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Fly Fishing Slingshotting Style
Class Code: 217
Skill Level: Intermediate
On small streams especially here in the Smokies, casting room is often at a premium. Many small streams are usually overhung with rhododendrons bushes or other branches. In these situations, the technique called slingshotting can be successfully employed. Upon completion of this course, the student will be able to penetrate the small secluded streams where there is almost no fishing pressure and where the surprisingly large browns often are lurking.
The Great Smoky Mountains National Park has many of those often overlooked small streams capable of sustaining a healthy trout population. The brook trout’s habitat is in these very streams high in the mountains. Also, there are some very nice holes that may harbor some exceptionally wary browns who think that some of the branches will provide security from predators.
In these particular situations, roll casts may be used when there isn’t enough room for a backcast. However, sometimes there isn’t even enough room for a roll cast, and the forward cast may require pinpoint accuracy. This is why we have employed and further developed a technique called slingshotting.
The older anglers native to the Appalachians will always refer to this method of fishing as “Bow and Arrow” fishing. We prefer to call it “Slingshotting” since bow and arrow fly fishing might imply a standing position only. The reason we further developed the process and call it slingshotting is that it is often employed on your knees to get under the very low branches. This is not your father’s fly fishing, but it is very effective.
Slingshotting, as the name implies, uses the spring-like action of the fly rod and line, bow and arrow style, to shoot the fly through the air. While this technique can be used for any type of fly, it is most useful for dry flies. The advantages of slingshotting include accuracy, compact low level casting, and wind-defiance. The distance that can be achieved with this technique is slightly more than double the length of the fly rod, which is a good reason to use a long fly rod. To make a slingshot cast, use the following techniques. Note that you can, of course, reverse which hands and feet you use if you are left handed or if the situation demands it.
Pull a length of line equal to the rod’s length plus about an additional foot past the rod’s tip. For example, if you’re using an 8 foot fly rod, there should be about 9 feet of line extending past the rod’s tip. The exact length of line to achieve the best tensioning in the line will be determined by your arms’ lengths. Also, you will need a short (at least a few inches) of the actual fly line (i.e. not just leader) extending past the end of the rod, to achieve the most favorable casting dynamics.
Place your feet a shoulder’s width apart, with the right foot ahead of the left foot, toward the direction of the cast. If you are kneeling, try to get a comfortable stable position.
Take the fly’s hook in your left hand, being careful to grab the hook from the sides on the bend of the hook. You should pinch the bend of the hook from the sides, using your thumb and index finger. The key here is to make sure that no part of your hand is in front of the point of the hook; otherwise you will feel a severe twinge of pain when you cast. Learned this from experience. Maintain this grip on the hook’s shank until you are ready to make the cast.
Raise the fly rod (reel side down) in your right hand, being sure the fly line and leader are not tangled on the rod. Point the rod in the direction of the cast.
Apply medium tension in the rod and line by extending your right arm in the direction of the cast, and your left hand in the opposite direction. The tension in the rod should not be so great that you can’t hold the rod steady. Keep this tension until you make the cast. You should now look like you’re going to shoot a bow and arrow.
Aim the fly by looking down the rod length as if you were aiming a gun and then make the final corrections in your aiming of the rod, and release the hook from your left hand, being careful not to hook your arms, hands, or clothing after the release. Be aware that the rod will snap forward during the recoil. Do not allow it to hit the water, thereby scaring the trout.
Practice slingshotting, until you can cast accurately and consistently with either hand. Also, work on casting in such a way that the fly lands softly on the water. You may want to tip the rod a bit to employ a bit of sidearm motion to it, such that the fly is not coming straight down onto the water, to avoid making a big splash, or to get underneath some tree branches, etc.
Using this technique, you can actually cast through low hanging tree branches and against the wind. Also, you won’t have to climb the tree behind you to retrieve a fly caught during one of your backcasts.
Practice, practice, practice!