Make Fly Casting Easy by Learning The Basic Principles
Fly casting isn’t hard, anyone can do it. But the catch is, (no pun intended) it will take some time to perfect. The good news is, while you are learning to perfect your casting, you can still catch trout. Yup, even while you’re figuring out how to make fly casting easy. The difference, in the long run, is, the better your casting becomes the more trout you’ll catch. So getting better has a built-in reward.
Now I know some guys who take their fly casting to an art form. They can cast a fly and drop it in a paper cup 20 feet away. But believe me, that’s not the average fly guy and it ain’t me either. But, I can place a fly, just right, to have it drift into sight of a rising trout for him to take and you’ll be able to do that too. You see, for the most part, if the drift is right then the chances are pretty good he’ll hit it. The good thing is, if you’re willing to learn the basics principles of fly casting it will make your fly casting easy. A whole lot easier and a lot less frustrating too. Over time it will become routine and a given.
Before We Start, Set Up Your Reel
By the way, it doesn’t matter, for the purpose of this writing, whether you are right or left-handed. But it will matter regarding your individual reel. Reels are spooled and their drag set for the hand you desire. You can switch the drag and re-spool the reel to place it in the hand direction you are comfortable with.
For example, I am right-handed, but I like to reel in line with my left hand. I cast with my right hand. It’s my throwing arm. (baseball, football, that sort of thing). It’s what I am comfortable with. There is no right or wrong way for this. It is totally a matter of choice. But it does need to be decided upon before you spool up your reel. Ok, that said, let’s move on.
Take Your Time And Have Some Fun.
Let’s assume you are brand spanking new to casting at this point, even if you’re not. To get started, find an area in your yard or driveway or wherever you have a good bit of room to cast. Make sure it is an open area too, no trees or overhead wires or anything else you might get caught on. (and no hooks tied on yet either, just the fly line).
Take your fly rod and grip the handle just in front of the reel. There is two ways or grips one can use for fly casting. One way is to grip the handle so that your thumb is on top of the handle with your fingers wrapped around it. The second way is to grip the handle with your thumb to the side, kind of like the way you would hold a key to put into a lock. Each method is good so you’ll have to decide which is more comfortable.
To start, have enough line coming down from the tip of your rod to equal a little more than the length of the rod. Point your rod straight out in front of you so it is parallel to the ground. Simply move your arm up and down about 6 inches and watch how your line reacts to the movement.
Again, hold your rod straight out in front of you parallel to the ground. Raise your wrist up slowly. Notice how the line reacts. Flick your wrist out straight and watch what the line does.
What I’m trying to show you here is sensitivity and touch. Fly fishing is about subtlety and it doesn’t take much to move the line. Once on the water, everything will be controlled by the fly rod and that is controlled by the hand holding the rod. Over time you will develop a “certain touch” a “feel” and again, don’t worry, it will be something you will take for granted.
Use your other hand and gather up the line coming from your reel to the first eye lit. “Pinch” the line between thumb and index finger to help you control it. This also sets you up for fishing once casting is completed.
OK, so again hold the rod parallel to the ground, tip pointing out in front of you. Imagine a clock face and your rod tip is pointing at 9 o’clock and directly behind you would be 3 o’clock. As you are performing the casting strokes, the ideal casting motions will take place between 10 and 2 o’clock
Try this few times with just the amount of line out that we had before. That is a little more than the rod length. Keep your wrist straight, meaning don’t flex your wrist. It’s more like a pushing motion with your arm than a flicking motion with your wrist. Also, there is a pause that should happen at the 2 o’clock position and the 10 o’clock position.
This is where most people have trouble when learning to cast. Timing is the key to this and being patient with the pause is the trick. The pause allows the line to load for the return stroke. The more line that is let out changes the “pause” which is why, I think, a lot of people struggle with this aspect of the cast. But a little practice to get a rhythm will sort it all out.
When on the stream, this back and forth casting is known as “false casting”. This procedure is used to lengthen or shorten the cast in order to measure the distance between you and the location you plan to place the fly accurately. It is also used, in the case of dry flies, to help dry them.
The Anatomy Of The Cast
When bringing the line from front to back, at the point the hand stops at 2 o’clock, the line continues flowing back to unfurl behind you, this is called the backcast. The forward cast, of course, is the opposite motion and when the hand stops at 10 o’clock the line will unfurl in front of you.
This constant motion of moving the rod hand between these two points and pausing at each to allow the line to unfurl is the heart of the cast. Again, this action is used to add the line to the cast to gain the distance needed to land the fly onto the water where you believe the fish to be. Adding line is simply letting some of the line slide through the fingers of your line holding hand.
It’s a good practice is to leave a good bit of line hanging from your reel in order to do this smoothly. After some practice, you’ll get a feel for how much line is needed to hang.
Something to Think About:
This amount of hanging line needs to be let out when you catch a trout if you want the line to go tight to the reel. This can get a little tricky as you are setting the hook and starting the fight. I like and therefore, almost always use the reel to fight the trout to take advantage of the drag the reel offers. The amount of line I have hanging takes into consideration getting the trout directly onto the reel quickly and smoothly. The more line that is out the longer you have to play the fish with your hand before it gets directly to the reel. Hold to tight and you might snap the tippet. Let go too soon and the slack created may lose the fish.
Settling The Line Onto The Water
The final forward cast takes place when you are ready to lay the fly down onto the water. The stop will happen, as usual at 10 o’clock, but this time, you will lower the rod tip down at the same time and rate as the line to have the fly land gently on the water.
The final forward cast takes some practice but it won’t take too long before you’ll be able to settle a fly onto the water with a light touch. Dry fly fishing has a more inherent reason to gently settle the fly where with nymph fishing you can get away with a little more. Ultimately a gentle and accurate presentation is what you will strive for to fool the wary and picky trout.
I thought I would add this little bit, it will help you with your casting. After you have had a chance to feel what a cast “feels” like by casting a few times, try to hone in on the slight “pulling or tug” the weight of the line creates as you change direction from front to back. As more line is let out and put in motion the longer the pause will be. Patience is the name of the game otherwise you end up “whipping” your line.
This “pulling” effect is most noticeable when your hand leaves the two positions of either 10 or 2 o’clock. The “feel” of the pull helps you judge the power and speed needed with each movement. Different things play into this very subtle feel, meaning line weight, rod weight, and different flies attached to the leader. But once you do hone in on this feeling and rhythm, it will help your control immensely.
A Little Note:
Once you add the leader to your line, whether practicing or actually fishing, check your leader. If you notice small knots in the leader this indicates you are whipping the line. These knots are referred to as “wind knots”. Simply slow down your casting motion and pause at the 2 and 10 just a little longer. This should eliminate the wind knots.
One other mention, all of the above lends itself more to dry fly fishing. Casting while Nymph or Streamer fishing uses the same principles but doesn’t require the same intensity or nearly, at all, the number of false casts. In fact, in most cases casting with a nymph, it is as simple as one cast. After the drift is complete, it’s a matter of then, resetting the nymph ahead of you again.
Over time you will develop different approaches which, in turn, will change your casting depending on the type of fly fishing you choose to do. Nymph fishing is different than dry fly fishing, which is different than streamer fishing, but all of these require the same basic casting principle. Once you get the basic principle under control it will make fly casting easy.
So go have fun and cast up a storm. Please try and remember fishing should be fun above all else. Don’t get caught up in trying to be perfect, instead get caught up in the fun of trying! How will you know your casting is getting better? I think the trout will let you know.