Shop Orvis Today!

Casts for Difficult Trout, with Pete Kutzer

Description: This week, my guest is Orvis casting guru Pete Kutzer, and we talk about casts for difficult trout. Often you don't need great casting skills or special casts to catch trout, but there are times when a little razzle-dazzle will make the difference. Pete talks about those situations and what to do--and he also introduces a new way of making a Bow-and -Arrow cast that was new to me. I think anyone can benefit from Pete's advice.
Play Podcast

Podcast Transcript:

Tom: Hi, and welcome to "The Orvis Fly Fishing Podcast." This is your host, Tom Rosenbauer, and this week, my guest is the fabulous Pete Kutzer, Orvis casting guru, star of screening stage. And Pete's gonna be talking about Casts for Difficult Trout. You know, you can have some really, really good fishing and you can have a great day of fishing and you can actually be a good angler and your casting can be mediocre, certain types of fishing where you don't need to be a great caster. There are also situations where you have a particularly difficult trout when your casting skills are gonna come into play. And Pete's gonna describe some special cast to get into those special spots that might be a little bit more difficult than your usual situation. And included in this is a new way of making a bow and arrow cast. Pete has a little bit of a different twist on making the bow and arrow cast, which I've never done and next time it goes above freezing here in Vermont, I'm gonna go out and try it. But it was a revelation to me and I'm sure it will be to you. So, anyway, I hope you enjoy that. Pete's always fun to have on the podcast.

And before we get started on the fly box, I wanna make a shout out to Matt Danielson and his crew at Brewhemia Coffee Shop in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. Matt's a great fly tire, I've seen some of his flies and as you know, we don't take advertising here on the podcast. I turn down advertisers weekly. But we do an occasional shout out and, you know, even though I don't take advertising, I can be bribed. The next time I am in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, which will be the first time, I'm gonna get a free breakfast and some coffee at Brewhemia. So, anyway, hide everybody there. And I know that they listen to the podcast every week at the coffee shop, which is kind of cool and is very flattering. All right. So, let's do the fly box. And if you have a question for the fly box, you can send it to me at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. I read 'em all, I don't answer 'em all. And you can either just type your question in the body of your email, or you can attach a voice file, either way. All right. So, let's start out with an email from John. First of all, thanks so much for putting out a great podcast and covering such a wide variety of topics related to fly fishing. The fly box is definitely my favorite part of the program, as it incorporates questions and tips sent in from the global community of fly fishers.

I live in Arizona and primarily fish at small streams and rivers in the Southwest states, but on fish streams in the Midwest and back east. My addiction has grown since starting about six years ago, and like many others, I have amassed a ton of rods lines, fly boxes. I am sure the abundance of fly materials and hooks I have purchased could be used to create an army of flies that could easily compete with the best stock gas stations along the Rocky Mountain Fly Highway 20. Anyway, I would like to get your thoughts on tying and using eyeless hooks. About five years ago, after getting into fly fishing, I was in Japan on business and picked up some fishing hooks. I did not realize the hooks I bought were eyeless until I was on stream and could not get the tip in to attach to the fly. That realization came thanks to those fumble-free magnetic Orvis reading glasses, which are almost always resting on my chest when not in use. I did some research on eyeless hooks and did find out tires use silk bead cord to snell on an eye using tight wraps at the top of the shank. One immediate benefit I realized was that I could make the eye loop as big as I needed, which greatly improved my ability to attach, tip it to the fly, even in low light conditions. Apparently back in the day, bear hunters from the villages in Japan would go into the mountains for several days and did bring their bamboo rods, horse hairlines, and hooks made from sewing needles that they used to make wet hackle flies.

Though I have no scientific evidence of the benefits, many believe fish have a harder time shaking off the hook, given the bead cord acts like a shock absorber or flexible transition between the hook and line which some believe leads to more fish to the net. I have used these eyeless hooks with success, but wanted to ask you if you have ever used eyeless hooks to make flies, have you ever fished using them? And if so, what are your thoughts and experience using flies tied with eyeless hooks? By the way, I have never used a western rod. I started out fly fishing with a Tenkara rod an old friend gave me, and this is what I use to catch fish. Tenkara is not for everybody, but I find it very effective, fun, and "unreel". Thanks, Tom, to you and Orvis for all you do, and to the global community of fly fishers who contribute to the fly box, which makes this one of my favorite podcasts.

Well, John, I have never used eyeless hooks. I've never tied an eyeless hooks. I know some people, to recreate old salmon flies, will tie on a looped piece of gut which is what they used to do to make the flies more historically realistic. I don't see any reason to do it, seems like a pain to me. Silk cord is gonna rot eventually and, you know, I find, I mean, I'm no spring chicken and I find the eyes in most flies, in all flies, if you tie 'em properly and you don't block the eye are not that hard to thread, particularly, you know, with small dry flies with the Orvis big eye hooks. So, I'm sorry, I don't see any reason unless you just feel like doing something different, but it's not something I'm gonna pursue. So, anyway, you asked me if I did or if I would, and the answer is no. But, you know, I can see where there could be some benefits to it, but I think it's a little bit too much work for a lazy fly tier like me.

Here's an email from Derek, from Richmond, Virginia. Thanks so much for all you do with your podcast to educate everyone. I'm pretty new to fly fishing and had a couple of questions. I've heard you mention swinging flies. What exactly does that mean? This year I hope to target carp. I've heard you talk about targeting them on other podcasts. I only have grass carp close to me. When you talk about catching carp, are you referring to all species of carp or just common carp?

So, Derek, swinging flies is basically, this is oversimplifying it, but it's basically throwing your line either across stream or across and downstream 45 degrees downstream, and just letting the current pull that line tight and swing your fly around in the current. Now, there are a lot more subtleties to it because often you need to mend line to control the speed of your fly and there's lots of other thing. But swinging of fly is just letting it hang tight, it's swinging across the current. So, it's really that simple, but not that simple when you get into it, but that's the basic point. When I talk about carp, typically I'm talking about common carp or mirror carp, and I'm not sure if mirror carp or a different species or just a variety, but we're generally talking about the common carp. We're not talking about the invasive carp that jump out of the water in the Mississippi River and other areas. Those are a different kind of carp, they're plankton feeders, unfortunately. Don't think you can catch 'em on a fly. But the common carp that's been around, they've actually been around as long as brown trout have been around in this country they were introduced as a food fish. Grass carp can be caught on a fly. However, it's more difficult than common carp. Common carp will eat crayfish minnows, damselflies, you know, although they feed close to the bottom, they'll also feed on the surface sometimes, and they will actually chase down prey.

Grass carp are pretty much vegetarians. Now, they can be caught by chumming with grass clippings, and then throwing out, you know, a greenish skinny fly. And grass carp will occasionally eat insects, especially once they've eaten all the vegetation in a lake, they will then switch over to eating insects and crustaceans and so on, but they are more difficult to catch. They're a lot of fun, they're really strong and they can be caught, but circumstances have to be just right. So, I would try for those grass carp, they're gonna be even more difficult than common carp, but again, if they've eaten a lot of the weeds, they may switch over to feeding on insects. I actually caught a grass carp on a little popper, a little bluegill popper once in a lake where they had eaten all the vegetation. So, hope that helps and good luck with those grass carp.

Alex: Hey, Tom, first-time listener and longtime caller here. My question relates to overlining a lightweight rod and rod balance. I currently fish either a 9 foot 5-weight or a 7.5 foot 3-weight. This covers pretty much all applications in my native North Carolina trout streams, mostly smaller blue lines with the 3-weight for older 10-inch wild trout, but I will, occasionally, target larger fish in the tailwaters with my five weight. With a baby on the way, I'm fishing on a bit of a budget and using the same lightweight 5-weight reel in line for both rods, but I need to upgrade the line since it's old and doesn't float very well anymore. The way I see it, I can either get a new 3-weight line for the majority of my time on the water or upgrade my 5-weight line and circle back after the upcoming season to purchase a dedicated 3-weight reel in line once I have saved up some more. I would be leaning towards the 3-weight due to the relative frequency of use, but I rarely make casts more than 20-feet to 25-feet in east creeks. And a lot of times, not much the fly line is even out or even on the water. Which route would you recommend I go down? And if I go with the five-weight line for a season, what are the repercussions of overlining 3-weight like this? Additionally, since you're the expert, which line would you recommend for my style of fishing? I like the idea of a textured line in the Orvis pro trout line, but I have not fished textured before. I appreciate the podcast and hope to see you out on a North Carolina blue line stream someday. Thanks.

Tom: So, Alex, if I were you, I would get that textured proline. It's the line I use, it's a great line. Some people don't like the sound that it makes when it goes through the guides, but it does shoot cast and float a little bit better than the smooth variety. Sometimes I use the smooth too, but for practical purposes, I do like the textured line. It's really the best line out there. And what I would do, my advice, since you're on a limited budget, would be to upgrade that 5-weight line. You will be able to use that 5-weight on your 7.5 foot 3-weight. You know, up to 25 feet, you should be good. It may actually, you know, in a really short cast, it may actually make things a lot easier because it'll make the rod bend. I wouldn't go much beyond 25-feet or 30-feet though because, you know, you're over lining that rod quite a bit, it's gonna make the rod struggle on those longer cast. You know, if you tried to make a hero 80-foot cast of the 5-weight, it could actually break that 3-weight. I don't think it would, particularly if it's an Orvis rod, I don't think it would break it but it would be a struggle. But for those short casts, I think 5-eight will be fine. And so I think that that'll be a good upgrade and then you can worry about a 3-weight line later on when your budget gets in a little bit better shape. And congratulations by the way.

