O-Ring Method (Shooting Line)
Shooting line—allowing extra line to slide out through the rod guides as the line loop unrolls—is a core skill in fly fishing. Of course, like many things in fly fishing, just taking a “whatever goes” approach to shooting line can often result in less-then-desireable (read: make you angry) results. The O-Ring Method, while not an answer to all shooting line issues, allows you to have significant control over the line in many single-handed casting situations.
In essence, the O-Ring Method is nothing but an additional, oversized rod guide. Rather than being attached to rod, however, the O-ring is part of your hand. Because of that, the O-ring can be moved freely, as well as opened and closed at will, to complement whatever situation you have at hand.
Form the O-ring with the thumb and forefinger of your line hand (like making an “OK” sign). You can allow the other fingers of your line hand to curl in a relaxed fashion. When casting, keep your line hand closed tightly on the line. When you want to shoot, just open the “O-ring” and allow the line to flow out. Used this way, the O-ring allows you to keep control of the fly line at all times.
There are several presentation techniques that the O-Ring Method enables or at least enhances. The first of these involves the act of line transfer. When presenting the fly, the sooner you can get control of the line and begin doing what you need to do, the better off you’ll be. This goes for everything from rainbows to redfish. After you’ve made a shoot with the O-Ring Method and are ready to retrieve line, simply move your line hand (still holding the line) directly over to the rod handle. Then, slip the line under the index or middle finger of your rod hand (or between any two fingers of your rod hand). Now you can begin stripping line from behind your rod hand finger(s) in a controlled fashion. The beauty of this shoot-and-transfer is that you never even need to look away from the water to make it happen. This is especially useful if you are sight-fishing and don’t want to lose track of a fish by glancing at your hands or line.
Another technique that the O-Ring Method assists with is the “Check Cast.” This technique involves stopping (“checking”) the flow of the line while the line loop is still unrolling (typically toward the end of its flight). This is done during the shooting process by using the O-Ring Method to grab a hold of the line. The idea is to pitch the fly over onto the water in a precise, direct manner (you can actual tug on the line to accentuate this action). Anglers hitting the banks from a drift boat, nymphing with shot or weighted flies, casting hoppers, chucking hair bugs and working the shorelines in both fresh and salt can all benefit from using the O-Ring Method to facilitate a check-cast presentation.
The O-Ring Method also enables easy shooting of line on the backcast. Using the O-ring for control, just allow line to slide out during the pause between the backcast and forward cast. Then grab the line by closing the O-ring and make the forward cast. Some focused practice is all that’s needed to get a sense of the timing involved. Once you’ve got the timing, you can use backcast shooting to assist you in a variety of ways. For example, if you can shoot on the backcast, you can quickly compensate for a retrieve that leaves you with little line out of the rod tip when the retrieve is finished (such as when a fish follows the fly back to the boat). Rather than having to retrieve, and then false cast/shoot, false cast/shoot, false cast/shoot, you can just pick-up/shoot/forward cast/shoot in one smooth sequence.
The O-Ring Method certainly isn’t applicable everywhere, but it is a skill that can help you bring better control to many angling situations.