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Basic Casting

During this overview, we will cover the basics of casting. We will demonstrate how to properly cast a fly the first time you’re on the water. Remember, practice makes perfect, and even after fly fishing for 30+ years, I still work on my form every day to improve my abilities. We will cover typical overhead casting and a slightly more advanced cast called the roll cast. Both of these simple moves can be used on every stretch of water.  

TRANSCRIPT

During this overview, we will cover the basics of casting. We will demonstrate how to properly cast a fly the first time you’re on the water. Remember, practice makes perfect, and even after fly fishing for 30+ years, I still work on my form every day to improve my abilities. We will cover typical overhead casting and a slightly more advanced cast called the roll cast. Both of these simple moves can be used on every stretch of water.  

Getting Ready to Practice

If you have never picked up a rod, please go back to our introductory video on rod set-up so you have a good understanding the basics of a fly rod.

Before attempting to use a real fly on the river, I recommend you do some practicing in your yard. Watch out for overhead power lines or other obstructions such as trees or awnings. Next tie a thick, bright piece of yarn to the end of your tip; this will act as our fly for this introductory session. This way, you will be able to cast to your heart’s desire without worrying about hooking yourself in the process.

Holding the Fly Rod

We will first use our dominant arm for casting. If you're right-handed, use your right hand; if you're left-handed, use your left hand. Start by gripping the rod above the reel almost like a handshake. Your thumb should rest slightly to the side of the handle. If your fly rod is set up properly, then this should be the balance point on your rod. If you were to hold your finger underneath the rod, it would be perfectly balanced from left to right. You want the rod to be relatively in line with your forearm.

The fly rod is in essence an extension of your arm. Start with it relaxed in your hand with your index finger grasping your fly line below. Think of this as the stopper from your line shooting out into the water. As we work on getting longer casts, I will show you how to use both hands to pull more line from your reel. This is called the double haul and will be explained later in this session.

Pick Up and Lay Down

Now, before we cast, it should be noted that what we are actually doing is making two casts—one behind us and one in front of us. One of the key things for precision casting is making sure that our rod travels in the straightest line possible. If your arm starts to make a figure-8 motion, your fly will not have the load needed from the rod to hit the target that you are trying to approach. The key is to make sure you are drawing a straight line. Image the tip of your rod as a pencil, and if you were to draw a line on the wall, you would want it as straight as possible. We are trying to get our fly rod to do the work; how do we do this?

The weight of the fly line (not the leader or tippet) is what creates the bend and force in the fly rod, so make sure you have line out before casting. On our back cast, we must have a smooth acceleration to a stop and then a pause, and then on our forward cast another smooth acceleration to a stop. This will get our line in a motion that will create a tight loop, transferring energy from the rod down the line and then allowing our fly to land softly in the water (so as not to disturb the fish).

Back Cast

For starters, pull 10 or 15 feet of line out in front of you. Then start with your rod tip nice and low—imagine that it is touching the water. As you lift your line off of the ground, concentrate on having a nice smooth acceleration from front to back. Some people go directly over the head, and others go 3/4 similar to a pitcher in baseball. Some cast as if they are skipping rocks or throwing sidearm. It comes down to personal comfort, so go ahead and try different options until you find the one that feels best for you. The key is to make sure you are drawing a straight line; envision trying to draw that straight line on the wall with a pencil. Image the tip of your rod as a pencil and if you were to draw a line on the wall you would want it as straight as possible.

As you lift your line out of the water and bring it back above your head, you will stop around the 10 o’clock location. Pause for a moment and watch your line go all the way back until it is fully extended behind you. When it reaches the apex, start your smooth acceleration forward. If you don’t pause and wait, you will most likely hear a snapping or cracking sound like a whip. This is because your line is not fully extended and you’re bringing the movement of the line through too quickly, creating a reaction at the fly.

Make sure you’re watching your back cast. Until you are completely comfortable, this is the best way of making yourself pause so you get full extension of that fly line. As soon as it reaches the end is when you should start your smooth acceleration forward.

Forward Cast

As you are coming forward, you are not dropping your rod tip to the water like when we first started. Instead, you’re going to stop when the rod tip is about eye level and pause there. This will send the fly line shooting forward, making a nice loop presentation where the energy is extended through the fly line and losing most of its energy before it gets to the fly. This will allow your fly to have a nice soft landing.

So why is this typically called the pick up and lay down?

When you’re on the water and your line is extended, you are in essence picking up the line and then laying it back down. When we were practicing, we immediately went from down low to the 10 o’clock position. When you’re on the water, you’ll notice that this can cause a huge disruption in the water, spooking those elusive trout. So we are going to add one more stage to this presentation.

As our rod tip is down, we are going to slowly bring it up to a parallel level with the water, before we start our back cast. This will give you enough line out of the water to start your back cast without disrupting the water surface.

So go ahead… Start out with the rod and get the feel of the line accelerating off your arm. On the next video, we will be discussing how to get more line out of your rod to reach trout farther away from you.

You have working on your back cast, with the smooth acceleration to a stop and then a pause, and then on your forward cast, another smooth acceleration to a stop. And you’re probably wondering, OK, easy, how do I get the line go out farther?  

Shooting the Line

Shooting the line is when you start to practice adding your opposing arm into the mix.

First, start by having your index finger on your rod hand engaged in the line. Next, with your opposing arm, pull out additional line from the reel. I typically will only strip out enough line that it touches the water. Any more than that and I typically get it caught up in my boots or waders.

What we are trying to accomplish is releasing the trigger finger from the rod hand at just the right moment in the forward cast. How do we this?

As you are accelerating through your forehand cast, look for your line to start to make its final curl. As soon as it makes that nice loop, you can release your index (trigger) finger and the weight and movement of the line will carry the excess out towards your target. Keep a secure hold on your line with your opposite hand, as this will help guide the line to its final resting spot and will get you ready to start stripping or mending the line for a perfect presentation to the fish, as we will demonstrate in later videos.

Like with most sports, this takes practice, so don’t get frustrated if you don’t nail this technique in the first try. But the minute you do, you will be having personal distance tournaments with yourself to see how far you can get that line out.

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