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Fly Casting Techniques

Updated on March 12, 2011

Beginners often tend to look on fly casting as some sort of secret hidden art, but it’s not like that at all. The basic cast is easy to learn in just an hour or two.

To be positive, fly casting is a very satisfying physical experience in itself, and you don't always need to catch a fish during the day to enjoy the sport you've had.

There are literally scores of different types of cast, but most are variations on a theme. Providing that you can master the simple overhead cast, one that will be used in 90 percent of situations, then you are well on the way. You'll soon discover that when you find yourself in tricky corners, under trees for example, then you will instinctively begin to side cast, using the know-how that you've already put together.

But what are the steps to good casting? Well, the first consideration is to make sure that the rod and line are matched and are strong enough for the job in hand. Lines are important: one that is covered in sand, shingle, or mud will not glide through the rings nearly as well as one that is kept clean and greased. Check rod rings frequently to make sure there are no grooves to slow down the line speed through them.

The general, basic overhead cast depends on a number of things. Firstly you've got to consider the speed of the line that is obtained by moving the rod forwards and backwards - false casting - and gives real power and velocity. This is partly obtained by the leverage of the rod and the power of your wrist, which together produce a type of catapult effect. The speed that the line travels can be increased by pulling on the line above the reel and below the bottom ring. The downward pull simply increases the line speed and therefore adds a bit of distance. Don't worry about this at the start, but consider it once you're getting the hang of things.

One of the most frequent reasons for failure is not maintaining the speed of the fly line, and one of the major faults is allowing the line to fall slack on its backwards movement. The cast will certainly fall if it is not taut and in control on the back cast.

This is really important, and for this reason it's beneficial if the beginner looks at his back cast as he is making-it. This might seem ungainly and not particularly professional, but at least you're assuring yourself that the line is stretching out nicely and that you're ready for the forwards cast, which will deliver the fly correctly.

Casting instructors for decades have put the fly rod against a clock face: the idea is that your back cast stops at one o'clock on the face and your forward cast stops when the rod is at 11 o'clock. This concept has a lot going for it. If the rod moves in the arc between 10 o'clock and two o'clock, you will find that your line frequently begins to sag and you lose control. If your back cast goes down to three o'clock, for example, there's hardly any chance of getting the line back into the air once more. Part of the reason for this is the amount of air pressure that builds up on the line and the consequent slowing down of the line's speed... but that's probably more technical information than we need so let's simply stick to the rules. The basic principle, therefore, is to keep the rod moving between the 11 o'clock and the one o'clock positions - false casting again - so that you can get more line to place the fly further away from the bankside.

Always remember to keep the line tight in your left hand as you are casting. If you let the line go slack for any reason, then velocity and power are obviously lost and the whole cast will lose its momentum.

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