You find yourself on the bow of a flats skiff in the tropics. You have planned for this trip for months. You’ve been practicing your cast and are set up with all the right equipment from your rod down to your fly. After an hour on the boat’s deck, you’re guide excitedly announces, “Permit… 10 o’clock, 60 feet.” Having yet to spot the fish yourself, you gaze off into the 10 o’clock direction unsure how far way to look. You finally spot the fish but it quickly darts out of casting range. With permit shots few and far between. You may have just missed you’re best opportunity of the day because you aren’t used to gauging distances.
Knowing distances and gauging how much line you have off the reel are important tools that many fly anglers overlook. To help with these issues, I mark my fly lines at 10 ft. intervals using a permanent marker. The method I use incorporates short and long dashes where a short dash equals 10 feet and a long dash equals 50 feet. For example a long dash followed by two short dashes equals 70 feet (see above picture). When marking my line, I included the length of a 10 ft. leader; therefore, 3 short marks on the fly line is a distance of 10 ft. of leader plus 20 ft. of fly line.
In my experience guides measure distance from the rod tip to the fish while it is standard in distance casting to measure from your feet to the fly. The discrepancy between the two measurements is 9 feet, the length of your rod. When sight fishing, it is always a good idea to make a cast and have your guide tell you how far you just cast so you are both on the same page.
Besides the flats fishing scenario described earlier, there are many other benefits from having your fly line marked for distance. First, it lets you know how much line you have stripped off your reel. Say you are comfortable at casting 70 feet; with a marked fly line, you can quickly strip off 70 feet of line. A marked fly line also aids you in determining how much line you can lift off the water for a back cast. Try to lift too much line off the water and your cast will fall apart. You may find that lifting 40 feet of line is all you can handle, so with a marked fly line you will know exactly when you reach that distance.
Casting with a marked fly line will give you a better sense of distance which is beneficial in many scenarios, so always remember to “Keep Your Distance!”