Tue 7 Sep 2010
In their evolution, many anglers add fly fishing for the wonderful connection it affords with a fish. However, learning to cast can be frustrating. You watch someone great zip the fly line (the fly goes along for the ride) almost over the horizon while you, huffing and puffing, succeed only in getting the line to fall about you in heaps.
Here’s how to get your first cast under control. Lay the rod on the ground and pull 30 feet of line directly in front of the rod tip in a straight line. Leaving the rod tip on the ground, pick up the rod butt. Now begin lifting the tip to get the fly line moving. At 10 am the rod tip quickens until at 2 pm it stops suddenly and the line goes directly behind you.
When the fly line is fully extended behind you (look over your shoulder, but don’t rotate your body), the rod tip is brought forward. Again it picks up speed until you stop the tip at 10 am, whence the line shoots effortlessly out in front of you in a tight bullet. Your rod tip follows the line down until it is touching the ground with the line laid out directly from the tip just as it was before you picked the rod butt off the ground.
Here is my analogy. Remember those little dolls with fuzzy hair called trolls? You can mimic the rod speeding up and stopping by holding a doll and moving it back to a stop and forward to a stop. You see the hair shoot back after the backward stop and then shoot forward after the forward stop.
Once you have mastered the basic cast, then you learn how to double haul, a technique that increases line momentum on the back- and most importantly on the forward-cast and allows you to ‘shoot’ some extra line beyond the 30 feet you have mastered. Strip some line from your reel and leave it below your line hand. A haul is a short quick tug by the line hand on the fly line. By the time you have managed to haul the line just as you are applying power to the back cast and just after you apply the power for the forward cast you are casting 60 feet and are now a good caster.
There is reason to cast farther: in rivers you need to be able to reach the extra water that even good casters cannot reach; and, in the ocean the fish seem always just beyond where you can cast; cast farther and you catch more.
You need two more techniques. The first is to begin managing line in the fingers of your line hand. In your retrieve, you strip in, say, 10 strips, and lay the loop of line over your pinky, then 8 strips and lay the next loop over the finger beside the pinky. And so on. Reducing the number of strips before placing the next loop over your next finger pretty much eliminates knots in the fly line. It also gets the stripped line up and out of the grabby surface tension of water.
The second improvement separates the great 80- to 100-foot casters from the good casters. Increased speed and length of fly line in the air results from your rod hand drifting back after the 2 pm stop on the back cast and then drifting forward after the 10 am stop in the forward cast. The key is to keep your hand moving back and forward parallel to the ground, not drifting up or down.
Finally, there are fly lines that facilitate long casts. A shooting head, the Loop Opti Stream, for instance, is a fly line that pushes all the line’s weight into the front of the line; this allows it to drag a lot more line with it on the forward cast. There are also lines with very long tip tapers and bellies, many Hardy clear lines, for instance; these allow you to strip the entire fly line onto the ground from the reel and in one back cast, cast the entire line, usually 90- to 110-feet.