Is your casting not quite what you think it should be?

Teaching and talking about casting are difficult enough, but I’ll try to discuss some issues on paper. If I were an artist I’d include some drawings, but alas I can’t even draw a crooked line on purpose.

First, a bit of a physics lesson. Fly casting is actually quite easy IF you let the rod, which is designed for one and only one purpose – namely to store and release energy, do its job. 

The trick to casting is developing a stroke, or rhythm, which allows this to happen. To a certain extend the casting rhythm is dictated by the rod, with soft, flexible rods requiring a slower stroke than a fast action rod. It’s all about matching your movements to the pace required by the rod.

Physics dictates that the line, being limp, needs to be kept taught, in order to efficiently travel through the air. Also, it is speed that keeps the line in the air. Without sufficient speed it will fall to the ground.

Speed comes after acceleration. Think about driving your car. In order to go 60 m.p.h. down the road you have to accelerate from a stop up to that speed. With fly casting the speed comes from the acceleration applied to the rod during the casting stroke, and the energy stored as a result of the bend taken on by the rod during the stroke. As with driving there is a rate of acceleration that is productive and efficient and there are others – too fast or too slow – which are neither.

Common casting errors include :

1. Commencing the pick up with the rod tip held too high.

2. Too much movement of the rod tip

3. Rod tip movement at the wrong time

4. Too much ‘follow through’

5. Casting plane is not straight

6. No pause in the cast

7. Casting farther than comfortably able

Think about the cast as slow acceleration, fast acceleration, stop, pause, repeat. Think, also, about the hand moving back and forth in a straight line, like a piston, rather than in an arc, as is classically described using the clock face analogy. 

1. Start the pick up with the rod tip pointed downward and very near the surface of the water, with all the slack removed between the tip and the fly. Begin to slowly raise the rod tip, accelerating as you go. When the rod tip has attained approximately the 12:00 o’clock, or nearly vertical position, accelerate quickly with a short, sharp, snap – the fast acceleration – of the wrist. The rod should stop abruptly at about the 1:00 o’clock position. This will drive the line and fly a bit upward, behind you. Proper pick up creates a proper and controlled back cast!

2. Excessive movement (rotation) of the rod tip creates what is known as an open loop, one that looks very circular in the air. This results in many ‘casting error knots’ aka wind knots, and the need to use WAY too much energy to achieve the desired result. These inefficient open loops lead to fatigue and even worse casting!

3. The wrist snap, rotating the rod tip, must FOLLOW the slow acceleration. This allows time for the rod to achieve some bend throughout the slower part of the stroke BEFORE the final application of power.

4. On all false cast strokes the application of power is followed, immediately, by a sudden STOP of all rod movement, at the end of both the forward and the back cast to transfer the energy from the rod to the line and to keep the loops tight, at about the 11:00 o’clock position. Too much follow through, dropping the tip to say 9:00, will automatically create a very open loop – inefficient, and prone to knots. This is true in both forward and backward strokes.

5. A curved casting plane will tend to create an open loop too. To determine your casting plane watch the rod tip. It should move straight back and forth as your arm extends/retracts and arc only slightly with the wrist snap. The old rule was to stop the rod at 10:00 and 2:00 on the clock face. In reality 1:00 and 11:00 work better as this shorter movement of the rod tip will make the line straighter and it will tighten up the loop of the line as it travels through the air.

6. One of the critical steps in the cast, and the one most often overlooked, is the pause, which occurs IMMEDIATELY after the power stroke and the STOP. The pause allows the line to complete its travel, thus removing all slack, so that with the commencement of the next phase of the stroke the rod has some resistance, thus loading the rod and allowing for the transmission of the energy to the line.

7. Trying to cast farther than your ability allows is an open invitation for the creation and practicing of improper body movements and casting stroke. A proper casting stroke allows for almost limitless casting distance. A poor stroke severely limits the distance which can be attained. So, keep your casting short as you practice and achieve a proper stroke, lengthening only as confidence grows. And remember that casting short (30 to 40 feet) with accuracy is more important than casting long (50 + feet) but being unable to hit your target.

Final thoughts: 

Keep the movement of the hand on a level plane, kind of like a gentle punch to your buddy’s shoulder. Keep the wrist snap short and sharp. Restrict the arc of the rod tip to 11:00 to 1:00. Stop. Don’t forget the pause, wait for the line to straighten (or nearly straighten) before commencing the next cast. 

All of this refers to false casting!

On the final forward stroke – do exactly the same thing, except, after the stop and a short pause, rather than commencing the next stroke, lower the rod tip in the direction of the line travel.

On paper this all sounds easy. And it is – all it takes is practice, and more practice. Good casters don’t get that way over night. The more you do it the more it becomes second nature, and an automatic response whenever you pick up a rod. Remember, you do not have to hold a rod to use the basic stroke.

If all of this has made sense, even if it hasn’t, and you want more information than you would ever want, check out the web site