The Other Water Haul

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Louis Cahill Photography

By Louis Cahill

Here’s an unusual, and highly effective, way to use the water haul cast.

Most anglers are familiar with the water haul. If you are not, check out the video and links I have shared below. The basic idea is that you use the surface tension of the water to load your rod for the cast. In stream fishing, this is usually done by letting the current take your fly line downstream until it is tight, then coming forward with your casting stroke. The tension of the line on the water loads the rod and the current serves as a backcast. This is a super effective way to make a stealthy presentation on small streams, but there is another way to use the water haul that’s just as effective on big water.

I most often use this technique in saltwater, but there are times when it’s really handy when fishing rivers or lakes. When the wind is howling off your casting shoulder, it’s tough to make a cast without the fly passing dangerously close to you, or worse, not passing at all. Using a water haul can help.

The problem with wind pushing the fly into the angler is born of slack. Even strong winds don’t have much effect on a fly that is under the tension of an energized line, but when you pause to let your line straighten before the next casting stroke, the wind has its way with your fly and line both. You can minimize the effect by using a Belgian cast. (See video and link below.) That usually works well, at least for a couple of false casts, but when the wind is really moving it’s not enough. It will work on your first backcast, but when you come back for the second, look out.

Here’s where the water haul comes in.

Make one backcast and, when you come forward, shoot as much line as you can and drop it on the water in front of you. Now you are using the surface tension to load the rod for your next backcast. Pick the line up, make your backcast and shoot the line again. Drop it on the water if front of you and repeat until you can reach the fish.

Under normal circumstances, you wouldn’t choose to drop your line on the water between you and the fish, for fear of spooking him, but when the wind is blowing thirty, the water is so whipped up you can get away with it. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t pick the line up as quietly as you can. 

This technique of combining the Belgian cast on your backcast and the water haul on your forward cast takes some getting used to. It’s an unorthodox cast but it will get your fly to the fish under some pretty impossible conditions. Practice it next time you’re on the water and get the feel for it before you need it. It will pay off the next time the wind is beating you up. Nobody likes a fly in their face.

Here are some helpful videos and links.

Improving Your Water haul Cast


Louis Cahill
Gink & Gasoline
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