lending a helping hand…

Cleveland Healing Waters

Years ago in March, I fished with the Ohio Steelhead guide, Monte Casey, on Ashtabula Creek for steelhead running out of Lake Erie into the feeder creeks and rivers. The weather was 17 degrees and after 15 minutes on the water I really wanted to end the trip and go back to my mother in laws house in Lakewood where I was staying with my wife, Diana and our two children. It was so cold, my fly line was frozen to the rod. Yes, to the rod not just the guides. The nymphs we were using were not detectable, they were just cubes of ice. Yeah, slinging ice requires an open loop. 

The first fish on was a real cluster mess. Running and sliding through the ice with a frozen reel was strategic and challenging. After the glow of the fight and landing, I forgot the pain of numb fingers and toes. Many fish were landed that day and the walk back was concerning knowing that frostbite may be an issue. It all worked out and another experience to remember, especially what I learned from Monte, an excellent guide and angler. 

I stayed in contact with Monte. In September of 2017 Diana and I visited her mother. Monte and I spoke about his Healing Water’s event at the Cleveland Metro Parks Expo and I offered to help. Monte introduced me to Janis and her service dog, Frank. Janis suffers from PTSD . Along with her dog and fly fishing/fly tying Janis has a reason to carry on. We all need a reason and I am dead certain that angling gives me that “eternal hope” to get through the rigors of life. I showed Janis how to tie a white buck tail Clouser and she was very grateful. I love it when people are grateful for your help – makes my day. Little did I know, that six months later Janis would really make my day.

In April of this year Diana and I flew back to Lakewood, Ohio to take care of her mother’s house. Yep, I contacted Monte for a day steelheading. The weather was iffy but we got out and fished the Chagrin River. Monte’s hopes were not high but that is always a good sign to me and I was right. We put a lot of steelhead on the banks of the Chagrin and this time it was a warm 40 degrees and raining. I was a happy camper promising to help Monte with the Sunday Healing Waters event on Rocky River. Monte was shorthanded and needed my help with the 8 vets showing up at the fabulous Cleveland Rocky River Metro Park. I was honored to help out, especially with the VETS. 

Janis is a quick learner. Realizing a firm wrist and short accurate cast is “the ticket” she managed to hook and release her first two steelhead. I will always remember her comment as we walked downstream with a 7 pound steelhead – “You know I think I would rather be tying a fly”. The second fish may have changed that. I hope so but hey, fly tying in itself is an art and a healer . 

I was so stoked when Janis hooked her steelhead. It will be one of my grand angling moments. You see, I have caught my share of fish. Don’t get me wrong, I love to fish “my guts out”; however, now in my old age – it really gives me a great thrill to help someone “hook up”. Maybe this is what it is all about? Thank you Janis for letting me help you – and thank you Monte Casey for a giving me the opportunity. 

– Jim Solomon, MCI

there are no false casts when you drive a golf ball…

I was having a conversation with my friend Jim Solomon the other day and he made this wonderful analogy, “there are no false casts when you drive a golf ball!” I thought this was great, and he was right! A great cast requires one good backcast and one good forward cast, period. We have a cool casting exercise where we try to throw maximum amount of line with one back and one forward cast. The way to do this is to allow the proper amount of fly line (head with overhang) laid in a straight line in front of you, with rod tip down, make one pick-up and backcast/haul, and one forward/haul release. Try to shoot as much fly line as you can throw, with no tailing loops. Sound easy? This is a great exercise for distance casting. This exercise leaves you little room for error, you must deliver a solid back and forward cast with a smooth, powerful acceleration to a distinct stop or you will not be able to throw that eighty foot cast. We often rely on many false casts to mask our casting mistakes, then deliver the one to the target that feels the best. Unfortunately we do not have that luxury when fishing, especially when a fish is tailing at 60 feet and our knees are knocking and the guide is telling ya to throw. Remember driving a golfball long…learn to make a quick, long cast to a bonefish or tailing permit with no false casts, it requires practice.

Try it!

Al is right on about the pick up and lay down cast, especially on the flats. Fly casting to a moving fish on the flats, especially in the wind, is combat casting but not with a machine gun. Minimizing your presentations ups the chances for a hook up. The more you false cast in the air the more chances of spooking your prey like the shadow of a bird. Think like a golfer – one shot!

Being able to pick up and quickly and softly lay down is money! And being able to change the direction of your cast is double money! Belgium casts, opposite hand casts, off shoulder casts and spey casts are in my tool box.  Especially on windy days. We focus our teaching around these casts. Learn these casts and deliver your fly COD!


poetry in motion


I love watching Andy Mills cast to bonefish.

