A quarterly newsletter from Clear Creek Fly Casting LLC.

Your source for efficient, controlled, effective fly casting

Summer 2017

Hello everyone! Run off is starting and the snow is still falling in the mountains. I wonder how it will shake out?! There are plenty of opportunities still in our tail waters as well as warm water species. Now is the time to tune up your casting for the upcoming dry fly season. Go out and practice casting, send me some questions about your challenges and maybe even schedule a lesson! We’re so fortunate in Colorado with our fishing resources!

Speaking of resources, I hope this edition of the newsletter is helpful for you! I’ll be covering the secret to good fly casting as well as some items about catch and release. The secret to good fly casting is something to which I have an entire lesson plan dedicated. Consider that for your fishing group! Catch and release is a practice I’ve been asked about and recently been researching with regard to how to do it best.

Finally and unfortunately, the Questions and Suggestion Box section of this newsletter has been a dud! I’m going to give it 2 more newsletters before I remove it, but sweeten the pot for you a bit. From now on, if you submit a question or suggestion, I’ll give you $5 of lesson time. These are cumulative: if you submit 3 questions or suggestions, you have $15 of lesson time. That would bring the cost of a one hour lesson down to $35! You can use them for yourself or give them to some one that you think needs it. (Be diplomatic!)


Casting Clinic at Anglers All: 6/10 from 10 am-12:30 pm: : Distance and Double Haul. There is still room in this clinic. $50 gets you focused instruction, casting practice drills, more distance and control. Improving your distance cast improves all of your casting! Sign up by calling Anglers All at 303-794-1104.

Casting Clinics at Charlie’s Fly Box; 1:30-3:30 pm on 6/10, 7/15, 8/12: :2 hours of casting instruction for $50. A great value! Come to learn about the topic of the day or bring your own questions/problems and get answers! Sign up by calling Charlie’s at 303-403-8880.

Create your own event: : Put together a presentation or clinic for your group! It can be a fishing group or a group of interested people that don’t fish yet! I can help you tailor instruction to your group’s needs. Contact


The Questions and Suggestion Box section of this newsletter has been a dud! I’m going to give it 2 more newsletters before I remove it, but sweeten the pot for you a bit. From now on, if you submit a question or suggestion, I’ll give you $5 of lesson time. These are cumulative: if you submit 3 questions or suggestions, you have $15 of lesson time. That would bring the cost of a one hour lesson down to $35! You can use them for yourself or give them to someone that you think needs it. (Be diplomatic!).
Send your questions or suggestions to



So, we all look for the secret to things: some idea or concept or physical thing that will unlock the mystery of what you are trying to perform or achieve. The industry has made great strides in making quality gear that is about as user friendly as one can get, and that is to their credit, but gear isn’t the secret. Some of you know that I like to carve wood. I wouldn’t be able to do it well if I didn’t understand how the gouge or chisel interacts with the wood and its grain in order to achieve a crisp, clean result. Part of that is sharpening, the rest is understanding how to manipulate the tool.

What does wood carving have to do with fly casting? Conceptually, everything! I don’t care how much money you spend or don’t spend on gear, you will not be a good caster who can adapt to different situations if you don’t understand the relationship between caster, rod, line and the resulting loop. The secret to good fly casting is loop formation. Once one can see the loops and knows how to form good loops, another world opens up: that of loop control. I have a lesson plan for a 3-4 hour clinic on this very topic!

  • Use sidearm casting with a fixed amount of line: Get the rod horizontal and look at the back cast and forward cast loops. Make sure you can see them. Purchase a brightly colored fly line for practice if necessary. The back and forward casts should be nearly identical.
  • Define and understand what a good loop is: A good casting loop is 2-4 ft. top to bottom leg with a relatively straight top leg. This is good loop formation. When you see this as a result of your cast, you are doing it correctly. This is what you are aiming for when you practice!
  • Understand how to get good loop formation: obtain a straight line path of the tip by smooth acceleration through an appropriately sized casting arc to an abrupt stop.
    • The top leg of the loop reflects rod tip path of the casting stroke that created it.
    • If acceleration is not smooth, there will be a dip in tip path, and therefore a dip in the top leg of the loop (tailing loop) and usually a knot results.
    • If the casting arc is too wide for the amount of line you are casting, an arching or doming tip path will result. The top leg of the loop will be arching also, and a wide loop will result. If the casting arc is too narrow one again gets a dipping tip path and a tailing loop results.
    • o If the stops are not abrupt, the top leg might be straight, but wider loops again result as the rod tip pulls the bottom leg down after the line overtakes the rod tip at the end of the stroke.
  • Experimenting with the three variables of smooth acceleration, casting arc, and abrupt stops when you practice will help you understand this, as long as you observe the results in your loop. I haven’t found that casting over and over trying to get the “feel” of it is very helpful for people. The visual cues you get from the loop are critical in my opinion. For example, put a spike in power in your cast and watch what happens to the loop, or use a really wide arc, etc. Then, in turn, smooth out the power and narrow the arc and observe the results!
  • Once you feel confident with good loop formation that you can see, close your eyes while false casting and get the feel. Then you won’t feel you have to watch your loops all the time. Pretty soon, you’ll start to notice the mistakes by feel before you even see them in the loop!
  • Now you are ready for loop control which means casting a wide loop (4+ feet) when desired, and narrower loops when those are needed. This is primarily mediated by arc size with contribution from the abruptness of the stop. Also, one still needs to control loops when casting longer (and shorter) bits of line. With a bit more line, one needs a wider arc, a bit more force and possibly some linear movement of the hand and arm in addition to angle change. How much of each of these to add you will discover and modify by watching your loops! Keep the goal of loops that are 2-4 feet top to bottom leg with a straight top leg.


