Fly fishing is a fun and unique hobby for many outdoors-men. It takes skill, precision, and a knack for understanding the ever-changing conditions of the wind and water.
Though it is rewarding to master, fly fishing has a steep learning curve compared to other outdoor activities and comes with its fair share of challenges.
First among these is the process of how to cast a fly rod. It requires an air of finesse and some practice but is absolutely crucial to perfecting the art.
In this article, you will learn the important steps and tricks to making successful casts and bringing in more fish. Read on to find out how!
Steps to Cast a Fly Rod
Step #1: Before You Cast
To begin, let out about 3x the length of the rod in line. Since 9ft is a common length for fly fishing poles, 27ft of a line is standard. This is only a rule of thumb, and most rods specify on them how many lines to let.
Of this length, some of the lines will be either floating in the water next to you or hanging down at your feet depending on if you choose to wade or fish from the banks.
The amount extending from the eye of the pole is based on how far you want to cast. More should be at your feet for shorted casts, less for longer ones.
When I am on the water, I prefer to cast my forearm rather than my wrist. It relieves strain on the joints and allows for more control of the rod throughout the casts.
To do this, hold the rod in a choke grip with your thumb on top of the rod and past the reel. Some of the rods should be below your wrist and in contact with your arm before you begin to cast.
Step #2: Casting The Rod
Fly in front of you to its targeted destination. Do not allow the fly to touch the water unless you are satisfied with the distance it has traveled.
Repeat as many times as necessary, lengthening the line slightly from the free-hanging loop until the desired casting distance is reached. On the last stroke, allow the fly to contact the water.
If done correctly, the line should lay itself down on the water’s surface and “unfurl” before finally, gently dropping the fly down.
Remember when forming the narrow loop on the front and back casts, make sure to give the line time to unwind before switching directions.
Wait until the line is almost straight before breaking that pause and beginning the forward swing. This prevents the line from cracking like a whip and breaking the fly off.
If the distance is far enough, on the final front cast it will often be necessary to add extra power and let the free line run out so that none is left at your feet.
Putting some muscle into the stroke and letting your arm “follow” the outbound line will give it the push it needs to gain those few extra yards.
Some Technical Aspects
- One of the most important aspects of casting a fly rod is loading the rod. This is the term for the collection of potential energy within the pole, evidenced by a wide bend in its upper half. It occurs twice per casting cycle and is necessary for the fly to gain momentum and travel forward and back. Without it, you cannot reach targets that are farther away than the length of the rod.
- There are three common angles at which to cast: straight up and over the shoulder, sidearm (parallel to the water), and at 45°. They are all equal, it is just a matter of preference and finding which one is most comfortable for you. Regardless of the angle that you use, keep in mind that the line should never wrap or curve behind you. This would reduce accuracy and power.
- The speed of the line should be monitored and adjusted to fit the conditions. Calm days and shorter casting distances require less speed, while long casts or windy conditions may call for more in order to counteract the slowing effects of air resistance. Use a more leisurely arm movement in the first case and a more forceful one in the latter.
- Another thing to consider is the movement of the arm and hand. For long-distance casts, a wider arc should be drawn by your arm on each movement, and follow-through is key. Movements may be a bit choppier for short-range, precise casts to ensure that the fly accelerates quickly enough to keep it from falling short of its intended target.
Things to Consider
- It is good practice to watch the line on the backcast. The more aware you are of its position, the better you are able to gauge when to pause and begin the forward cast.
- The tip of the rod should not begin too are from the water. If it is, this would prevent a buildup of momentum on the backcast and may cause the fly to hit the water behind you before the narrow loop can form and extend.
- Avoid the “tail loop”. This is when the line curves too much and hits itself on the front cast, causing knots and even collisions with you, the fisher. Do not flick the line without pausing on each cast to keep this from happening.
- Never allow the fly to strike the water with a lot of force. To keep from scaring the fish, it should gently contact and rest on the surface.
If the advice provided here is followed, a minimum of practice will be necessary to perfectly cast a fly rod. Keep your 10 and 1 positions in mind, and do not forget to pause and create that perfect narrow loop.
Adjust your force and speed according to weather and distance, and always follow through on your final front cast. With a little luck and skill, you can fly fish with expert confidence.
Ready to cast your fly rod? Don’t miss out on our reviews of the best spinning rods for trout!