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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