Fly Casting for the Beginner
If you are reading this, I will assume you are either interested in fly fishing and fly casting or you are already a beginner and want to know how to proceed with learning proper fly casting principles. I will start by giving you a little encouragement .Fly casting does not include strength among it's requirements for success. It does demand a pretty through knowledge of a few basic principles and a lot of practice. If you click the following link, you will see a short video of Maxine McCormick. Maxine is a two time world champion fly caster. She is 14 years old and she won these championships competing with and against adult women from all across the world.
You certainly do not need to cast like Maxine to become an accomplished fly caster and fly fisher. You do however need to understand a few basic things, develop a good sense of timing, understand the proper application of power to the fly rod and, I will say it again, practice. Before you even start, you will get frustrated, you will get in a hurry and some of you will give up. If you pay attention and take it step by step and practice you will succeed. At the end of this little lecture, are a number of videos and articles that properly articulate all of the principles you will need for journey into fly casting.
A few suggestions before you start watching and reading...
(1) Take it slow. Do not watch and read all of the videos and articles and then take your rod out in the grass or maybe a local pond and just cast...there is too much information to digest. Watch just a few and notice how little physical effort these instructors put into their casting stroke...very little. They have learned how to make the fly rod do most of the work and that is something you need to concentrate on from the very beginning.
(2) Try to keep the rod pointing at 10:00 on the forward cast and 2:00 on the backcast. You will see and read a lot about the 10:00 o'clock to 2:00 o'clock concept of rod movement during the casting stroke. For the most part, this idea is "bunk" once you learn to cast. However, it is very important to the beginner as a teaching tool. Do not attempt to cast more than 15-25 feet of fly line with the 10-2 rod movement. The purpose of this drill is to develop your timing, teach you to "load" the rod so that it is doing much of the work for you and generally get you comfortable with the basic casting stroke.
(3) Always remember that the backcast is every bit as important as the forward half of the cast. It is important that you pay equal attention to both. There is nothing wrong with looking over your shoulder to make sure that the fly line has completed it's movement to the rear before starting your forward casting movement. This is why there is a short pause at the end of both the forward and back cast...to let the line straighten out before you initiate the next motion either forward or back. You should pay particular attention to sensing when the rod is fully loaded...especially on the backcast as you cannot easily see it. With practice, you will develop this sense. When you do, it is probably time to add another 10-15 feet of line to your practice stroke.
(4) Concentrate on applying power evenly from the start of both front and back casts. There are a number of analogies that are commonly used to teach you the concept of power application to the casting stroke. The simplest is that of hammering a nail into the wall at about eye height. You simply envision taking the hammer back to the 2:00 o'clock position, hesitating for just an instant and then accelerating the hammer forward until you hit the nail at about the 10:00 o'clock position. The most important lesson here is applying power to the hammer (rod) starting slow, increasing the speed and then stopping suddenly. You will discover later that the uneven application of power is the cause of several casting problems you will experience as you grow as a fly caster. You must load the rod and that means using the weight of the fly line to bend the rod. Do not use this as a clue to just pull more line off the reel until you are ready.
(5) Keep your practice casts under 30 feet. Keep in mind that the majority of fish are caught within 25 to 45 feet of your position so making long casts should wait until you are completely comfortable with shorter casts. You should also know that the longer the cast, the less control you have over the "presentation" of the fly. This issue of presentation is generally much more important if your target species is trout. There are other more advanced casting methods that are specifically designed to add distance such as the "double haul". Be patient...one step at a time...like learning to walk.
(6) Concentrate on keeping the tip of the fly rod moving in a straight line. If you just stand there with your fly rod as if you were going to make a cast but do not move your arm or hand forward or back just use your wrist and watch the tip of the fly rod, you will see that the tip moves in a big arc. An arc is not a straight line. The fly line will follow the rod tip and the last thing you want is the fly line moving in all directions of the arc. As much as possible, you want the fly line to move in a straight line more or less parallel to the surface you are standing on...when fishing, parallel to the surface of the water. So keep the rod tip moving in a straight line.
(7) Always keep your fly line under control. By this, I mean use your offhand (the one not holding the rod) to stay in control of the fly line. Many beginning fly casters try to do this by holding the line in the offhand but then move the offhand up and across until it is close to the hand holding the rod. This is very unnatural. Simply hold the fly line lightly with a finger or two and keep your offhand about waist high in a position that is comfortable for you. Learning line control is important when you start fishing for real as not having control of the line will greatly affect your ability to set the hook properly when a fish does take your fly...and this always seems to happen when you are not ready.
Whenever possible, find a casting coach to help you along the way. Perhaps a local fly shop, a friend or a local fly fishing club. Now, here are the videos and articles to help get you started. Having read and watched all of them, I am going to try to put them in the order I think you should follow...good luck and I hope to see you on the river soon.
How To Fly Cast - article by Fly Fisherman Magazine
An Introduction to Basic Fly Casting Techniques - article by Charlie Robinton on Fix.com
Fly Casting for Beginners - article by TheOnlineFisherman.com
What A Fly Rod Needs To Do - video by Orvis Fly Fishing Learning Center
Overhead Cast: Importance Of The Pause And Rod Angles - video by Orvis Fly Fishing Learning Center
The Best Fly Casting Video for Beginners - video by Adventure Fly Fishing
Overhead Cast: Don't Curl The Rod Around Your Body - video by Orvis Fly Fishing Learning Center
Fly Casting Faults and Fixes - article by Charlie Robinton on Fix.com
Well, if you have gotten this far, read the articles, watched the videos and practiced for 200 hours (just kidding), you should be well on your way. I wish you well.
Here are my thoughts on fly casting, click here...
For more advanced casting information, click here...