Fly Delivery & Casting

by Fly Fisherman

It is important that you should not make the mistake of “putting the fly down under power,” as the tournament casters phrase it. The idea is to straighten the line, leader and fly out flat with the fly about two feet above the water (or lawn) and then let it drop straight down. Do not drive the fly into the water. You’ll scare all the fish out of that section if you do.

Dry fly casting makes it necessary to make a number of false casts in the air to dry the fly and line. These false casts are also used to measure the distance you want to extend or shorten your line, and to change the direction or character of your cast.
The way you make a false cast is to stop the forward cast when the rod is at an angle of 45 degrees above the horizontal. You pause then just long enough for the line to straighten out in front—no longer—and then make another back cast. The line should extend forward in these false casts in a straight line and with a narrow loop. It is just as important to keep your back casts high and straight while false casting as on a delivery cast.
In learning to cast, it is better not to practice too long at a time. At the very beginning, about five minutes’ practice is enough. Rest a few minutes, then try it again. Your muscles don’t learn anything when they are tired.
In the beginning, you can set the correct motions, angles and timing of the cast in your mind by repeating them at intervals with just a pencil in your hand. You’d be surprised how much the proper training of your mind has to do with your future success as a fly caster.

If you are one of the fishermen I mentioned earlier who are too set in their ways of casting with a wrist-action to be able to change, don’t worry about it. Use the wrist-action grip I described before; be very sure that you do not bring your
rod back of 221/2 degrees behind the vertical position. The rod positions for this cast are just the same as for the arm-action cast. However, in making the back cast, be sure you stop the upward movement of your arm whenever your bending wrist movement has brought the rod to the stopping position, 221/4 degrees back of the vertical. Otherwise you will get a low back cast which will spoil your forward cast.
In the wrist-action cast, the final flip just before the end of the forward cast is made with the wrist instead of by thumb-pressure.

One important fact explains much of the difference between fly and bait casting. In fly casting you cast not the fly but the weight of the line. The rod acts as a spring. In order to bring out the power of this spring, the weight of the line combined with the impulse given the rod by the caster’s hand must bend the rod. The reaction of the rod to this bending is what casts your line—both in the back cast and the forward cast.
You don’t really cast the line at all. You just put the right bend in the rod at the right time—and your rod does the rest. If you’ll consider that fact carefully you’ll understand many of the mysteries of fly casting.
Most beginners try to cast with too long a line—and try to lengthen their line before they have thoroughly learned the correct form with a short line.
Accuracy is more important than distance in fly casting. More fish are caught with a line under thirty-five feet than over that distance. So get your casting form right first before you do anything else.

After your casting form is correct and automatic, the next thing to learn is accuracy. Place some kind of target on the lawn or water. Floating rings thirty inches in diameter make the most useful targets. Old bicycle rims are all right. On the lawn, cardboard targets cut in a circular shape are good. Practice casting at these targets, still being careful not to get away from the casting form you have learned.

Lengthening your fly line is done with the line in the air. First, while your line is still on the water (or on the grass), pull out about two feet of line from your reel with your left hand. Hold this line in your left hand in a loose coil. Make your pick-up, back cast and forward cast just as usual, BUT just after you have “put your thumb into your forward cast,” right at the point where you stop the rod at 221/2 degrees above horizontal, let go of the loose line in your left hand and let the pull of your forward moving line draw it out over the water (or grass) in front of you. This is called shooting the line. The timing of the shoot is important. If you let go of the loose line too soon, your line will either go up into the air, or it will not be fully extended in front of you. If you shoot the line too late, the pull of your line will have stopped and the loose line won’t go out at all. It’ll take you a little while to find just the right time for the shoot, but if you keep trying to let the loose line go just when your line is pulling forward hardest, you’ll soon be able to shoot out not only the two feet you’ve been holding, but from five to twenty feet of loose line as well on a single cast.

Shortening line while casting is done by pulling in line with the left hand. You just reach up and take hold of the line below the first guide on the rod and pull back what line you want brought in.
If you want to shorten line more than a few feet, put the line over your index finger and under your second and third finger of the hand that is holding the rod. With the line in this position you have only to loosen the grip of the second and third fingers of your casting hand while you pull the line through under them with your left hand. When you have enough line brought in, just close the fingers of your casting hand; and the line is again tightly held.
The best time to shorten line in the air is just as you start the back cast—particularly for a false cast.

