Basic Casting II

by Fly Fisherman

Once you have the feel of the rod itself, let’s take each necessary step in turn for a real practice session. If at all possible, practice over water. If not, the second best is a grass lawn, large enough to permit both backward and forward casts without obstructions.

We have our rod assembled with the correct line for the rod. We tie on a six- or seven-foot tapered leader with a butt heavy enough to match your line so that you will get good turn over. If your line is an HDH the leader butt should measure at least .015; if a GBG, the butt should measure at least .017 or .018, and .020 might be better. A leader fits the line and turns over more efficiently if the butt, within reasonable limits, is heavy. Dry fly tournament accuracy leaders usually measure from .022 to .024 at the butt end. Fasten a medium-sized fly, with full visible hackle, on the leader.

The fly, of course, should have bend clipped off so that the whole structure is on a straight shank—it’s safer that way. Even experienced casters sometimes pick up their shirt or their hat or their ear with the fly on a forward cast, if there is a bit of breeze flitting around. I’ve fished in gusty winds when I wished that some inventive genius had produced or devised a protective shield for the head to cover just such occasions.

Strip enough line from the reel so that it will measure approximately four or five feet longer than the rod from the tip out. If you have an eight-foot rod, for example, and a seven-foot leader there will be nineteen feet from the tip of the rod to the fly. Clasp the line against the cork grip with a finger to hold it in place and bring the rod up sharply, tossing the line straight up. (As mentioned previously, do not be discouraged if your line doesn’t go “straight up”—they never do unless there’s an extreme tail wind and in that case you have only limited control of your line anyway, at this stage.

I keep repeating “straight up” because that’s what you’re attempting to do.) Only long experience in casting will permit one to feel a pull on a line as short as that you are using, so forget that angle for now. If you can perform this movement and roll your head sideways far enough to glimpse your line, do so for a few casts at least. When the line has reached a spot where your leader is almost ready to straighten out—it might be termed a “J”—bring the rod forward with an accelerating tempo (kick) to the 10 o’clock position. As the line extends ahead of you gently lower the rod tip slightly, permitting the fly to drop lightly to the surface. If the forward cast is started too quickly, it might create a snap like a whip crack and possibly sever the fly from the leader. if the forward cast is started late your line will strike the ground behind you and may not even get out to the front of you. If it does it will probably pile up, literally, at your feet.

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