Cast Better: How to cast a fly in a strong wind

MANY fly anglers are more concerned about a raging wind than the prospect of a day tucked up under a hood in the pouring rain.

But there is much to be enjoyed on a windy day, including the likelihood of more room on the bank made available by those stay at home!

The fishing will be good too, especially when the air temperature is warm and the sky overcast. Highly oxygenated water, caused by the churning of the surface, is a comfortable habitat for fish and adds some additional movement to highly mobile flies such as Dabblers. Pull this popular wake fly through the surface on wild venues such as Colliford, situated high up on Bodmin Moor, and it won’t be long before a feisty brown takes hold!

Undertows caused by wind striking the shoreline cause insects to become trapped in the current. As they struggle to free themselves the fish move in and anglers can capitalise by casting into the wind. With the wind on your back it’s also possible to throw some great distances using the current of air to propel the fly line.

- FLYLINES: Dealing with the wind is about technique; but the effort required to improve casting skills is wasted unless matched with well-balanced tackle. Fly lines should be of the correct weight to deal with the conditions. Casting in a strong wind with light 5wt and 6wt lines can be difficult but can easily be rectified by scaling up to a 7 or 8wt. Weight forwards perform well in many situations, but double tapers, displaying a wide profile throughout most of their length, can penetrate the air, especially in a head-on wind – the extra stiffness of the line helping to turn over the leader (tapered leaders will also help with presentation). 

- ROD: Arod with a fast action aids presentation, but it’s casting technique that determines the outcome. 

- CLOTHING: Hats and sunglasses should always be worn, but especially during windy conditions.

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THE CASTS

Cast 1 – Overhead casting with a crosswind

CROSSWINDS frequently provide some superb fishing, especially with Buzzers. Swinging these imitative patterns on the current can produce some incredible results, but what if the breeze is directed onto your casting shoulder? One possible solution is to choose a bank with the wind blowing on the non-casting shoulder, effectively propelling the line away from fragile parts of your anatomy. Staying safe has to be the most important consideration but, by always looking for areas of water with the breeze directed onto the non-casting shoulder, anglers are missing out on potentially more prolific locations.

The key to success and more water to explore is to turn your back on the wind. Sometimes referred to as the Galway cast, Ilike to think of this as the ‘reverse cast’ because quite literally it is a back-to-front version of a normal overhead cast.

1. This casting technique can be used with all sorts of fishing tactics, but in contrast to the usual method of casting with the wind on the non-casting shoulder, search for a bank fishing location with the wind blowing on to your casting arm.

2. Place the line on the water as usual, with the rod tip low. Turn your back to the wind and adopt an open stance. Use a clock face to help with casting positions (above the head being 12 noon). In the case of right-handed casters smoothly lift the rod tip, peeling line from the water to a 2pm position (10am if left-handed).

3. As soon as the line has been peeled, accelerate into the cast, aiming to stop at around 11am (1pm if left-handed). Due to the stance position this initial movement has created a forward cast, using the water to create line tension that loads the rod.

4. Pause, allowing the line to unroll overland.

5. False cast in the usual manner but shoot line over the water, which in effect is the rearward stroke of a conventional overhead. It is worth remembering that this method is just a standard overhead cast that turns the back stroke into the forward and vice versa.

With practice it is possible to cast considerable distances although the main error that spoils the eventual result is caused by rotating the shoulders during the final presentation. Many potentially great casts are ruined as the angler turns to watch the line, rotating hips, torso and shoulders in the process. It is imperative that the body remains straight while casting and that the line is observed during its flight by rotating the neck only.

Cast 2 – Casting into the wind

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FISHING with a gale blowing into your face is not recommended and not pleasant, so should be avoided. A consistently strong wind will also begin to colour the water as waves lash the shoreline. This turbid water discourages the fish from feeding and causes them to relocate, although they may well be found near the edge of the coloured water. Fishing the edge of coloured water may produce results from a boat, but are generally unproductive from the bank.

Lighter winds result in a steady undertow created by the action of the waves (fuelled by the wind) on the shoreline resulting in a food trap soon capitalised upon by the fish. All sorts of techniques can be employed to exploit these conditions, including fishing fast sinking lines coupled with Boobies. The current will place a fantastic action on the fly that can be used to pop up Buzzers and other imitative flies. Short lining and constantly walking the banks of brown trout fisheries such as Colliford will also often pay dividends when the wind is blowing onshore. Look for scum lines in particular which are usually within easy reach, full of food and fish!

Use a short length of line when casting into the wind for the first time. Ahigh back cast will be needed to angle the fly correctly on the forward presentation and this can be easily achieved by leaning forwards as the cast is made.

The tilted angle of the body will allow the rod to stop high and the line will follow. As with all casting, be smooth and do not try to overpower the back cast.

Allow the line to straighten as usual and load the rod. It is also worth learning to haul, as this will provide extra line speed.

Make a forward stroke that will be angled downwards due to the stance, creating a loop that slices through the air with ease. In calm conditions this would create a splash but during windy sessions the impact of the line will not be noticed. This was certainly the case during my session at Colliford while shooting pictures for this feature.

Don’t shoot any line into the forward cast; instead hold it back with the line control hand, a technique that works particularly well on the final presentation. Checking the line in this way stops the bottom leg of the loop from moving, causing the top leg to turn over efficiently. Much the same effect is produced when the line extends fully against the reel.

Above all, don’t overstretch and reach out for distance in windy conditions. Seldom will the fish be at range and this was certainly the case at Colliford where fish were taking little more than 10 yards from the shore.

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Casting with the wind – Belgian casting

A TAILwind is a chance to send out some truly huge casts, covering vast amounts of water. In a wave this allows for a great deal of fishing time with tactics such as surface-disturbing patterns retrieved at speed.

But if the back cast collapses, the net result is slack line which at best will not load the rod efficiently, leading to all sorts of problems, including tailing loops, tangled leaders and shoddy presentation. At worst the slack line will clatter into the unfortunate anglers back or head!

Leaning backwards into the rearward stroke will assist when using a standard overhead cast. But one very effective method is to make a side cast followed by a high forward cast. This technique is known as a Belgian cast.

Place line on the water and rotate wrist so the back of the hand is parallel with the ground and the reel face is up. Make a very smooth back cast, creating a horizontal loop.

Once the line has extended into the rearward side cast and loaded the rod, make a high forward stroke in a vertical plane. In other words a standard overhead forward stroke.

Adding in a well-timed double haul and experimenting with rod stroke to determine loop size is all good practice that will soon triumph over the wind, enabling comfortable fishing in some favourable conditions.

Fishing details

WITH thanks to South West Lakes Trust for allowing us to use Colliford Lake for this month’s feature. Further details from The Jamaica Inn on 01566 86250 or visit the Trust’s website at www.swlakestrust.org.uk

Also in the Cast Better series...

1. Casting in the margins

2. Camouflage your casting

3. Distance casting

4. Casting teams of flies

5. Casting in the wind

6. Reaching a tight spot

7. Good presentation at distance

8. Make your own shooting head

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Cast Better: Make your own shooting head

LOVE them or hate them, if you want distance there’s no easier or better way to obtain it than with a shooting head fly line. Some anglers don’t like them as the running line gets tangled and more time is spent undoing them rather than fishing. This might have been the case when the only choice available was nylon, but with the modern running line this frustration has all but disappeared.

Let’s look at what’s available

● Pre-looped heads: Quite popular, with the Scandinavian company Guideline leading the way with their short cut and distance heads in different densities. The lines have loops already made during production and are easy to use and change. Airflo have a similar choice of heads but in one length, 30 feet, all with factory made loops for convenience.

● Pre-made factory joined lines: These are full-length lines built exactly like a shooting head, but the manufacturer has done everything for you. The Airflo Forty Plus is the ‘leading light’ here with a seamless join between head and running line, shooting through the rod rings easily. The running line is made of their power core, which is great for take detection while not affecting the distance that you cast. There are two lengths, the Forty Plus ED, with a 36 foot head and the Expert series with a 44 foot head. These are ideal for someone who wants all the work done for them, but the one downfall is the need for a reel or a spool for each line.

● In the UK we don’t have a great tradition of building our own shooting heads, but in Scandinavia, most anglers mess around with head lengths and weight – all the time searching for the best option for them. I believe we should take a leaf out of their book and start experimenting.

How to make a personalised shooting head

Every angler is different, aerialising various lengths of line. This is where shop-bought standard heads can let you down. Some anglers will be able to handle the whole shooting head and more in the air, so need a longer head. However, other anglers need shorter heads. So, how do we go about making our own personalised heads?

1. Find out how much line you can handle comfortably in the air while false casting. Once you’ve done this, you have to cut the line – but be cautious and cut the line one metre longer than you think. This way you can cut it back bit by bit to suit. Don’t cut too short; you can’t add line on.

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2. Once you’ve done this just attach the head with a nail knot to try it out. When you’re casting with a shooting head the whole line has to be outside the tip before release, but if you find that it’s a little long then just cut it back bit by bit until you find the correct length for you. The longer the head the further you’ll cast, because the longer the head the longer it stays in a loop in the air, resulting in greater distance achieved.

3. Once the correct length is gauged it’s time to put a loop on the end. You can put on a braided loop but make sure it’s short and you feed the line right up to where the loop is doubled. This prevents hinging when casting. Alternatively, you could make your own loop out of the line’s core and how you do this depends on the actual core.

4. If the line has a nylon core then first strip off about 5cm of the coating by trapping the line between your thumb nail and finger and pulling the line through. This might take a bit of time but it will come off. This gives you enough nylon to fold back on itself to create the loop. Before folding it back, flatten the end of the nylon as this ensures that, when the loop is done, the nylon will not pull out. Fold it back and whip tying thread around until secure. Make the loop small as this passes through the tip ring easier when fishing.

5. Braided core lines make easier loops because the core folds back easily and they provide a smaller and neater loop when finished. With a braided core you have a choice; you can either feed the core back through itself to make a loop or just fold it back on itself and secure as above. For the ultimate secure loop, feed it back through itself and secure with floss as above. Once you have done this just Superglue the floss to tidy everything up and make it ‘bomb’ proof.

6. Now, to those anglers who can aerialise a lot of line, be careful when making your shooting heads because you could overload your rod. If your rod is rated 8wt then this matches 30 feet or 10 yards of an 8wt line. But, when you make the shooting head you may find that the head length is 12 yards. So when the whole head is outside the rod tip, it could be the equivalent of a 9 or even a 10wt! This is when you have to weigh the head and compare the weight to the AFTM scale, so that you match the head correctly to the rod. You may have to use a lighter weight line so that the heads are correct – i.e. make the shooting head out of a 7wt or even a 6wt line so that it matches the rod correctly.

Also in the Cast Better series...

1. Casting in the margins

2. Camouflage your casting

3. Distance casting

4. Casting teams of flies

5. Casting in the wind

6. Reaching a tight spot

7. Good presentation at distance

8. Make your own shooting head

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Cast Better: Good presentation at distance

Now you're casting a long way presentation may suffer. Nick Hart has the cures...