There is another good method of shortening line that you’ll want to use in wet fly stream fishing. Ray Bergman, one of America’s greatest fishermen, calls it the “hand twist” retrieve. It is a way of shortening line with the left hand alone, yet keeping the line taut at all times so you can hook a fish if you get a strike while retrieving. The hand twist retrieve can also be made with the fly in the air while making the back cast. Here is the way you do it: Reach up towards the first guide on your rod and take the line between your thumb and index finger of your left hand. Pull the line in as far as your thumb and finger will move normally. Then reach up with your other three fingers and pull the line in with them as far as they will normally move. This will bring your thumb and index finger into position to make another pull with them. You just alternate the two pulls until you have retrieved as much line as you wish. Keep a steady and even rhythm, which may be made slow or fast according to the fishing requirements.
In picking-up your line from the water in starting the back cast, always be sure the line is taut before you start. If there is loose or sunken line, pull it in with the left hand before starting your pick-up.
Fly Casting a Two-Handed Job
As you become more familiar with fly casting, learn to use your left hand to help your casting hand control the line. Modern fly casting is a two-handed job.
Let me give you an example of this. Often when dry fly fishing upstream, the line floats down too close for a good pick-up. Even after you’ve pulled in the slack line with your left hand, the current keeps drifting the fly towards you so
fast that your rod is going to have to be tipped too far back to get the proper high back cast.

Instead of just making a low, sloppy back cast, use your left hand to make a rhythmic pull on the line while your right hand is making the pick-up and lift of the back cast. The left hand pull on the line will speed the pick-up tremendously. This will give you a powerful high back cast under conditions that would make a good single-handed back cast impossible.
The greater flexibility of handling the pick-up with two hands allows you to perfect one detail of the pick-up that I haven’t mentioned. Your line will make less disturbance in coming off the water if it is travelling towards you, and if the lift is not given until only one or two feet of the leader are still on the water. This is the ideal condition for the pick-up; but it is not always possible in stream fishing without the help of your left hand pull. With both hands you can practically always manage it.

You seldom need to cast more than fifty feet in either dry Ey or wet fly fishing. However, there are times when a sixty, seventy, eighty or even a ninety foot cast is necessary to reach a feeding fish across heavy, unwadeable current. It’s a good thing for a finished fly caster to be able to make long casts when necessary. If you are a beginner don’t try it until you have learned the form thoroughly for ordinary distances.
Real distance fly casting, up to Dick Miller’s world’s record of 183 feet long cast, is a specialized performance; but here is the way you can lengthen your casting range for practical fishing up to eighty or ninety feet. In the first place, you should use a rod with plenty of power in the middle section, and use a double-tapered line to fit the rod. In making the pick-up for a long cast, lean forward and take hold of the line close up to the first guide; as you make the lift for the back cast, give a sweeping and powerful left band pull. The back cast should be powerful and made to throw the line in a needle-sharp, narrow loop behind you. Stop the power lift with the rod at the usual 221/2 degrees back of the vertical
position; then, after the line has already started back so the power is off the rod, raise and drift your hand and full arm up and back until you are reaching full length backward in the direction of the back cast. During this drift, turn your body around to the right and at the same time let your left hand and arm move up and back so that they are also reaching in the direction of the back cast. This action takes place during what would be the pause in an ordinary length cast.
When the line has straightened behind, start the forward cast, aimed slightly higher than normal, with a spearing thrust. As the forward cast is started, the body turns to the front to make a powerful thrust that is more forward than downward. The thumb is put into the forward cast at the usual angle, but at this same time the left hand, (still holding the line) which has drifted forward with the casting hand, is brought down and backward in a slashing left hand pull. Immediately after the completion of this left hand pull, let go of the loose coils of line you have been holding and shoot all the line you can. This shoot should he at least 20 feet and, if your left hand pull technique is good, may be as much as 40 feet.
The perfection of this long distance casting takes great accuracy in timing. You may not achieve that. However, if you’ve
never done any distance work, even a little study and practice of these long range casting methods will so increase your distance that you’ll probably be able to cast farther than you can properly hook a fish anyhow.

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