Are you totally new to fly fishing and wondering how someone could cast a fly line 100’s of feet? Maybe you’ve been out on the river only to “snap” off a bunch of flies? Or you just have no idea how to cast a fly rod and need a little help?
Follow along below and I’ll provide some quick tips and links to awesome resources on this topic.
Sound good? If you have a little experience and need a little more advanced content on fly casting take a look at this link: 9 tips on Increased Fly Casting.
How to Cast a Fly Rod – 7 Steps
1. Fly Fishing Gear
The first step to the fly cast is making sure you have a balanced outfit. Take a look here to see a few resources to make sure you find the right gear.
The Reel weight, line weight and rod weight should all be balanced in order to make an effective fly cast. Start with a balanced outfit and your life will be much easier as you get into this.
2. Where to Practice Casting
The best place to practice casting is on the water so if you can find a nice calm stream or lake nearby go there.
If you only have a grassy yard, you can still practice there. You can tie a small piece of yarn in place of a fly on the end of your leader to help simulate the fly. The yarn will stick to the grass a bit and help to load the rod.
There are a few basic knots you should learn for fly fishing but the yarn knot can just be as basic as you need to get it done.
3. How to hold the fly rod
There are numerous ways to hold a fly rod and at the end of the day it comes down to what feels comfortable for you. The most common grib for average length casts is the thumb on top of the cork.
One important point that Pete makes in the video below is, regardless of the grip you choose, to use a relaxed grip and don’d grip the rod too hard.
Take a look at this video: How to Grip a Fly Rod
4. How to hold the line
When starting out casting a fly rod I recommend that you start with a very short amount of line (20′ range) and keep all of the extra line on your real to remove distractions.
If you are right handed, go ahead and pinch the line with your index finger down onto the cork of the handle. This will assure that no line zips off while casting.
Eventually you’ll be stripping out line, double-hauling and doing all sorts of extra stuff but we don’t have to think about that now.
Just strip out 20 feet or so of line and start practicing.
5. How to pickup and load the rod
One of the most important things to remember when you start your back cast is to make sure your line is straight out in front of you and does not have a lot of slack or bends on the water.
The less slack (bends and squiglies) you have when your line is on the water the more effective your cast will be.
When you pick up the rod the most important piece is that you are using a smooth excelleration on the pickup. The herky jerkey pickup will not transfer the energy effectively to load the rod.
The great casting instructor Ed Jaworowski noted how to do accelleration correctly in episode 233 here.
Episode 233 will probably go down as one of the best podcast episodes on fly casting.
Loading the rod essentially means transferring energy from the pickup into the back cast. A good analogy to use for the pickup of the backcast is that of a paint brush. Imagine you dust dipped the brush into a bucket of paint. Now, pull it out without dripping and execrate back until you get to the pause. Try to throw that paint brush off without loosing any.
Note: Draw a straight line between your back and forward cast. In oder to efficiency transfer the energy, the line should be on the same plane and 180 degrees opposite on the back vs. forward cast.
6. How to stop the rod
Once you pick up the rod and line with a smooth excelleration you will need to stop (pause) the rod when you come to the point where you transition back into a forward cast.
This is the 2′ o’clock of 10 and 2. But, it might be more like stopping at 12 O’clock in many situations. (Just think of the hands on an old clock).
Point #3 in this guide talks about stopping and pausing the rod.
If you don’t pause for a second and let the line load up, you’ll here a snap on the forward cast. That’s your leader and fly snapping.
If you wait too long on the backcast your line will drop behind you and may hit the ground. Fly casting is all about timing and a 1/2 second can make all the difference.
Once your line loads on the back cast with your pause, you can then transfer that energy to the forward cast.
Note: It’s a good idea when starting out to look at your backcast and make sure the line is loading up correctly. You’ll know it is when the line is straight out behind you. (So, take time and look back at your cast to see if it’s loading straight behind you)l
7. The Forward Cast
After you have made that quick pause and loaded up the rod, you can now make a forward cast. On the forward cast bring the line forward 180 degrees from the backcast around eye level.
Stop the forward motion around 10 O’clock and shoot the line out. Don’t be afraid to really shoot the line out and excentuate the motion if needed early on. After the line shoots out in front of you, drop your rod tip down to the water to finish up the cast.
Once the line hits the water you are fishing and can follow your fly.
8. Other Casts
There are a bunch of other casts you will learn eventually like the roll cast, side cast, spey cast and the list goes on and on.
I did want to share the reach cast which can be very helpful in certain situations. Here’s a video link for the reach cast.
This cast can be very effective especially when fishing dry flies. You are able to give your fly a little extra drag free drift with the reach cast.
The double haul is another advanced method that will help getting more distance for your cast. If you want to take a sneak peak Simon shares a few tips below:
Tips and Tricks
The most important thing you can do when getting started fly casting is to practice and practice.
Do you remember Iverson’s take on practice? We in here talkin about Practice
I always love that clip. But regardless of Allen’s take on it, practice is super important.
Another important thing you can do is to find a mentor to help with your casting. Set a goal to find one person who has some skills to critique your cast.
I was listening to a podcast recently where Steve Rajef describes how a mentor at the San Francisco casting club helped give him a big start to his casting career. Although you might not have a casting club nearby, there are plenty of other resources out there.
Fly casting is one of those pieces to the fly fishing puzzle that is necessary, but you don’t have to be a master fly caster to catch fish. In fact, many of the fish we catch are within a few feet of the bank.
So, the next part of the equation after getting your gear and casting down is to read water in the areas where you plan on fishing. We will talk about this in an upcomming post.
The fly cast is all about nice fluid motion and timing. You will only get this nailed with practice and time. Remember to pick up and start your backcast with a nice constant acceleration.
Use a soft grip but squeeze the grip when you stop to help load up the rod. Now, transfer the energy back into your forward cast and stop when you are around 10 O’clock or when your line is around eye height.
Don’t be afraid to put some power into your cast. One of the great thing you have going for you is that most of the gear on the market
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