A quarterly newsletter from Clear Creek Fly Casting LLC.

Your source for efficient, controlled, effective fly casting

Summer 2019

Wow, how the summer has flown by just like the high run off we’ve experienced! Competing interests with casting lessons and volunteer administrative work with Fly Fishers International have kept me from tapping the keyboard to put out a newsletter. Now, there is a small window in my travel plans such that I can communicate with my readers. I hope you have all had some good fishing so far and are looking forward to more as the water drops. With any luck I’ll be wetting a line soon. Remember to send me your questions, either ones that arise from stuff I’ve written or others to which you want answers. This newsletter is for you! I promise that if you send me questions I will answer them as quickly as possible—you won’t have to wait for the next newsletter. However, don’t be surprised if you see your (anonymously) questions and answers in upcoming newsletters.
As always, remember that I love teaching individuals and groups. Contact me with questions or schedule a lesson through my website.
Tight Loops,
Jonathan Walter
FFI Certified Master Casting Instructor


Contact me for more details about any of these at

8/15/19, 6 pm: “How to Successfully Cast Every Fly in Your Box”; presentation to Colorado Mountain Club Fly Fishing Section, Wrigley’s Bar and Grill, Golden, CO

8/20/19: 5-6 pm, Cutthroat TU Chapter meeting, presentation of “How to Improve Your Casting”, Reynolds Landing Park, Littleton, CO

8/24/19, 11 am-2 pm: Distance and Double Haul Clinic: sign up through Anglers All at 303-794-1104. The cost is $100 for 3 hours of instruction, class size is limited.

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.


Fishing & Casting the Dry-Dropper

This rig, often called the Hopper-Dropper, is a great approach but can be frustrating for fly fishers. It consists of a dry fly trailed by a “dropper” which means a subsurface fly, often a nymph. The advantage is you are fishing two levels of the water column and therefore imitating two types of insect behavior at the same time. The dry fly serves as an “edible” strike indicator. The downside is that you are fishing 2 flies at the same time and tangles may occur. What follows is a discussion of how I commonly rig and cast these.

  • When to use a Dry-Dropper:
    • As a searching technique: this is a great way to search for fish and find out what the fish want and where they want it. You are fishing the surface and subsurface at the same time. Changing flies frequently in this mode can help you understand what flies work best. Of course, always pay attention to insect activity you can observe and try to imitate those species. Remember that you may need to lengthen the dropper to get the fly down deeper. In small streams and shallow water, I’ve fished dropper tippets as short as 6”.
    • In an emergence or hatch situation: countless times I have encountered fish that appear to be rising but won’t touch my surface offering. Trailing an emerger pattern, such as a Barr’s emerger or caddis pupa behind the dry can make all the difference. The dry now acts as a strike indicator. Remember to experiment with the length of the dropper tippet as it may need to be longer or shorter than you think.
    • When you want to fish 2 dry flies: Yeah, I know, it really doesn’t fit the definition of a Dry-Dropper, but it’s really close. I’ll use this technique when one of the dry flies is hard to see. The larger fly serves as an attractor and strike indicator. (I’ll also use this when I want to offer two different “match the hatch” patterns to find out which is best.)Try to use the larger dry to find the smaller fly. After a short period your eyes may adjust and you’ll be able to see the smaller fly obviating the need for the large fly. However, sometimes in a match the hatch situation we get surprised and fish start eating the large attractor! Go figure!
  • How to rig a Dry-Dropper:
    • Attach the upper dry fly with appropriate size tippet (use the Rule of Three: fly size divided by 3) of what you think is appropriate length. This length is never less than 24” for a dry fly in my opinion. Then tie appropriate size tippet onto the bend of the hook of the dry fly (only for barbed and de-barbed hooks) of about 16” length to start. If the hook is a manufactured barbless hook, then you will have to tie into the eye of the dry fly hook or use the old school wet fly dropper set up. (Ask me if you don’t know this one.) Tie your chosen subsurface fly on the other end of the tippet. Go fishing, but read the casting section below first.
  • Favorite Dry-Dropper combinations:
    • Parachute Adams and RS-2 or Barr’s emerger, with or without
    • Elk Hair Caddis and any caddis pupa imitation, with or without bead
    • Any Hopper pattern and any Nymph (bead head Prince is an old standby for me)
    • Double dry: a dry fly you can see and have confidence in, and then the tiny one you can’t see.
    • Experiment, the possibilities are endless!
  • Casting the Dry-Dropper:
    • Start every cast with no slack. A straight line cannot tangle.
    • Make your back cast with a smooth accelerating pull to a stop and pause for the line to almost completely straighten. Aim for casting loops that are about 4 ft. top to bottom leg front and back.
    • Make your forward cast to your target with the same smooth accelerating pull to a stop opposite the back cast. Do not rush the forward cast.
    • Minimize false casting. Every false cast wears you out, spooks fish and is an opportunity for a tangle.
    • If no back cast room, do a roll cast forming a loop about 4-5 feet from top to bottom leg. If the loop is larger than this, the leader may pile and tangle.
    • Avoid really tight loops (2 ft. or less). You’re just asking for trouble.
    • Avoid really wide loops (>4 ft.). The leader is more likely to pile and tangle. The standard nymph lob cast will get you in trouble eventually.
    • If your dropper is really heavy and on a long tippet, you may need to roll cast it up to the surface first before picking up into the back cast.