PRESENTATION is one of the many keys to flyfishing success and I’m pleased to say that there are a number of tips that will perk up your presentation.

First things first, shorten your fly line. Remember that it is always better to do a short cast well rather than a long cast badly! Once you have achieved good presentation at short distance, then begin to extend your line. As you improve your distance there will be a number of elements that you will need to concentrate on to ensure your casts do not collapse. Focus on timing in particular as a rod that is not fully loaded/ tensioned by a completely straight fly line will lack energy. The reduction in energy gives less line speed, which will not allow your loop to fully unroll. The net result is that the line will crash into the water.

Related to this fault is a tricky mistake to diagnose for yourself, known as ‘creep’. In these circumstances the rod is allowed to move forward/ backwards gradually as the line is unrolling into the back/ forward casts. As the line extends it does not flex the blank effectively which often results in an almost completely straight fly line landing on the water with the exception of the forward taper which collapses in a heap. A session with a casting instructor may diagnose this fault which is easily corrected by ensuring the rod remains stationary whenever the line is unrolling in the air during false casting.

Many anglers achieving good distance for the first time are using weight forward (WF) profile fly lines. If this is the case, pay particular attention to the amount of running line that is allowed to extend beyond the rod tip. Allow a little too much and if you do not have extremely high line speeds the cast will collapse. There are various ways of countering this such as purchasing a fly line with a long head section (see your tackle dealer/casting instructor for advice) or improving line speed with the double-haul cast.

Be aware of your loop size too. Well-formed, controlled loops will help achieve both good presentation and distance.

Finally, give your line some ‘hang time’. Angle the rod tip towards the water during the forward stroke and the fly line will follow, collapsing in a heap with a fish frightening splash. To counter this problem pick an object on the horizon such as a tree and aim your rod tip at it. The high forward cast will allow the loop time to fully unroll in mid air prior to falling gently towards the water via gravitational pull.

Also in the Cast Better series...

1. Casting in the margins

2. Camouflage your casting

3. Distance casting

4. Casting teams of flies

5. Casting in the wind

6. Reaching a tight spot

7. Good presentation at distance

8. Make your own shooting head

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Cast Better: Reaching a tight trout lie

PLACING a fly accurately and at speed is vital when river fishing. But rivers are often surrounded by trees and vegetation, so a standard overhead cast is often hopeless. Thankfully many casts have evolved that make casting in enclosed areas easier.

The gear

RIVER fishing requires a stealthy approach. An eight-foot rod should suffice, although it may be necessary to go even shorter in particularly enclosed areas. Use light fly lines, dropping down to a 3wt or even a 2wt for very small brooks. Anumber 4wt or 5wt will usually be enough.

There are pros and cons with weight forwards and double tapered fly lines. The key point is that the front of a weight forward (WF) is much like a double taper (DT). The drawback of the thick DT line is the amount of space required on a reel to store it, so weight forwards get my vote!

Leaders must be tapered, particularly when presenting dry flies underneath low-level vegetation. Purchase nine-foot leaders and add a one or two foot sacrificial length of tippet to the end.

Flies should include the Adams, Klinkhamer and ‘F’ Fly. For nymphs choose Hare’s Ear, Copper John and Czech Nymph. Don’t forget to carry floatant to help dry flies ride the often turbulent water and, when fishing calm sections, use a sinkant to disguise the leader.

Stay mobile by using a lightweight waistcoat or pack to carry tackle. Jackets should have plenty of ‘D’ loops to hang accessories from and allow for easy attachment of a net on the back. Look for the magnetic net retainers available on the market to help with this.

Although some enclosed sections of river can be fished from the bank with the catapult cast, it’s usually advantageous to get into the water. Chest waders allow the angler to get very close to the fish.

Hats and sunglasses should always be worn for protection when casting a fly.

The casts

Cast 1 – The turbo roll cast

ROLL casting is crucial on rivers, especially in enclosed surroundings. When fishing for  trout or grayling with both dry and wet fly, the roll cast is useful for short-range accurate casts, without worrying about surrounding vegetation. As always, a smooth stroke is required, which takes practice, especially if heavy nymphs or highly air-resistant dry flies are to turnover correctly. Once the basic roll is practised, turn it into a ‘turbo roll’ by adding a well-timed haul and suddenly you’re able to fish through a river beat without being concerned about the trees!

Set up as for a standard roll cast, ensuring a ‘D’ shaped loop has formed behind the rod and that both the loop and line lying on the water are facing the target. Keep minimal line on the water’s surface.

Smoothly accelerate into the forward stroke. Tapping a nail into a wall with a hammer helps you visualise the correct power.

Meanwhile the line-controlling hand will turn this ordinary roll cast into the more efficient ‘turbo’ version with a haul as the forward cast is made. The haul must be in time with the stroke but as late as possible. With practice, the haul should coincide with the swift acceleration and stop.

A narrow loop should shoot effortlessly towards the target. Don’t haul through the stroke, as the loop will open, possibly kicking the leader up into the trees. Never haul too early as the cast will collapse.

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Cast 2 – Side casting

Stillwaters are usually approached with a standard overhead cast, a highly efficient way of achieving distance, especially when combined with the double-haul. The ‘overhead’ works on rivers that allow a back cast with no obstacles to evade on the forward cast. But these standard techniques won’t catch wily wild brown trout happily sipping flies beneath overhanging vegetation. The vertical loop throws the leader into the snag as it unrolls and the disturbance created trying to free the terminal tackle will spook the fish. The solution is to use the side cast. This forms a horizontal loop travelling below low-level obstacles.

Start with the rod tip low as if an overhead cast is to be made. Imagine holding a screwdriver to create a balanced grip upon the cork handle.

Rotate the wrist so that the back of the hand faces the water/ground. The face of the reel and palm of the hand should be facing up.

Peel line from the water, accelerating smoothly to a stop. Allow the line to straighten into the back cast, just as if overhead casting.

Now apply a forward stroke.

Experiment with timing, and crouch lower if trying to negotiate very low-lying vegetation/obstacles. Timing is of the essence when the line is travelling close to the water so practise on an open field, making a back cast and allowing it to land. Look at the result. If it has straightened correctly then make a forward stroke aiming for a straight line.

If the line kicks off to one side, or lands in a heap check that the wrist is not being rotated during the cast or that the rod arc isn’t too big. Although it may sound obvious, remember that when casting short distances, a short stroke is required.

SIDE CASTING UNDER TREES

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Cast Better: Casting teams of flies

I have witnessed seasoned anglers shudder at the thought of casting with anything but a single fly. Their reasoning is obvious enough, teams of flies can tangle. But it’s not the leader or the flies that generally cause the problem, it’s the way in which they are cast. Faults such as mistiming or an over-powered stroke will lead to a tangled multi-fly leader, but iron out these niggles and suddenly a whole new way of presenting flies becomes available.

For example, if you like fishing a single Diawl Bach why not add a lure such as a Blob? In the top dropper position the lure attracts fish to the imitative nymph a few feet behind, a classic stillwater set-up. Or if surface fishing is your thing, add a bushy dry such as a Carrot fly to a team. The ‘Carrot’ will help you see the other dries, even in a wave.

And by adding a Hopper, Harry Potter or similar dry you can take advantage of trout feeding in a wind lane. Cast so that one fly lands in the ripple, the middle dropper on the edge of the lane and the point fly within it – a deadly tactic. All sorts of other methods such as the ‘washing line’ are only available to those anglers willing to rig up a multi-fly leader.

- Leaders: Leader choice is paramount to success when using teams of flies. Choose quality products and knot varied breaking strains together using water knots to provide a tapering effect. This aids good turnover while also allowing for customised lengths, with one, two or even three droppers. Alternatively rig up a leader using the same breaking strain all the way through, ensuring at least four foot and preferably 5-6 foot between each fly and taking care that the wind is blowing on your back. 

- Nets: Using very long leaders of over 15 feet will require a long-handled net when landing fish. 

- Clothing: Ahat and sunglasses are essential protective wear at all times.

THE CASTS

Cast 1 – Overhead casting with a teams of flies

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It’s a shame to avoid using teams of flies in the hope of reducing tangles, because the ability to cast a team provides an array of fish-catching tactics. So how do we avoid the dreaded bird’s nest? The key is to create enough line speed while maintaining a rod stroke that opens the loop sufficiently for the leader not to become tangled.

1. If you’re new to casting teams of flies, tackle up with a 14-foot leader with the first fly seven-foot from the fly line, and allowing a further seven-foot to the point fly. Tapering the leader is preferable. Whenever executing a standard overhead cast, start with the rod tip low.

2. With hands close together, use the elbow to smoothly lift the rod tip, peeling line from the water. A jerky, sudden movement will result in the line clattering into the rod or at best a tangle as the line unrolls into the back cast. Avoiding tangles while using long leaders is all about being ultra-smooth, especially as you accelerate into the back cast.

3. To avoid jerky movements, imagine a clock face while casting, above your head being 12 noon. As your rod tip reaches the 10am position begin the acceleration into the back cast, aiming to stop the rod at around 2pm. These directions are based around a right-handed caster; left-handed casters should lift their rod to 2pm and accelerate to 10am.

4. The 2pm stop (rather than 1pm which is often taught to novice casters) will open the loop enough so that the leader does not become tangled, while the smooth lift and acceleration will provide enough speed to fully extend the line. This is all-important because, if a forward cast is made prior to the line straightening, a tangle is almost inevitable, especially when using a team of flies.

5. During the forward cast it is important that the rod stops high enough to give the line time to unroll over the water (see above), but don’t be tempted to stop too high as the shortened rod arc will over tighten your loop, causing the line and leader to pass close together and tangle (see tailing loop section). Experiment with the amount of stroke required to ensure a high enough back and forward cast while opening the loop sufficiently to avoid tangling your team of flies.

Cast 2 – The roll pick up

Fishing with a team of flies allows us to hedge our bets, sending out a varied menu of patterns with each new presentation. Add a little distance and our leader spends plenty of time within the trout’s zone. This efficiency should also be applied to the moment we have finished retrieving and are ready to recast. It is at this critical point that some anglers struggle, either trying to lift too much line with flies well below the water’s surface or pulling the leader into the tip ring. Attempting to cast in either circumstance results in a guaranteed tangle. To avoid this, practise a roll pick up, a very efficient way of maximising fishing time with a team of flies while allowing for a smooth pick up into an overhead cast.

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1. After retrieving, leave two rod lengths of line out of the tip. You may see this as a colour change on a two tone line or a thicker section as the head of the weight forward line enters your hand. Start the roll pick up.

2. Using the elbow, smoothly peel the line from the water’s surface, creating the standard ‘D’ loop required for a roll cast, while ensuring that the droppers have cleared the water’s surface.

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3. Accelerate forward smoothly and stop rod at 10am (2pm for left-handers). With practice, the right speed will be gained to lift the flies clear of the water, allowing the fly line to extend. For sinking lines or very long leaders (over 20-foot) you may need to repeat the above process to bring the flies to the surface.

