Odds 'n' Sods of Information and Opinion

Lifting and Casting Full Sinkers

Lifting and Casting Full Sinkers

While casting full sinkers is not a problem, the lift however, can be an adventure to the uninitiated. Sometimes there's no choice but to roll cast up a deeply sunk line, but in most cases, a few techniques will get the job done quite easily.

For the Underhand Single, the initial lift should be high, slow and smooth. This will extract much of the line from the water, and then from there, the rod is dropped back to the water in a big saucer-like sweep, but with no acceleration. From that point, the upward sweep and acceleration is made to cast the line into the D-Loop and moving the rod into the firing position. The lift into the firing position looks like a big “up -- down -- up” motion, which we then continue right into the forward cast without the usual pause. Just like when Skagit casting, this is a continuous motion technique.

The anchor produced by this cast is sometimes referred to as a “V anchor”, thanks to its shape at touchdown. We’ve been taught with long line casting that this up-down-up motion will produce a Bloody L and hinder our cast. But, as long as we maintain a continuous motion with the short, full sinker shooting head, not only do we not get a Bloody L, we’ve executed an easily extracted anchor, even when using very large, weighted flies. Provided your leader is not excessively long, even large, draggy, wet sock flies can be cast with minimum effort. The thing I like best of all about this cast, it reduces the challenge of casting a full sinker to that of a casting floater. At times, I completely forget that there’s a full sinker on the end of my rod -- it becomes such a no-brainer. Check out the video under
Full Sinker Lift - V Anchor for an example of how this works.

This cast also has the benefit being usable in a strong downstream wind. Normally this would blow the line into the angler, creating a dangerous situation. However, thanks to the thin profile of a full sink head, its short, compact mass, the grip of the anchor and the quickness of the Underhand power stroke, there’s very little risk to the angler once he/she is proficient with the cast. Once mastered on both sides of the body, we could literally do all of our sunk line fishing with just this one cast. But a word of warning: don’t try this with a floater or sinktip as the wind will blow it back at us. You have been warned (insert legal stuff here).

The Snake Roll is a simple affair, just think of yourself rolling up a long line. A high, slow lift and a bit of a larger roll is usually enough to extract the head cleanly. If it still won’t come out easily, then as the downward leg of the spiral is being made, move the rod tip inward slightly. Normally this is a casting fault with a floater, resulting in an out of position anchor, but with the full sinker, it’s usually enough to clear it from the water and plop the anchor just where we want it.

Both the Double Spey and the Circle Spey normally have high lifts that extract sunk lines nice and cleanly without the need for any modifications to the basic cast. Using these two casts eliminates all lift problems; just start low and make it slow and smooth.

No matter which cast and/or technique used, the most important things about lifting sunk lines are to start low and always make sure the lift is nice slow and smooth. These lines simply can't be rushed. And remember, the Underhand power stroke can be grafted on to the end of any of these casts. Switching to a Double Spey doesn't require giving up on the Underhand delivery.

But there’s another choice . . .

Lifting a full sinker out of the water can be a challenge, especially when trying to lift into the Single. Double Speys and Circle Speys with a slow, high lift will work the head out relatively easily, but that’s not a great solution if we want to use a Single Spey cast with a longer leader. The V Anchor works well with the single, but if the leader is long, things can get tangled. I’ve worked on developing a lift that lets us get a full sinker out of the water without the need of a roll cast or producing a crashed anchor. Obviously short full sinkers lift easier than long ones and long rods lift better than short ones. Though I mostly use short to medium length rods, I try to keep my full sinkers under 35’ to facilitate lifting.

The method I’ve worked on developing even lifts the fast S3/4s and S4/5 heads on short, light rods.

Problem: Getting a fast sinking, full sinker out of the water when executing a Single Spey without resulting in a crashed anchor or first needing a roll cast.

Situation: River Left, Right Hand Up, line on the dangle.

Equipment: A short rod and a fast sinking head


Use a Closed Stance with right hand up and right foot forward.
Point the right foot at the target.
Point the rod downstream in line with the head, with the rod tip almost touching the water.
The rod is held low and in a relaxed grip.
Lean downstream in line with the rod and head, almost to the point of falling over.
Grip the top handle with the right hand about half way up the grip (typical Underhand grip).
Using our thumb, push down on the butt cap of the rod.
Don’t move the top hand, let the rod rotate around the right hand while still bent over.
The sinking head will be levered almost clear of the water and the rod tip will be high.
Begin the sweep back into the D-Loop first by straightening up and transferring weight to the back foot, then pulling the rod back and down, all the while maintaining tension on the line.
The line will almost come clear of the water and if the main pull is executed when the rod has reached a low position, the anchor will touch down like an airplane landing.
Sweep into the D-Loop with the rod tip at shoulder height and from this point on, complete a typical Single Spey with an Underhand power stroke.

Key Elements:

Slowly push down on the butt cap with the bottom hand thumb, s l o w l y.
Don’t move the top hand while doing this and stay bent over.
Let the rod rotate smoothly in the top hand -- classic lever and fulcrum -- your top hand is the fulcrum.
Make sure the end of the line is still in the water as the rod is being lowered to shoulder height.
If the line comes out of the water while the rod is still in the process of being lowered, the anchor will crash.
Straighten up, transfer weight to the back foot and rotate the body to sweep back to make the D-Loop.
The basic concept is to make the sweep into the D-Loop as long as possible, both to clear the head out of the water and to have enough time and space to get the rod back to shoulder height before clearing the line from the water and setting the anchor.
If the line clears the water while the rod is still going down, the anchor will crash.
The body straightening up, transferring weight to the back foot and rotating the body into the D-Loop is a big part of this process.
Don’t fall over with surprise the first time it works like a charm.

Well executed, this works like a charm, even when a head is well sunk in frog water.