Number 1:  He is totally focused on the fish. His eyes never wander or lose sight of the fish.

Number 2: He instinctively knows the distance of his cast and is unconscious of his casting stroke and loops.

Number 3: His shoulders and body are square to the target. His body is quiet – not twisting and turning to watch the back cast.

Number 4:  When he stops the rod the tip is in alignment with the target, like throwing a dart.

How can you cast like this? Practice! And practice the right way. This is what we do at the Fly Zone.


casting in stardust


I love listening to Nat King Cole sing “Stardust Melody”. Smooth and with perfect timing. He doesn’t force the lyrics, they just flow like a spring creek. I especially like the words “Love’s refrain” at the end of the song.

Here are some “Stardust Melody” pointers for you fly casters, especially you salty ones:

1. The casting stroke must be Smooth with beautifully timed stops on the back and forward casts.

2. Refrain from overpowering your cast. Reduce your power by 50% but remember to stop and I mean stop the rod.

3. Refrain from rushing the cast. Let your backcast unroll before you start the forward stroke. If you don’t you will creep forward, reduce your stroke length and tail your loop.

3. Relax your hand in between the back and forward cast and only grip firmly at the stops.

4. Sit down, pour yourself a nice glass of wine and listen to Nat sing “Stardust Melody”. This will be your new casting mantra – Smooth, Less Force, Smooth, Less Force just like Nat’s singing.

casting a tight loop…


Simply put, where the rod tip stops at the end of the back cast and forward cast will determine the size of the casting stroke. Generally, if the rod tip stays on a straight line during the cast and stops just below the fly line, the result will be a tight loop. Same for the back cast. If the rod tip tracks a convex or bicycle wheel shape the loops will be wide. Think of your rod tip as an anchor point for the fly line – where the rod tip stops will determine the shape of your casting loop.   –Jim Solomon


have a sage rod you want to identify?

If you need a general guide to identifying your older Sage rod that a look at this list…

Year Model Description

GFL Stood for Graphite Fly Rod. Used alone and in conjunction with other model names for years. Not really considered a model name.

RP Reserve Power for long Casts Graphite II

LL Traditional Action 2-5 Weight (LL=Light line) Graphite II

MA Medium Action Entry level unsanded grey rod with simple hardware

RPL or Graphite III RPL Reserve Performance Light

LL Graphite III LL

RPLX Saltwater 8-12 Weight

DS Discovery Series – Moderate Action Replaced the RP

TH? Double Handed ?

SP Generation IV Graphite with Durascrim

SP+ Generation IV Graphite with Durascrim

RPL+ Faster than the RPL. Would be considered moderately fast by todays standards

VPS Replacement for the RPL Back to Gen III

VPSL Replacement for the LL Gen III with lesser components

SPL “Best of show” new rods*Gen III

RPLxi Revised and improved saltwater*Gen III

DS2 Lower Price point Graphite II or Graphite III Not even close to sure about the year

XP Lighter narrower tapered Fast Action Gen IIIe

SLT Medium Fast Action Gen IIIe

TCR Ultra fast action for experianced Casters

LE Entry Price Point Rod

Xi2 New Saltwater rod was first with new generation 5 (G5) Technology

TXL Near weightless for light lines G5

Fli Entry Level Fast Action taper with maximum power transfer G5

Launch Entry Level smoth progressive power curve and very high strength to weight ratio*G5

VT2 Mid price point upgrade to long running VPS

Z-Axis Ultimate Fast Action Rod coupled with trmendous feel (2 piece, 4 piece,
Spey and Switch

BASS Finally released after years of development and even showed up on magazine covers with Snook, Baby Tarpon and Pike

ZXL Medum action Cousin to the Z-Axis in weights 3-6

TCX Replacement for TCR but fitting a wider range of castins styles (kryptonite green)

Current ONE Flagship “all-around” rod Fast Action

Current VXP Ultra high speed line and slender shaft begginer to experianced

Current Flight Great features and a great price

Current Vantage Medium Fast value rod

Current TXL-F Light Line Ultra lightweight

Current ZXL Easy and Relaxed like the classic action rods

Current Xi3 Salt Water Replacement for Xi2

Current 99 Nymph angler 9’9″ with unique taper to make open loops

Current BASS II Upgrraded for faster line speeds for big flies still good for Bass, Snook, or Tarpon, Pike and Musky

Current ESN Designed for european lirect line nymphing with multiple flies