The Art of Casting

The ability to be able to cast well is fundamental to the success and enjoyment of fly fishing.

It would seem that many anglers particularly those new to the sport want to be able to cast a full line every cast. And some will use enormous amounts of wasted effort and energy to try to achieve this.

A good understanding of the basic principles will help you to cast better and with less effort. It is worth pointing out that more effort does not translate into better or longer casts. Trying to put more effort into a cast does not produce more distance. The two T’s are the main key to successful casting -

Technique and Timing.

To be able to cast a fly you have to put a bend into your rod by smooth and gradual acceleration of the rod so that it pulls against the weight of the fly line. This action flexes, or loads, the rod. This applies to both the back cast and the forward cast. Increasing the acceleration and then stopping allows the rod tip to straighten which sends the fly line, as it unrolls, either backwards, or forwards to the target.

There is no essential difference between a back cast and a forward cast. (This can be demonstrated by turning round and making your "back" cast the forward or presentation cast. This is a technique that works very well if, for example, you are fishing a tree-lined river bank where there is no or little room for a traditional back cast.)

You must remove all slack from you fly line before you can load a rod. To load a rod properly requires tension between the top ring and the line so that the weight of the line makes the rod bend as you start the back cast. If you move the tip of your rod and not the line as well, then you are wasting energy. So start your back cast with the tip of your rod close to the water, eliminate any slack and then, when the line is moving, you can start your back cast. Using part of a back cast to take slack out of the line is inefficient.

The only way to load your rod is through a continuous movement of your casting arm, starting slowly and building speed before coming to an abrupt stop. This speed increase and abrupt stop is critical. A fast and short speed up and stop movement will result in high line speed and a tight loop.

Conversely, a lack of acceleration or an abrupt stop will cause the rod to lose part of the load and the line will end up in a heap on the water.

Care must be taken when casting to lift only the right amount of line of the water: enough to load the rod but not so much that you risk over-loading it.

This point is more important with both weight forward lines and sinking lines.

When fishing sinking lines - and particularly fast sinking or deeply-sunk lines - it may be necessary to role cast the line to the surface before lifting-off and making a back cast.

The False Cast: -

The false cast can be used for two different operations in fly fishing. First it is used to help in changing directions between casts. It also helps us to set and determine the desistance of the cast to a given point. The false cast is repeated three or four times to help us move to the right or left, not letting it lay on the water until our final cast. The false cast is also a great way to help to dry out a water logged dry fly.

1 - Lift the fly line off the water as in any normal cast.

2 - Let the back cast unroll behind you until you feel a slight pull backwards on the rod. Your line should make a small loop.

3 - Bring your fly rod forward but do not let the line settle on the water. Wait until the line is out in front forming a small loop.

Repeat all movement until you are ready to make your final cast.

The Overhand Cast: -

The overhand cast is used to pick your fly line up off the water and reposition your fly on a different target. This cast will be used many times over to get you into the spot where you might encounter a fish.

1 - Face your target and point your rod tip at the target. Lower your rod tip to let all the slack out of your line.

2 - Raise your rod tip and begin to accelerate your lift slowly but steadily to get your fly line off the water.

3 - Apply some speed to your backstroke. This will load your fly rod with energy to propel your line into the back cast.

4 - Stop the rod quickly to form a tight loop as it passes overhead. The shorter the stroke and a good straight plane will make a smaller loop.

5 - Stop as the back cast unrolls behind you. You will start to feel the slightest pull. This will start to be the signal to begin your forward acceleration.

6 - A short forward speed stroke and aim your cast at the target. Stop. Let your line settle on the water. To make your next cast repeat.

To practice you’re casting skills it is best to find a field near to you so that you can hone your skills and get a better feel for your rod and line and how the rod loads during the casting process. Or book some professional coaching to assist you in the art of casting and to iron out any faults that you may have picked up along the way.

The Retrieve: -

- The fly fisherman has a broad range of retrieves at his disposal to simulate the natural motions of the aquatic life within the trout’s food chain.

Insects possess a variety of means of locomotion. Some move slowly while others are much faster. Likewise, aquatic insects display a wide variance in their motions. A fish is fooled when a fly both looks and acts lifelike. The importance of using both the correct retrieve and fly/lure matching colour, size, shape, and silhouette of the insect will be deadly.

Most of the time in lake fishing the goal is to present the fly just above the bottom. This is achieved by taking into account the line’s sink rate, suspension depth, and allotted sinking time. Adjust these factors to place the fly precisely at the optimal depth.

The retrieve is accomplished by a combination of rod and line hand movements. The basic hand position prepares you to both properly retrieve the fly and to set the hook during the retrieve.

The basic rod hand position when rod movement is not part of the retrieve is as follows: The rod hand grasps the cork grip in the normal casting position with the thumb extended on top of the cork and the index finger directly below it. The index finger controls the line by acting as a guide and a brake that can pinch off the line against the cork.

