Fly Casting

fly casting

Fly casting, as many...probably most of your know can be, and usually is, the most frustrating part of being a successful fly fisher. Whether you are stalking a big trout that is holding just on the edge of two currents with a #20 dry fly...or slinging large articulated flies for a 50-100 pound tarpon in the wind or casting a big popper for bass...your casting prowess may well determine your success. For more on my view on fly here...

If you are new to fly casting, I have put my thoughts on learning to fly cast together with a number of excellent videos and article. I am not a certified fly casting instructor but I was taught by one of the very best to ever live (Mel Krieger) and have taught fly castings to dozens of individuals and worked as a casting instructor in several formal multi-day casting schools led by Mel Krieger and Andre" Puyans. I have also known and fished with several world champion fly casters and carefully watched them cast in real fishing situations. I feel like I know a good fly caster when I see one...there are many. Unfortunately, there are precious few that can really teach (communicate) their skills to a beginner. I have watched dozens of videos and read dozens of articles and have chosen what I feel are the best together in my section on Fly Casting for the here...

The most basic and the most fundamental of all fly casts is the overhead cast. Virtually all other casts are based upon this cast. Proper fly casting has very little to do with has everything to do with timing and a tiny bit of high school physics. If strength was a big factor, 14 year old Maxine McCormick would not be a two time world champion fly caster. Most of us grew up fishing with either a spinning rod or some sort of bait casting gear. Both of these methods have one thing in common...there is a weight at the terminal end of a long thin fishing line. It might be a lead weight, a chunk of bait or a lure of some sort, but it is weight. The bigger the weight and/or the greater the force, the further you will cast. All of us have seen this principle in action. When a weight has movement, it has momentum. Momentum is defined as the quantity of motion of a moving body, measured as a product of its mass and velocity (simply put, momentum = mass X velocity)...basic high school physics.

Well, the same holds true when casting a fly. There is, however, one big difference with fly casting. There is no significant terminal weight. A typical fly weighs virtually nothing. So how do you "cast" it far enough to catch a fish if there is no weight? Casting anything requires momentum and momentum requires weight...right?

In fly fishing/casting, the weight is the fly line itself. Fly lines are made from PVC or similar plastic type materials, they are thicker than normal monofilament fishing line, they have weight and they are almost always tapered. As with all other types of casting, your casting motion (primarily your arm movement) creates energy/force and that energy is transmitted to and through the fly rod to the weight (fly line) creating momentum. So the basic physics are the same.

It is here that the similarities end. Now we need to also consider how the energy/force of the casting motion is applied to the fly rod and the timing of that casting motion. Without digging further into physics, remember this, it will serve you well. A fly rod (actually, any fishing rod) "stores" energy when it is bent and that energy is then transferred to the weight. In this case, the weight is the fly line. 

Fly Casting in General:

There are hundreds of great fly casters but there are very few great teachers of fly casting. To be a great teacher you must also be a good "communicator". One of the really great fly casting teachers is Joan Wulff. If the name Wulff sounds familiar, there is good reason. Her husband of many years was Lee Wulff. Lee Wulff originally designed a series of dry flies (3) that have become classic... ever heard of the "Royal Wulff"? Lee was also known for tying small flies (18-24) without a vise...just his hands/fingers. As an aside, many years ago, I attended a fly fishing expo (think it was called the "International Sportsmen  Expo" and may still be around. Well, I was there and watched Lee Wulff tie a size 20 or 22 Royal Wulff using only his hands and a bobbin. As you might imagine, there was a large crowd gathered around him. I was really into fly tying and had never heard of such a thing...tying a size 20 fly without a vise? When he was done, he looked up and handed me the fly. When I got home I put that fly in an empty pill bottle and put it on a shelf next to a few other fly fishing treasures. Somehow, in the moves over the years, this treasure was lost. Between Lee and Joan, I would pronounce them the "first couple" of fly fishing. If you are new to fly fishing or are simply having trouble with the basic casting fundamentals, I highly recommend the following video. The following link will connect you with a series of instructional videos Joan did for the R.L. Winston Rod Company.

Click here to view the Joan Wulff series of fly casting videos...

credit: Orvis