Story last updated at 10/7/2009 - 11:38 am
It's been raining for days, and pewter skies laden with clouds etch the horizon. Riparian valleys roar in harmony to the cadence of biblical rain while local rivers that once flowed like gin back in August now tumble like chocolate mocha over windfalls and scattered logjams.
During these seasonal streaks of repetitive rain and high water, late season angling can still be available. To be successful, however, anglers will need to focus on soft water seams or pockets to locate fish and also employ slack line casting techniques to combat tricky currents inherent to high water conditions.
High water conditions present a number of obstacles to every sport angler. The most obvious hurdles are water clarity, flow rate, increased volume and depth, and of course, simply finding fish. Fortunately, one innate characteristic of silvers that will greatly assist you in locating potential holding lies in high, turbulent water is that silver salmon prefer, and will actively seek out, slow, quiet currents regardless of water clarity.
In fact, many times these soft water areas - channels and carved out bottom depressions - are found only several feet from shore, along the river's edge. This is good if the soft water seams and pockets are easily and safely accessible, but many times they are distantly removed and require a significant cast or a dangerous crossing to reach them. When such is the case, a deliberate slack line cast with multiple line mends can be the difference between casting in the rain and "game on"! Here's a quick overview on how to make a few of the most useful slack-line fly-casting presentations for tricky currents.
First up is the aerial mend and as the name suggests, the mechanics of the aerial mend actually takes place before your fly and line hit the water - hence the name, aerial mend. To execute the aerial mend, stop your forward cast and shake the rod tip "up current" and back towards your target. If done properly, this will create a shock wave or dimple in your line that will travel down your fly line towards the fly. This shock wave will ultimately place an upstream belly of slack in your line that will buy your fly time to sink.
The general mechanics of the aerial mend provide the foundation for understanding and executing other more advanced slack line casts, for example, the "S" or Serpentine Cast. By simply shaking the rod tip more than once, you can deliberately place additional bumps or waves in the line. If you place 4 to 6 bumps in your line you have just completed the S or Serpentine cast.
This cast is ideal when fishing in high water with heavy currents as it places additional slack in your presentation. This additional slack not only gives your fly added time to sink deeper into the fish zone but it also allows for your fly to drift longer temporarily avoiding the affects of the current that cause your fly to drag and swing upwards and away from holding fish.
And lastly, we have the Stack or Puddle Cast. A common cast for sophisticated spring creeks; the Stack Cast offers precision and casting accuracy because it does not require the angler to shake the rod tip during the casting stroke.
To begin the Stack cast, aim and initiate your forward stroke high into the horizon. Then just as the loop begins to straighten out and the fly commences its turnover, drop your rod tip directly to the water. This will cause your fly to drop straight down while your fly line will fall in a series of stacked squiggles on the water. Once again, a properly executed Stack cast buys your fly extra time to sink when fishing over stratified currents in high water.
Together, these slack line casts offer fly anglers significant advantages when fishing over high, rolling water notoriously confronted in Southeast Alaska during the fall months. I am confident that with a little patience and practice you can master these highly regarded slack-line casts. I encourage everyone to work them into their own personal casting repertoire so that when the next time you are confronted with a difficult current situation, or need to reach a distant pocket or seam, you'll have the basic knowledge and skills required to intercept that potentially holding fish.
Good luck, and of course, slack lines!
Rich Culver is a fly-fishing freelance writer and photographer and member of the Scott Fly Rod Company's Pro Staff. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.