4. With fly line and leader extended into a forward cast, begin an overhead cast without the line touching the water. With practice, this skill can be used to keep a team of flies in the water for as long as possible prior to effectively loading the rod and presenting your flies to the fish.

TANGLED TEAMS AND TAILING LOOPS

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In simplistic terms, a tailing loop will allow the fly line and leader to cross over itself, leading to an almost inevitable tangle. This common overhead-casting fault will tangle a single fly rig and cause carnage with a team, so it is to be avoided! Tailing loops are caused because the rod tip has failed to maintain a straight-line path, and the key faults causing this are:

1. Allowing the line to fully extend but then ‘hitting’ the forward cast. This sudden change of tempo suddenly flexes the tip and causes it to dip below the straight-line path. In other words an cure the problems, apply power into the forward stroke smoothly, not suddenly.

2. Using a very short rod arc. In most circumstances (other than a very short line) this will not allow the rod to flex correctly, buckling the tip and causing it to dip below the straight-line path. This is certainly the case when attempting to distance cast long leaders, which will require a long casting stroke for successful presentation. To cure the problem, practise with a short line and short stroke, aiming eventually for a longer line and longer stroke. Do this slowly, ensuring you can cast a set amount of line effectively without a tailing loop before extending further.

3. Forward creep – this can be difficult to detect (have a lesson with an instructor or video your cast) but in essence the forward stroke is being made while the back cast is still unrolling. This pulls the rod tip under the straight-line path. To cure this fault, ensure the rod remains motionless in the back cast ‘stop’ position while the line unrolls. Alternatively learn to ‘drift’ into the back cast.

Tailing loops can become a frustrating nightmare and dissuade plenty of anglers from trying a team of flies. But with practice, tailing loops are cured by focusing on good timing to ensure your line fully extends while maintaining a smooth casting stroke without any sudden increases in power.

Also in the Cast Better series...

1. Casting in the margins

2. Camouflage your casting

3. Distance casting

4. Casting teams of flies

5. Casting in the wind

6. Reaching a tight spot

7. Good presentation at distance

8. Make your own shooting head

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Cast Better: Long range fly fishing

WHAT’S the plus side of casting longer distances? This may seem like a very obvious question, after all most of us have a desire to add a few extra feet to our casts don’t we? I doubt there are many who would disagree with this statement, although there is, of course, a time and a place for everything. There are definite situations when long casting is not required such as some stalking techniques. But what about the situations that do require a long cast? Quite simply those who can cover more water will enjoy far more success. Typically, when a popular bank location is fished hard for a few hours, slowly but surely the fish will disperse, often to be seen rising just outside average casting range. It is now that the angler who has livened up his loops and dusted down his double-haul will continue to catch, while those who have spent a little too much time developing their tackle collection rather than their casting ability, look on in frustration.

Swinging Buzzers on the wind and throwing long with a sinking line to pull lures are just a couple of popular methods that can benefit from a honed distance casting technique, so the time and effort spent practising is well worth it. After all, the longer your flies are in the water, the more fish you will catch!

EQUIPMENT

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RODS: There is a massive range of gear on the market and for some this can seem bewildering. But, for most reservoir fishing situations look for a 9ft 6in to 10-foot rod capable of handling a weight forward 7 or 8 line. Middle-to-tip action rods are great for an easy casting action but if you want to achieve serious distance with ease, opt for a stiff, fast action blank coupled with snake rings or similar. Many rods are purposely designed to handle a range of lines, while offering fast blank recovery after the all-important controlled, abrupt stop that is required to send a ‘polaris missile’-like presentation across the water. A comfortable grip is also vital. New on the market are handles created from rubberised hybrid cork that won’t slip in the hand even when wet and offer incredible durability, a key concern when a rod is being flexed into the butt section. 

REELS AND LINES: A large arbor reel is best for storing lines in good open coils. Ensuring our line lays flat prior to launch through the rod rings will greatly assist its journey, especially if it has also been cleaned after every session. Weight forwards are perfect for distance work, although look out for a wide range of specialist line products that, coupled with good casting technique, will gain more valuable yards. Buy the best quality line you can afford to ensure a decent coating. Cheap lines are stiff, retain memory and far from smooth. Fly line choice is just as important as your choice of rod.

ACCESSORIES: Try a line tray when casting on big windswept reservoirs. This handy device will store the fly line as you retrieve, ready for the next cast.

THE CASTS

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Cast 1 – Standard long distance overhead cast

Overhead casting is the most common skill employed by stillwater fly fishers to propel their artificial patterns across the water. Highly effective, the desired result is achieved by throwing the line into the air to create a loop, loading the rod as it straightens out on both the back and forward strokes.

Coupled with practised technique it is possible to use this method of casting to produce high line speeds and great distances, but there are a few tricks which can turn an ordinary overhead cast into a jet propelled horizon seeker!

Having set up with your chosen leader and flies, start with around two rod lengths of line protruding from the rod tip. Your tip should also be positioned close to the water’s surface, which will ensure the rod begins loading from the moment the cast starts.

Make sure your hands are positioned close together during the cast, this will maintain tension throughout the rod and drift a little into the back cast to allow a longer stroke to further assist loading the blank.

Shooting line is paramount to gaining as much distance as possible. Aim to shoot several feet at a time and don’t feather the line during the cast as this reduces line speed. A maximum of three false casts should be enough and only shoot line each time the rod stops.

Make sure the rod stops high, especially upon final delivery, to give the line plenty of time to unroll and reach its maximum extent. Push the rod too low and the line will be sent crashing into the water, losing all momentum.

Cast 2 – Long distance overhead cast with double-haul

Double-hauling is not a cast in its own right, but a skill that can be used to achieve distance (and possibly catch more fish) when added to an overhead cast. The standard overhead will reach good distances but add a double-haul and you will reach great distances, by creating very high line speeds. Double-hauling is all about good timing while co-ordinating rod and line hands. It is a great technique for fast sinking lines, larger lures and air-resistant flies such as Boobies.

Once you can overhead cast effectively, the double-haul can be attempted. Start as you would for a general overhead with both hands close together and the rod tip low.

Make a smooth back cast while pulling downwards on the line with the line-control hand. Say “haul” as you do this to assist timing.

As the line turns over into the back cast, allow your line-control hand to rise up, feeding line back through the rings and meeting once again with the rod hand. Chant “feed” to assist with timing.

Once the line has turned over into the back cast, commence the forward stroke and add another smooth pull in a downwards direction saying “haul” to help your timing.

At this point your line-control hand should release line momentarily as the rod comes to a stop, moving back into position next to the rod hand to begin the process again. Chant “feed” to assist timing. Aim for a maximum three false casts, counting each back cast and double-hauling as you go.

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Make a smooth backcast while pulling downwards on the line with the line-control hand. Say 'haul' to help with timing.

As line unrolls into the backcast, let your line-control hand rise up, feeding line back through the rings. Chant 'feed'.

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With backcast line extended, start the forward stroke adding another downwards 'haul'.

The line-control hand releases a little line just before the rod stops, moving back next to the rod hand to begin the process again. Chant 'feed'.

Distance casting – with snags behind!

IT is true that the biggest, best quality fish often reside in the more difficult to reach areas. Tricky conditions may deter us from attempting these not so obvious locations but with a little casting practise and altered technique it is possible to take on these awkward situations. In this scenario we head to a steep vegetated bank, with deep water to fish a Booby pattern on a fast sink line.

The key to dealing with a steep vegetated bank is to maintain a high back cast!

Rather than trying to alter your casting stroke, achieve the desired angle change required to throw the line high by leaning slightly forwards. Gain distance by shooting line into the back cast rather than the forward cast and use a maximum of two false casts.

With the snags avoided, resume your normal fishing position and allow the sinking line to gain depth prior to starting a retrieve.

Fishery details

Many thanks to Clatworthy Reservoir in Somerset for providing the venue for this feature.

For information tel: 01984 624658 Website: www.wessexwater.co.uk

Also in the Cast Better series...

1. Casting in the margins

2. Camouflage your casting

3. Distance casting

4. Casting teams of flies

5. Casting in the wind

6. Reaching a tight spot

7. Good presentation at distance

8. Make your own shooting head

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Cast Better: Camouflage your casting

To be good flyfishers, we “get out what we put in”. Flinging a line as far as possible and then pulling it back fast will catch fish; but not always. In fact it often results in limp bass bags and a bout of repetitive strain injury.

To spice things up Ilike to get up close and personal with my quarry. Approach each venue like an Apache Indian, carefully observe your target and when the time is right, spring your trap. HERE we covered close range casting tactics, but here we take things a step further. We are about to get down and dirty with trout!

Entering their domain stealthily our casts (some of them simple and obvious) deposit a fly enticingly within the fish’s window of vision. These are the casts and techniques that camouflage our presence while allowing for that all-important fish-catching requirement – good presentation.

What is good presentation?

THE term crops up a lot, which is not surprising because good presentation is what flyfishing is all about. The very best in tackle technology is useless if our flies land in a crumpled, tangled mess or enter the water with a commotion. We aim to cast so that our leader turns over correctly, landing as quietly as autumn blossom. Regarding flies, for wild fish in particular, use an imitative theme. Stocked stillwaters may be an exception to this rule as pellet-fuelled trout go on the rampage snaffling the gaudiest of lures. But as we progress to more challenging venues our fly selection must be more educated. Learn a little about entomology to help you choose the right artificial but remember that no matter how informed your choices or expensive your kit, good presentation will be achieved through practised casting technique.

Fly line colour

THE debate regarding fly lines rages on and demands an entire article. Do bright lines scare fish? Many New Zealand guides think so. Guiding in ultra-clear water, this professional view has some worth. But, Ibelieve it comes down to confidence. If you think a dull line may camouflage your casting, then go with it!

Position your fly well away from the fly line and think about the background fish are likely to view your fly line against. This is especially important when using a floating line as trout look up for their food. Fishing in heavily vegetated areas such as a river may well call for a dark green line, while bright conditions are perhaps best tackled with a white or even sky blue product. There is even an argument that, from below, the fly line will be viewed as a silhouette, although this depends on light conditions and the vicinity of the fish. If a fish is close enough to inspect the fly line in detail, it’s probably too close!

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Fly line weight

IT is vital to balance fly line and fly rod but also to choose a line based on the conditions and the techniques being used. Lines are generally numbered 1 to 14 with a few highly specialised products that exceed this scale at either end. For simplicity, remember the lower the number the lighter the line. Alight line on a small stillwater would generally be a 5, although 6 and 7 are used regularly. Short-range fishing with small flies in calm conditions suits a 5 line because with good casting technique it will land on the water with barely a ripple. During windy conditions where some distance is required a 6 or 7 makes more sense; really windy conditions call for an 8. The heavier the line, the heavier it will land, no matter how well you can cast. Also, never forget that a heavyweight line coupled with a light leader often results in a break and small light wire hooks could be straightened out.