All right. Another email. This one is from Aiden from Edmonton, Alberta. My questions have to do with fishing in a lake. There's not much in the way of trout streams that I know of in the Edmonton area. My first question is up here in Edmonton, the trout fishing is in lakes because with winter they're frozen over. Is there a way to still ice fish with a fly, or is it better to stick with bait? What patterns would you recommend? The second question I had is, what is the best way to fish wet flies and nymphs from a kayak in a lake? For the average lake, I think sink line is in order, but how can I identify where the trout are and what they're eating? A year or two ago, I was fishing in Mountain Lake that was small enough to wade in, but big enough that the trout were right outta my casting range. Do I need to just improve my cast or is there a way to entice the trout to come out from their deep holes? Thanks again for all you and Orvis do for fish. Well, regarding your first question, Aiden, yeah, some people do ice fish with nymphs. Often they'll tip them with a mousey or another little piece of bait. But you can catch fish through the ice with nymphs. Generally, a fairly heavily weighted nymph like a tungsten beadhead in a size 12 or 14 will work. I don't think the pattern matters that much. it's probably more the flash of the bead that attracts the fish, but I would try it with tungsten beadheads. And if you don't have any luck, put a little piece of bait on the end of it. But, you know, people do ice fish with nymphs.

Regarding your kayak fishing in a lake. Yeah, if the fish are deep, you're gonna want some sort of sinking line. And if the lake is not terribly deep, say less than 6-feet, probably an intermediate line will work. And if you're fishing really deep in the lake, you know, if you're going down 10-feet or 20-feet, you'll probably want something like a full sinking line or a depth charge line. Depth charge would be my first choice. Regarding enticing those fish to come out of the deep into casting range, I don't know of any way to do that. You know, if they were a hatchery fish, you could throw some fish pellets out there and try to get 'em in, but I don't think you're gonna be able to entice 'em. It's gonna be you having to wait until the trout come in shallower. I would suggest trying early morning and early evening, often the trout will come into the shallows to feed because most of the food, especially the insect food, is gonna be in the shallows. So, I don't think there's a way of enticing them to come into casting range. Anyway, good luck with your lake fishing. And by the way, I did a learning center episode in the advance/intermediate part of the learning center with the great Phil Rowley, who was from your area in Alberta. And there's a lot of tips in there on how to find fish in a lake, especially since Phil is from your area and fish is a lot in that area. So, I would go into the Orvis Learning Center and check out those videos. I think they'll be very helpful.

Here's an email from J.J. A question on the 121 podcast about liner socks under your electric socks prompted me to start shopping for a pair of my own. Trouble seems to be they're either controlled by an app, just begging for me to drop my phone or by pushing a button on the sock itself in the caf area. I guess my question is, are you able to feel the control buttons through your waiters, or do you have of a pair controlled by an app or some other remote control? Also, I know you said you don't remember what brand yours were, but curious about battery life. They seemed to be all over the map from 5-volt to 7.4 volt, 220 milliamp to 5,000 milliamp, and so on ranging from $20 to $80. So, J.J., I didn't even know they were electric socks controlled by an app, but I think I'm gonna look into those. What I do is, and no, once you get your waiters on, you can't control the warmth. What I do is, first of all, I would get the highest milliamp socks available, you know, in the 5,000 range, because they're just gonna last longer. They're gonna last a full day. And I think the newer ones have the higher wattage or amp rating. So they're gonna last longer. What I do honestly is I turn 'em onto the medium setting, and then I just go, I find that the medium setting keeps my feet warm enough. And it'll last all day in the pair I have. But I'm gonna look into those ones with the app to see how well they work. So stay tuned for that.

Here's an email from Tyler from Western Pennsylvania. The podcast on Emergers with Tim Cammisa was so informative and exciting. Great guests. Second, a small stream tip. If you are in a position at a prime location on a small clear stream, try to do any re-rigging adjusting or tying within the profile of your body. What I mean is I try not to reach far out to grab my liter or fly if I don't have to. I've noticed that when I do, I tend to spook the brook trout I often pursue here in Pennsylvania, swing the rig until it dangles just in front of your chest, and do the work tight to your body. Even better, if you've stealthily approached the small stream, do all your leader work behind the tree, behind grass and weed beds or behind the bank itself? Lastly, a question. I attended a rope rescue course recently and noticed a figure eight is often used in places where an overhand knot might also be an option. It is theorized to subtract less breaking strength from the rig. Are there any places you think a figure-eight would work in fly angling? Thanks for all your contributions to the sport conservation and public lands.

Well, Tyler, that's a great tip on rigging for small streams and absolutely those are great ideas, and I would urge everybody that fishes small streams to follow that advice. Second, there are some knots, some good knots, like the Orvis knot that are based on a figure-eight knot, you know. It's true that a figure-eight knot is going to put less stress on a piece of tippet. I don't know where a figure-eight knot by itself would be useful. But again, there are a lot of knots that use the concept of a figure-eight to work. So, yeah, it is true that it will take less stress, put less stress on the tippet. But again, I don't know if there's any specific area where you'd wanna use a figure-eight not by itself.

Eric: Hi there, Tom. My name's Eric, I'm from Northeast Iowa, Driftless region. And, first of all, I just have to say that I've been fly fishing for a year and a half now, and it has become the joy of my life. It's given me peace and tranquility that I could never have found any other way. So, my question has to do with my wife. Since this has brought me so much joy, you know, I've tried real hard to get her into it and she has and she's done well. She typically catches more fish than me, to be honest with you. But her problem has to do with waiting in the water. She has a very hard time distinguishing the glare off the water and the rocks below. So she stumbles a lot and it makes me feel very badly for her. You know, and she tries real hard. But my question is have you ever heard of anything, you know, I figured that there's something wrong with her eyes and it's not just in her head. But I was wondering if you've ever heard of anything like this before. I've assumed that you've probably seen a lot of things in your career. So, I was just wondering if you've seen anything like this before. I think our next step after this question here and maybe a possible response is going to the doctor. So like I said, it brings me a lot of joy and I just want her to enjoy it too. So, yeah, if you could get back to me, that would be wonderful. I love the podcast, it helps me in a lot of ways. So, thank you very much and have a good day.

Tom: Well, Eric. I'm glad that fly fishing has brought so much joy to your life. And, you know, regarding your wife's problem with glare on the water, there's one thing that, that I might look into and you didn't say if she's wearing polarized sunglasses. I assume that she's wearing polarized sunglasses because those are gonna take the glare off the water. If she's not, that's your first step is to get her a pair of polarized sunglasses. And the other thing is that not all polarized sunglasses are created equally. You can buy a pair of cheap polarized sunglasses in a drug store, and they don't really work that well. The polarization isn't that great, it might be offset, you know, it might have wrinkles in the film that produces a polarization. So, the first thing I would do, well, I would take her to an eye doctor absolutely to see if there's a problem with their eyes. That goes without saying. But I would seriously look at a good pair of polarized sunglasses if she doesn't have a pair now, because it may be just the fact that her... It may have her put on your sunglasses and see if that helps. I don't know of any particular eye problem that would create more glare on the water, but I'm not an optometrist, so I don't know.

There's an email from Steve. I began fly fishing 40 years ago in the small streams around Shenandoah National Park. The demands of family and work caused me to take a hiatus until I retired and started up again three years ago. I am once again addicted. I consider myself an advanced beginner or an aspiring intermediate fly fisher and I have two questions I hope you can help me with. I live in Amherst, Massachusetts. I can leave my house and have my line in the swift river in 40 minutes where those educated resident trout teach me a lesson as I try to catch them on size 30 dries and 7x tippet. It can be a humbling experience, but having a good day can be exhilarating. I wanna branch out to some of the other fishing opportunities in my area, such as the Deerfield, Millers, and maybe the Farmington. I'm also giving some thought to trying the Delaware River area. I'm well equipped for the small streams around here. I have a 7.5-foot, 2-weight recon, a 10-foot 3-weight Euro nymph recon, an 8-foot 6-inch four weight Helios, 3F and my baby, a 7.5-foot 4-weight medium-slow action bamboo rod, which I built myself.

I think I would need a heavier and longer rod for these larger waters. Should I be looking at a six, seven or 8-weight and what length? I'm leaning towards another H3 but I'm not sure if that should be the F or the D model. I would like to use it for trout on these larger rivers, as well as for the bass that inhabit some of our local ponds and lakes. My second question concerns an undiagnosed casting mistake, which results in the tippet or the fly getting caught in the loop knots, which attach my fly line to my tapered leader. This is particularly true when fishing a dry dropper. I spent last summer, almost exclusively fishing my bamboo rod, and rarely made this mistake. I switched to the H3 for a couple of days and didn't have the problem either. But when I went back to my bamboo, this started again, and I couldn't figure out what caused this or how to prevent it. I know there is a big difference between the H3 and the supple bamboo, but do you have any thoughts on what causes this and what can I do to fix it? Thanks again, Tom, your knowledge and willingness to share it with all of us is truly wonderful.

