Lesson One:  Before the Cast

How many times have you walked to the water’s edge spooking a beautiful trout nestled up close to the bank? You are not alone. Slowing down and taking in the environment prior to approaching the river can prevent lost opportunities. Careful observation starts once you close your car door. Look to see if there are bugs in the air, on the bushes or on the water (once you’re close enough). Which direction is the wind blowing? Check for river obstacles and current speed that may determine if you will cast upstream, across stream or downstream.

After carefully observing the area, begin to approach the water, ever so slowly. Shadows cast from your body and rod can alert fish. Look to see if a fish is near the water’s edge. If so, you will need to cast from the bank, far enough away to avoid alerting the fish to your presence. I try not to enter the water until I have prospected all that I can from the bank. Once in the water, walk with the least amount of disturbance possible. Waves, vibrations and sounds from boots make the fish spooky. Pause often, observe and listen, act like a heron. A keen sense of awareness will not only reward you with greater fishing success but also enhance your day by taking in all the other wonderful aspects of fly fishing like plants and fauna. It took me years to slow down. As I get on in age and my experiences deepen, my observation skills have become as honed as my casting skills.


Lesson Two:  During the Cast

Everyone can benefit from a review of casting basics. Two important casts that every fly fisher needs to do and do well are the basic overhead cast and the roll cast. The overhead cast has two forces acting together to make the fly rod work: body motion and the weight of the fly line. Both these forces bend the rod. When the casting stroke stops, the rod unbends releasing the stored energy, the fly line passes the rod tip, a loop is formed and the fly lands on the water beyond the leader (hopefully). In overhead casting, both the forward cast and the backcast are equally important and should be identical. In most cases the line will be picked up off the water prior to the backcast. Start with the rod tip close to the water with a firm wrist pulling the reel seat into the forearm. Strip in any lose line or slack (this improves rod loading). As the line leaves the water during the pick-up, increase your speed up to the stop. The stop is important. For a typical 30’ cast, stop the hand at the ear, similar to answering the phone. The pointer finger should point nearly straight up. If the pointer finger points backward, or the wrist opens up and you lose sight of your wrist in your peripheral vision, your rod tip will point backwards (too far back) rather than up. During the backcast stop, pause long enough for the line to straighten, but not so long as to let the line fall and lose tension. Now forward cast and after the forward stop, lower the rod tip to the water.

Helpful tips:

  • Watch the butt section of the rod just above the grip and check the angle of the rod at this point. It is easy to see. If the angle (arc) of the rod butt is too far back at the stop position the fly line loops will be too big and inefficient. This is a common problem. Shorten the arc, keep the wrist firm, and keep your hand in your pretrial vision.
  • Always remove slack prior to the pick-up.
  • Learn to watch your backcast.
  • Learn the overhead cast off both shoulders, from horizontal to vertical planes with different trajectories from horizontal to a high backcast (line traveling up toward the sky) and low to the water. These changes are fishy casting techniques that will keep you fishing in a variety of river conditions.

Coming Soon, once the weather warms up and I can get out and film

  • Casting Videos
  • Fly Fishing Videos