By applying slight finger pressure, a line drag can be instantly applied and adjusted. The line finger plays a role in both fighting a fish and making the retrieve. With practice this line finger can become proficient as an instant judge of drag tension.

A retrieves basic rod position is to point the rod downwards toward the line and the fly.

By varying the speed and style of retrieve you can change the action or movement of your fly/flies as well as change and adjust the depth at which they fish. If you are fishing in an area where you can see that fish are feeding and your fly is being ignored, a change of retrieve speed or style could well make a difference. Stillwater and reservoir anglers in particular - it can happen on rivers as well - must always be alert for the fish that has followed a fly or team of flies right to the end of the cast and retrieve sequence. Trout will often grab a static or semi-static fly just as you are about to lift off to cast again.

The basic retrieves are the strip and figure of eight: -

Strip Retrieve: -

The line is grasped between the thumb and first finger of the line hand and stripped in a down and backward motion. Next, release the grasp on the line and return the line hand back to its original position. The length and speed of this strip can be varied; by using a slow long strip can sometimes produce a take during hot spells where the fish are lethargic due to the temperatures of the water. The faster strip retrieves or pulling the lure fast through the water columns can produce some savage takes when the fish are actively feeding.

The rod hand’s line finger acts as a line guide and as a brake for a sudden stop in the retrieve or in firmly striking a fish. This retrieve is most commonly used to imitate a wide variety of prey.

Fast retrieves: -

In contrast to the strictly imitative static or slow retrieve is the fast continuous retrieve, sometimes known as the roly poly. Fast retrieves are appropriate if fishing fish or fry imitations or perhaps a caddis. Also a fast retrieve can inject life into fish on a dour day.

To achieve a fast and continuous retrieve you need to tuck the butt of your rod under your arm, so that both hands are free to retrieve the line in fast steady and continuous pulls, one after the other.

Figure of eight Retrieve: -

One of the best-known retrieves is the figure of eight. This retrieve is ideal when you want a slow, steady and continuous retrieve. Line is retrieved through a combination of pulling with your thumb and forefinger and rotating your line hand. Start by holding the line with the thumb and forefinger of your line hand, close to your rod handle. Rotate your wrist backwards, towards you body, and then put your little finger over the line and rotate your wrist in the opposite direction.

Now, holding the line in the palm of your hand, having released your thumb and forefinger, take hold of the line again and repeat both rotations. The line that has been retrieved will start to form a figure of eight in your hand.

The Sink Draw Retrieve: -

The sink-and- draw retrieve is accomplished by allowing the fly to sink to the desired depth and then by retrieving upwards toward the surface. Hatching insects naturally migrate toward the surface so this sink-and-draw retrieve simulates this action.

Take into account the bottom’s contour by casting from the shallows toward the depths, or this retrieve can be used by casting parallel to the bottom’s general contours. The speed of the retrieve is matched to suspend the fly within a foot of the bottom.

The retrieve is accelerated to raise the fly to the surface, and stopped or slowed to sink back down again. Both the line’s sink rate and the retrieve rates are the factors that suspend the fly at the desired depths.

When the sink-and- draw retrieve is used with a floating line and an increased retrieve rate, the fly will rise toward the surface. Emerging insects move in this same manner. When using a floating line and a long leader, the fly is allowed to sink to the bottom. As the retrieve starts, the fly rises from the bottom and becomes readily visible to the fish. Its pathway to the surface simulates an emerging insect.

The fly needs to be optimally weighted; that is, heavy enough to sink it and the long leader to the bottom but still light enough to move upwards toward the surface when retrieved. A fly tied on a heavy wet fly hook with sparse webby hackles and a fur dubbing will usually suffice. Sometimes a few turns of fine lead wire may be needed to weight the fly enough for it to sink. Fluorocarbon leaders are denser and easier to sink than monofilament ones. The emerging motion of the midge or caddis pupa is well mimicked by the sink-and-draw retrieve.

The rise-and-fall retrieve differs from the lift- off-and-settle in that the rise-and-fall “s” motion is of less magnitude. It is best used to imitate insects that tire and settle back down to rest. A damselfly’s vigorous abdominal motions are energy consuming and tiring. These nymphs need frequent rest stops and during these pauses the nymphs sink. Also, scud’s and water boatmen’s motions are well mimicked by this riseand-fall retrieve.

A slightly weighted fly paired with either a floating or a short sinking tip line is used depending upon water depth. A floating line is used for the shallower waters while sinking lines are used for deeper waters. Simply allow the fly to sink and retrieve it toward the surface with a slow strip retrieve. Next, stop the retrieve and allow it to sink back again.

Perhaps the countdown retrieve is the most valuable still water technique. This retrieve purposefully presents your fly at the desired depth for the longest time.

Fishing just above submerged weed beds is perhaps the most effective still water technique.

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