Well, Steve, first of all, for the Deerfield and the Millers and the Farmington, I think you need either a 6-weight or a 5-weight. Don't rule out a 5-weight. You know, when I fish those rivers in the Delaware area, the heaviest rod that I take, unless I'm gonna be fishing for a shad in the Delaware is a 5-weight. You can throw streamers, you can throw fairly large streamers with a 5-weight yet when you switch to a smaller nymph or a dry fly, you have enough delicacy. A 5-weight can be a pretty powerful rod, and it wouldn't be a... As long as your bass aren't huge and you're not fishing really, really large bass bugs, a five-weight will work okay for bass. You know, a six-weight will handle the bass bugs better, it will throw bigger streamers better on those trout streams, but you're gonna be sacrificing a little bit delicacy if you get into situation where the fish are, you know, feeding on the surface with dry flies and you need to be a little bit more precise and delicate. So, I would look at either a five or a six and I'd lean toward the five. I particularly like the F version instead of the D, it's a little slightly slower casting tempo. And I think it's a better all-around action.

So, and I think it's more are popular with most of the people I know, the F version. So I'd look into that. It depends on your casting style. You know, if you can, I would go to a local shop, your nearest place that sells Orvis rods and try both the F and the D. But I think you're gonna like the F, most people do like the F better. Your undiagnosed casting mistake is coming from what's called a tailing loop. And it's when your leader kind of hooks back on itself. And the easiest way to correct a tailing loop is to make sure that when you are casting, you are raising and lowering your elbow. Your elbow should not go back and forth, it should not go in front of you and then behind you. Your elbow should go up when you cast and then straight down when you cast or even down and back a little bit. That will clear your fly line from itself and invariably will correct those tailing leaps, so tailing loops. So, I mean, there's other ways of correcting it but that's the easiest way to do it and in the way that seems to correct it for most people. So, try that, see how it works.

Here's an email from Rob. Like many others, I've enjoyed listening to your podcast as I partake on my daily commute. I find your answers to questions and your guest interviews informative and entertaining. Thank you, Rob. I have been fly fishing for over 35 years in the Pacific Northwest and consider myself well versed in tackle and various techniques for trout and steelhead. I am excited, however, to try something new, and my wife and I have scheduled our first saltwater trip to Belize to chase bonefish permit and tarpon. My questions relate to this upcoming trip. I have freshwater steelhead gear that is appropriate weight for bonefish according to my research. Would it be unwise to take this on a saltwater trip? Do I need to purchase a saltwater-specific rod and, or reel? Finally, I busily tying flies Crazy Charlie's, Christmas Island Specials, EP crabs, and the like. Do you recommend weeded guards on your flies for Belize? Do you have any recommended flies that I shouldn't be without? We are utilizing guides for a couple of days. On the non-guide days, are there DIY options one can access utilizing local transportation? Thanks in advance for your answers, and thanks for all you have done for the fly fishing community.

All right. So, your questions, first of all, there is really, really no such thing as freshwater and saltwater gear. You know, a good reel is going to be corrosion-resistant. And as long as you wash it off after every trip wash the saltwater off with fresh water, and most lodges will do it for you when you get back from fishing, it'll work out fine. As long as it has a good drag, and it holds the line you need, your reel's gonna be fine. There are some very inexpensive reels that are not terribly saltwater resistant, but even those with good rinsing in freshwater will work in saltwater. So as long as it's got a good drag and hold the line, it's probably gonna hold up fine. Fly rods, there's nothing special you need. If you have an 8-weight rod, which sounds like you do, and then probably you may wanna tend for the tarpon and the permit, depending on how big the permit are, and depending on whether you're gonna be there at a time when the migratory tarpon are coming through. I mean, the local resident tarpon, an 8-weight will work out okay for those smaller tarpons in the mangroves. But if you're there in, yeah, I think it's April, May, June when there's a migratory tarpon which can be quite bigger, you know, 100 pounds and more, you may wanna take a 10 or even a 12, depending on where you're going.

As far as the flies are concerned, I think you're tying all the right stuff. Make sure you have some smaller ones, make you have some size eights. You know, Belize bonefish areare generally smaller and they can't get some of those bigger hooks in their mouth. Bonefish doesn't have a really big mouth. So, make sure that you tie some eights. And bonefish flies in size eight are a little bit tricky to tie, but make sure you have some. And those patterns that you recommend I know the most popular pattern in Belize is the Christmas Island Special, and EP crabs should work for the permit. Bonefish are not particularly selective, they'll eat just about anything that moves if they think it's alive. So, you know, there are different colors and degrees of flashiness that seem to work better, but I know that Christmas Island Special is the top fly in Belize. And regarding weed guards. I would time with weed guards. Again, on a size eight, it's tricky. But I would time with weed guards. You can all always cut the weed guard off. You never know what kind of situation you're gonna be in, if it's, you know, if it's got a lot of turtle grass or it's got a lot of coral or limestone, it's good to have a weed guard. Over sand, obviously, you don't need a weed guard, but I would put 'em on there. On your size eight, you wanna use a little bit finer monofilament, maybe go down to something like 16 pound, or even maybe, I don't know, 12 pound for the size eights. But yeah.

And regarding DIY options, but you didn't tell me where you're going. So I don't know if you'll have DIY options. You know, the places I've been to in Belize, some of them have places where you can wade the beach right in front of the lodge, like El Pescador, or you can go into the back lagoon on a kayak or a canoe. Some of them don't have much fishing nearby, but if there's a flat nearby, there's probably gonna be at least some bonefish and maybe some little permit and tarpon. So, again, it's gonna depend on the lodge and where you are using local transportation. Just be careful that, you know, check with the lodge owner and make sure it's safe in the area. You're gonna be on your own just to be on the safe side. So, anyway, good luck with your trip to Belize.

Here's an email from Nick. I have a question regarding how far brown trout typically moved during their fall migration for spawning grounds. I fish several small rivers, almost creek size in Montana that are seldom talked about, and there's little information about them. They both fish great up to mid-October and after that, I didn't catch much. How far can brown trout be expected to move on smaller creeks and will they go downstream or upstream? Thanks to the podcast. I'd love to hear more about trout fishing in Montana or the Southwest. So, Nick, brown trout can move anywhere from zero feet. Sometimes they can spawn right in the pool that they spend the summer in. If there's sufficient gravel and there's a little bit of spring water coming in, they may spawn right in place or they might move miles. And it really depends on the stream and it depends on where they were hatched. You know, some of the lower reaches of some rivers don't have good spawning areas, so the fish have to move, and generally, they move upstream. There's probably situations where they move downstream to find appropriate gravel but they generally move upstream to spawn. And, you know, the other thing to consider is that fish toward spawning season do cut down on their feeding. They don't feed as eagerly or as regularly when the water gets cold and when spawning season is coming. So, the fact that you're not catching anything doesn't mean they're not there. It may just mean that they're not feeding as much. And so you have to work a little higher to get a fly right in their face. So they could have moved, or they could have just slowed down in their feeding. But, you know, repeated trips will probably will probably tell you what's going on.

Here's an email from Ross. While fishing the West Walker River in the Eastern Sierra, California last summer, I caught what seemed to be a tiger trout on an overcast stormy day. Since I've never seen a tiger trout in person, I snapped a quick photo and decided I would investigate the incurrence of tiger trout in California after I had concluded my day of angling, which because of the intensifying stormy weather ended earlier than I had hoped. When I had access to the internet, I searched about tiger trout and it was clear from the available online photos that I had indeed caught a tiger trout. Since as a California angler, I was quite acquainted with the California freshwater fishing regulations, and the regulations did not mention tiger trout in any manner. I continued my internet search using the extended search of tiger trout in California. That search revealed the tiger trout were a manmade hybrid from brook trout and brown trout, that they only came from hatchery, where they had been produced and the tiger trout had never been in Stockton, California. I extended my searching and discovered that the state of Nevada had produced tiger trout and had stocked them in a number of Nevada waters. The closest stocking site to where I caught my tiger trout was Topaz Lake on the border of California and Nevada. From Google maps, the distance from the stocking location to the site where I'd hooked the tiger trout was greater than 30 miles upstream. So, here are my questions. How far does stock trout and particularly tiger trout usually travel from their stocking location? Do you find it remarkable that a stock tiger trout in Nevada migrated over 30 miles upstream? Considering the principles of fish bioenergetics, what possibly could have made the reason that a hatchery fish, hatchery-raised manmade stock trout move that far upstream. Thanks. And I really enjoy your podcast.