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Copolymer or fluorocarbon?

FOR the ultimate in camouflage using slowly-fished subsurface imitative flies, I’d never be without fluorocarbon which reflects less light than other products available such as copolymer. But fluorocarbon sinks fairly quickly and may drag surface patterns down, so when fishing dries Iswap to copolymer and use a leader sink agent to help it cut just below the surface film.

Knotless tapered leaders

FLY lines are tapered at the tip to aid turnover. Aknotless tapered leader has a commercially produced taper, which provides perfect turnover in conjunction with a well-executed cast – ideal for fishing dry flies at close range. Alternatively, the tapering effect can be reproduced by water knotting varying breaking strains and diameter of level leader together.

Clothing

A HAT and sunglasses are essential protective wear but other than that ‘going camo’ is up to you! There is a huge assortment of leaf-covered product on the market, much of it a fashion accessory rather than a method of blending into the background. The common view is that fly anglers should go for the ‘drab look’ but with careful movements and decent casting it should be possible to add a little pizzazz to your attire if you wish!

Imitative flies

THESE are designed to recreate the diet of whatever species we are targeting. For trout, the most common dietary items that we copy include bloodworm, buzzer pupa and adult midges. We also imitate seasonal occurrences such as the daddy longlegs or corixa (water boatmen). Goldheads have been incorporated into almost every pattern, adding sparkle and weight. But these elements could spoil your camouflage so, in the case of wised-up fish, carry a wide selection to cover every eventuality.

THE CASTS

Cast 1 – Stealth cast

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IS this really a cast? We are pre-programmed to head up to the water’s edge, pull out some line and then throw it blind to the fish. But what happens if a fish is just feet from the shoreline, happily mopping up various morsels and minding its own business? We use the stealth cast!

1. Pull a little fly line out of the rod tip, and tie on a suitable leader and fly. Ensure there’s enough fly line weight outside the tip so that it doesn’t rush back down through the rings!

2. With line and leader ready we creep carefully to the water’s edge. You could kneel or crouch but Ilike to lie down in the dirt! The key is to spot your fish without being spotted! Meanwhile allow your leader to sit poised at the water’s edge.

3. Watch the fish and understand its movements (polarised sunglasses will help). Trout often use a particular route or frequently feed from a feature such as a weed bed. Use this knowledge as you flick the tip of the rod, sending the leader and fly to the fish.

4. When the fly reaches the desired depth, use the rod tip to lift it through the layers and induce a take! If you hook up … hold on tight!

Cast 2 – Overland cast

STEALTH casting really does work, although some may find it bends the rules too much for their liking! Even if you are happy to fish such a short line, the stealth cast’s main drawback is that we need to position ourselves so close to the water’s edge that we could spook the fish before we start. In these circumstances a technique is required to present a fly at ultra-close range while camouflaging our presence. The overland cast is perfect and particularly useful when fishing with dry flies right in the margins. Stood well back from the bank watching as a fish sips at the surface Ifeel rather smug when a well-executed overland cast proves its undoing!

1. Stand or crouch well up the bank watching your fish. Pull line off the reel, judge how much you’ll need to deposit the line on land and the leader in the water. This will take practice.

2. Take the fly in your free hand and smoothly begin an overhead cast, allowing the fly to fall from your fingers in the process.

3. With the fly airborne, make as few false casts as possible as the movement may scare your fish. Once confident you have extended the correct amount of line, allow gravity to pull it down, ensuring you aim the rod tip high enough so that the leader does not splash.

4. It can be tricky to lift off dry land to reposition your cast. Be very smooth when you lift and even practise the cast elsewhere until you’re confident you can make the cast in a genuine situation. Sound overhead casting skills and accuracy are vital for this casting technique to be effective.

Cast 3 – High forward cast

MAKE sure the line doesn’t crash into the water (pictured right). Loud splashes spook fish near the surface. To solve this, think about the height you are delivering your cast. Aim the rod tip too low and the line will follow, piling into the water.

Instead, when making a cast, aim the rod tip at an angle, which allows the line to fully turn over and gently land. It is worth picturing a layer of air out in front of you and then casting the line so it is allowed to float to the water’s surface, using the air to cushion its descent.

This is not so much a cast but a skill that will need to be mastered if successful camouflaged presentations are to be yours, especially in flat calm conditions. See the sequence top left.

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1. Make a normal overhead cast.

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2. Release the line while the rod is still held high.

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Avoiding casting injuries when fly fishing

The average fly fisher makes 18.720 casts per year. So how do you reduce the risk of repetitive strain or grip-related injury?

MANY anglers complain about some kind of repetitive strain injury through fly casting. The question is what can we do about it, or how can we reduce the risk?

Injury and solutions

Peter Cockwill: When I get tennis elbow I use a muscle strap just below the elbow to restrict the pull on the tendon and take a Glucosamine tablet every day. Some people have cortisone shots into the joint but rarely to any great effect for casting problems. Injuries I’ve seen as an instructor include:

1. Dislocated shoulders – forget casting for a long time.

2. Serious muscle damage – learn to cast with other hand.

3. Operation scarring causing stiffness – change casting style.

4. Arthritis making hands painful – try Glucosamine again or painkillers.

Hywel Morgan: Tennis elbow is a major flyfishing problem as the casting action sometimes places great strain on the joint, muscles and tendons.

When starting a new season don’t do too much. Use lighter rods and lighter lines until your muscles are tuned up, then go out with heavier tackle. It also tends to be cold early-season, so wear clothing that will keep your muscles warm.

Shorter rods are worth considering. If it’s windy the shorter the lever, the easier it is to push through the wind either on the back or forward cast – putting less strain on the body.

On the first few trips of a new season don’t fish for as long as you did on the last day of last season as, again, the muscles aren’t as strong as they were due to the long winter lay off.

Remember pain means danger and as soon as you feel something, stop, and seek medical advice.

Lastly, try to teach your non-casting arm how to cast then, if one arm gets tired, you can swap. This is easily done by using one rod in each hand and allow the non-casting hand to copy the casting hand. This helps you to get the basic timing. Remember it’s too late to try this when you have hurt your casting arm.

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Paul Procter: In many cases, tennis elbow, or tendonitis is caused by gripping the rod too tightly. Impacting on the muscles or tendons in the forearm, it commonly affects newcomers because their muscles are not accustomed to these unfamiliar movements. That said, it plagues more seasoned casters too, especially those using heavy tackle and striving for distance.

To prevent this, hold the rod with a firm but relaxed ‘V’ grip instead of squeezing the life out of it! The ‘V’ grip means you are basically holding the handle as you would a screwdriver and helps restrict wrist-break. I teach pupils to relax their hold at the end of each casting stroke and encourage them to practise with a controlled but flexible wrist (a slight opening of the wrist on the back cast and snap shut of the wrist on the forward cast). This helps reduce the risk of injury. Be careful though, as full blown wrist-break can creep in adversely affecting your cast. Holding the rod butt tight to the underside of your forearm feels unnatural for many people, making them tense up and tighten the grip on the handle.

Nick Hart: Wrist-break should not be totally avoided; to stiffen the wrist entirely is unnatural and painful. But, a controlled, firm wrist is fine. Newcomers should allow two inches between rod butt and underside of their forearm during an overhead cast. Wrist-break leads to low back casts and poor line speeds. To counter wrist-break during an overhead cast work on pausing during the back cast with the thumb fairly upright. This allows for very little wrist-break and assists with a high back cast. Or, try the first finger up the handle to provide similar assistance. Avoid using straps (pic above) to counter wrist-break unless injury/weakness demands it. Having gained a decent foundation cast, attempt techniques such as ‘drifting’ into the back cast allowing a flexible wrist, although the movement needs to be controlled to be successful.

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What the science says

WE visited Loughborough University’s Ergonomics centre who suggest anglers tone up in preparation for their first serious session of the year. As casting is repetitive, gradually work up to a full session. Doctor Neil Mansfield of the Dept. of Human Sciences has practical steps to help limit the risk of casting injury.

1 Keep your hands warm

It may still be very cold during early-season and we tend to grip the rods tighter to keep our hands warm. The colder they are the greater the risk of muscle strain on the forearm and dexterity is reduced. So, wear gloves.

Gloves shouldn’t be too thick as thicker ones can make the effective diameter of the grip too big, therefore placing extra strain on your forearm muscles.

With that in mind, Dr Mansfield also suggested that slender rod handles should be preferred to thicker ones when wearing gloves.

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2 Ergonomic rod handle design

Okay, it’s highly unlikely that our traditional rod handles will change in the near future, but ergonomic experts at the university suggest a different rod handle design to help ease the risk of strain. The idea is to create a more natural hand position and grip. With the injuries associated with casting, it’s a case of ‘one thing leads to another’. When your hand is forced into an unnatural position, the forearm compensates by taking more strain, then the shoulder and so on. So, logic would suggest getting the grip right.

3 Let’s upset the casting instructors!

Professional casting instructors have traditionally seen wrist-break as a dirty word! But our tests at Loughborough University showed that allowing slight wrist-break meant less strain on the forearm muscles, leading to reduced risk of injury. Researcher Lauren Morgan attached electrodes to Editor Russell Hill’s forearms while he performed casts with wrist-break and then without. The difference in strain on his forearm muscles is clear to see in the graph. So, it seems a little wrist-break is actually good for your forearm (see graph opposite).

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5 ways to reduce risk of injury

1 The key to beating aches and pains is to remain relaxed while casting. A tense arm/ shoulder etc., will become painful.

2 The same goes for the hand. D Do not grip the rod for all it is worth, instead let it sit comfortably in the hand.

3 Allow the rod and line to do the work, a forceful technique employing shoulders for example will lead to stressed muscles.

4 Find a good balance point on the cork handle of the rod. Generally speaking, thumb on top, with thumb placed near the join of handle and blank is good.

5 Use a rod that is not too heavy for you and where possible go for modern carbon. Old ‘hand-me-down’ greenheart and cane blanks are generally heavier than modern products and can lead to fatigue.

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Cast Better: Casting in the margins

In the first part of this casting series, Nick Hart says we don’t have to cast to the horizon to catch trout

Anglers crave excitement. We love the anticipation of it all, the adrenalin rush when a fish takes and the exhilaration of a hard-fighting trout. But there is far more to our game than merely topping up the fishometer. Flyfishing for trout is all about problem solving. Just think of the thought processes we go through to outwit what is a relatively unintelligent quarry! It all begins with tackle options as we peruse endless catalogues and websites in the hope that somewhere we will find ‘the edge’ that leads to ever more enjoyable sessions. This is of course the whole reason to go fishing in the first place, enjoyment.

But the rich tapestry of flyfishing cannot be ours for the sake of a few financial transactions. Years of experience will be required to guide us through the infinite scenarios we might find ourselves in. Water conditions, the hatch, climate and many other factors all play their part in formulating these varied situations. Our response is to deliberate over fly line choice before turning our attention to the fly box. Then, once set-up, our first presentation must be sent toward our fish in the hope that it happens upon our offering without any hint of suspicion. It is at this point that some anglers may fail and so often it does not come down to their tackle or tactics; the problem is their casting.

