A quarterly newsletter from Clear Creek Fly Casting LLC.

Your source for efficient, controlled, effective fly casting

Winter 2019

Welcome to the Winter 2019 newsletter. Hope you enjoy it, and if there are questions, comments or suggestions for topics for the newsletter, please let me know at to get started.

Salt water fishing makes you a better overall angler. This edition is dedicated to some skills I think are important for anyone going in some order of priority. There is so much, the entire newsletter is so dedicated. I recently returned from a nearly annual trip to Mexico with a group of friends for salt water flats fishing. Every time I learn something new and re-learn a few things also. Beginners will appreciate this, but I hope it will also be food for thought for the more experienced—what are your “most important salt water skills?” I’d love to hear about them!

The myth of the single lesson: “I just want a tune up.” I hear this frequently and I’m happy to do it! Yet, I have a number of people take lessons who could have accomplished so much more given a bit more time together and individual practice. I have a package of three one hour lessons for $150, and 6 lessons for $300 representing a 15+% savings! How much money do you spend on gear that does not improve your skills of casting and fly presentation?! An investment in lessons is an investment in yourself as an angler. I teach casting for fishing, not for casting’s sake. A single lesson, although probably better than none, only begins to break bad habits and learn new, good ones. You can book directly through my website at


Contact me for more details about any of these at

Create your own event: I love teaching groups! 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.

Lecture/Discussion Presentations: I have found these can be extremely helpful for groups. I have multiple topics available and even simply one entitled “Casting Q and A”. These are done at no charge usually. See the website for more details.

30 with 3 lesson packages: I am now offering 3 one hour lesson packages for $150---a $30 savings. This will make a great gift for someone, including yourself! Times and location will be scheduled individually.

Fly Casting Fundamentals Class: Six one hour lessons comprise this class designed to help the caster achieve at least Bronze level fly casting skills as outlined in the FFI Fly Casting Skills Challenge. This can be done on an individual basis or in a small group. The price is $300, the same as for 5 lessons, which is a $60 savings. Great for beginners, novices or those just trying to improve their skills!

Video Casting Analysis: If a picture is worth 1000 words, a video is worth far more. You will see things you had no idea were occurring with your casting motion and learn how to correct them. Define and rid yourself of bad habits! Clients will be given practice methods to improve their cast. The minimum time needed for this is 90 minutes and the cost is $80.

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.

Clear Creek Fly Casting


Seven Salt Water Fishing Skills

Here are seven important skills with some priority. It’s no exhaustive list, but I tried to choose a manageable number for the reader, especially beginners. These are skills acquired by learning and practice over time. Some can be done before the trip, some must be learned during the trip. Lessons from a certified instructor can steepen your learning curve, and expert guides are really helpful.