Well, Ross, I'm always speculating here. I would find it shocking that stock trout migrated over 30 miles upstream. Stock trout typically don't move very far from where they're stocked and they often don't get very far because they often get eaten or just don't survive. So, a tiger trap moving 30 miles upstream, kind of doubtful. It could happen, I guess, if there were no barriers to migration like dams or high falls, but I think it's unlikely. So, the scenarios here could be that A, there were some tiger trouts stocked closer to where you were fishing, but it didn't make it into the records. You know, sometimes when fish are stocked, there's a few extra ones and they dump 'em in somewhere where they weren't supposed to, or they didn't record it. So a tiger trout could have been stocked closer to where you were fishing. The other thing is that, I have heard, I've not experienced this, but I have heard of the occasional tiger trout being produced in the wild, brown and brook trout, both spawn in the fall. And there's a remote possibility that the male and female of those species could overlap and that there could be a naturally occurring tiger your trout. I have heard of tiger trout being caught in the Battenkill, local river, which has both wild brown and brook trout, is not stocked, hasn't been stocked since the 1970s. And somebody claimed they caught a tiger trout. I didn't see it. I didn't see a picture of it. But it may be possible for this hybrid to be produced in the wild. So anyway, those are my speculations. And again, they're speculations only,

Rob: Hey, Tom. My name's Rob from Rochester, Minnesota, and my fishery is the Driftless Area of Southeastern Minnesota, Northeastern Iowa, and Western Wisconsin. And as you know, our streams here in the Driftless Area are nearly all spring creeks. So, their temperature remains fairly consistent throughout the summer. They don't get very hot, or too hot, for the most part. They stay relatively stable. And the spring and the fall is a great time to fish as well. My wondering or my question has to do with the temperatures in the wintertime. So, the streams stay pretty much open. They don't freeze over throughout the winter again, because they're spring-fed. So the temperature comes out of the ground at about 42 degrees on most of 'em and then, you know, it slowly goes down towards the mid-30s, low 30s but it does stay open for the most part. And my question is what's the physiological effects of fishing, or physiological effects of the fish when you fish at temperatures that low? You know, the air temperature has been below zero for a couple of weeks kind of straight. At nighttime, our temperatures are down in the negative 20 below zero without the windshield. And I'm curious what the effects are. You know, there's been a lot of studies done and information about what happens to fish physiologically on the hot end of the spectrum, once they get over 68 degrees, 70 degrees, the water temperature when you catch a fish and how that can be not so good for the fish. I'm curious about in the wintertime, if you catch a fish, where the water's, you know, that mid 30 temperature, you pull it out of the water to take the hook out and the air temperature is zero or below. I could imagine that those gill filaments freeze instantaneously. I know, like on my net, for instance, as soon as I pull it outta the water, it freezes solid, or, you know, you get ice build up on your guides and, you know, you put your rod tip down on the water and it melts the ice off the guides. But I'm curious about, you know, I can imagine that would be the same thing on the gills of the fish. And I'm wondering if there's been any studies done, or if you've talked to any scientists or anything about what happens to the fish on that end of the spectrum if it's too cold to fish and if we should leave them alone, and when it's below zero similar to the way that we try to leave them alone when the water temperature gets above 70. So, that's my question. I appreciate the podcast and all the information that you provide, it's a great resource and, take care.

Tom: Rob, I've talked to some biologists about fishing in the winter. And of course, youyou don't have the problem at low water temperatures. You never have the problem that you do at higher water temperatures of decreased oxygen levels because cold water holds much more dissolved oxygen than warm water. So, oxygen wouldn't be a problem. And it seems to make sense that the gills, you know, if you're fishing that cold, I don't know how you're fishing without icing up your guides if you're fishing around zero degrees. But God bless you for doing it, for trying it. You know, it makes sense that if you keep the fish out of the water for a long time, the gills could freeze in that cold temperature. But, you know, fish do jump occasionally, even in cold water, they do jump and they're out of the water for a couple of seconds, and that probably doesn't do 'em any damage. But, you know, to be on the safe side, I would make sure that you keep fish in the water, use barbless hooks and keep the fish's gills in the water and just unhook the fish while it's in the water in your net or whatever. But, you know, don't take it out of the water. And it's important that you release a fish in the wintertime near a slower, deeper pool because those are the winter refuges for fish. So if you catch a fish and it happens to run and you chase it down into a riffle, try to get it close to the deepest slowest water you can because, you know, their metabolism is low and they're gonna wanna go to a slower, deeper area for protection. So, those are my recommendations. If we have any biologists listening, I don't want any speculation from amateur biologists, but if we have anyone that knows of any studies done on winter trout catch and release, I'd love some data on that if you can send me a reference or something.

All right, that is the fly box for this week. Let's go talk to Pete Kutzer and get some tips, including that new bow and arrow cast. Well, my guest today is Pete Kutzer and to most of you, Pete needs no introduction. Pete is the Orvis casting guru. And as far as I'm concerned, one of the finest casting instructors in the world. Full disclosure, he's also a good friend and a fishing buddy, and I have learned a ton from Pete. I get regular casting lessons from Pete whenever I'm dissatisfied with something I'm doing and Pete's always very patient with me and helps me out. So, Pete, welcome to the podcast, you haven't been on in a while.

Pete: No, I haven't been on a while. Thanks, Tom. I'm blushing right now. That was a very nice introduction.

Tom: I'm sure you're not blushing. Anyway, we're gonna be talking about casting and casting to difficult trout, and Pete's gonna refer to some cast which, you know, on a podcast it's very difficult to do, but luckily we have the Orvis Learning Center where you can see the man himself, big Pete, demonstrating these cast. So, you know, if Pete talks about a cast and you don't know how to do it, or you haven't perfected it yet, the best thing to do is go to the Orvis Learning Center, look at the videos, there are some basic casting videos on the first part of the learning center. And then under the advanced intermediate section, there are also some little more fine-tuning of your casting. So, you know, if Pete says something you don't understand, or you can't visualize, then go to the learning center. But I think we can help people out in the podcast format with this, Pete. What do you think?

Pete: Yeah, absolutely. Absolutely. I mean, I'm kind of a hand talker, so I'm gonna be making all sorts of gestures to no one right now, it's being recorded which is kind of... Luckily I have my curtain shut, so my wife won't come and look at me funny, you know, which is good. But I think one thing, you mentioned the learning center and it's a great, great resource. I can't speak highly enough about it. I mean, it was so much fun to do and it really is, you know, getting out and practicing, you know, practicing some of the things that you'll learn from the resource page, it's so, so helpful. And this is the time to get out and practice. So, you know, right now before the season gets going, or if you have some downtime, you know, get out practice for 10, 15 minutes, you know, and you don't wanna necessarily practice when the weather is perfect. You know, if it's a little windy, you know, that's a good thing or find some obstacles. You know, I love this topic, you know, talking about how to cast towards tricky fish or tricky trout, you know, when you have tight cover, you know, funky currents, you know, maybe it's a little bit of a longer distance. You know, you don't wanna practice while you're out on the water. You know, when you see that fish, you wanna be able to make that shot.

I'm a pretty firm believer when you see a fish rising, your first shot is usually your best shot. I really do think the very first time you put that fly over that fish, chances are they're gonna take it if you didn't spook that fish. You know, it's usually after you start rifling through flies, that's when you have to get a little bit more specific with your pattern, in my opinion. So make that first shot count. And so you don't wanna practice, you know, when you see that fish, you wanna practice off the water or, you know, practice somewhere else. You know, that's what I've always done. I've always spent a lot of time, you know, on the casting ponds, just, you know, imagining, okay, if there's a fish here, you know, and the current's doing this, or maybe there's that obstacle, how am I gonna get that fly to that fish? And I think that's just so, so important to do beforehand. You know, you don't wanna miss that opportunity if you see a nice fish rising, you know, underneath the branch, you know, you don't want that to be your first time casting in a while going for that fish.

Tom: Hey, Pete, what about casting on snow? I had a podcast question a couple of weeks ago about casting on snow.

Pete: I think casting on snow is fine. You might get some ice on your guides and that's gonna kind of mess up your casting a little bit. I think casting on snow is probably better than casting on pavement. Pavement seems to really trash a fly line pretty quickly. You wanna make sure you clean it pretty thoroughly after you cast it on [inaudible 00:52:15] like pavement. On snow, I think it's okay. It's gonna be a little challenging if you have like a tropical line, let's say you've got a bonefish trip coming up. If you use that tropical line on the snow, it's gonna become really, really stiff and not cast well. So you wanna use, you know, like a trout line or a cold water type line when you're casting on snow, just so you can, you know, so it doesn't hinder any, you know, hinder your performance, having that line be too stiff. But, you know, you might get a little dirt on your fly line if you have some dirty snow around, hopefully, no yellow snow that you're casting in.

Tom: Don't cast on yellow snow.

Pete: Yeah, exactly. We need a little Frank Zappa or something. But I think, you know, cleaning your line a little bit after you cast is always a good habit to get into, you know, fly lines, they do get beat up over time. You know, if you're casting on grass or snow or pavement or anything like that. So, periodically, cleaning your line is a good habit to get into [crosstalk 00:53:24].

Tom: Snow is not so abrasive that it's gonna hurt a fly line, right? I don't think it'll hurt the finish on a fly line.

