Tip Awareness Tip
By Wallace Westfeldt
Modern fly rods are remarkable machines. Weighing as much as a violin bow, today’s rods can land 10lb fish in fast water and throw flies and line 90 feet with dinner plate accuracy… provided you handle them properly. The word “handle” is in bold because therein lies the tip.
A fly rod has many parts and for this discussion, we will focus on three. The tip, the handle, and the spine. The movement of the tip controls the cast, the drift, and the landing. The spine connects the handle to the tip. The spine is located on the opposite of the guides. The handle is where you put your dominant hand for all these actions all the time. One hand, one place, one position. with your thumb in line with the spine of the rod.
Even when you’re walking keep your dominant hand on the handle. It helps you become aware of the tip. By the way, there are fathers, husbands, and old anglers who will tell you to always walk with the rod tip behind you. Don’t do it. I am all those things and have never understood the point of walking with the tip behind you. Usually, you tangle tackle and sometimes even lose rod sections. Hold the rod in front, steer the tip through obstacles, become tip aware.
Here are some details:
Fly rods are relatively long. Therefore, for the beginner or the owner of a new rod, it takes time to develop awareness of the tip. For all tip functions (which pretty much means all of the fishing functions) tip movement should be deliberate. For accuracy at any distance, the tip should be moving in a straight line along the line of the spine. For example, let’s say you want to do a sideways cast under a bush or tree. Turn the rod sideways and make the cast. Watch the tip not the target. The line and the flies will follow the line of the tip. If the tip goes up during the sideways cast, so will the flies (into the bush.)
Once the cast is completed, it is time to control the drift. Once again, tip movement should be deliberate… frequently deliberately still. Beginners tend to let the tip wander creating slack and/or drag on the flies. On short casts, reach the tip towards the fly and lift the rod for natural drifts. For long casts, the tip should move in a straight line keeping the tip in the same plane.
When the fish eats, the tip must move quickly and decisively to tighten the line. All sets need to be confident. Don’t set two-handed. Keep the fly line fixed to the cork with the dominant hand with one finger while drifting. This way you can control the tip pressure on the hook set with one hand. If the fish releases, the tip of the rod must continue to move the flies in a safe direction to avoid tangles and catching flora. No bouncing and no jiggling. Make deliberate moves.
When fighting the fish, use the dominant hand only.
Keep your hand in place on the cork handle. All pressure and angle changes are done with the dominant hand only. The only job for the non-dominant hand in casting, drifting, setting, fighting, and landing is tending the line. There are only two exceptions to this, the strip set for a streamer, and the double haul.
So the tip is simple. To develop more tip awareness and catch more fish, keep only one hand on the rod handle!