Fly Fishing Blog

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Casting a Fly Rod

There have been many articles written about casting a fly rod, and I find most of them confusing and, for the beginner, intimidating. Casting a fly rod is as easy as throwing a ball or a dart once the basic casting principle is understood.

A fly rod is above all flexible. It is designed to bend easily with a minimum amount of force applied to it, both from your hand and from the weight attached to it. Excluding additional objects added to it, the weight that causes the rod to bend comes almost exclusively from the fly line. (Because a leader and fly are almost weightless, they won’t be considered as factors here.) Weight is weight; there is no difference between a fly line and a light lure if you put them on a scale. The primary difference between the two is that the weight is concentrated over a few inches of a lure, but over many feet of fly line. The difference in casting depends entirely on understanding this factor.

When you cast a lure, it is begins traveling forward as soon as you apply pressure with your hand, bending the rod. The lure starts directly behind the tip when you begin the cast and travels in the direction that the tip is pointing when you release the tension. Because there are just a few inches of line extending from the tip to the lure, any line not being pulled forward at the beginning of the cast is quickly straightened as the rod tip moves forward. Not so with a fly line.

If you are going to fly cast successfully, you must have the entire fly line traveling forward as soon as you apply pressure to the rod. You cannot achieve this if there is any slack in the line; much of the potential power of your cast will be lost eliminating slack. The most important ingredient in a successful fly cast is having the entire line parallel to the ground (or water) and starting to move forward as soon as you begin to apply pressure to the rod with your hand. If the line is straight behind you, any effort that you put into the cast begins to affect the line immediately. Fly casting becomes a relaxing activity, as it should be, and the desired casting results are easily achieved.

The key to having the line parallel to the ground (or water) before the forward cast is to create a good back cast. (It’s actually the same as the forward cast, only in the opposite direction.) You begin moving the end of line once any slack has been removed and the line is straight, and you cast it behind you by applying pressure to the rod. It’s desirable to begin with the rod low and direct the line slightly upward so that when you stop the back cast the line ends up just short of parallel. Throw it up and back, stop the tip where you want the line to go, and wait for the line to unroll, letting gravity pull it downward as you change direction to begin the forward cast.. The moment that it is straight behind you begin the forward cast. Put as much bend as you want into the rod then, as with a ball or dart, stop the cast when the tip is pointing in the direction that you want the line to go. The line will continue to travel forward, gaining momentum as the rod unbends and, when the energy has been expended, the line (and leader and whatever else is attached) will be delivered to the target. It’s really that simple!

You may have read or heard about the 10 o’clock to 2 o’clock casting arc, accelerating to a stop, “the inverted j”, tailing loops, and other confusing information about casting. You don’t need to pay attention to any of it if you pay attention to the above principle of casting. Assemble your rod and reel, lay the rod down on the grass, pull about 20 feet line from the tip, pick up the rod, and begin casting, straightening the line on both the back cast and forward cast. A few minutes practice and you’ll “get it”.

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