Pete: No, I don't think so either. It might, you know, like I said, it might, if you have dirty snow or, you know, if you're casting near like a snowbank and they salt the roads or sand the roads, you know, you might wanna think about that, you know, cleaning lines, but I don't think snow is gonna hurt it all that much, you know. But yeah, I think, you know, the cool thing about, you know, or this topic, I guess, is, you know, it really kind of helps us, you know, get into the discussion about, like, you know, the fish are always gonna be, you know, down winds, you know, in perfectly uniform current, you know, in these ideal situations. You know, it's very, very rare. I mean, fishing in a trout stream, it's, you know, it's the natural environment. It's very organic, if you will, there's lots of twists and turns and structure, you know, usually, that makes a good trout stream, right?

Tom: Mm-hmm. Yeah. Yeah.

Pete: You know, the messier the river is with, you know, vegetation and logs, usually, the better a trout stream can be, you know, if it's like a straight dip, it's usually not that good. So, we always wanna kind of prepare ourselves for these different types of situations. I mean, you know, like if there's a log in the water or low close to the water, how do we get a fly underneath that log? How do we, you know, if we have different currents, you know, how do we make different kinds of presentations? I guess, you know, in your opinion, Tom, I'd love to know what's your favorite angle or I guess, favorite fish to kind...or how do you like to approach a fish? I guess I should say. If you have a fish rising on, let's say on the other bank, you know, it's maybe 30-feet away, you know, do you like to get above the fish? Do you like to be below the fish, straight across from the fish, above and across, below and across? You know, what's your favorite position to approach a fish?

Tom: On a fire bank, if I can get, you know, if I can, you know, maybe not 30-feet, 40-feet, on the fire bank, I like to get just a little bit upstream of the fish. So almost across, but a little bit upstream and then throw some kind of slackline cast, usually a reach cast. Because the water on the fire bank is invariably slower than the water between me and the fire bank. And I think that's something that, you know, you talk about making that first cast count. And I think it's important to visualize the currents more. People just, you know, they see a fish and they see water and they make a cast to it. And they don't think about what's going on between you and that fish. And given that that first cast is so important because the fish is less likely to be spooked, and it's confident it's feeding, whether it's with a nymph or a drier or even a streamer, visualizing what the current is gonna do to your line and your leader before you make that first cast is really important.

Pete: Absolutely. I couldn't agree more. I tend to if I see a fish rising or I see a fish maybe not rising, but I can see a fish, you know, anytime I see a fish, I always take my time. I'm gonna stop. I'm gonna look at that fish, look at its behavior. If it's rising, what's the frequency that it's rising at. You know, I try to get myself into a good position and like you, I prefer to be, you know, kind of across in a little bit above. I think the best cast, you know, when you have a fish on across from you, if you can get a little bit above it, is a reach cast. You know, setting up a reach cast or making a little bit of an aerial mend. So before that fly touches the water, you're repositioning some line upstream typically of that fish, but that's gonna vary on current. That's my favorite position to be in when I have a rising fish. It doesn't always work that way as we all know.

Tom: I've seen you do it though many times.

Pete: That's the position I wanna get myself in if I see a fish. Now, being as tall as I am, I do have that advantage of being able to make that cast a little bit easier, but I also have a disadvantage of spooking fish. And so there's a lot of situations where I will actually crawl upstream, you know, and I'll stay as low as I can and just kind of watch that fish, make sure it's still happy, it's still feeding. You know, if it's eating nymphs, I can see it kind of moving side to side, opening its mouth a little bit, or if it's rising, you know, kind of watching. Make sure that fish is comfortable before I'm gonna make that shot and then, you know, and try to make that nice reach cast, you know, or little aerial mend. I wanna get the fly downstream of the leader in the fly line. So, if I'm making that cast across, I want the fly to be the very first thing that the fish sees. I don't want it to see any fly line first or even some of the leader first. I want the fly to be the very first thing that that fish kind of encounter so I can avoid any opportunity or chance of spooking that fish, if you will. So, I really do think that reach cast is a must-have in your fishing arsenal, you know, or in your repertoire, I guess of cast, that reach cast is so, so important. But that's kind of my favorite position to be in. You know, if you're in a situation where maybe you have like a lot of times, you know, I know on our fish here locally, they love to hang out kind of underneath a low branch or maybe there's a little brush or something like that.

And so I'll kind of watch bugs sometimes float down and just see what the current does to those bugs. How is it pushing a fly into that fish and try to see that fish-eating that fly and say, "Okay, well, if my fly lands in this position here, it's gonna drift right into that fish." I mean, sometimes you'll have a little back [inaudible 00:59:59] or something that'll pull your fly in there, but if your line is tight, when it lands, the main current's probably gonna pull your fly out of there. And so, making sure you get a decent amount of slack, but not too too much in your leader, you know, can help that fly drift naturally right into that fish. And I think getting, you know, a little bit of slack in that leader is pretty important, you know, rather than having it land just perfectly, you know, straight as an arrow right to that fish. Sometimes we'll work if the fish is feeding pretty aggressively, but if it's really inspecting those flies, as soon as that fly starts to drag, you know, game over pretty much, you know, unless that fish goes back in and is, you know, just so focused on eating and just says, "Okay, that one didn't look right." But then in that situation, I usually find that they don't like that fly now because they saw it move. And so, it's time to kind of change flies a little bit. Not all the time, but you know, you might have the perfect fly on and if you make it look unnatural, the fish aren't gonna wanna look at that fly again. They might want something different.

Tom: Yeah. Something that looks just a little bit different.

Pete: Yeah. Yeah. I try not to change my flies very much. You know, if we get a good hatch going on, I kind of have one fly or one pattern that I really stick to but, you know, if I make that bad presentation and get it to drag, it's like, okay, now I gotta start going down the list. All right. Well, let's try, you know, maybe this one or let's try maybe that one, you know, and see. But sometimes you can almost get away with, you know, a very generic pattern on that very first shot if it's a good presentation.

Tom: Yeah. Agreed. Totally agree.

Pete: But that's, I mean, we kind of... it went over a bunch, but I don't know, what do you think? We pick some scenarios, you know, and maybe we can kind of go over different ways you could approach a fish?

Tom: Yeah. Let's talk a little bit more about those tight overhead brushes because that's often a problem, and it might not be against the fire bank. It might be against your bank, you know, you might be closer to the fish and in the same current lane, but when you have a fish, let's say it's across from you but it's a tight overhead, you know, there's brush over the top of the fish and for quite a distance. You know, it's under a big willow tree or something like that. What's your go-to procedure there?

Pete: So, if I have plenty of room behind me, and I have a fish that's kind of underneath an obstacle, you know, like that willow, and maybe there's like a little foot lane or it's a foot high or maybe two feet high, usually if it's a little higher, it's a little bit easier. I'm gonna really try to make, you know, like a low angle cast, like a sidearm cast and try to get that fly to kind of go underneath there. If I make a very high upright cast, a lot of times that fly is gonna land in the bushes, you know, above the fish. And then if that happens, you know, you really wanna make sure you don't pull back right away. You know, just let everything kind of settle, maybe give it a little bit of a wiggle and sometimes that fly will fall right out. But if you start reefing on it pretty hard, chances are you're gonna move that bush a lot, that's gonna put that fish down. So I like a sidearm cast to try and get that fly underneath that bush a little bit. But I did a little writeup on, I think I called it something really corny, like turning the key, you know, to increase your accuracy. When you make a sidearm cast, a lot of times your loop kind of sits to the side rather than being a vertical with, you know, your flying your leader on top of the fly line, you know, in this loop, you know, rolling out, it kind of rolls out to the side. It almost looks like that loop was laid down flat on the ground rather than being vertical.

And that horizontal loop will get a fly underneath there. And it's actually a pretty useful cast if you hit it a little bit aggressively, you can get that fly to hook a little bit and throw a little curve cast and you can get that fly to come down there naturally. That's pretty good. Or that can be a good cast, you know, when you make that sidearm cast. Now, this is in a situation where if, you know, you're standing on one bank and the water's flowing from right to left. You know, if you're right-handed castor and you hit it a little aggressive, you'll get that fly to kick and land a little bit downstream of your line, which will give you a nice presentation. And that flatter loop will also help get underneath those bushes, you know, kind of that horizontal loop rather than a vertical loop, if you will.

Tom: Yeah. And you have to, I mean, you have a little more gravity working against you because you're casting closer to the water. And if you drop your, you know... In an overhead cast, if your loop drops a little bit, not so bad, you can get away with it but if you're casting parallel to the water, then I guess you do have to increase your line speed, don't you? Because if it drops a little bit, you're gonna hit it on the water.

