Fly Fishing Things

FLY CASTING              Back to Categories

It goes without saying: "fly casting is essential to becoming a fly fisherman".   However,  a flawless cast is not essential to be an effective fly fisherman. I dare say; most fly fisherman are not great fly casters; but they do cast well enough to catch fish and enjoy the fly-fishing experience.   In many ways fly-casting is a lot like swinging a golf club. Some do it well and some do it with difficulty, but they all play the game. Like a golf swing; fly-casting is more about timing than power.

What I’m going to do here is describe the basic fundamentals of a fly-cast; so at least in principle, you will know how a fly cast is supposed to be executed (even though you may have difficulty in executing it yourself).  Then I’m going to give you a drill to use, that will demonstrate how to form a perfect loop in a line without using a fly rod.  A drill you can practice immediately after you read the instructions on how to perform it.  Finally, I will describe the technique called a “haul” which when executed properly should enable you to cast twice as far as a regular cast using the same effort.

 Once you understand the physics of how a loop is formed, and how to add energy to that loop, you will be well on your way to becoming a fly caster.

Let’s begin.flyfishingthings.com/backcast

 The arch of a fly rod cast moves between 10 o’clock and 2 o’clock while the caster keeps the rod tip moving in a straight and level plane.  Think of the rod is an extension of the forearm and hand. In order to keep the rod tip moving in a level plane, you must keep your hand moving on a level plane.  To illustrate the arm action, try this.  Take a measuring stick or dowel about 3 feet long and stand abreast of a wall so your casting arm is next to the wall. Then take the stick and extend it to the top of the wall.  While keeping the tip of the stick in contact with the line at the top of the wall (assuming it’s a level line) move the stick back and forth from 10 o’clock to 2 o’clock.  If you do this properly it will be impossible to not move your elbow, and see the proper movement of the arm as it moves back and forth.  This is the same movement required to keep the rod tip level in the cast.  The hand slowly accelerates to an abrupt stop in one direction then reverses and slowly accelerates to an abrupt stop in the opposite direction.

A loop is formed in the line when the rod is abruptly stopped. The formation of the loop is directly proportional to the length and arch of the rod tip; or, to say it in another way.  The shorter the length the rod tip travels, the tight the loop will be; or, the greater the arch the bigger the loop. That is why it is so important to take the arch out of the cast; unless your intent is to throw a big loop.  To repeat, if the rod tip is moving in a level plane, and then abruptly stopped; a very tight loop will form. 

  The rod is said to be loaded when the flex of the rod resists the energy of the fly line.  In other words, the energy that is built up in the loop of the back cast causes the line to go in a straight line until it meets the resistance of the rod, which then causes the rod to flex. When this happens the rod has become “loaded”. It’s at this instance that timing is so important in the fly cast.  The caster must learn to anticipate the tug when the line loads the rod, and then move the rod tip forward to the 10 o’clock position abruptly stopping the forward movement of the rod. When this is done, the energy in the fly line forms a tight loop that unfurls into a straight line; ah-la the cast.  If you’re practicing casting and are having trouble creating a tight loop you're probably moving the rod tip past the 10 o’clock position, and not keeping the rod tip on a level plane.  Try stopping the rod at 11 o’clock or 12 o’clock.

 False casting is simple the repeating of a backward and forward cast using the technique described above.

 Here's the drill you can try immediately  that demonstrates how a loop is formed when you cast a line. Take a moderately heavy piece of string or a piece of yarn about three to four feet long and hold one end of it in your casting hand between your thumb and forefinger. Stand up straight and hold your casting hand down and across the front of your body positioning your hand in front of your left pocket. Your shoulders should be rotated about 30 degrees to the left. It’s sort of like reaching across your body to scratch your knee.   Now in one fluid movement beginning with the right elbow; rotate your shoulders as you unfold the elbow, then unfold the wrist, and then the hand until your arm is fully extended and snaps to a stop. Your arm at this point, should be up and across your body pointing at a 45-degree angle.  It is the delayed flick of the wrist at the end of the extension of the arm that forms the loop. The movement is fairly quick; like the cast of the fly rod. It’s kind of like a Frisbee toss. Practice until you can form a tight loop.  Start the motion and accelerate into a snap stop. 

flyfishingthings.com/shooting the line
 To cast a fly line for distance a “haul” is used.   To haul the line is a very simple movement.  As you start to raise the rod and move the line into the back cast, the line hand makes a short tug in the opposite direction of the rod hand.  Both hands are moving away from each other.  The tugging action increases the line speed by adding more energy to the fly line. 

 Start with the rod pointing down just below horizontal.  The line hand should be next to the rod hand.  Simultaneously raise the rod and pull down with the line hand.  When you do you will feel the weight of the fly line loading the rod for the back cast.  This is really all there is to haul the line.  The hauling action allows the caster to cast farther with the same arm movement, and effort, as a normal cast.

 A good drill is to haul the line into a back cast and let the line fall on the ground behind you in a straight line. This requires that at the end of the back cast you hold the rod position.  In other words, just “pop” the line behind you and let it fall.  Practice the haul until you can make a tight loop in the back cast. Be observant of the fly  line falling  in a straight line.

 To cast a fly line to a great distance (100 feet or more) you must learn to double-haul.
  This means simply to haul in both directions in sequence. 

 To double-haul, the rod is started in the same position as a single haul. The double haul hand movement is down-up with the line hand ending at the reel in order to be in the position to haul down again for the forward cast. From that position, and in unison with the start of the forward cast , the line hand strips down smoothly, but forcibly.  The sequence is: down-up, slight pause, down. This is where timing is so important in fly casting.  Getting the timing right takes practice.  Once you achieve the proper timing you should be able to cast a fly line 80 to 100 feet with no problem.

 YouTube has some excellent video of fly casting.  The "down-up" word for the down-up move for the double haul was coined by Mel Krieger.  He has an excellent video on  YouTube called “Learn the double haul with Mel Krieger”.  The video illustrates the down-up move better than I can ever describe it.

See may Fly-rods page to compare, Flex, Length.