Learning to Cast
The Flies of Fly Fishing
Casting in fly fishing is one of those foundational skills that separates the successful fly fisherman from the unsuccessful one. Although there are many aspects to casting and the prospect of learning them at first appears daunting, casting is actually quite easy and with practice will soon feel natural. The key word here is practice. No one can expect to pick up a fly rod and reel and accurately place a fly in a bubbling stream without practice.
We've broken the casting section down into 7 lessons:
|Threading the Rod||
Threading the Rod
Once you have attached your fly line, leader and backing together (see the section on Tackle Assembly) you need to thread the line through your rod guides so you can begin casting. Thread the fly line through the rod guides by doubling the line over to make it easier to pass through the small guides. Once you have completely threaded the rod, attach either a fly or a small piece of yarn to simulate the weight of a fly. You can now begin practice casting!
|Shake Hands With The Grip||
Shake Hands With The Grip
Take the fly rod in your right (or left) hand as if you were shaking hands with the cork grip. Hold it firmly, yet confortably in your hand. Secure the fly line under a finger of your casting hand. Next, pull about 25 to 30 feet of line off the reel and out the tip of the rod. Now you're ready to learn the first basic cast, the Roll Cast. Note: never practice on a hard surface such as concrete or clay because the abrasion will ruin your fly. A level grass surface is best.
|Picking Up And Laying Down Line||Picking Up and Laying Down Line
The Pickup and Laydown is a basic you must learn in order to cast a fly line. It is used for all False casting and other casting and for changing direction of a cast.
1. The Pickup
With 25 to 30 feet of line laying out in front of you on the water or the grass, quickly lift the rod from the 9 o'clock position and stop it in the 1 o'clock position, lifting the line off the water and up into the air behind you. Feel the weight of the line.
2. The Laydown
Perform a Pickup Cast. This time stop at the 1 o'clock position and wait until the line extends behind you and unfolds, then glide forward with the rod, accelerating to the 10 o'clock position, stopping abruptly, allowing the loop to form and unroll.
|The Basic Casting Stroke||The Basic Casting Stroke
Repeat the Pickup and Laydown cast until you can easily move the line back and forth. The backcast should be upward and the forward cast should be slightly downward.
|The Roll Cast||The Roll Cast
The roll cast is one of the easiest, yet most effective casts for a fly fisherman. It is used when fishing in areas with limited backcast room, for picking up line off the water or in windy situations. It is important to learn and practice a roll cast on the water. Here's how you do it:
1. Tilting the rod slightly away from your body, slowly lift the casting hand, bring the rod tip back to the 1 o'clock position, draping the line behind the rod, forming a belly in the line. When the belly of the line is behind the rod, STOP!
2. Next, thrust the rod sharply forward and downward, accelerating to the 9:30 position, stopping abruptly. The forward motion will cause your line to "roll" forward and straighten out.
Repeat the procedure, and as you get better, work on your accuracy and gradually roll cast more line. In windy conditions, you may need to use the Opposite Shoulder Roll Cast (shown below).
Problem: The line will not straighten out completely.
Solution: Apply power later in the cast, making sure the motion is downward, not straight out. The belly of the line must be behind the rod in order to achieve an effective roll cast.
|False Casting||False Casting
A False Cast is used to change directions and lengthen the distance of a cast. Basically, the False Cast is a combination of a pickup and laydown cast, except you don't let the line hit the water. Refer to the Pickup and Laydown illustrations above.
1. With 25 to 30 feet of line out in front of you, lift the rod from the 9 o'clock position and accelerate to the 1 o'clock position.
2. Once the line has unrolled behind you, glide the rod forward, accelerating to the 10 o'clock position and stop.
3. Now link the forward and backward motion together, working the rod back and forth between the 10 o'clock and 1 o'clock positions. Repeat this motion for 3 to 5 casts, then finish with a laydown cast. Practice until you can comfortably False Cast back and forth 3 to 5 times, keeping the line under control.
Problem: Tailing Loop.
Solution: A tailing loop is caused by the sudden. premature application of power on the forward motion. To correct this, glide forward with the rod, accelerating to the 10 o'clock position, stopping abruptly.
Problem: Line goes slack or loose.
Solution: Your timing is out of sync. Make sure you wait long enough for the leader to be at least halfway unfolded before making your next casting motion to keep the line speed up. Maintaining line speed is crucial to consistent controlled casting.
Problem: Line hits the rod.
Solution: Slant the rod roughly 20 to 30 degrees away from your body. In windy conditions, you may have to adjust this more, sometimes even casting with your arms across your body. This is often referred to as Opposite Shoulder Casting.
|Lengthening Line Casts||Lengthening Line Casts
To vary the distance of your casts, longer or shorter, it is necessary to control the length of your fly line. This is done using your free hand that is not holding the rod. Here's how to do it.
1. Basic Line Lengthening Cast
Begin with 30 feet of line out in front of you and an additional 6 to 8 feet of slack line pulled off your reel and laying on the ground at your feet. With your free hand, take the slack line between your thumb and first two fingers near the first guide. Move your free hand down near the handle or reel area and start false casting, noting how the line tugs on your free hand. After doing this successfully, let the line slip through your fingers gradually on the forward cast until you've worked all 6 to 8 feet of line out. Practice until you can comfortably let out all the line on the ground, then gradually lengthen your casts.
2. Shooting Cast
Additional distance can be obtained by using the shooting cast. To do this cast, simply let go of the extra line once the loop has started to form on the forward stroke of your final False Cast. The weight of the fly line will actually pull all the line out as you lower your rod tip to the water level. This cast takes timing and practice, so work with shorter lines in the beginning and gradually lengthen it out as you feel more comfortable.
Problem: Line piles up at the end of the cast.
Solution: You're letting the line go too early. Let it go later, when the rod is at the 10 o'clock stop position.
|Line Control Casting|| Line Control Casting
As you progress as a caster, you will encounter fishing situations that call for specialized casts in order to reach the fish or present the fly properly (i.e. convincingly) to the fish. This is especially true in moving water, such as streams, where the current will but a bow in your line, causing a "drag" on your dry fly, which the fish see as unnatural.
To overcome this, you need to "mend" your line. There are several different techniques for mending line. We will explain two mending casts and then one on-the-water mending technique.