What's the Deal With Flyrod Feel?

What's the Deal With Flyrod Feel?

Plus, breaking the sound barrier; and brown trout beauty marks

  • By: Buzz Bryson
  • and Paul Guernsey
I caught a brown trout recently that had a beautiful blue spot the size of a nickel on the side of her head. I've also seen photos of browns with similar circular blue spots. Does this blue spot have a special name? What causes it, and is it healthy for the fish? We also have seen and caught browns with that pretty blue spot, which almost always seems to occur on the fish's head. According to world-renowned trout biologist Dr. Robert Behnke, the blue spot is normal pigmentation, and nothing at all to be alarmed about.Why do some fish have it? Behnke says to chalk it up to the rich and diverse genetic heritage of the North American brown trout. By way of further explanation, we can do no better than the following passage from Behnke's 2002 book, Trout and Salmon of North America: "Coloration in brown trout extends over such a broad spectrum that it is difficult to describe a typical appearance. The common brownish yellow background color of the body of the fish is the basis for its common name, but coloration varies among individuals from pale, silvery gray tinted with shades of greenish blue, to deep golden yellow, dark red or orange that suffuses the lower half of the body. Because of the mixed and diverse ancestry of brown trout introduced into North America, nearly the complete spectrum of spotting and coloration in brown trout worldwide can be found among American brown trout populations." And, no, it doesn't have a name. Perhaps someone should invent one…--P.G. I'm confused about the whole concept of flyrod "feel." I hear people talking about feeling this and feeling that when casting. I can make a 40-foot cast or so, but I wouldn't say I ever "feel" anything from the rod. What am I doing wrong? You're not the only one! I don't have a clue what some people are describing. I sometimes wonder if it's a religious epiphany or some even more basic experience. To me, "feel" as most people use the word is better described as a combination of "connection" and "fit." "Connection," as I'd use the term, results from keeping the line tight during the cast, so that the rod tip and line stay in touch or "connected" and the angler knows what's happening with the cast and senses the rod loading and unloading with the weight of the fly line. "Fit," again as I'd describe it, is simply having a rod that matches the angler's physical attributes and casting style, so that he or she casts it well without having to think about or watch the cast. As a rod-building material, graphite has allowed manufacturers to produce a wonderful range of flyrod actions. At one extreme, we have full-flexing rods that bend so deeply the cork groans. At the other, there are tip-action rods that flex only in the first couple of feet, if that, and throw loops tight enough to go through a soda straw. And here's where connection and fit meet rod action to create "feel": Some of us are laid-back types who prefer to make slow, deliberate casts. We like a rod that matches our pace, not rushing us or requiring much effort from us, one that "fits" our style. Such a rod doesn't get ahead of us and, throughout each cast, we stay "connected" to the line and rod. In other words, we "feel" the cast. Others of us are hyper, run-and-gun fishers. Spot a fish or target, and bang, bang, make the cast. No action, hit the next spot: bang, bang. We cover the water and move on. The rod better not keep us waiting; if anything, we'd like it to help hurry us along. Fast action "fits," and we stay "connected." So, "feel" is what is there when you are "one with the rod," when you "feel the Force." And, may the Force be with you! --B.B. On about half the casts I make, I hear a startling whip-crack sound on my backcast, and sometimes my fly snaps off. What is going on, and how can I prevent it? You're rushing your forward cast. During a proper cast, the leader and fly should essentially be fully extended behind the caster before the forward cast begins. If you begin the forward cast too soon, before the backcast straightens, the leader tip and fly are forced to catch up, and accelerate so quickly they actually break the sound barrier, making a mini sonic boom just like the cracking of a whip (the skeptics among you can hear this on a National Public Radio interview from some years ago at www.npr.org/programs/wesat/features/ 2002/june/whip. Prevention is fairly simple. Simply allow the cast (again, the problem can occur on either the forward- or backcast) to straighten out a fraction of a second longer, and then apply the power more smoothly. If you try this and you're still not getting it, allow the cast to straighten out completely and fall to the ground. If you have the line tight, you can then make the cast in the opposite direction, and you'll never--never--crack the whip. The difference is that the tip of the line isn't playing catch-up. Practice patience! --B.B. Got questions about anything under the fly-fishing sun? Write to "Ask FR&R," PO Box 370, Camden, ME 04843, or e-mail us at