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Casting is fundamental to success but, nevertheless, it’s often overlooked by many anglers. Rarely do I encounter a customer dropping by the tackle shop who sparks a conversation regarding casting; instead they will quiz me about the latest rod technology, killer fly or method that Ihave come across. These aspects of our sport are all important of course but, without the ability to cast, this knowledge is redundant, £500 rod in hand or not! So I have decided to do something about this frustrating problem in the form of this “Cast Better, Fish Better” series.

To begin we resist the temptation to whack the line as far as we can and instead head to a small stillwater for some casting in the margins, 30-yard horizon seekers are not the only way to catch a trout!

What is stalking?

UNLIKE many forms of flyfishing which call for blind casts to be made, stalking requires an angler to visually locate a fish and then make a presentation to it, often at close range. Stalking is a popular tactic with small water big-fish specialists but it is possible to stalk fish on most clear water venues, even reservoirs. Hunting down a trout and then watching as it sucks in your artificial before charging off across the lake is one of the truly magical flyfishing experiences. Arm yourself with the recommended gear and have a go, but practise the casting techniques!

Stalking tactics can be employed with a variety of tackle although your choices should be predominantly based upon the size of fish you expect to encounter.

RODS A nine-foot 5wt set-up suits most small waters.That’s fine if fish are to be taken, but if hooking specimens to release, step-up to a nine-foot to 9ft 6in for a 6wt line.

REELS Disc drag reels should be used to control the explosive runs often experienced when fish are hooked at close range.

LINES Floating lines are often used with heavily-weighted flies, however sink-tips and clear intermediates are also well worth trying.

LEADERS Fluorocarbon is a must for clear water stalking and it is worthwhile either buying knotless tapered leaders or learning how to construct a tapered leader yourself to improve turnover.

ACCESSORIES You'll need a big net if you expect to stalk a double-figure fish but the most essential items are a hat with a brim/peak (baseball caps are ideal) to reduce glare and a decent set of polarised sunglasses to help spot fish. Ahat and sunglasses are essential protective wear.

STALKING BUG A purpose-designed fly, very heavy and easy to spot. The Caterpillars are heavy goldhead lures with movement, available in a variety of colours.

STALKING LEADER Shorter leaders are easier to control when stalking. Long leaders are more likely to touch the fish, causing them to spook. Choose six-foot of 8lb fluorocarbon tied to six-foot of 6lb fluorocarbon. Water knots are used for connecting leader. Or use a commercial knotless tapered leader of between nine to 12ft.

STALKING FLIES There are many flies ideal for stalking. Many of these flies are weighted to reach the trout’s cruising depth quickly and incorporate a bright colour or strong silhouette to help the angler track the fly while in the water. It is possible to stalk trout with imitative flies.

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Stalking bugs: These are usually bright so they're easier to spot and weighted in order to sink through the depths to the cruising depth of patrolling fish. Many have marabou tails to provide that all-important movement.

The Casts

Cast 1 - Roll from the hand

AN ideal cast when traversing the shoreline looking for feeding trout and also a great way to start any session, enabling the line to be flicked out on the water with no fuss. Roll casting from the hand is only suitable for short-range presentations but with practise becomes a useful technique for quickly positioning a fly in the margins.

Grab the fly behind the hook point and barb, but don’t hook yourself upon making the cast!

Meanwhile allow the line to fall outside the rod and create a big capital ‘D’ shaped loop behind you, with your elbow gently tucked into your side, your thumb upright and in line with your eye.

You can now wander along the bank, looking for a fish to cast towards, although be careful not to catch the line up in vegetation while doing so.

When ready to make the cast, smoothly accelerate the rod and, as you feel tension/load upon the rod tip, release the fly.

Cast 2 - Standard roll cast

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THIS is a great short-range technique and perfect when time is needed to spot a fish, position yourself and make the cast. The lack of line moving in mid-air is beneficial and less likely to spook fish. When roll casting, the ‘D’ loop and line lying in the water must be facing its target and never angle the rod across the line during the forward stroke or it will tangle. Areal benefit is that, after the initial presentation, the rod can be lifted to fish the fly, which in turn readies the rod for another roll cast. If a fish takes, roll cast forwards to hook it!

Start rod tip low to the water, elbow resting at your side and thumb or forefinger on top of the handle.

Smoothly lift the rod tip, sliding the line across the water and aiming to create a ‘D’ loop hanging outside the rod. Your thumb/finger should be in line with your eye for correct positioning.

Now wait until a fish comes close before accelerating smoothly forwards, aiming for a definite stop. This causes the rod to load against the ‘D’ loop and the water tension acting upon the line.

Incorporate a standard retrieve after the fly has reached the desired depth or form another roll cast which will cause the fly to lift enticingly in front of the fish and accelerate away from it, often provoking an attack.

Cast 3 - Tension cast

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THIS is a useful technique when you need to quickly reposition a fly in the margins after it has been refused or if a previous cast was off target. Using water tension to help load the rod, this cast is simple to learn and is frequently used when fishing moving water to throw heavy bugs such as Czech Nymphs. Another benefit of the tension cast is the ability to surface large flies and present to the quarry with one movement, unlike the roll cast which may need several strokes to accomplish the same result.

Imagine that the line laying on the water is your usual overhead back cast ensuring that it is straight, meanwhile position your rod tip close to the water’s surface and angle your hand, palm up. When you’re ready to make the cast, smoothly accelerate feeling for tension upon the rod as the line drags against the water. Stop the rod, allowing a loop to form as you would for an overhead cast. With practice this cast can be performed from many angles.

Also in the Cast Better series...

1. Casting in the margins

2. Camouflage your casting

3. Distance casting

4. Casting teams of flies

5. Casting in the wind

6. Reaching a tight spot

7. Good presentation at distance

8. Make your own shooting head

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How to false cast a fly line for added distance

The mesmerising series of movements known as ‘false casting’ required to present a fly captures many newcomers’ imaginations. Unfortunately it is also a skill that many anglers struggle to master! Here we detail how it's doen and why it's so important...

A false cast is in essence a forward and backward stroke of the rod that allows the line to hover in mid air without dropping to the ground behind or water in front. To understand how to achieve this result find a strip of grass and follow this sequence:

1. Start with the rod low to the water and the line straight out in front. If the line is not straight use the roll cast (see HERE) to straighten it.

2. Lift smoothly into the back cast, accelerating to a controlled stop.

3. Allow the line to extend fully and then commence the forward stroke; once again smoothly accelerating to a controlled stop.

4. When the line straightens on the forward stroke, accelerate into another back cast without allowing the line to touch the water. Repeat steps 3 and 4 two to three times, but no more. Finish the cast by allowing the line to fully extend on the final forward stroke and drop gently to the water.

Timing is vital in every cast, but once you have started a false cast, it is paramount to success. Mistime the stroke and you’ll hear a loud crack as the line snaps together.

Another common fault caused by poor timing is for the line and/or leader to clatter into the rod. Try chanting tick/tock or pause/push to coincide with each stroke as the rod waits for the line to extend.

Another common false-casting fault more difficult to diagnose is known as ‘rodcreep’. Rather than stopping and waiting for the line to fully extend on either the backward or forward strokes you may find yourself beginning to move the rod as the loop unrolls. This results in an inefficiently loaded blank leading to poor presentation, tangles and a heavy delivery on the water.

False casting is actually far easier than it sounds and, once mastered, will change your flyfishing forever. A correctly-executed false cast will load the rod as the fly line extends placing tension upon the blank. The result is line speed as each stroke is completed with a controlled, abrupt stop resulting in the line flying over the tip. Imagine riding a bike down a hill and then jamming on the front brake. The rider would fly over the handlebars, which is exactly what we want the line to do when false casting.

Creating line speed with a false cast allows us to develop distance because, with practice, it is possible to shoot line with each stroke. The more weight we give to the rod, the deeper the bend within the blank; the result is line speed. Inexperienced casters using a weight-forward profile fly line should only allow the head section of the line to extend outside the rod tip. Many anglers think that the rod must be false cast many times in order to achieve distance and as much line released as possible – this is not the case! Instead use a maximum of two to three false casts (counting each back cast as one) and, with practice, it is quite possible to shoot an entire fly line.

PRACTICE TIPS

NEWCOMER

Work out two rod lengths of fly line, practicing a roll cast to straighten the line. Using just the rod-hand, maintain tension by trapping the line against the cork with the first finger and follow the sequence detailed in this feature to practice timing.

INTERMEDIATE

Introduce the line-controlling hand. Follow the sequence but as each forward stop is completed open the hand to allow some line to shoot and trap it once more during the back cast.

ADVANCED

Use the line-control hand to shoot line into both the back and forward casts. It is possible to extend the running line of a weight-forward or similar using this process (referred to as overhang) but ensure you maintain plenty of line speed or the cast will collapse.

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How to flyfish into a headwind

OFFERING shelter and protection, the lee (upwind) bank draws anglers like bees to honey during raw spring days. With your hood up and the wind battering your back, you congratulate yourself on yet another good cast as a biting tail wind straightens the leader. And, while there’s fish to be had in the relative warmth of this comfort zone, we’re missing a trick by remaining faithful to the same bank all day.

Although called 'stillwaters' our reservoirs, lakes and tarns are anything but. The wind has a massive influence on water movement. In its simplest form, any breeze causes the upper layers to travel across the surface of a water, creating waves. Once this moving water reaches the windward shore (downwind bank), it is pushed back under itself creating undertow. Now, this deeper water is forced back upwind to the lee shore for the cycle to repeat (diagram 1).

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Obviously, a chilly wind cools the upper layers, which can be inhospitable on reaching the downwind bank. Nevertheless, any food at the surface is transferred across more exposed water, to accumulate on the windward margins, making this a prime hunting ground for hungry trout, despite the cold. Although fish will be found on the lee shore, there’s a good chance of better sport when facing the wind.

It doesn’t sound much but the extra length of longer rods creates a certain amount of drag as they’re cast. Remember that a blank is all a blur during casting, so they’re reaching some impressive speeds. The breeze you’re addressing might be 20 plus mph and you can see the benefit of driving less carbon through the air. Rods around the nine-foot mark are ideal for tackling headwinds. Their shorter length means less friction so they can be turned over faster during that all-important delivery cast, which in turn generates higher line speeds, ideal for piercing a wall of wind. Of course, I’m not suggesting you go out and buy one; it’s just that if there’s a nine-footer currently in your armoury then use it. Ten-foot rods can still be used, but their extra length makes them flex more easily, requiring a longer, slower casting stroke to maintain a straight-line path of the rod tip and thus a tight loop. Reduced speed in the casting stroke equals less line speed (diagrams 2a & 2b).