Hope that helps! Dry-dropper fishing is one of my favorite ways to fish, hope you find it successful, too! Remember to contact me with any questions.


What does rod action mean?

I hope this helps you understand this complex topic as it applies to you!

What does the term “rod action” mean? Technically, it is how fast a rod straightens. In a general sense, it means how the rod behaves when casting a weighted fly line. It is not a power rating. Most of us get a sense for this by casting a rod and deciding if we like the way it “feels”. One doesn’t need a label for that---it’s personal preference. Therefore the best rod for you is the one you like the best and is suited to the fishing you do.

Let’s consider two 5 wt. rods, each at extremes of rod action. One is fast action (Broomstick) and one slow action (Buggy Whip). There are identical lines, leaders and yarn flies on each and we assume casting the same length of line. As one casts the Buggy Whip, one feels the deep bend in the rod as a lagging response to hand movement and power applied---that “slow” or “soft” feel. When brought to an abrupt stop, the rod straightens somewhat slowly and adds a little extra line speed. It might also counter flex (bend in the opposite direction) more.

With the Broomstick, one may feel only a slight “give” in the rod as just the tip bends, or perhaps not feel anything at all in response to hand motion and power applied. When brought to an abrupt stop, the rod straightens quickly, adding to line speed a bit more than the slow action rod. Fast action rods have little counter flex.

After reading this, you might think neither one seems ideal. Indeed, medium and medium fast action rods are popular and are somewhere between the two extremes. Most fly rods on the market are designed to be felt (feel bend and straighten) but still develop decent line speed for the amount of power applied. Again, you have to cast the rod to find out where on the spectrum it is, and whether or not you like it. There are many rod actions available to meet different personal preferences and purposes. Think about how you are going to use the rod before purchasing it.

So, that gets us to advantages and disadvantages. The advantages of a slow action rod are: it allows for, and often demands, a slow, smooth relaxed casting stroke and are great for slow, delicate presentations. They excel at shorter distances. The disadvantages are they are more demanding of casting and loop formation skill and do not generate as high a line speed for a given amount of power applied. Many dry fly guys and gals like slow to medium fast action rods. Switching from dry fly rig to a weighted streamer or nymph rig can be a problem, as can windy situations.

The advantages of a fast action rod are the development of higher line speeds for a given amount of power applied and often ease of casting longer lengths of line. They are better suited to casters with an aggressive stroke. Many like the way they handle weighted flies and wind. The disadvantages are less feeling to the cast and trouble casting at short distances. Many streamer and salt water anglers like faster action rods for moving a lot of mass around and casting long distances. Unfortunately, some also like faster action rods because they hide (unbeknownst to them) casting errors.