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Thread: Casting Basics - Part 1

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    Join Date
    May 2002
    DFW metroplex, TX USA

    Default Casting Basics - Part 1

    The best way to learn casting is to take lessons from a qualified instructor, preferably one certified by The Federation of Fly Fishers. You can find a list of their certified instructors at the FFF Web site. Your local fly fishing shop or chapter of Trout Unlimited may also offer fly casting lessons. Try to get into a group session. That is cheaper than private instruction and, as a beginner, you will probably get just as much out of it.

    If these options aren't available to you, you may be able to get a casting lesson from a friend who is a good fly caster. Be warned, though, that your friend may teach you some bad casting techniques and it is more difficult to overcome bad casting habits than to learn correct techniques right from the start.

    There are many videotapes and DVDs that teach casting. I find these better ways of learning than by reading a book as they visualize things better. Look for names like Joan Wulff, Lefty Kreh and Mel Krieger. You can often borrow these from your local library or rent them from a nearby video store or fly shop.

    The worst way to learn fly casting is from a book. I wish I didn?t have to write this chapter, but I promised to cover everything you need to know to catch a trout on a fly. I'll do my best to teach you the basics. But I recommend that you seek out a qualified instructor and skip this chapter if that is an option for you. And I recommend that you expand upon these basics as you progress.

    The basic principles of casting a fly are universal as they are based on the laws of physics. I've discovered, though, that there are variations in the styles taught to cast a fly in line with these principles. That was an important discovery as it allowed me to try different techniques to find the ones that worked best for me, the ones I'll be teaching here.

    There are many different types of casts. I'm going to cover the two fundamental ones, the roll cast and the basic cast, and some useful variations of these. You can, and should, learn other types of casts later, but the ones I?m showing you will cover the most common trout fishing situations.

    Basic fly casting concepts

    Unlike other forms of casting, you will not be removing any line from your reel during your cast with a fly rod. You will already have stripped? (pulled) out the length of line you want from the reel. You will cast that pre-stripped line only.

    Let your rod do a lot of the work. That's what it is designed to do. Your muscles provide the energy, and the movements of your arm and hand control the movement of the fly rod. The fly rod operates as a lever and amplifies the movement of the fly line that you cause by the movements of your arm and hand. It doesn't take a lot of strength and power to cast a fly a long distance. A common beginner mistake is to use too much power. Try to achieve the distance of your cast with the least possible effort.

    The fly rod is a flexible lever. When you move the rod it will bend from the pull of the fly line on it, storing energy. Causing the rod to bend is called loading the rod. When the rod returns to its original shape, it will return that energy to the fly line.

    Casting is done by using the movement of your arm and hand to accelerate the rod tip to an abrupt stop.

    Here's a way to visualize that arm and hand movement. Imagine that you are standing in front of the mirror in a standard sized residential bathroom. Now imagine that your fly rod is a paintbrush loaded with paint. If you make the moves that splatter paint on the wall behind you and then on the mirror in front of you -- without getting any paint on the ceiling, sink, counter or floor -- you will have made the moves required for a good cast.

    Try doing this move with your imaginary paintbrush. Notice how you accelerated the brush throughout the bringing of the brush back, and then brought it to an abrupt stop. You then accelerated throughout the moving of the brush forward and brought it to an abrupt stop. That "accelerate then stop" is one of the keys of a good cast.

    Another visualization sometimes used in teaching fly casting is to imagine that you have an apple stuck on the end of a stick and you want to throw the apple forward. If you started the throw with a fast jerk of your hand, the stick would pull out of the apple and the apple would fall to the ground behind you. So you start the forward throw more slowly, accelerate the apple throughout your forward movement and than bring the stick to an abrupt stop once the apple was in front of you. The path of the apple?s flight will vary based on the direction the end of the stick was moving when you stopped it. If you stop it while the end of the stick was moving downwards, the apple will crash into the ground a short distance in front of you. But if you stop it high, the apple will travel quite some distance.

    Use those visualizations if they help you at the start. But, as soon as possible, forget about paint brushes and apples and start thinking in terms of your fly rod, focusing on the path of the rod's tip.

    The movement of your rod's tip controls what the fly line does during your cast. The path your fly line will travel during its flight is determined by the path that your rod tip was following when it came to its abrupt stop. Move your rod tip in a straight line during your cast and your fly line will follow a straight path. Move your rod tip in any way while your fly line is in the air and the fly line will make a similar move. For example, if you wiggle your rod tip while the fly line is traveling through the air, your fly line will develop a wiggle in its path.

    It is far more important for you to learn how to cast accurately at short distances (30 feet or less) than to learn how to make a long cast. In most trout fishing situations, you will be fishing in streams that aren't very wide and, the more line you have out, the harder it is going to be for you to control the drift of the fly and to hook up to the fish when it takes your fly. Even when you get to a lake or a pond, you'll get more fish with short accurate casts than with long random casts.

    Every cast should have a pre-determined target, the place where you want your fly to land on the water. In the majority of cases, your target will not be on the water's surface, but anywhere from inches to two feet above the water. The fly will then fall on the water's surface as gently as its weight will allow.

    Your accuracy will come from learning to coordinate two lines. One is the line from your eyes to your target. The other is the line of the path your thumbnail follows during the cast. This thumbnail path line is an approximate indicator of the path of your rod tip. Remember: it is the path of your rod tip that really controls the path of the fly line.

    As a generality, your casts will be more accurate when the line of your thumbnail's path is closer to the line from your eye to the target. The shorter your cast, the easier it is to have these two lines be close together.

    Four things determine the distance of your cast. (1) The length of the path your rod tip follows before it comes to its abrupt stop. The longer the path, the more time you have to accelerate the rod tip and the longer the cast. (2) How much you accelerate the rod tip during this path. (3) How abruptly you stop the rod. (4) By the loft of the fly line?s path. Just like when you are throwing a baseball, you can only get so much distance with a casting path that is parallel to the water. For longer casts, aiming the cast higher gives the line more time to travel before gravity pulls it to the water. This is not to say that you should be aiming high on most casts, just that you will have to aim higher when you need to make really long casts.

    The casting clock
    I'm going to be using the clock terminology here that used to be standard for fly fishing instruction. I think it is the best way to teach fly casting in a book, at least a book that doesn't have a ton of illustrations.

    Imagine you are standing with your rod in your hand and with a giant clock face pointing towards your right shoulder. (This is the same for people who are right-handed or left-handed. Southpaws, do not adjust!) Your feet are at 6:00, your head at 12:00, and you are looking towards 9:00.

    I will be teaching you to move your rod in a path that starts with it pointed behind you at 1:00 and stopping in front of you at 10:00. But there are two important things to remember in this clock analogy.

    The first is that the clock will not remain in one place pointed at your shoulder. It will start there when you have your rod pointed at 1:00, but it will move forward along with the forward movement of your hand as you move to the 10:00 position.

    The other is that, once you have the basic 1:00 to 10:00 casts going well for you, you will want to learn to "move the clock's midnight" to aim either your forward casts or your back casts higher or lower. I'll cover this when we get to the basic cast instruction.
    Last edited by oldfrat; 03-18-2012 at 07:55 AM.

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