Pete: Exactly. You're gonna kind of skip your line across the water, which could disturb it, could scare the fish. You know, it's really funny in all the years of working in the fishing schools, you know, we teach a lot of sidearm casting and a lot of low-angle casting. And the reason why we do that is so it allows folks to watch their cast a lot easier so they can see their back cast loop. They could lay down the around, they can see a forecast loop, and so they can work on one side at a time. And it's a very, very useful cast when you're out fishing, you know, working so you can see what's going on, it's gonna help with your timing. It's gonna help develop, you know, good muscle memory so you can make that nice tight loop. But what was funny is when folks got lower and lower, closer to the water, there's this natural, you know, I don't wanna call it a fear, but of that line hitting the ground. And so, folks naturally apply a little bit more power as they come a little bit lower, so they can keep that line from skipping along the ground a little bit. So we do wanna apply a little bit more power to keep that line from hitting the ground and potentially scaring the fish and getting that loop to extend and that fly line to extend. But if you practice, you know, as you get lower, you're gonna notice you start to apply a little bit more power with that cast just almost naturally. But it is something that we do wanna do when we're casting. So we don't get that line to kind of skip across the water.

So we're gonna make a little bit more of an aggressive cast. Sometimes that'll kick that fly around and give us a little bit of a reach cast or a little bit of a curve cast, if you will, which can help. And that'll help in... I mentioned earlier about turning the key. And if I have a little bit of room, let's say 2-feet, maybe 3-feet, but I still have to get underneath something and I wanna be relatively accurate, if I turn my hands a little bit while I'm making that forecast. And I like to cast with my thumb on top, some people use their index finger on top, but I can make a subtle rotation with my hand and that'll get my loop to go from horizontal to vertical while I'm making that low angle cast. And so I did an article called, Turning the Key. It's, you know, a good analogy or, you know, what it kind of almost resembles is almost like trying to put topspin or backspin on like a ping pong ball or a tennis ball. You know, when you hit it with a rackis, you can make a subtle rotation to put that topspin on it. With that backspin on it and that subtle rotation with your hand, and it's tiny, it's very, very tiny, will actually get that loop to go from that horizontal position to a vertical position, but still stay at a very low angle. And so you can make that cast, so you can start to be a little bit more accurate, you know, if you have very, very slow water where you don't have to worry about mending too much or trying to get a reach cast. Maybe you're carp fishing on a lake or a pond and, you know, there's a carp feeding underneath the tree, or maybe you're bass fishing or something like that, or even trout fishing on a slow-moving section of water. You can make that little cast or that little flip or rotation with your hands, and that can get that loop to be vertical, but still stay at that low angle.

And that's, you know, I do feel like a fish that is underneath cover though, tends to be a little bit more relaxed than one that's out in the open. If it is underneath there, you can usually get away with a little bit, I don't want anybody to make a really sloppy presentation, but you can usually get away with a little bit more in those situations. The fish feels a little bit more comfortable. And so, I think, you know, still trying to be accurate though is important. Accuracy is always much easier with a higher angle rod or a very upright rod because it naturally allows that loop to roll out vertically. So where the line goes, the fly's gonna go. As soon as we make a sidearm cast, accuracy can be a little bit trickier. Like I was saying earlier, if we overpowered a little bit, that fly can kick, you know, if we're a right-handed caster, it usually kicks a little bit to the left. If we're a lefthanded caster, it usually kicks a little bit to the right when we overpower with that horizontal loop. But a vertical loop, that fly's just gonna extend or that leader's gonna extend, or that fly's gonna go kind of towards its intended target. And that's why I like to do that little rotation with my hands to make sure that that fly goes right out onto target or right towards my target. When your line's lower though, it is harder to get a mend kind of in the air or make a little aerial mends. That does become a challenge. Usually, the higher our line is off the water, the easier it is to manipulate that line.

You know, moving our rod or doing an aerial mend before that line lands on the water. I think some people have a tendency to mend a little bit too much. You know, sometimes you have to, you absolutely have to. But I prefer to kind of make the cast, get my fly to land where it needs to land and then let it ride. You know, I try not to mend too much as soon as my fly lands, especially dry fly fishing with, you know, smaller flies, you know, a lot of mayfly and caddis fly. You know, some caddis you can twitch and some mayflies you can twitch as well. But you know, usually a lot of that twitching, you know, that I do to flies is usually more with like terrestrials and stuff like that, like a big hopper pattern or something. But usually, I wanna make that cast, get that fly to land. And then I just follow that fly with my rod tip, you know, and kind of follow it underneath that branch. And I try not to, you know, pull the fly or mend the fly too much once that fly lands. Sometimes you can do that though. I feel like, you know, if you have like a long feeding lane and you have to make your cast well upstream of that fish, you can sometimes, you know, make that cast, pull the fly into position a little bit, and then let it float down. But I think, you know, the closer you move that fly to that fish, the more chances you have of spooking that fish.

Tom: You know, it's interesting you talk so much about that side cast or the horizontal cast and, you know, when you watch somebody that's practicing casting, you almost never see them side casting, you almost never see someone practicing there. It's always directly overhead, directly overhead, you know, thumb in line with the ear or whatever. And, you know, it would do us all more good I think to when we get out there and practice to practice a side cast.

Pete: Absolutely. That's one of the biggest things we practice in our fishing schools. Our one in two-day fishing schools, it's making that side cast and, you know, the reason is both your back cast and your forecast or fishable cast, it's not just always your forecast. There's so many situations where I've made a back cast to a fish, just because it was easier. It was easier presentation to make and that back cast, it's a very fishable cast. If you get out saltwater fishing, you want that. I mean, that's just gonna increase your chances of catching fish if you can make a back cast to a target, you know, it's gonna help tremendously. And when you cast that sidearm or that lower angle, it's much easier to see it, what's going on, it's much easier to control that loop, and also, it's much easier to be accurate on that back cast presentation, with kind of that sidearm presentation, if you will, or sidearm cast.

Tom: Yeah. I mean, especially in something like in a tight stream where you're right-handed and you're walking up the right bank and you see a fish against the other bank, you either need to dump a back cast or you need to cast lefthanded.

Pete: Exactly.

Tom: And I know that I had some disappointment in my particularly saltwater back cast delivery where, you know, it wasn't going where I wanted it to go. And you had some really good tips that helped me out a lot. You wanna share those with people when they're using a back cast to deliver the fly?

Pete: Absolutely. I think, one of the best things to do when you're making a back cast presentation to your fish is if you're right-handed caster take your right shoulder and point it at your target. So, you're gonna kind of point your shoulder at your target if you're a right-handed caster or point your right shoulder at your target so you can keep your eyes on that fish. You're just gonna kind of stand to the side and then you can make that cast a little bit easier. So, kind of leading with your shoulder, or pointing with your shoulder towards your target. It's almost like throwing a Frisbee. You know, I went to college in Vermont and we threw a lot of Frisbees around. And so it's just like if you were throwing that Frisbee, you're gonna point your shoulder at your target. So that's one thing I always try to do. The other is I try to focus on getting that loop on top of itself too. And that can be a little bit trickier but it's, you know, I still like to keep that thumb on top, but when I make a back cast presentation, my thumb's almost gonna be on the bottom a little bit, you know. A little bit to the side, but a little bit on the bottom when I make that final delivery. And that's gonna help keep that loop a little bit more vertical, allowing you to stay accurate. If you keep that loop to the side, our back cast are naturally a little bit more powerful than our forward cast. We can go off target a lot of times that fly or kind of hook to the right. if we're righthand casters, we make that back cast presentation. So really trying to force that loop over the top can help keep it accurate. And it's an incredibly useful cast in not just a saltwater situation. You know, that was a great point you made about, you know, small stream, you're right-handed caster, you're walking up the right bank, you see a fish on the other side, you're you're absolutely right. You're gonna have to either switch hands, you know, cast with your left or make a back cast presentation.

Tom: Yeah. And the thing that... Yeah, you hit it exactly. The thing that I was doing when I was presenting my back cast was I was curving my arm too far around my right side. I wasn't stopping the rod tip where I should. I was curling it around my body and, you know, keeping that loop on top of itself is so important and watching where your thumb points.

Pete: Yeah. That helps me tremendously. I mean, some folks like to turn their thumb over where their thumb lands on top, so they actually turn their hand through their back cast. And doing that, some people like that, some people can do it very, very well. It feels very unnatural for me. So I tend to keep my thumb kind of on the bottom just like I would make a normal back cast. And I feel like that helps me be a little bit more accurate, for myself. But it's a little bit different for everybody. I tend not to like to cast with my arm across my body and, you know, if I was a right-handed caster, putting my right hand over my left shoulder and trying to cast over that way, I find that to be kind of awkward. We don't have a lot of power when we make that cast. So I prefer to do a back cast presentation.

Tom: Yeah. I'm sitting here as I'm sure most people are, making cast in the air, visualizing what you're talking about. You may have heard me hit the microphone there a second.