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As a fairly short section of line can be aerialised before being shot (released) and pulling a thin running line, it pretty much goes without saying that weight-forward (WF) lines are mandatory. While floating lines are generally easier to handle they’re noticeably thicker in diameter than a sinking line of the same line rating. Rather than tackle deeper-lying trout with a floating line and long leader (which will be difficult to control in gusty conditions), try using an intermediate line coupled with a short leader. It’s surprising how sinking density lines easily cut through niggling headwinds.

Equally there are some line tapers designed for the job, commonly known as 'windcutters'. Basically, these are modified weight lines ideal for coping with adverse winds. More accomplished casters may wish to use a shooting head arrangement that, basically, is the same principle as a weight-forward line with a much slimmer running line usually consisting of monofilament. Monofilament running line creates less friction so the line can be shot further. If you do consider a shooting head, be mindful of 'overhang'. This is the amount of thin monofilament line outside the rod tip during false casting. Being extremely thin this mono struggles to support the more substantial shooting head fly line. Depending on your haul stroke there should be about 2-3ft of this outside the rod tip.

Speaking of monofilament, although sometimes viewed as ‘old hat’, standard nylon certainly has advantages when fishing into wind. For a given diameter, it tends to be stouter and, aside from achieving good turnover, is less likely to tangle, especially where droppers are concerned. And, if those dreaded wind knots do happen to materialise then they’re simpler to pick-out of nylon. Generally stiffer than copolymer, fluorocarbon should be considered too. Copolymers may have benefits for presenting dries and nymphs naturally; however, their suppleness can often see the leader collapse when casting into the wind.

A team of three flies might be fine for drifting from a boat and casting downwind though I’d question such a rig if stood on the windward bank facing a gale. A single fly arrangement is less likely to tangle. In such cases a nine-foot tapered leader should suffice. If you’re contemplating using more than one fly then look for a compromise with a two-fly set-up. A ten-foot tapered leader will accommodate a point fly and dropper (diagram 3). Again, in the interest of avoiding tangles, remember to keep the dropper leg short and no more than five-inches. As for flies, slender, more aerodynamic dressings should occupy the point, with the dropper for larger, bushy wind-resistant flies.

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Hauling creates more line speed, which helps line slice through the air. Notice I say “hauling” and not “doubling-hauling”. Although the double-haul is frequently used, it’s not a prerequisite for coping with headwinds. Easing into the backcast exposes fly line to the elements when a strong headwind will whisk the line back quickly. As we accelerate on the forward cast, now is the time to execute a single-haul that not only speeds up line, but creates tighter loops (diagram 4). It’s vital to direct the forward cast fairly low, as a loop that unrolls several feet above the water is exposed to the elements before alighting on the surface. As a guide, aim for an imaginary target about one-foot above the waves.

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When it comes to fishing, it pays to present your flies as naturally as possible. One advantage of fishing into the wind is that your flies naturally move back towards you. Just retrieve to keep pace with the speed of drift, taking up slack line.

Casting doesn’t mean pitching your flies directly into the wind. Much easier, is to angle casts across the breeze, yet still allowing your flies a natural drift (diagram 5). Of course, distance will suffer, though remember that trout tend to gather near the greatest and easiest food source. Feeling safe beneath a curtain of crashing waves they can literally be found prowling the margins at your feet.

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Why keeping a tight line will help your fly casting

PUT all the pieces of the casting jigsaw together and the process behind the act of loading a rod with a fly line is actually relatively simple. However, just like driving a car, if one of the elements is removed or of a poor standard the whole procedure collapses!

One of the best examples of an element that can severely inhibit results is an inability to maintain tension throughout the rod. The stroke can be well practised and timing honed to perfection, but if slack develops somewhere within the cast the result will be poor presentation.

Slack line can appear from the moment you start casting. Arrive at your chosen venue, dump the line in the water and you immediately have slack just waiting to cause no end of problems. At this point use a roll cast (see Trout Fisherman, issue 377) to straighten the line.

Once the roll cast has been completed, lower the rod tip so that it almost touches the water. Now when you peel the line from the surface it will remain under tension and use the drag from the surface tension to assist loading the rod blank.

Try this experiment. Throw some line on the water and roll cast it straight. Lift the rod slowly, so that the tip is at about eye level and then gently drop the rod to the surface again; you will see a pile of slack! This exercise shows that if the cast begins with the rod tip elevated slack will be thrown into the cast resulting in less tension on the rod and ultimately less speed within the line.

These tips will all help to maintain a taut line. But, while teaching, I notice one thing that always results in slack, and that’s the positioning of the hands.

During an overhead cast many anglers position the line-controlling hand at waist height, so that as the rod hand executes a back stroke, slack develops between the line-control hand and the butt guide. To prove this for yourself, make a back cast with your line hand at waist height and then pause in this position. You will notice the line is now across your body. This is slack waiting to kill the cast as it rushes back up the rod reducing the tension within it, no matter how well you timed the cast or executed the stroke!

There is an easy solution to this problem. Start with your hands close together, about 12 inches apart is ideal, and then make a back cast. As the rod hand forms the stroke, follow it with the line hand as if they were both connected; the line will remain taut at all times but only in conjunction with good timing and technique of course.

Learning to cast with the hands close together will assist with development or learning of advanced techniques such as the double haul, which demands excellent coordination of both hands.

The line must be pulled under tension through the rod to develop line speed but if the line-controlling hand is allowed to droop at waist height there is quite literally no line available to pull upon. The result is flailing arms, lots of mid-air swishing and for all this effort a pile of tangled fly line and leader.

To alleviate this problem practice the various techniques discussed above until casting with the hands close together feels natural. With good timing and stroke you should notice that, during both the back and forward casts, the line feels as if it wants to be pulled from the line-controlling hand. This signifies that the rod has been loaded correctly and that you are ready to learn the coordinated movements required for effective double hauling.

In conclusion, casting is all about tension throughout the rod that then changes into line speed. A small change in hand position could make the difference and perhaps complete the final part of your jigsaw.

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How to surface and roll cast with a sinking line

ONCE they’re sunk, sinktip, intermediate, medium or fast sink lines can represent a major casting problem.

The pressure on the line at depth will not allow us to merely pull the line from the water straight into an overhead cast. Attempt to do this and the result could well be a nasty injury as the pressure (otherwise known as drag) suddenly vanishes, launching line, leader and fly towards the unsuspecting angler.

Beginners in particular can fall foul of incorrectly casting a sinking line. Novices should always start their casting careers with a floating line - see issue 377 of Trout Fisherman and my advice regarding the roll cast. This diverse technique can be used to straighten a line, cast in tight spaces, fish flies to the shore and pull sinking lines to the surface.

Once the overhead cast has been made and the sinker fished back towards shore or boat, begin a very smooth lift of the rod tip using your elbow.

However, it is important not to begin lifting until the cast has almost been fished out, allowing for sufficient line (weight) to commence an overhead cast once the sinker has been surfaced. One method of arriving at the correct point every time is to measure the required length of line from tip ring to leader connection (I would suggest two rod lengths) and then whip a small marker onto the line using tying thread. This marker should be situated so that once it arrives in the hand, two rod lengths of line remain outside of the tip ring. At this point start the lift described above.

If you do not like the idea of a small ‘bump’ created by the marker then you will need to watch carefully for any signs of the rear taper on a standard weight forward. Most modern day sinking lines will have a weight forward (WF) profile, although in super-fast sinking lines the difference between the head section and running line is virtually unrecognisable. Line densities that descend rapidly should only be used by experienced anglers who, through practice and experience, will be able to accurately judge the amount of line remaining below the surface.

While our goal is to create a roll cast it is also worth using the process to try and add a fish to the bag. So as you lift steadily take up any slack with a figureof- eight retrieve. You can also pause, allowing the flies to ‘hang’ vertically below the rod tip, a technique that often proves the downfall of a curious fish.

If a take or fish is not forthcoming continue the stroke sweeping the rod away from your body and positioning your thumb within the peripheral vision of your casting eye. This will form a Dloop and will also surface the leader.

While the roll cast can be performed extremely slowly with a floating line once the D-loop has been formed, it is important to apply power quickly with a sinker; otherwise the line will begin to descend once more. Very fast sinking lines may need a couple of rolls to bring it and the leader to the surface, at which point smoothly peel the line from the water and accelerate into an overhead back cast. Alternatively, for maximum efficiency, do not allow the line to fall to the surface once the forward stroke of the roll cast has been completed, instead launch straight into the overhead cast; also known as a roll pick-up.

Finally, using fluorocarbon with floating lines and heavy Buzzers can achieve incredible depths, pulling the tip of a floating line well down. In these circumstances a roll cast will also be required for maximum efficiency and safety. If a fish takes during the roll cast, apply the forward power as described above but with a little more venom which will double as a strike!

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Visit a clear water fishery with good depths close to shore. Using a sinking line, watch carefully when nearing the end of a retrieve to see how the flies behave in conjunction with the use of a roll cast. Also use this opportunity to experiment with the amount of line required to surface the flies effectively and commence a cast. Start with slow sinking lines and gradually build up to fast sinkers.

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Standing firm to improve your casting performance

How you stand at the water’s edge can have a huge impact on casting performance, as Nick Hart explains…

COMFORT when casting is very important so invest in some decent socks and footwear practical for the conditions. If you regularly spend time wading while bank fishing then stockingfoot breathable waders with a high quality set of boots will be worth their weight in gold. Add a decent wading belt with a back support for even greater comfort.

Consider the sole of your footwear in relation to the terrain and circumstances you are likely to encounter. There is nothing worse than attempting to maintain balance while trying to cast. For my small water fishing I opt for a set of walking-style boots with padded ankles and while spending a day afloat I could not survive without a quality boatseat incorporating a back rest.

Comfort should also be carefully considered in relation to the angle of your body and foot positioning while casting. The classic front foot forward (right handed caster with right foot forward) or ‘closed stance’ is fantastic for short accurate casts and is also worth trying if you tend to rotate your shoulders or hips while casting. However for most stillwater flyfishing it is restricting; especially if you like to double haul and practice techniques such as drifting into the back cast.

The most comfortable fishing and casting position to adopt is a casual ‘open stance’, placing the foot opposite your casting shoulder forward. So for example a right-handed caster would position their left foot forward with the right foot positioned a comfortable distance behind. Some anglers will choose to point both feet along the bank, while others will place the front foot pointing towards the water and the opposite foot along the bank. There is no definite rule regarding this other than the angler must be comfortable at all times!

The open stance provides a relaxed feeling and is the ideal body position to practice long distance casting techniques such as the double haul. When adopting an open stance it is important that you do not allow your shoulder to rotate as this will take the rod out of a straight line path, resulting in reduced power and a lack of accuracy.

An open stance is highly recommended for advanced casters who like to ‘drift’ the rod into the back cast, a technique that allows for a longer rod stroke and greater power to be placed within the blank. By slightly bending the rear leg it is possible to arch the back allowing for very long back casts that will reach for the horizon on the forward delivery. Once the cast has been delivered the angler can then return to their casual open stance.

Finally, it is worth taking wind conditions into consideration. A right handed caster with a wind blowing from right-to-left will suffer problems as the line blows across them mid-cast - and injury could result.