  1. The most important salt water skill is seeing fish or signs of fish. I think of “seeing, scanning, shapes, shadows and shimmies.” Most guides I have asked estimate it took them 2 months of daily on-water time to get to their skill level. Fortunately, if you’re good at seeing fresh water fish the skill will transfer. Here are some things that will steepen the learning curve.
    • Seeing: You must have a quality pair of polarized glasses. Guides seem to favor amber or copper tones. I can attest to there being a difference in quality of polarization. You will do better if you spend the money on a quality pair of polarized glasses. Also, relax! The more anxious you are about this whole thing, the less you will see!
    • Scanning: Systematically scan the water around you. Divide it up by clock face, pieces of pie, or whatever, but always be looking. Next, don’t waste time on water where you can’t see fish. Looking 100 ft. off is impossible for most; concentrate on the water under your nose out to about 60 ft. Don’t forget to look behind you.
    • Shapes: this one is easy. You see the fish, multiple or single. Harder is looking for parts of fish—a tail, a fin, something that might be a fish or part of a fish. Stare at it using a stationary point of reference. If it’s moving, it’s alive! Sometimes the shape is out of the water, as in the tails of “tailing” bonefish. Ask the guide. As you stare at the fish, you will notice a color to it. I’ve heard it described as a number of shades, mostly gray-green, but you can decide what color you want to call it. One of the best ways to improve this skill is to track a released fish as it swims away for as long as you can.
    • Shadows: As in fresh water fishing, seeing the shadow cast by a fish you can’t otherwise see is a give-away. Track the shadow and you will see the fish.
    • Shimmies: This word fits with my alliteration and refers to movement in the broadest sense. The first of these is “nervous water” which looks like multiple waves or wakes headed in a particular direction. Once you see it you won’t forget. Fresh water fisherman have seen a wake headed to their fly; imagine several of those grouped together. The next is when you see movement but not the fish. If you concentrate on that area, the fish will appear. Sometimes the movement you see is a flash underwater; this is like seeing a rising trout and demands immediate attention.
  1. The second most important salt water skill, and one you must practice before you go on your trip, is efficient, accurate casting. You should start practicing (or call me for lessons) at least 60 days before departure. The more you practice before your trip the better and the less likely you are to get “mayonnaise brain” (mayobrain). Mayobrain is the common phenomenon of seeing a fish or being told to cast to a fish and suddenly your brain is mayonnaise. You start flailing instead of casting. If/when it happens, I have found laughter to be the most effective cure. Notice I wrote efficient, accurate casting, not just casting. Here’s what I mean:
    • Casting: You should be able to pick up and lay down or false cast 40 ft. (foot to fly) with ease and good loops. Good loops means 3-4 ft. top to bottom leg with a relatively straight top leg on forward and back casts. Learn from here how to shoot to 50+ft. without double haul on forward and back cast with only one false cast. Limit your false casting as it wastes time, spooks fish and wears you out. Every false cast is another opportunity to screw up! Learn double haul, not so much for distance, but for increasing line speed to cast in the wind. Much is made of casting for distance in salt water fishing. However, my experience fishing and speaking with guides about this tells me the zone is 30-60 ft. I know a guide who shudders when he has good distance casters on his boat because even when he tells them to cast short, they always cast too long. Good casters can get up to 60 ft. with no double haul; adding the haul simply increase line speed to help with wind.
Clear Creek Fly Casting
    • Efficient: As noted above but worth repeating is limit your false casts! Mostly they provide us a false sense of security and lead to mistakes. Being able to cast to 60 ft. with only one or two false casts is an important skill. Know your limits in terms of how much line you can pick up off the water and cast. Trying to pick up more is a recipe for failure. If you need to, mark your line so that you can strip in to this length before casting. Learn some form of salt water quick cast or speed cast. A lot of time is spent standing on the casting deck, fly in hand, 60+ft. of line stripped off the reel laying on the deck with 1-2 rod lengths of line/leader past the rod tip. Suddenly the guide says: “bonefish, 2 o’clock, 50 ft.” Your job is to find and cast to the target in the least amount of time possible without spooking the fish. (My heart is thumping just typing this—is yours?) This skill must be practiced before you go! Take a lesson! Finally, learn to cast off the opposite shoulder (rod tip and line over the left shoulder for a right handed person) and make a back cast delivery. Both of these are invaluable in the wind.
    • Accurate: Every salt water guide asked has told me accuracy is far, far more important than distance. Practice being accurate to a visible target, then to an invisible one. If you don’t understand how, contact me for a lesson. Here’s a hint: it starts with good loop formation no matter the amount of line past the rod tip. A visible target can be any old thing, even a leaf on the ground, soccer cones, or I know a fellow MCI who simply tosses tennis balls out randomly. The invisible targets are harder. Fish can be hard to see, and the guides are there to spot them for you. But many times you aren’t casting to a visible fish, just at “45 ft., 11 o’clock.” Practice this by getting a 100 ft. tape and anchor the end to the ground. Decide where 12 o’clock is and then cast to 45 ft., 11 o’clock. Measure it and see how you did. Once you’ve got that dialed in, pick other distances and directions. Doing this with a casting partner saves time.
