Fly Casting Tips & Techniques

These tips will help you get the most out of your fly fishing equipment and time on the water.

The Casting Grip: The proper grip is important. Keeping your thumb on top of the rod helps you apply greater force in a short casting stroke

Very few casters become proficient in handling different casting situations requiring accuracy and distance, and in coping with windy days without understanding casting principles. This may seem mundane, but applying good casting principles will solve your casting challenges and will allow you to become an efficient caster in all situations.

The following tips and comments will provide you some insights and will help you to practice effectively. Ultimately, each caster must develop his own proficiency and feel for casting or else be the source of his frustration. It’s not that fly casting is difficult, but just different than what most people are used to doing. With a bit of understanding and practice, you’ll be on your way to good casting technique.

First, if you have many books/videos about fly casting, select just one and shelve the rest until you become proficient. The techniques used by various authors usually don’t accommodate a mixing of techniques. The only common factor among authors is the casting principles which often are not spelled out. The casting principles are a constant — they’re defined by physics according to Einstein and Newton.

Understand casting principles and you can better understand the authors and your own casting

Here are four important ones !

  1. In order to move your line efficiently through the air on both forward and back casts, you must remove the slack prior to beginning the cast. This includes how you pick up your line for the back cast as well as to what extent you eliminate slack in the back cast. If you have slack in the line prior to beginning the cast, you will not move the line or load the rod until the slack is gone (which means you wasted a portion of your casting stroke removing slack).
  2. On both back and forward casts, ACCELERATE TO A STOP. This means constantly increasing your speed until you stop the rod in the proper position. Constantly increasing your speed throughout the casting stroke loads the rod (preferable), but a constant speed doesn’t load the rod or it allows the rod tip to unload prior to the end of the stroke robbing the caster of power and causing a curve in rod tip travel.
  3. Longer casting strokes are needed for longer line lengths outside of the rod tip, but a longer stroke has the added benefit of smoothing out the cast and minimizing tailing loops.
  4. How your rod tip travels during the casting stroke defines how your line will travel through the air. If the rod tip travels straight, then your line will be straight; if curved, then a curved or wavy line. The direction of your cast is defined by the direction of your rod tip at the end of the casting stroke. If your rod tip is curved by the way you stop your rod or hold your rod, then your line will curve on the cast as well.

Probably the single most common problem that beginning and intermediate casters need to work on is the back cast. The old saying is: “When you’re fly casting, you have 80% of your problems behind you “. This means that 80% of casting problems relate to back casts. So, what is the perfect back cast ? A perfect back cast is one that when viewed from all angles is 180 degrees away from the intended forward cast and has enough momentum to load your rod by bending back the tip and has no slack in it as you begin your forward cast. Just like your forward cast, you should have a reasonably tight loop on your back cast, and if your back cast is 180 degrees from your forward cast you will minimize tailing loops.

A tailing loop is caused by the end of the fly line running into the rest of the line on the cast (either forward or back). Although “punching” or too fast an acceleration coupled with a short stroke is most often cited as the reason for tailing loops, a back cast out of alignment or a rod tip not tracking straight can cause the same problem. Make a good back cast and keep your rod tip tracking straight on the forward cast and your tailing loops should disappear.

The following tips and thoughts will make you a better caster if you incorporate them into your casting

  1. All good fly casters are smooth casters. Practice being smooth ! Smooth your back casts and forward casts with equal timing. Think “waltz time ” or 1-2-3– to gain smoothness in casting, but this does not mean a constant speed cast. This means smoothly accelerating to a stop at the end of each casting stroke. Timing is the key, and with good timing, distance will come. If your timing is bad, all the power in the world won’t help.
  2. When making your final forward cast (delivery or presentation cast) do not change your timing and do not change your rod stopping point . If your false casting is good, then a change in your timing will only mess things up. Avoid the temptation to put “something extra” in the cast just before you make delivery.
  3. Run your rod in a plane. If you were standing next to a tall wall with your rod in your hand, would your hand or rod tip hit the wall when you cast? This is important, check yourself out ! If you are curving your hand or rod tip into the wall you may be throwing horizontal loops or back casts not in line with your intended forward cast.
  4. Many casters with a lot of experience in baitcasting or spincasting aim at the water when they cast. If you are fly casting this will usually spell problems by piling up your line/leader/fly. Remember, if your leader and fly do not turn over at the end of the cast, the cast was not good no matter how much line you got out. The answer is to aim your cast approximately at eye level above your target and allow the leader to turn over and straighten; then follow your line/leader down to the water after you have made the stop at the end of your casting stroke. In this way, your leader and fly will turn over and you will make a nice, non-disturbing presentation. The other problem with aiming at the water when you fly cast is that it forces the caster to open up his loop on the forward cast by stopping the rod too far forward. (refer to point III above).
  5. How to you achieve more power in the cast? Several things must be kept in mind, but most techniques to add power occur in the last 6 – 12 inches of the casting stroke. Learn to use the thumb of the rod hand. This thumb promotes a quick forward move of the rod at the end of the casting stroke. Also, avoid long slow hauls to gain line speed – remember, short & quick does the job. Constant acceleration during the casting stroke loads the rod that imparts power during the unloading at the end of the cast. If you don’t load the rod, the rod has nothing to unload to help out the caster. Therefore, constantly accelerate and complete the cast with a short, sharp turn of the rod tip at the end of the cast.
  6. How far do you turn your wrist at the end of the casting stroke? Most casters overdo the turn. Try this exercise. Take your fly rod and lay it on the ground. While holding the grip where your rod hand would be (make a pivot point) move the butt of the fly reel seat just one inch. Your rod tip on a 9 foot rod will move about 18 – 24 inches. This will illustrate that a small amount of movement by the hand achieves a much larger movement at the rod tip. Too much turning at the end of the stroke will open your casting loop.
  7. Does your double-haul work when you are doing some short range practicing but then seems to be disappointing when trying to haul for distance? The first thing to check out is the type of loop you are achieving after your double-haul. If your loops are opening up there are a number of reasons, but here are two of them to check out. (1) Your haul was too long and too slow — try making your haul much faster and for a shorter length of time. Try pulling your fly line no more than 12 inches and consider waiting slightly as you start your forward stroke before you start the haul. (2) You pulled too hard for your rod to handle. If you have a softer or slower action rod it is quite possible to pull your rod tip out of a straight track during the cast; some refer to this as “shocking the rod”. In general, short and very quick hauling is the key. If this doesn’t solve the problem then you may just have to work within your rod’s performance envelope