a net, is it in good shape, and is it a fish friendly rubber one?
    • Don’t forget to save room for sunscreen, lip balm, water, and snacks.
    • Are your polarized glasses still good with reasonably scratch free lenses?
    • I’m not a believer in changing out leaders/tippet every year as some recommend. I’ve not seen a problem with deterioration unless it’s stored on the dashboard of a vehicle!
  • Are your waders and boots still OK?
    • Turn waders inside out for a day or two to let them air out.
    • Check the tread/studs or felt on your boots.
    • Do you need new socks? Long underwear? Rain jacket?

With regard to casting, get out and practice! Having a 100 ft. tape and targets is best, but you can use the fly rod to measure distance and tennis balls for targets. 3.5 rod lengths from your foot is about 40 ft. if you have a 9 ft. rod. Some people like to mark the fly line at various distances with a waterproof marker. Bronze level FFI Fly Casting Skills Challenge is a great menu of casts to start with.

  • Overall, work on forming better loops back and front as you work on the 4 things below.
    • Strive for loops <4 ft. top to bottom leg with a relatively straight top leg. This requires a casting stroke with smooth acceleration through a right size casting arc coming to an abrupt stop.
    • Casting arc is the angular distance the rod butt moves and is the major determinant of loop size: wide arc, wide loop; narrow arc, narrow loop. If the loop is too wide, make the casting arc narrower.
  • Pick up and lay down cast: First at 20 ft. (foot to fly) and increase 2 ft. at a time up to about 40 ft. with loops <4ft.
    • Hint: arc size must be smaller for shorter bits of line.
    • When you can pick up at any distance between 20-40 ft. and lay it down in the same place with a 4 ft. or less loop, you learned some loop control and accuracy.
    • Minimize false casting. None is best.
  • Roll cast: Starting at 20 and work out to 40 ft.
    • This is best done on water.
    • Strive to make a 4 ft. loop roll cast with as little effort and compact a stroke as possible.
    • Learn to roll cast on dominant and non-dominant side (left side for a right handed caster)
  • Accuracy: Put targets out at 20, 30 and 40 ft.
    • Aim the loop at the target and let the loop take the fly in. Minimize false casting.
    • Learn to estimate distance by stripping in or feeding line while false casting.
    • Then, put the targets at random locations which better imitates fishing.
  • Shoot line for distance: This requires good loop formation to pull the line past the rod tip.
    • Minimize your false casts to one or none when shooting.
    • A caster that can form good loops at 40 ft. should have no problem shooting line to 52 ft. with only one false cast!

Have questions or want some help? Contact me at


In this case it was a conversation with an interested student about line taper that went something like this:

Why do fly lines taper?

This is a great question that applies to fly lines and leaders alike! Fly line taper manages how the energy of the cast is transmitted and dissipated. To say the fly line transmits the energy of the cast is true but incomplete. The fly line is the weight one is casting. (Let’s hold off on discussing heavy streamers, etc. for now.) It is essentially a projectile. Like any projectile it loses energy to friction over distance. The energy is finally dissipated and the line falls. But fly line design allows for a change in mass of the projectile over its length. As the top leg of the loop is headed to its target it is getting shorter and losing mass. (Unless one is shooting line, the bottom leg of the loop is not moving.) If the top leg also becomes narrower--or tapers--as it shortens, there is much less mass. Less mass causes the top leg to accelerate. This acceleration causes an increase in air resistance (friction) by a factor of 3-5, and with this there is dissipation of energy. Hopefully, all the energy runs out at the right time, namely, when the final bit of leader turns over. This is how we can energize a cast and yet get a delicate delivery. A demonstration of how to feel undiminished energy of the cast is to take the leader off your line and cast it. The tug or kick you feel the moment the line straightens is that undiminished energy. A demonstration of not having enough energy to complete layout would be lengthening the taper of your leader to failure. Both should tell you that the leader also plays a role in reducing the energy of the cast. Fly line (and leader) taper manages how the energy of the cast is transmitted and dissipated.

But why are there so many different fly lines and shapes (tapers) on the market?

The short answer is specialty applications such as dry fly v. streamer v. nymph and so on. Fly line taper manages how the energy of the cast is transmitted and dissipated. Manipulating fly line taper will determine how fast or slow the energy is dissipated. Regarding heavily weighted flies, if we use the same tapering line and leader noted above these are difficult to cast and control. The energy of the cast gets dissipated before the cast is completed, and the leader and heavy fly may not turn over (straighten). Often casting such a rig feels like having a baseball attached to a string! When the fly does turn over and line straighten, there is a pronounced tug that the caster feels. Therefore, most lines for heavy or large flies have a larger diameter tip (mass) or mass pushed toward the tip. Preservation of mass nearer the tip of the line means less acceleration, leading to less air resistance (friction) and preservation of energy, making it easier to control the weighted fly.

To sum up, the weight one casts with a fly rod is primarily the line. The mass of the line and its speed determine the total energy in the top leg of the loop. As the top leg travels to the target it accelerates due to shortening of the line and reduced mass dictated by the taper. This acceleration causes increased friction and diminished energy in the cast, resulting in a gentle delivery assuming an appropriately tapered leader. In the case of a fly line with mass pushed toward the tip, such as many modern streamer lines, mass is mostly diminished by the top leg shortening, and therefore acceleration is delayed, which in turn delays loss of energy so that the line straightens even with a heavy fly on the end of the leader. Fly line (and leader) taper manages how the energy of the cast is transmitted and dissipated. Manipulating fly line (and leader) taper will determine how fast or slow the energy is dissipated.

If I buy a streamer line because that’s mostly what I fish, could I still fish dry flies with it?

The answer is yes as long as it’s a floating line, but you may not like doing so. Remember: Fly line (and leader) taper manages how the energy of the cast is transmitted and dissipated. Manipulating fly line (and leader) taper will determine how fast or slow the energy is dissipated. The operative words here are “and leader”. One could change or alter the leader at the end of a streamer line such that there is a long, slow taper to whatever tippet size is appropriate for the dry fly. Let’s say the fly is size 18, so 6X tippet is appropriate. Change to a 9 or 12 ft., 4 or 5X leader and add about 2-3 ft. of 6X. Start there and adjust as needed. The leader is now acting to manage (in this case diminish) energy to obtain a gentler delivery of the dry fly. I say one may not like doing so because this is essentially a band-aid. It will do in a pinch; thankfully the fish don’t care. The original question is the reason multi-purpose lines are the most popular sellers on the market!