Can I go fishing now?

Yes, I really did get this question from a student recently! At the end of the lesson, he asked, somewhat reluctantly, if he was good enough to go fishing. My answer was a resounding yes! Many people fly fish that have never taken any lessons about anything to do with fly fishing---they just go do it. Although that’s not what I recommend, there is a certain attraction to that freedom that I understand. After encouraging the student to go fishing, I told him to call or e-mail me with any questions or schedule another lesson to correct problems and deal with frustrations of the beginner. I’m happy to share knowledge about any aspect of fly fishing I can. There is no better teacher than experience---as long as one pays attention to cause, effect, and questions causes unknown.

Once I hook the fish, how do I land and release it?

I get this question at least once every year! It’s really about catch and release. In the last 2 months I’ve been studying whatever scientific data I can find on this. Here is a summary of data, expert opinion and recommendations I have found. Also, I highly recommend looking at the superb website

I don’t have a problem with people legally harvesting fish, but let’s perform catch and release techniques as well as we can when we want to preserve the resource. My “confession” is that I’ve unintentionally done everything that causes increased mortality of trout. Those days are over. There are pictures on my website that need to be scrubbed since the very presence implies approval. Fair warning: if you are not a catch and release fly fisher or feel that “grip and grin” out-of-water photographs are more important than fish survival, stop reading now.

  • Use barbless hooks or crimp the barbs. As long as no slack is allowed in the line, landing rates are minimally affected. The data about improved survival with barbless hooks is mixed, but they are easier to remove from both fish and fishers!
  • Use the heaviest tackle/tippet material you can. Catching and landing a fish on skinny tippet seems a huge accomplishment until one considers the higher likelihood of death due to a longer fight and exhaustion.
  • Play the fish quickly by keeping the line taut, applying sideways pressure, and using the strongest part of the rod, which is the butt. Fish don’t swim well side to side and sideways pressure throws them off. Keeping the rod at about a 45-90 degree angle relative to the line helps employ the rod butt.
  • Do not play the fish to exhaustion. If one is dragging in a motionless or lethargic fish, you have probably exhausted it and killed it. It may still swim away, but research tells us that these fish most often die (irreversible lactic acidosis) or are easy prey. Better that you should “horse it in” and risk pulling out the hook or breaking it off than exhaust it. One is also more likely to need to hold (touch) an exhausted fish until it swims away, and touching it increases mortality.
  • Get over looking at a fish “getting away” as failure! If you hooked the fish, you fooled it into eating your fly. You caught it. You didn’t land it, but why did you need to do that if you were going to release it anyway? It’s better for the fish that you didn’t have to keep exercising it.
  • Avoid touching the fish and/or taking it out of the water.
    • If no net, try the following (assumes a right handed caster): Retrieve line so that about 2-3 ft. + rod length of line/leader (11-12 ft. for a 9 ft. rod) is past the rod tip. Put the rod in your left hand with the pinky (fifth) finger straight. Raise the rod gently, pulling the fish toward you, and place the tippet behind a slightly bent left pinky finger. The rod tip will be slightly bent and will function as a shock absorber. Get your release tool or hemostat and unhook the fish in the water without touching it with hands or fingers. If the fish swims away, let it go. If it goes belly up, try to gently hold the area just in front of the tail (the “wrist”) with your hand and place it upright into the current until it swims away on its own. Moving the fish back and forth in the water does not help the fish and may be harmful according to data I have seen.
    • If you use a net, make sure it’s rubberized or at least knotless. Keep the fish in the water in the net. Hoisting the fish out of the water for all to see is great for our egos, but terrible for the fish! Place the rod under your arm, get your hemostat or release tool, unhook the fish and let it go without touching it with your hands.
  • If you touch the fish, get your hands wet first. Cradle fish, do not grip or squeeze them! Do not place the fish on any dry surface. Dry hands remove more of the fish’s mucous coat which is part of its immune system. Dry surfaces include streamside rocks, even if you wet them first, as well as streamside grass. Also, due to that coat of mucous fish are slippery and therefore we are more likely to squeeze them to keep control. This can damage internal organs and kill them. If you lift a fish out of the water and its weight causes an indentation in the abdomen, this is probably the same as squeezing it.
  • If you want a photograph, the fish should remain in the water, untouched, while the camera is being prepared. If no net, this means leaving the fish hooked in the water; with a net, keep the fish in the water in the net. When taking the photo, lift it only inches above the water’s surface for only 5 seconds or less. Better yet, take the photo with the fish partially in the water, which helps support the fish’s belly. Photography is usually best done by a person other than the angler.
  • The information I have found tells us that:
    • Even when done appropriately, catch and release mortality rate is 5-10%;
    • Just because it swims away doesn’t mean it will survive;
    • Taking fish out of the water for any period of time reduces survival rate; at 30 seconds, survival drops to about 60%;
    • Touching fish, squeezing fish (even allowing the fish to drape over your hand indenting the abdomen) or placing fish on a dry surface lowers survival rate;
    • Fish flopping around in shallow water striking rocks (or in the bottom of a boat) can cause significant internal injury, including fatal brain trauma;
    • Most agree if the hook is deep and you can’t easily remove it, it’s better for the fish to cut the tippet as close to the fly as possible and release it with the hook in place. You are not a surgeon and there is no recovery room!

Looking for past newsletters? Here you go: