The Basic Fly Cast

I have had the pleasure now after quite a few years of guiding to fish with some wonderful people. Some of these anglers are so well versed in their craft that they make me feel like I don't know much at all. With that said the thing I have found that most anglers lack is an understanding of basic fly casting and in today's guiding world a lot of outfitters and shops do not focus enough on the fundamentals of casting when teaching new anglers their craft.

Many outfitters spend anywhere from a few minutes to a few hours trying to get their clients or students to the point where they can throw a fly far enough or well enough to catch a fish, but not enough emphasis is given to actually teaching them how to cast well. In addition, most anglers have taught themselves the same way. They learn how to cast just well enough to get the job done and than they start focusing on other aspects of the sport and gaining as much knowledge as possible. I think every angler should have a really good understanding of the cast and until you do you're cutting yourself short and eventually you will have to revisit it. So why not get it out of the way. Im going to try to break down casting basics so that new anglers can have an understanding of it or so seasoned anglers can touch up on it.

The basic fly cast is an uncomplicated thing in many ways but its important to understand how it works or what can go wrong so that you can eventually evolve your casting style or performance. So how does casting actually work? I think too many people put too much manpower into it. When casting, we are using the weight of the line to flex and un-flex the rod. When we un-flex or un-bend the rod on our forward cast the rod snaps back into its original straight form and transfers the energy from the bend of the rod into the fly line which propels it down the stream or wherever else you are throwing it.
The anglers has stopped  his rod tip on the forward cast which propels the line forward in a nice tight loop
Now while doing this, the entire casting stroke including backwards and forwards, its also important to keep your rod in line with your arm that is supplying the energy to the rod. Just like in golf if your swing plane is uneven or you break your wrist you lose energy in the swing or in this case cast, and you will sacrifice distance and accuracy. We want to transfer as much of the muscle power as we can into the rod so that we can get that distance and accuracy without expending too much energy. Let the rod do the work so to speak.

The most important part of the cast is the stopping point at the end of your forward cast. The faster and more abruptly you can bring the rod to a stop the more kinetic energy the rod can put into the line. By stopping the rod sharply you force it to unbend thus propelling the line forward.

So from start to finish you pay out line from the reel, as much line as you would like to cast. From there you begin a smooth but forceful backcast which will send the line backwards behind you in a loop. Once that loop is fully extended and the tip of the line is all the way back and straight  you begin your forward cast. As your rod comes forward the resistance of the weight of the line forces the rod to bend backwards. When you have reached the point in front of you with the rod slightly at a downward angle you bring your forward motion to a complete halt which than forces the rod to unbend and basically slingshot the line out in front of you. The key to not messing this up is making sure when you stop your rod you don't stop the tip in a position where the tip of the rod is lower than the line that is traveling forward. This will create a tailing loop that will cause the cat to fail but that concept is visited in another post here.

I understand that explaining this concept is difficult to do in text but hopefully this has given you a basic understanding of how it works. From here the next ideal step would be to spend time with an instructor or friend who knows how to put it to practice and armed with the knowledge you picked  up here the casting fundamentals should start to make sense.

There are some great books out there that focus on fly casting and there are some very good videos as well that will certainly help. Here are just a few of them.

This book is geared towards beginner and intermediate casters the author explains in a very good systematic way how the fly cast works and how to improve your casting technique. Retails for $24.95 from Orvis here.
Lefty is without a doubt one of the greatest fly casting instructors to have ever lived and taught. This books explains the dynamic of casting and teaches you several different casting disciplines and styles. Retails for $42.00 from Barnes and Noble here.
This DVD features casting techniques for the beginner as well as more advanced casts such as the double haul. This has been touted as one of the best, easy to follow instructional fly casting DVDs on the market. Retails for $24.95 from Orvis here.
This DVD is considered by many to be the most comprehensive instructional video on fly casting to date. Lefty covers the basic in great detail and provides exercises to help casters of all levels to greatly improve. Retails for $29.95 from the Bear's Den here.

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