Pete: I think I'm doing the same thing. I'm doing the exact same thing but, you know, that back cast I use it all the time. And that's gonna help, you know, when you're dealing with, you know, tricky situations, you know, especially on small streams, things like that. You know, one other thing I try to do, I guess, is I try to have as little line kind of in contact with the water, especially, you know, on small streams, if I'm working my way upstream. The more fly line you have in the water, especially if it's like a fast-moving, you know, small stream, I feel like that fly line, if there's a lot of it on the water, it's gonna drag, it's gonna pull that fly sometimes quicker if usually, you're casting into kind of softer water. And you know this very, very well, you know, from all your time spending fishing on some of those smaller rivers. You know, it's the less line you have on the water, I think the better, the more natural presentation you're gonna get. And so I think that's pretty important, you know, when you're working upstream. You know, I love a bow and arrow cast on small water. I'm a big, big fan of that cast. You know, making a bow and arrow cast I think is great when you have a lot of cover and it's really, really tight. You know, I try to grab the line, you know, right across some of the grip of the fly rod, and then I'll have the fly kind of in my index finger, in my thumb and I'll hold the line in my left hand being a right-handed caster. And I'll grab the line with my other three fingers, my, you know, pinky ring finger, and middle finger. I'll grab the line right across from the grip of my fly rod. And then you can make a bow and arrow cast, you know, that's 20 feet, you know, that's a fairly long bow and arrow cast. And holding the fly in your index finger and thumb right by the bend of the hook will keep that fly from sticking yourself in your thumb when you're doing that bow and arrow cast. But that's a great, great cast when you have a lot of tight cover, you know.

Tom: Yeah. Describe the bow... You know, people tell me they have problems with the bow and arrow cast, and it's really pretty straightforward, but, give people some tips on making that bow and arrow cast.

Pete: Yeah, absolutely. I think what a lot of people do, and why they have challenges with the bow and arrow cast is when they grab the line to pull back, they grab the line below the reel, you know, too low. And if you grab the line well below the length of the rod or past the reel, if you will, you're gonna be fully extended with both of your arms as, you know, your full wings expand. And then that rod tip will start to kind of flip around and it'll kind of go all over the place. So, I always try to grab the line right above the grip, you know, or have, you know, no more than the fly rod's length or fly line that I'm gonna grab. And so...

Tom: Fly line and leader, right?

Pete: Yeah. So, I hold the fly by the bend, sometimes I'll make like, you know, if I have a 9-foot long leader and I'll grab the fly line though, and I'll let the leader kind of dangle, but I'll hold the fly by the bend of the hook. And then I'll grab the fly line right next to the grip of the rod. So, if I pointed my rod straight up in the air and I had a 9-foot long fly rod, I'm actually only grabbing about 8-feet of fly line. So, it's relatively tight right towards the tip with my hands together. Then I can point my rod tip right at my target and I can pull back. And now I only have to pull back 2-feet or 3-feet with my hand and I start to get a good bend in that run. I can pull back a little bit more and now I can let it go. And, you know, let go of the line, let go of the fly and it should roll right out to that target. And if you do that, you can make a bow and arrow cast, you know, easily. That's, you know, you have a, you know, 8-feet of fly line and a 9-foot leader. I mean, you're already at, you know, 17-feet right there. And then if you include the length of your rod, well, there's another 9-feet, you know, you're at 25-feet.

Tom: So you're actually shooting a little bit of line when you make your bone arrow cast.

Pete: No, no, I'm not really shooting any. So I have a fly rod's length of fly line.

Tom: You have a fly rod's length of fly line out of the tip of the rod.

Pete: Yes. And so right where the fly line and leader connection is, I'm gonna grab that, you know, I'm a right-handed caster. So I grab that with my left hand, right where if I was to point my rod straight up in the air, that length of fly line is gonna come right to about the grip. I wanna grab the fly line right next to the grip. So, I don't wanna have more than that length of fly line that I grab because I only wanna pull my hand back, you know, 3-feet or 4-feet and have that rod be loaded, 2-feet or 3-feet. So I wanna grab the line right across from the grip...

Tom: With your non-casting hand

Pete: Correct. Yeah, my left hand. And then the fly, I tend to hold the fly between my index finger and my thumb right by the bend of the hook with the point exposed so I don't stick myself with that hook point. And then the fly line that I'm pulling back with my left hand, I actually hold the line with my middle finger, my ring finger or my pinky fingers, just those three extra fingers. So, I grab it right there, now I have my hands together and the only thing that's kind of dangling down is just the leader and it's folded in half.

Tom: Uh-huh. Okay. Got it.

Pete: And so now I point my rod kind of right towards my target and then I can pull back and I only have to pull back. You know, as soon as I start to pull, that rod's loading right away and it's starting to bend. I can pull my hands back or pull my left hand back from the rod maybe 3-feet and it's already loaded up. And I usually reach out with my right hand pointing at my target. I've bent that rod back, you know, maybe pulling the line up to my ear, and let it go, let go of the fly, and it usually shoots right to your target.

Tom: Like, you let go of the fly and the fly line at the same time.

Pete: Yeah. I just open up my hand completely and then I've let go of the fly, the fly's not touching and I've let go of the line at the same time. And the line usually shoots right out with the fly and it goes right to the target, you know, it's a great, great cast. I think we have a video on the bow and arrow cast on the learning center.

Tom: No, we don't, but we need one.

Pete: Yes, we do.

Tom: We need to do a video soon. Okay. Yeah,

Pete: It was so funny. I was fishing with Sean Combs, we were carp fishing and, you know, we were going to the spot we all like to go to. And, unfortunately, you know, there was a lot of other people that liked to go to that same spot and we found all the carp were on the other side of the river. So, we had to cross, we got on the other side, but all the carp were right at our feet and there was lots of debris, lots of, you know, crazy stuff around. And you should ask Sean about this. It was one of my proudest bow and arrow casting moments. I made a bow and arrow cast with a little tiny carp fly, shot it right in there. As soon as the fly landed, the carp ran over and grabbed it. And I had to try and bust my way through some pricker bushes to get down to the water to land the fish. But it all worked just the way you would hope it would. And it usually randomly [inaudible 01:25:35], especially with carp.

Tom: I don't even know the spot you're talking about now. We'll have to talk about that offline.

Pete: Yeah. We'll talk about that offline. Like, Sean was right there next to me. He's like, "You've got to be kidding me," and I can't believe it worked. Like, that is burned in my memory, just it's so rare to be able to get that close to a carp and make a bow and arrow cast and have it work. Normally, they're out of there real quick.

Tom: Well, that's great.

Pete: Especially with the pressure they got.

Tom: Now, I don't think I've ever made a bow and arrow cast the way you describe it, but I'm gonna try for sure. I'm gonna try that next time I'm out.

Pete: Yeah, it worked. Like, I had to shoot it through a little tunnel too, and there was a big tree and a lot of brush and there was this little tiny tunnel, this little hole and it managed to work and I couldn't believe it. And you know, it was like a 25-foot bow and arrow cast from this high bank and fly landed. And I was very impressed that it worked the way it did. I couldn't believe it.

Tom: Glad it all came together.

Pete: Yeah. It doesn't happen often, but when it does, it makes you feel good.

Tom: Yeah. All right. Let's talk about another tricky situation and that's the tale of pool. You're working upstream and you get to the tail of a pool and there's fish rising right in the lip. And you're gonna have to throw your fly a little bit ahead of the fish, hopefully off to the side a little bit. But the problem being in the tail of the pool, invariably, you are standing in much faster water because the water accelerates at the tail of a pool. So, the minute your fly line hits the water or your leader, that fly starts to drag.

Pete: Exactly.

Tom: And, you know, we've all been in that situation. And what do you do in that situation?

Pete: Well, that's... You know, I kind of... We started talking a little bit about it and you're absolutely right. That is one of the more challenging spots to be in with a fly rod. And this is where having as little line on the water as possible is gonna be important. You know, because you're standing in faster water, that thicker, heavier fly line is also gonna be in that faster water and it's gonna pull that leader and it's gonna pull that fly and it's gonna straighten everything out and kind of get that fly dragging pretty quickly. So if I can get close to that fish, you know, you're usually approaching the fish from behind in that situation, but not always, I try to get a little bit closer and when I make that cast, I start lifting my rod tip up, kind of at the speed of the current, if you will, to try and get as much fly line off of that fast water as possible. So I'm usually making that cast, keeping my rod tip high and lifting my rod tip up and actually stripping in the line as it comes towards me trying to get that line off of the water, off of the fast water as that fly comes towards me. So, that's one thing that I try to do. But when you have to make a longer cast, that's where I will actually try to throw a little bit of like a... You know, I don't want fly line to go over the fish and I don't want a lot of that leader to go over the fish.

So I always try to get a little bit of an angle on it if I can, you know, and so the fly is kind of the only thing that fish sees, maybe just a little bit of you tippet. And you don't wanna cast necessarily right on top of the fish too, that could spook the fish. So, if I can get a little angle, I try to do that, you know, a little bit to the left or a little bit to the right of that rising fish. I try to keep my rod tip high, to try and keep as much of that line off of that current or that faster water as I can. And sometimes I'll even try to throw a little hook in my cast just a little bit to get that line to land well to the left or well to the right of that fish. And so it's just the fly kind of coming over that fish. If the fish doesn't take the fly though, you know, you wanna let the fly go beyond the fish, you know, stripping some line, gently pick up, and you don't wanna false cast over those fish as well because you could spray water, which could put that fish down. You know, if they're in the tail out of a pool, chances are the water's probably pretty slow where the fish is and it's pretty clear. And if you're false casting over that fish, the fish could see the line. If you make your very first cast over, you could spray some water over that fish and that could, you know, cue that fish in. So, I tend to make a false cast to the side of the fish and then try to make that delivery, you know, to that fish. I never false cast over fish. You know, trout fishing when you have, you know, a nice fish that's rising, you know, I never wanna false cast over that fish. I feel like, you know, that fish could see your line, it could see the spray.

