The Ambitious Ambidextrous Angler

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Unlike many other fishing disciplines, fly fishing is more akin to an athletic sport which requires practice and dedication to become proficient.  The fly cast is by far the most challenging and often most rewarding aspect of fly fishing.

Volumes have been written about the technical nature of casting, but little is ever mentioned about the benefits of becoming an ambidextrous caster.  Despite the lack of attention, the ability to cast with either hand opens up a multitude of opportunities to catch more fish.

As a fishing guide, I must always be aware of which hand my fly angler uses to cast.  Wind often dictates how I approach the boat to a piece of structure to best set up the angler for the cast.  There are many times where a spot cannot be fished effectively due to the relationship of wind direction and the angler’s dominant casting hand.  Outside of my home waters of the Chesapeake, the ability to cast with either hand has many other benefits both in salt and freshwater scenarios.

Becoming an ambidextrous caster pays huge dividends while wading a bonefish flat. The best wading technique is to approach a flat with the sun at your back to allow for sighting fish and to have the wind blowing at a slight angle behind and away from your body to keep the fly from hitting you.  Unfortunately, mother nature does not always provide this perfect scenario and the fly must be presented with the wind blowing onto your casting shoulder.  Of course, you could try to make a backhand presentation with your dominant hand but it will never be as fast, accurate or effective as the ability to wade a flat with the rod in your non-dominant hand.

Being restricted to one hand for casting limits your success in freshwater scenarios, as well.  The tight quarters of a wooded Appalachian stream or the fast water of a large western river present opportunities to the ambidextrous caster that are otherwise a hindrance to someone restricted to casting with just their dominant hand.  Learn to cast with your non-dominant hand and you’ll never be on the “wrong side” side of the river.  There are ways to present the fly with the dominate hand like an off-shoulder cast; but again, there are limits to distance, accuracy and presentation compared to the ability to deliver the fly with your non-dominant hand.

Now, I’m not saying that learning to cast with your non-dominant hand is easy — hence the title “Ambitious Ambidextrous Angler.”  However, the dividends are great and will put you in an elite class of fly anglers that can present the fly in all scenarios without limits.  I love the fact that fly casting can never be perfected but always improved upon.  It is the challenge that I find intriguing and the only way to get better is with a rod in the non-dominant hand!

Feel the Pressure: The Barometer & Fishing

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As anglers, one intriguing aspect of fishing is solving the mysteries of nature.  We try to figure out why we have epic fishing one day and bring home a skunk the next.  There are countless variables that influence fish behavior – tide, current, water temperature, moon phase, time of day and salinity level to name just a few.  Probably the most mysterious and debatable variable is barometric pressure.

In layman’s terms, barometric pressure can be thought of as the weight of the air, and it is influenced by weather systems.  High pressure is generally associate with cloudless conditions and low pressure with rain.

I am not aware of any scientific research that proves barometric pressure has a direct correlation to fish behavior, but it has a definite place in angling lore.  Those that dismiss barometric pressure having an influence on fish point to the fact that water pressure is much greater than that of air, so even huge changes in air pressure are virtually undetectable underwater.  Still, many avid anglers follow the barometer as a predictor of fishing success.  Fishermen, by nature, are a superstitious crowd.  It could be that barometric pressure’s influence on fish is just an old wives tale.  I’m on the fence as to the direct influence on fish.

My observations generally show that quickly rising pressure causes a slow bite while falling or stable pressure make for better fishing.  It may be that barometric pressure indirectly influences fishing by altering other variables.

I find that many of the fish I target prefer low light conditions.  It would make sense then that a rising barometer would slow fishing due to the bright cloudless skies that are caused by a high pressure weather system.  Conversely, overcast skies caused by a low pressure system will prolong the transition from night to day which will likely make fish active during a longer time period.

Quickly changing barometric pressure causes strong wind which can effect water clarity, tidal height, and current speed.  Also, barometric change typically means changes in air temperature.  The combination of wind and air temperature can cause a noticeable change at the water’s surface.

In conclusion, fish have the ability to sense numerous variables that we as humans cannot; whether the impact of barometric pressure direct or indirect remains a mystery.  One thing that I know for sure is that “you don’t know if you don’t go”, so let’s get on the water and wet a line!

 

Give Your Reel a Helping Hand

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Other than cranking the handle, most anglers only touch their spinning reel to open the bail before a cast.  Well, there is a lot more that can be done to give your spinning reel a helping hand!

Your fingers can be used to adjust the distance of your cast by applying pressure to top edge of the spool as line uncoils.  The amount and length of pressure will let you place the lure right where you want.  This technique should be used in place of two common angling errors.   The mistakes are quickly cranking the handle to close the bail and/ or jerking the rod.  The use of your fingers to “feather” the line is far more accurate, effective and better for your reel.

Closing the bail by hand after making a cast is a great habit to learn.  For starters, it will extend the life of your reel.  Turning the handle to initiate the bail trip mechanism causes unnecessary torque on the reel that will lead to worn and broken parts overtime.  Using your hand eliminates this torque, plus it is just as fast and efficient as turning the handle to close the bail.

Another bonus of closing the bail by hand is the elimination of most loose loops that can develop on the spool.  These loops are caused by slack line at the end of the cast and often lead to a bird nesting tangle on the subsequent cast (especially with the small diameter GSP lines like  Power Pro).  When you use the handle to close the bail, the bail arm makes a partial revolution before closing which allows the loose loop to develop.  The better alternative is to put your hand on the bail wire to close the bail manually.

A cause of the dreaded bird’s nest is cranking the handle when the drag is feeding out line during a battle with a large fish.  This causes twists to form in the line which leads to tangles; therefore, it is important to remember not to reel when you hear the drag clicker.

It is often necessary to quickly put the brakes on a hard charging fish headed to break you off on barnacle encrusted pilings.  In this situation, you want to apply pressure with your fingers on the spool to slow or stop its rotation.  It is common for anglers to apply spool pressure with baitcasting or fly reels but for some reason people forget to use the same technique for spin fishing.

Give your reel a helping hand with these techniques.  You’ll be fishing with less frustration and bring more fish to the boat!