Should you like to fish a particular location during such conditions all you need to do is reverse your open stance. This technique effectively turns your back to the wind converting your back cast into your forward cast thus ensuring the line is blown away from delicate parts of the anatomy such as ears!

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Try a variety of stance positions

during actual fishing sessions at

the water’s edge and also during

casting practice to see what feels

natural. Experiment between short

accurate presentations and long

distance.

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Grip: The foundation of a good fly cast

TALK casting with many anglers and there will be a great deal of banter regarding low back casts, wide loops, tight loops and the dreaded broken wrist. Yet I rarely hear much discussion relating to perhaps one of the most fundamentally important parts of a cast: how to grip the rod.

In fact I would advise that when picking up a rod you don’t actually grip it at all, instead just ‘hold’ the rod gently in the hand. A well-balanced rod fixed to a reel should balance near to the point where cork meets blank. To test for yourself, run your finger up and down the underneath of the cork handle until it balances. If the rod falls forward then the reel is too light for the rod and if it falls backwards, the reel is too heavy.

Once you have your balance point, place your thumb on top of the rod with your fingers gently wrapped around the handle. Imagine you are holding a screwdriver or shaking someone’s hand. This loose grip ensures your muscles are not tense which allows the blank to flex naturally under the tension of the line. A stressed grip will cause the opposite, placing unwanted tension in the rod leading to vibration within the blank and ultimately the line. Treat your grip as a fulcrum for the rod, not a major source of power; this should come from timing and technique.

While the common grip is thumb on top of the rod there are a number of others. One of the most popular is finger on top of the cork, wrapping thumb and remaining fingers underneath. This is a good grip for short range casts and is surprisingly comfortable. It is also useful for those who may have a lack of strength in their thumb, through injury for example, and those who struggle to maintain a high back cast. It is far harder to bend a first finger back rather than a thumb, which often flips over the shoulder when assisted by a flexing wrist, a major cause of low back casts. Try experimenting with different grips, but above all ensure you are relaxed and that the rod feels comfortable in hand.

Many anglers ask why one rod may be more expensive than the other. There are many reasons but most certainly premium quality rods come fitted with high-grade cork. To maintain a comfortable grip invest in quality cork. Silky smooth in the hand this feeling alone helps an angler to relax.

If your budget will not stretch to this look after the handle of your rod by sanding it down periodically and use a little filler to plug any gaps. Always remove the cellophane protective cover wrapped around the cork. Many anglers leave this in place resulting in a blackening of the cork as it is exposed to moisture that cannot escape. The resulting rot that sets in can quickly destroy the handle and create an uncomfortable surface on which to place a hand for the day while casting!

Finally think about other sports that you may play; golf is a fine example. Such activities rely on a comfortable grip for success and coaches will provide a great deal of tuition based around how to hold a club, bat or racket. The grip really is the foundation of the cast so use the training tip to get the very best from yours and see results in the form of reduced fatigue and with time, longer, more accurate casts.

TRAINING TIP

Try thumb or finger on top of the rod to see what works for you. Begin a cast, flicking the rod backwards and forwards. During the rod stroke gently reduce pressure throughout the arm and hand. Try this for short bursts experimenting to see how little pressure is needed to support the rod.

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Creating a big 'D' loop for an effective roll cast

STUDY a stillwater and you’ll notice lines swishing back and forth as anglers practise their overhead casts in between catching a fish or two. Watch carefully and you’ll see various styles on show.

Towards the end of the retrieve, rather than lift the line straight from the water you’ll often see an angler sweep the line to one side, flick it forwards and then begin casting; that’s if a fish hasn’t taken at the last minute! This is a roll cast. But many anglers don’t realise this, and any practice they do is saved for the overhead cast, achieving as much distance as possible. In fact, I’d offer the reverse advice, sort your roll cast out first and then concentrate on the overhead. There’s good reason for this.

The roll cast is tremendously diverse. In particular, use it to straighten the line when you begin fishing, when fishing in enclosed spaces, to retrieve flies close to the shore and to pull a sinking line to the surface prior to recasting. Most importantly, learn how the cast works and perfect it to create a therapeutic routine that will save you energy while maximising fishing time.

To achieve this you’ll need to learn all about the big ‘D’ loop, so called because the line hanging from the rod tip coupled with the rod blank form a shape like a capital ‘D’.

Loops are the shape formed within the line during backward and forward casts. They represent weight that can be used to flex the rod (referred to as loading), resulting in energy that is then transferred to the line. During the overhead cast this process is achieved by allowing the line to fully extend upon completion of each stroke; but the roll cast is different. It doesn’t rely on the line moving at speed to tension the rod but uses the weight within the ‘D’ in conjunction with water tension.

If your ‘D’ is too small there won’t be enough weight to release the line from the water, or there will be too much drag. This results in a collapsed cast and once you have a mound of slack in front of you the only way to straighten it is to perform another roll cast! Knowledge of how to create the loop is crucial.

The secret is to be very slow and purposeful with each part of the cast. Treat it as you would a golf shot or tennis serve. There should be no rush. Lift the rod smoothly, slide the line gently along the water and aim to place your thumb within the peripheral vision of your casting eye - imagine aiming a dart for example. In this position you’ll find that the rod tip settles high above your head, with a slight backwards tilt, the line hanging below to form the required ‘D’ loop.

A common fault is to lift the rod so that the line twists around the tip as it falls backwards. To solve this, allow your arm to fall comfortably to one side as you create the ‘D’ loop. The other major problem is rushing. The natural tension on the line created by the water is lost if the cast is performed too fast, resulting in the line flying past the angler often into waiting vegetation. If this isn’t the case your ‘D’ loop will be small (or non-existent) while not facing your target. When creating an effective loop always line it up with your target! Casting across the loop or making a large change of direction will result in a tangle or collapsed cast.

When practising ‘D’ loops, experiment with size and correlate this with the amount of line resting in the water. A lot can depend on the action of your rod and in some cases the physical amount of space available in which to form the ‘D’ loop. Use the casting tip above to assist your progression and next month learn all about how to grip the rod correctly.

CASTING TIP

Find some water, as casting over a field when practising the roll cast is ineffective due to the lack of line tension. Once comfortable, think of three parts to the cast. 1. A steady lift of the rod. 2. Smoothly slide the line along the water while angling the rod slightly away from your body 3. Use your elbow as a pivot, lifting your thumb into the peripheral vision of your casting eye. The result: a big ‘D’ loop!

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Learn to cast a fly: Part 2

The basic cast diagram shows the casting process in condensed form.

However, this is based on sequences of high-speed photographs. Now, let’s assume we are making an easy 7- weight forward cast of 12 yards right handed, with any wind from left to right. A backcast is made with enough power to just straighten the line without any shudder (lack of straightness in the backcast), thus turning the flexible line weight into a solid one that the rod tip can pull on. Immediately, a front cast stroke is made with a straight rod hand acceleration, starting slowly and finishing fast. During this the rod tip progressively bends backwards against the line weight and, at the end of the stroke, the line starts to move forwards.

At this point a very fast and small forward wrist ‘flick’ of about 10 degrees and abrupt stop are introduced, so causing the rod tip to spring forwards and pull the line very quickly indeed, which happens with the rod hand doing nothing – the caster could be a statue at the moment.

During the very fast pulling process the rod tip rises up and then dips down, a vital part of the process, as the amount of dip determines the hairpin loop size, which pulls the line to the desired distance. A gentle, straight rod hand acceleration of 15-18 inches, finished with a tiny wrist flick and stop produces a rod tip movement many times greater and much faster.

It’s this process which turns the flexible line into a very dynamic casting weight to pull a fly to the water. Given a straight rod hand movement, a normal fly rod will dip sufficiently to produce a hairpin loop of about 18 inches deep, which pulls well but is not so narrow as to tangle a leader. Tournament distance casters may push their hands upwards at the end stroke to narrow the loop, whereas when short lining with three flies, boat fishers might dip the rod more to open the loop and prevent tangles.

BASIC OVERHEAD CAST

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ROTATIONAL ROD HAND - INCORRECT CASTING

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CASTING QUESTIONS & ANSWERS

Q WHY DO YOU EMPHASIZE THE POWER OF THE BACKCAST AND THE LACK OF SHUDDER (WIGGLE) IN THE LINE?

A Any lack of straightness in the backcast, be it sag or waviness, has to be straightened for the line to be a full weight. Un-straight lines waste rod hand movement and therefore, spoil casting efficiency. The right power for any line length is a matter of good judgement and practice.

Q I USE A LOT OF EFFORT IN THE CASTING STROKE AND MY ROD MAKES A NOISE IN THE AIR, IS THIS OKAY?

A No. It’s a very common belief that lots of effort in the stroke adds to the cast, but it cannot. The only effort needed is sufficient to get the rod fully bent and the line moving, just before the wrist flick and stop. To get the effort in perspective, lay 12 to 14 yards of fly line on grass and tow it along, with rod tip at right angles to the line and near the grass. You’ll be amazed how easy it is, so only use the same, or a little more effort when casting.

The noise is caused by starting too fast, thus pushing a column of air in front of the rod, which inevitably starts the line moving too soon and removes bend from the rod. Another reason for starting too fast is the fear that the line will fall from the air – try casting progressively slower, you will be amazed at the slowness when the line finally ‘stalls’.

Q DOES THE LENGTH OF THE CASTING STROKE MATTER?

A Very much so, depending on the type of fishing and the line in use. For river fishing 7 to 12 yard casts might need a stroke of up to 6 inches, 15 to 20 yards is described above, whereas long bellies and double tapers being longer and heavier, will often need all the length you can muster for top performance. However, they all need a straight movement and good acceleration from slow to very fast.

Q I SEEM TO HAVE A DECENT, UNHURRIED CASTING STROKE, BUT MY LINE NEVER REALLY FIZZES OUT – WHY IS THIS?

A You’re not causing the rod tip to spring forwards very fast and, since it is not an easy concept to acquire, perhaps the diagram above will help. However, as it’s difficult to pick up dynamic activity a few thought-provoking ideas might help:

● The effect on the rod tip of stopping abruptly is the same as, on a tiny scale, accelerating a car to high speed and then braking hard. The driver would take off without a seat belt.

● Imagine that your hand and tiny wrist movement stops like a snake strike – very light and fast.

● Take a clean 3-inch paintbrush, imagine the bristles are lots of tiny fly rods. Dip them in water, then make a ‘cast’. You’ll find that a tiny, very fast wrist flick forwards, immediately followed by a very sharp stop will fire the water droplets a long way.

● Imagine there’s an irritating pea-sized piece of mud stuck to your rod tip that you want to cast off. Many anglers are casting big potatoes – slow and heavy.

● Finally, when people watch me cast they notice how slowly I do it and how far the line goes afterwards. Well, this is true up to a point, but it is something like a conjuring trick. They only notice the long, slow stroke and because it happens so quickly, they miss the intensity of the small wrist flick and the sharpness of the stop.