So I always try to cast to the side, you know, kind of in a different direction than just make that one shot right at that fish, you know, try to keep as much line out of that faster current as you can. You know, you can put a little bit of slack, if you have to cast directly, you know, straight upstream, you can put a little slack either with like a little bit of a tuck cast, which we've done a presentation on. So a tuck cast will throw a little bit of slack in your leader. You can also do a cast called a pile cast, where you send your loop a little bit uphill, if you will. You know, so you're sending it a little bit uphill and then you draw your rods down. And what you'll end up doing is your leader and your fly will land relatively straight, but you'll get a little bit of slack in your fly line close to you. And that little bit of a slack, the current will have to pull that slack out first before it can start pulling that fly so that kind of parachute cast or pile cast, if you will, is a good cast when you're casting upstream and you're standing in kind of faster water. It's kind of one of those funky casts that definitely takes a little bit of practice. There's another funky cast that I think it's called like a dump cast, and I could have this wrong, where you can put a little bit of slack kind of in the middle of your line, in your fly line. You can kind of put that slack in different spots where you make a cast and then you kind of lift your rod tip and drop your rod tip almost like a, you know, you make like a little kind of flick with your rod and that can put a little bit of slack in the middle of your flying line but still keep the end of it straight. It's kind of a funky cast and one we probably need to do a video on.

Tom: Yeah. You kind of bump the rod a little bit.

Pete: Yeah, yeah.

Tom: I call it a bump cast. I don't know if that's right.

Pete: Yeah, bump cast. No, I mean, like I said, I don't think I'm saying the name of the cast right. It could be like a dump cast, a bump cast.

Tom: The casting police might come after us, you know.

Pete: I know, I know. I've been definitely harassed by them a few times. And, you know, my interpretation on casting is just make it work. You know, the fish don't care what it looks like, you know, it doesn't have to be perfect or pretty. And when we're in a natural environment, we can make that perfect cast all the time. And so we have to, you know, just kind of take stock in the situation we're in and make a cast that works. And so a lot of times we're making up stuff, you know, and I think that's the fun thing about it, you know. You never know what could work and, you know, unorthodox is sometimes the best approach. You know, when you're in a wild trout stream or any fishing situation.

Tom: It's all the more reason to perfect that basic overhead cast to where you're super comfortable with it be because then you can modify it and still be aware of the basics. Right?

Pete: Absolutely. Absolutely. I mean, there's a lot of times where I'm trying to change the angle from horizontal to vertical, you know, with the loop, if you will, and, you know, adjusting that because sometimes it's gonna make your fly land in different orientations or different angles and do different things. And that's just gonna make you so much better out on the water. You'll become such a better angler, being able to understand like, okay, if I do this, what is it gonna do to my fly? What is it gonna do? You know, how is it gonna make it land? And that's something really, really important. And you're only gonna get that by practicing, you know.

Tom: Yeah. And you never see people practicing a parachute or a pile cast or a bump cast, or even a reach cast, you know. And so you know, people ask me, when I practice, what should I do? Well, there's your answer. Practice all these different kinds of, they're basically modifications of the overhead cast, right? They're not really different cast. They're just, you're moving the rod a little bit differently, but it's still a basic overhead cast, but there's...

Pete: Exactly. You know, to make the casting police happy, I guess technically they're all kind of mends. As soon as you do something with your rod after you make a cast, it's basically a mend, you know, or it's an aerial mend.

Tom: Okay. That is approved by the casting police when you say that.

Pete: You know, so when you do a reach cast, you know, you're doing an aerial mend. When you do aa pile cast, you're doing an aerial mend. You know, you're doing something to that line before it lands in the water, but you still have to make the cast first. You always have to make the cast first, then you can manipulate the line after the slack. You know, sometimes you can make little adjustments while you're going through that forward cast or going through that back cast and those are technically more cast, but everything else is kind of technically a mend. Pile cast, a bump cast, you know, you're still making a normal cast first.

Tom: But if you can't make that basic overhead cast properly and comfortably, then you can't do these other things either.

Pete: Absolutely. Absolutely. So, that's the foundation right there, that good overhead cast, you know, and then a good sidearm cast, get comfortable with those and then try little things. And a lot of this stuff, it's subtle. And I think a lot of people when they're learning how to do a parachute cast or a reach cast or a bump cast, excuse me, it tends know, we always put a little bit extra into it when we're learning something new and we're working a little bit harder and sometimes those results don't come out the way, you know, we intended them to. And it's usually just because we get too aggressive or we work a little bit too hard. You know, with the rods, you know, the technology and the rods these days and the fly lines and you know, what all these things can do for you, it's pretty impressive how easy they make a lot of these casts, it really is, you know. But your leader is also important too. You know, having a good tapered leader, you know, be it building your own or, you know, premanufactured tapered leader, is really important for a lot of these casts. If we just take a straight piece of, you know, monofilament, it's not gonna turn over well, especially if we have like a larger, more wind resistant, you know, fly. So, I'm a big proponent of a good tapered leader, you know, a nice length of tippet on the end of that leader. And if it has a good, you know, taper to it, a nice thick back section, you can get a very, very long leader to turn over, you know, relatively straight, you know, without a lot of effort. I think those tapered leaders are so important.

You know, working on making those loops tight is also very, very important when we're dealing with tricky situations, especially like tight cover. The tighter we can make that loop, the easier it's gonna be to kind of fire that fly in and under underneath structure in particular. So really, really tight loops. So when we're making those casts, making sure that we're traveling as straight as possible through that forward cast or through that back cast, that's gonna help get that loop nice and tight. And so, we want that rod tip to travel as straight as possible or our hands travel as straight as possible, you know, through the forward cast and through the back cast. You know, sometimes we have to make a very high angle back cast, almost like a steeple cast, and then a lower angle forward cast. And so, our back cast and our forward cast, you know, that doesn't necessarily look like it's in a straight line, one's going uphill, one's going out, you know, or one's more vertical, one's more horizontal. And so, a lot of that straight line talk you hear about in casting is kind of through that forward cast. You know, as you're going from your back cast position, making that forward cast, making sure that's where your straight line and is, or making sure you're getting that nice straight line through your back cast. It's not always necessarily through both, you know, it's not from the back cast to the forward cast or, you know, when you're making that back cast and when you're making that forward cast, that's not necessarily the straight line. It's that nice straight line through your forward cast, that nice straight line through your back cast. You know, sometimes you're making like a Belgian style cast where you're doing a low-angle back cast and a higher angle forward cast. You know, those are on two different planes, and really getting into the weeds here, man, really, really, really dig it.

Tom: Well, I think we've given the listeners lots of homework to do. And, you know, if you're not going out winter fishing and you're anticipating the season, this is the time to work on that casting and perfect those casts. Put on a pair of gloves if it's cold, go outside and work on these different modifications of the overhead. Get your overhead cast down first, get it so you're really comfortable with it, and then start playing around with manipulating a line.

Pete: Yeah. And I think for those of you out there who are tall like myself, practice casting down low, sitting down, you know, that'll help you get closer to those fish a little bit. You know, try to cast without making a lot of body movement, you know, waving your arms around, you know, nice and compact, that's, you know, and be observant too. When you get back out on the water and you see those fish, make sure you just take your time, you know, take your time, try to see what the fish is doing. Sometimes they get into patterns where they rise, you know, once every 10, 20, 30 seconds, or once every couple minutes, you know. I've heard you describe it this way and I think Bill Reed about how fish like to live on kind of like a carpet or they'll feed on a carpet and sometimes it's, you know, they're up there sometimes, you know, they're down low on the carpet, you know, but every third rise they feed in the same spot. And so, kind of watching the fish, you know, watching its behavior is pretty important, you know, and being observant, you know, taking your time. You know, yeah, it's a fun topic to talk about.

Tom: Oh, we could go on for hours. Couldn't we?

Pete: Yeah. Easily, easily.

Tom: Well, let's stop talking about it and go fishing. As soon as it gets above zero, let's get out there. Now that Vermont has a year-round drought season.

Pete: Yeah. Yeah. As soon as it warms up, you know, it's time to hit the slopes, I guess.

Tom: All right, Pete. Well, we've been talking to Pete Kutzer, the Orvis casting guru, and fishing guru, and all-around good guy. Pete, I wanna thank you for sharing your thoughts with us today and for teaching me how to make a proper bow and arrow cast.

Pete: I don't know if it's proper. It's the way I like to do, but thank you.

Tom: I'm gonna try it as soon as I get off the phone.

Pete: Cool. Cool. Well, Tom, thank you very much. This is always a blast. You know, I really appreciate it.

Man: Thanks for listening to "The Orvis Fly Fishing Podcast" with Tom Rosenbauer. You can be a part of the show. Have a question or a comment, send it to us at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. in the body of an email or as a voice attachment. You can find more free fishing tips at