Fly fishing centers around the angler being able to proficiently cast his or her fly rod. Being able to accomplish this can be done through several means. Some tips for casting your fly rod include: practice, learn different styles of casts, and challenge yourself.
Learning to cast a fly rod is often the first step in any fly angler’s journey in starting this sport. Before they decide what species they are after, what gear they need, their favorite fly patterns, or even where they are going to be fishing, they learn to cast. It usually starts with a casting lesson from a friend, family member, or employee at the local fly shop. From there, it is up to the angler to develop this skill.
Casting a fly rod takes space and time. Although there are casts designed for tight quarters, mastering the basic cast must be done first. In doing this, you will need full range of motion so NO low ceilings or small rooms. Outside in a grass field is the ideal place to practice.
You can find plenty of fly casting tips in bookstores, at fly shops, on YouTube, and social media platforms. Regardless of where or how you learn, these base principles for fly casting will help you truly hone your craft.
Practice, Practice, Practice!
This first principle or tip to fly fishing casting cannot be stressed enough. Practice, practice, practice! An angler cannot spend too much time fine-tuning and working on their casting technique. Practice whenever, wherever, and however you can.
Practicing your fly casting is the only way to improve any shortcomings you may have in your technique. No matter how much you read about casting a fly rod or watch instructional videos, the only surefire way to get better is to practice.
Practicing your fly cast can be done in a variety of ways. You can work on specific casting styles, accuracy, casting in different weather conditions, and casting from different fishing positions or approaches.
There are a variety of casting styles which I will discuss in specific in the next section, but it is important to work on each of these as they are each applicable in their own way.
Fly Fishing Casting Techniques – Casting Tips & Tricks
Accuracy is critical when it comes to casting a fly rod. Typically, anglers want to cast the furthest they can, whether they are fly fishing or conventional fishing. However, it does not matter if you can cast a fly 100 yards or 10 yards. If the fly does not land in a way that is best presented to the fish then distance is irrelevant.
You can improve accuracy by placing hula-hoops, plates, cones, or whatever other object you can use to place at different angles and distances. Try not to only cast as close to these objects (or into the hula-hoop), but also imagine it is a fish and facing or swimming a specific direction. This will help improve placement as well. You want to cast where the fly will drift to or where the fish is swimming to, not necessarily hit it in the face every time.
Another important aspect of fly casting is being capable of casting on the water when the day is not calm and sunshine. When practicing your fly casting, go out and do it on windy days and cast at different angles. A cross wind or casting into the wind can be very challenging. You will not always be laying a fly up to a fish with a 5 mph breeze. So prepare yourself by challenging yourself.
Lastly, remember you will not always be casting standing on dry land. Elevate yourself with a stool or ladder and simulate casting from a boat. You can also cast from your knees to simulate wading and being closer to the water’s surface.
Regardless of how you practice, just understand the importance of practice. Casting a fly rod is an art and an artist does not paint a world-class painting the first time they pick up a brush.
The Different Styles of Fly Casting
As previously mentioned, there are different styles of fly casting that you should be proficient in. Each of these styles can be used in their respective circumstances. Beyond the basic fly cast when you have an open area and no wind, there are other necessary casts such as the double haul, roll cast, bow and arrow cast, and the backhand cast.
- A double haul is a style of casting which involves the angler tugging on the fly line as it loads forward and back. This increases the momentum of the fly line and allows for further distances cast. It is a bit tricky as it takes some coordination, but once you figure it out, you will improve your casting distance easily. This is obviously important to know when it is windy or the fish is swimming quickly away from you.
- A roll cast is ideal for tight spaces when you cannot effectively perform a back cast. To do a roll cast, simply lift your rod tip slowly to the 9:00 or 10:00 position, and then, while the line is still on the water, perform a forward cast. This will create a large loop that will “roll” out with the momentum of the line coming forward.
- The bow and arrow cast is a relatively new style of casting that is a little advanced. Imagine the fly is the arrow and your rod is your bow. The angler lets out enough line to hold the fly at their shoulder and points the rod in the direction they want the fly to go. The angler then pulls the fly back creating tension in the line and bending the rod tip back. When the fly is released, it is propelled forward like an arrow. If done correctly, this is a very accurate way to cast and is ideal for really tight spaces.
- The backhand cast is a staple in your abilities to cast. There will be times, especially when on a boat, where the fish will present itself on your opposite casting side. This is an easy fix though.- simply change release sides. Meaning, if you are right-handed, you are normally casting over your right shoulder and releasing on your forward cast. If you need to perform a back cast, you keep the rod in your right hand and perform a forward cast over your left shoulder and release on your back cast. Essentially you are casting backwards, but it is not as complicated as it sounds.
Challenge Yourself With Every Cast
As with anything in life, the best way to improve your fly casting ability is by challenging yourself.
It is great to continue practicing basic mechanics and fundamentals in an open field on a calm day, but when you go fishing, these are not always the conditions presented.
Set yourself up a “fly cast obstacle course”. Lay out targets at various distances and angles, place them under trees or vehicles, cast from different heights, and stand in areas that do not allow you to do a basic fly cast. This should all be done on various wind speed days.
Be sure to not set yourself up for failure when you practice. Do not go out to work on accuracy and throw a golf ball 50 yards away and expect to hit it. Lay out three hula-hoops at 10, 20, and 40 yards instead. Once you can easily and routinely lay a fly inside the hoops on a windy day, then increase the difficulty. Lay out paper plates at various distances the next time.
This goes with each technique or aspect of your cast. The idea is to get better, not frustrated. So challenge yourself, but do so in a way that you learn and improve, not become discouraged.
You Will Gain Confidence With Every Cast
Fly Fishing casting is the foundation of the sport. Without a solid ability to cast the fly, an angler will struggle to be successful on the water. There is not an expectation of being a professional sniper with a fly rod, but simply be proficient enough to where when conditions are present that challenge you, you are prepared to overcome them with basic knowledge and ability.
By routinely practicing you can improve your ability to cast. Accuracy and skill in different weather conditions is key. Going outside on that 20 mph day and laying some hula-hoops throughout your yard, under your trees or truck, and at different angles and distances will go a long way.
Reading, watching, and practicing different fly casting styles is a great way to expand your skill set too. You will not always be able to do that basic overhand fly cast. Learn how to double haul, back hand cast, and roll cast. Each of these have a time and place and you do not want to watch that trophy fish swim by because you were not ready.
Challenging yourself is the best way to improve your fly casting. When you practice, do not just simply go out and swing the line like you are used to. Set up targets and do it on days that you would not normally go out on the water. Set reasonable goals and crush them.
Regardless of how you learn and work on your fly casting abilities, it is quintessential to your enjoyment and success at fly fishing that you do. Fly casting is an art and a skill that anyone willing can learn. Just have patience, practice, and most of all, have fun.