Q THE DIAGRAM SEEMS TO INDICATE THE ROD TIP IS MOVING, FROM THE START OF THE STROKE DOWN – UP – DOWN. IS THIS SO AND DOES IT MATTER?

A The initial dip and rise does not matter and is taken care of by the natural flexibility of the line without affecting the cast. However, the final dip from top dead centre is essential since it

forms the size of the pulling hairpin line loop.

Q IS THE FORWARD CAST THE SAME FOR A ROLL CAST AS DESCRIBED LAST MONTH?

A Yes it is the same, the difference is that there’s no backcast as such. The line is drawn back to form a ‘D’ loop behind the rod with perhaps 3 yards of line still in the water. However, due to the lack of straightness in the backcast, the resulting forward cast is not as dynamic when compared to a straight overhead cast where trout rods are concerned.

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Learn to cast a fly: Part 1

Part one: Know your fly lines

British Fly Casting Club Secretary Mike Marshall discusses the basic fly lines and their uses, to help you become a better fly caster and master accuracy when fly casting.

For those new to flyfishing, fly casting is simply casting a weight as in other forms of the sport.

However, the fly angler’s fishing weight – a plastic covered line (metal impregnated on sinking lines) is very flexible, so we must understand how to cast it properly.

Heavy lines, such as those rated 10, produce more casting power and are therefore absolutely perfect for large pike flies and when fishing in strong winds. For stillwater, fishing lines rated 7 deal with most fishable conditions, leaders and flies, whereas a line rated 5 may be better for delicacy on rivers where shorter casts are required.

You must always match the weight to your line to the line rating of your rod to gain maximum performance, maximum distance and maximum accuracy. If you fail to do this, you'll only end up making matters worse when you're fly fishing.

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1 OVERHEAD CASTS need the line to be straight to the rod tip, transforming it into an effective weight to bend the rod. Upon straightening, the line is accelerated in the opposite direction and shot out by casting action, which can only be done if a hairpin shaped “pulling” loop is formed, where the rolling energy at the front of the loop pulls the line. Being flexible the line cannot be pushed, so, no pulling loop means no cast. Lines are tapered for about 10ft at the leader end, thus reducing weight and casting energy to prevent it slapping the water.

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2 ROLL CASTS rely on the line weight in the “D” loop behind the rod and the drag of the line still in the water to load the rod and, once drawn into this position, a normal cast is performed. This cast is very useful for removing line from the water prior to recasting and where there’s no room for an overhead backcast.

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Mike Marshall's line is straight on the back cast ready to move forward

The rolling loop (weight) pulls the fly line forward after the forward cast

The basic fly lines and their uses

SHOOTING HEAD LINES These lines have a heavy casting section, or head, attached to a running line that may be level fly line or a length of monofilament. The head itself is usually about 30ft long, can float or sink and usually has small loops on both ends to attach the running line and leader.

These are the easiest lines to cast when cut 25 to 30ft long and produce the greatest distances when cut 37 to 40ft long. Usually sold at 30ft; longer ones must be cut from a double taper line because, due to being a symmetrical line, you can cut two shooting heads from one line.

The mono or braided nylon running line is very durable, but can be shortened slightly – by cutting and re-attaching - behind the head when roughened by wear. Casts can only be made when the shooting head is drawn back very close to the rod tip – the running line has no weight to form a pulling casting loop. As for long leaders and three flies – don’t go there!

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Q WHY ARE THEY EASY TO CAST?

AWith the whole comparatively short line just outside the tip ring, the final cast shoots the

line out, while the nylon running line produces minimal cast-shortening drag.

WHEN TO USE A SHOOTING HEAD LINE

● Teaching a beginner to shoot line.

● Helping casters overcome injuries such as tennis elbow.

● Boat fishing fast sinking lines at depth, they’re easier to lift out of water.

● Casting to distant fish from the bank.

● Where the back cast space is very limited.

● In a wind from behind.

● When a reel is small a shooting head will always fit.

WHEN NOT TO USE A SHOOTING HEAD

● Where accuracy and delicacy of presentation are needed, they don’t land quietly

and are easily blown off course in a side wind

● When casting in still air and into wind – due to the long shoot and minimal

running line drag, they do not straighten and tend to land in a heap.

WEIGHT FORWARD LINES Most weight is in the thick belly – the 30ft section just behind the front taper. The rest of the line is quite fine diameter running line.

These are basically shooting heads with plastic covered running line. Weight forwards have head lengths in the 37 to 40ft range, which suit the average caster, other 45 to 47ft ‘long belly’ lines require very good distance technique. Overhead and roll casts should be made with most of the back taper in the tip ring as the thin running line has little weight and cracks if repeatedly cast within the tip ring.

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Q WHEN WOULD YOU USE A WEIGHT FORWARD?

● When teaching experienced anglers to shoot line, particularly

those with a naturally short casting movement. ● Where the back

cast space is limited. ● For all general fishing with backwind.

● Where casting accuracy and presentation are not vital.

● When fishing with quite light leaders and small flies – the

underwater line drag is small.

Q WHEN WOULD YOU NOT USE A WEIGHT FORWARD?

● When casting in still air and into wind – due to the quite long

shoot and small running line drag, they do not straighten well and

‘land’ untidily. ● When casting to individual fish since the back

taper must be drawn back into the tip ring to recast, so time and

range are lost.

DOUBLE TAPERS A floating line with a casting taper on both ends and no running line. The tip and forward taper and the thick belly are duplicated on the other end. These are the most difficult lines to cast due to the running line being heavy belly, which means shorter shoots and more drag. However, they provide the best accuracy and presentation in normal conditions and good performance in difficult conditions. A long, smooth, casting stroke is needed for distance, but there is no head length to worry about, so any castable length outside the rod tip will do. They can be reversed if the leader end becomes worn, but they are bulky so a suitably large reel is a must.

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Q WHEN WOULD YOU USE A DOUBLE TAPER?

● When accuracy and presentation at distance are important, particularly with long leaders and three flies.

● When best performance is required in dead air, into a wind or across a strong side wind.

● When long roll casting. 

● When casting to rising or sub surface fish this line can, without shortening, be lifted from

the water and immediately cast again.

Q WHEN WOULD YOU NOT USE A DOUBLE TAPER?

● Where the back cast space is limited – these lines require the most space.

● When using very small hooks and fine leaders – the underwater drag is greatest.

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Learn the double-haul fly cast

There’s a scientific principle that states: for every input of energy, there is an equal and opposite reaction.

Double-haul casting makes full use of this. Now imagine casting the line back and forth while holding the line. Then, against each casting stroke of the rod, PULL DOWN with your left-hand and, as the line extends, RISE UP again. So double-haul needs a mini shoot on each rise up.

For easier understanding this is shown in simple diagrams, but what it actually achieves needs description.

HOW IT WORKS

The backwards deflection of the rod tip against the line weight is caused by a 15-18 inch casting stroke and, let’s assume this is the most the caster can physically manage. The spring energy built up in the rod is therefore, fixed.

However, if a pull down during the casting stroke is made, the line suddenly becomes heavier to the rod tip, which, in turn, causes more backwards deflection, thus storing more spring energy from the same line weight and casting stroke. Assuming a good “flick” and abrupt stop to finish the cast, the rod tip will spring forwards more, so releasing the extra casting energy. That is the theory, applicable to both back and forward casts, so, how is it put into practice?

PRACTICING DOUBLE-HAUL

By far the easiest way to learn doublehaul is for me to stand beside a caster, whilst pulling and lifting their left hand about 10 inches with mine – the difficult movements are soon achieved. Left to your own devices it is necessary to break this most unnatural sequence of movements down into simple parts.

Take the outfit and set up as in article 4, then make a few introductory casts backwards and forwards in the air without shooting line and, let the last forward cast fall on the grass. Make a backcast from the grass, straighten, let it fall, stop. Make a front cast from the grass, straighten, let it fall, stop.

Stops should be long enough to gather your thoughts. Keep doing this until it becomes familiar and manageable.

Now comes the harder part! PULL DOWN while backcasting from the grass, rise up while straightening, let it fall, stop. PULL DOWN while front casting from the grass, rise up while straightening, let it fall, stop.

Do not hurry the casting, in fact try slowing down to see what the minimum speed is without stalling.

For some reason, double-haul always makes you want to go faster. As already mentioned, each hairpin loop straightening the line must have enough pulling power to produce a small shoot, to take the line back to its higher starting point. Perhaps the efforts applied to casting backwards now have relevance as the rise up, for the backcast, is usually the hardest to make.

Be prepared to put in several sessions, to let the various movements and associated thinking processes become automatic. Once they are, try a sequence of casts in the air with pulling down and rising up to match. You can now doublehaul, or it’s back to letting the line fall again. Persist and you will eventually pick it up, I didn’t say it was easy, but I find that those who have the most difficulty learning, finally become the best casters.

Assuming you can double-haul, well, most of the time, the next thing is to shoot line on the forward cast. This is achieved by performing a sequence of three double-haul forward casts and, after the last pull down, release the line at the 1⁄3 above, 2⁄3 behind, ‘now’ point.

The line will then shoot with extra energy if everything has been done well. Finally, when fishing, you will need three shoots while double-hauling which are achieved by letting line shoot through your fingers during the first two front cast rise ups, and releasing the line completely after the last front cast pull down.

CASTING HEALTH WARNING!

Now I would like to issue a casting health warning! Assuming you now have a very good basic casting style, double-haul is likely to be ruinous. What happens is that your brain is used to controlling mainly your right side, but double-hauling demands that your brain transfers to new left sided control. As a result your good basic cast ‘goes to pot’. This is overcome by the discipline of casting one good basic cast, followed by a double-haul cast, throughout a practice session never loose the basics.

HOW TO CAST IT

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1 The line must start straight in front in the air, or on the water, with the rod pointing down the line as shown. Now grasp the line near the butt ring of the rod.

2 Make a normal overhead backcast in the usual way, but as you do this, haul the line-hand down to your left-hand side pocket area.

3 As the backcast straightens, allow your line-hand to get almost pulled and travel back towards the butt ring. The fly line must be under tension for the duration.

4 Once the backcast has straightened, the linehand should be about level with the rod-hand.

5 As you start the forward cast, you pull the line-hand downwards at a similar speed.

6 Shows the frontcast half made with the linehand hauling down, producing extra rod bend.

7 The front cast is fully made with extra energy and the line-hand has hauled down to the pocket area and released the line at the ‘now’ point.

REFINING POINTS

Having achieved a simple double haul, there are several aspects to be refined and these can come with practice and experience. At this early stage it is sufficient to be aware of them and how they should be performed to achieve the very best casts.

1 The pull down should be the same length and accelerate like the casting stroke for extra rod bend, to help straighten the line and finally get it moving

2 The rise up should be gentle allowing line to straighten without judder.

3 Hauling must be done progressively more sideways the deeper you wade, to avoid  dunking’ the left hand.

4 Longer casting strokes and hauls are needed for long belly lines and the longest you can possibly manage are applicable to double tapers.

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