  1. The third most important salt water skill is communicating with your guide. In foreign lands, learning a few words and phrases goes a long way. Think numbers, directions (right/left), water, please, thanks, good morning, slow, fast, longer, shorter, time to eat, time to urinate, etc. Many guides know English, but may not be fluent. They appreciate someone making this effort. Regardless of language skills, take some time to understand how they use the clock face (some guides call 9 and 3 o’clock from the center of the boat, so those locations are behind you), what “40 ft.” means to them (they are often converting from meters), and so forth. It’s helpful to tell them it’s your first time salt water fishing. Finally, have fun with them. Relax and laugh at mistakes. I told a guide on my recent trip that if someone catches a permit with a lump on its head, it was from me hitting it with a lead eye crab pattern. (I don’t recommend this technique, but I do recommend laughing about it!) Ask about families, how long they’ve been guiding, etc. Keep in mind, however, some guides find conversation while looking for fish distracting, so socializing may be confined to lunch, etc.
Clear Creek Fly Casting
  1. The fourth most important salt water skill is staying healthy and relaxed. Sounds obvious, right? However, I’m guilty of having one too many drinks the night before, not drinking enough water during the day, allowing the top of my feet to get sunburned (miserable!), and just plain taking myself too darned seriously! (The best line I’ve heard came from an Alabama angler who said: “I always have fun, sometimes I even catch fish!”) Cover up, apply and re-apply sunscreen/insect repellant, drink plenty of fluids (non-alcoholic), avoid sharp, pointy things, keep your knees slightly bent when balancing on the casting platform, smile and remember you could be working or cleaning the gutters or some such. Over time, you will come up with a routine that works well for you, as I have.
  1. The fifth most important salt water skill is hooking, playing and landing fish; which is three skills, but they flow together so seamlessly it is combined into one. First, use barbless hooks or crush down the barbs. Fish survival rates are shown to be much higher. Make sure the hook is sharp. If the point doesn’t catch on your thumbnail, it’s dull. The hook set is critical. Raising the rod tip to set the hook, or the “trout set”, fails 90+% of the time. One must use a strip strike, meaning keep the rod still and pull back on the line. One can move the rod once the weight of the fish is felt. Then, allow the fish to take the line stripped in. This often gets fish on the reel and pulling against the reel’s drag. However, sometimes the fish comes at you or goes side to side requiring that you strip line in. Do whatever it takes to keep the line taught and the hook set. Also, keep the rod at about a 45 degree angle, so that the powerful butt of the rod is fighting the fish, not the tip. If the fish goes right, you put pressure left and vice-versa. When landing the fish, try to keep the line/leader connection out of the rod tip. Sweep the rod toward you or the guide and grab the leader. Once the leader is controlled release pressure on the rod. Not releasing this pressure can put undue pressure on the rod tip and cause it to break. If the fish gets away at this point, all the better. I’m a big proponent of handling as few fish as possible. If they don’t get away, quickly remove the hook and release them gently. If photos are to be taken, have the camera ready before the fish is out of the water.
Clear Creek Fly Casting
  1. The sixth most important skill is fly selection. It seems to me that salt water flats and lagoon fishing is dominated by patterns for shrimp, crabs, and baitfish. Have various sizes, colors and weights of each. The folks at the destination often will give you a general list of what to bring. Look to the guide for advice while fishing. If something is working, there is often little reason to change it. I have noticed when something isn’t working, guides often recommend something darker, smaller, and/or lighter.
  2. The seventh most important salt water skill is tying knots. The guide can do these for you, but I like to tie my own. There are many great knots out there, and no matter what I write, I will raise some eyebrows. You will find what works best for you. Regardless of what knot you use, be sure to lubricate it (spit) before tightening it and make sure it’s seated properly. I like to seat knots on larger flies by hooking it to the finger loop of my hemostat and giving it a steady pull. I suspect many knots come undone due to not being seated properly. Here’s a general list. Learn a knot to attach 2 similar size pieces of monofilament together, like when you are attaching tippet (blood or surgeon’s). Learn a knot to tie 2 dissimilar size pieces of monofilament together, as for a bite tippet (Albright, surgeon’s or back-to-back nail knot). Learn to tie a loop knot to attach your fly (non-slip mono loop). The most important and easiest of all of these knots in my opinion are the non-slip mono loop and a surgeon’s.

There are plenty of other things to learn about salt water fly fishing. That’s the beauty of all of fly fishing, there is always some new opinion, idea or skill to investigate. This list could be much longer, and some might make it shorter. Whatever you think, you can make it yours! Happy fishing till next time!!