Aerialized mending is a common technique used by proficient anglers casting single handed rods. Reach casts, curve casts, tuck casts, puddle casts, and more all provide solutions to technical dry fly and nymphing presentation dilemmas. In the end, the reason we use aerialized casts is to avoid the need to manipulate the line once it has landed in the water. We avoid mends originating from the water’s surface because the water either creates a situation where attempted line control will result in unintended consequences such as sinking a dry fly, or spooking the hell out of the fish. I think we also use aerial mends to save time and energy. It’s easier to make one move in the air than it is to make two on the water.
Why don’t more anglers incorporate aerial mends such as reach casts into their casting and fishing while using 2-handed (Spey and Switch) rods? I don’t know the answer, because I use them all the time. Here’s my pitch for why you should too.
The energy savings is why I originally gravitated to using aerial mends (particularly upstream reach casts) in my 2-Handed casting and fishing a number of years ago. Consider your typical swung fly presentation with a sink tip line and 2-handed rod. It goes something like this:
1 – Cast to 90 degrees, or slightly up or downriver depending on the situation, landing the fly and sink tip well beyond the target zone where you think the fish will be laying.
2 – Execute an upstream, pull back mend, as masterfully described and chronicled by Scott Howell in his Skagit Master 2 DVD to set up a dead drift and allow the fly and tip to sink. Incidentally, if you haven’t seen this video, and you fish sink tips, get it.
3 – Follow the drift down as it sinks, and then work the fly across the run on the swing.
For me, the most exhausting part of this presentation, when repeated 11,529 times over a weekend of winter steelheading, is the pull-back mend. Lifting and placing the heavy Spey line, big fly, and shooting line over and over was wearing out my shoulder. My response was to make the pull-back mend in the air, before the fly and line landed on the water, while the loop was turning over. The result was/is the same as if you made a standard cast and mend, but without having to pull against the water. As long as your line, sinktip, and fly turn over completely, the presentation is the same, with the added bonus of effort reduction.
While I started making these reach casts with my 2-handers for energy savings, I eventually found them to have at least one other great advantage in presenting the fly. Above, I described a typical big river situation where the holding water is between mid-river and your bank. In that situation, you are able to cast well beyond the suspected holding lies and sweep the whole area. But what about smaller water, or side channel water, where the fish are actually holding tight to the bank? This is a situation regularly encountered when Spey fishing for trout. You can’t cast beyond the zone to set up your drift with a pull-back mend unless you like hooking a lot of tree trout, stick steelhead, and rock bass. And if you cast right to the bank and execute the pull-back mend, your fly is essentially ripped clear of the fishy zone before the swing even starts. But execute an aerial reach cast, landing the fly right on shore, and you are set up to sink the fly and swing it through all that water you would have missed. The technique also applies wherever there is a seam, heavy chop, or other obstruction that limits effective mending on the water!
So, in summary – Aerial reach casts with 2-handed rods. Easier. Better. Give it a try! The first few attempts might be a mess, and getting the hang of precise aim takes some time, but hey, what else are you going to be doing out there on the river between grabs? If you are already using some of these tactics with 2-handers, I’d love to hear other benefits you’ve found, so don’t hesitate to get in touch!
Take Care and Fish On,