Casting a Fly Rod

Fly casting is the ability to present a fly at different distances. Learning to cast is an important part of fly fishing. Most people picture casting as being very difficult and hard to learn. However, taking it one step at a time and practicing every available opportunity will help to make the learning process easier. It is known that most fish are caught between ten and thirty feet, so learning to cast doesn’t have to be at long distances to successfully fish.

The Grip

Gripping the rod properly is important before beginning to cast. If you are right handed, then you will grip the cork with your right hand. Most fishermen will grip the rod with their thumb on the top of the cork, pointing toward the first guide. (see fig. 1) This grip is preferred, because the thumb aids in stopping the rod during the back cast and helps to get the rod started for the front cast. Your other hand is equally important. Its job is to control the fly line making sure it remains taut and will be also used to provide line speed during the double haul cast.

Overhead Cast

The overhead cast is the most basic and first cast everyone should learn. Different angles can be used in this cast. Some people choose to cast with the rod tip following a plane almost directly over their shoulder while others cast with the rod tip away from their body. No matter what angle you use, the rod tip needs to follow a straight plane or path in order to have a successful cast. The basic cast has two parts; the back cast and forward cast.

Back Cast

The back cast is the first part of your cast and will dictate how good your forward cast will be. To start the back cast, the rod should be in a low position with approximately fifteen to twenty feet of line outside the tip of the rod. The line should be straight so no slack has to be picked up. The rod is lifted and accelerated in a straight plane to about the one o’clock position. Drifting back to the two o’clock position will increase the distance of your stroke and ensure a better cast. The acceleration should be towards the end of the stroke making sure not to create an arc motion with the rod tip. You want to create a smooth, tight loop. At the end of the stroke, hesitate and wait for the line to tighten behind you. When the line is fully extended behind you it will “load” the rod. (create a bend in the rod from the weight of the line) At this point you will start the forward cast. The forward cast begins with the rod loaded at the 2 o’clock position. From here the rod is brought forward in the same plane with an acceleration towards the end of the stroke which is at the ten to eleven o’clock position. The rod will unload the line at the end of the stroke and propel it forward.

False Cast

The false cast is the overhead cast done repeatedly without letting the fly hit the water. False casting is done to dry off a fly, get more line out, or change the direction of your cast. Limit the use of false casting as much as possible. When done over the top of fish it may spook them. You also have a better chance of catching fish the more your fly is in the water. False casting is still an important part of fly fishing, it should just be done with moderation when needed.

Roll Cast

The roll cast is used to cast in areas where there is no room for a back cast. The water is a necessary ingredient to having a successful roll cast. The water is used to load the rod since a back cast can not be used. With this in mind, practice this cast on a local pond or lake. Even a swimming pool would suffice. To make a roll cast, bring the rod slowly behind you so the line lays at your side in the water. Once the rod is behind you (where the rod would be at the end of a back cast) simply make a forward cast. Most people feel that a roll cast is a different stroke then the overhead cast. Contrary, the same principles apply to this cast. The resistance of the water will load the rod and help propel the line forward. This is used in tight areas at short distances (up to approximately forty feet for experienced casters).

Most fly fishing can be accomplished with the basic overhead cast. This must be practiced to understand the loading and unloading of the fly rod. Practicing anywhere there is enough room will help insure proper technique and line handling. Once the fisherman has mastered this cast he can begin to focus on the specialty casts, giving the fisherman the ability to overcome many obstacles and enjoy fishing under any conditions. A few lessons from local shops can help greatly. A fly casting lesson is usually not that expensive and the time and money spent is well worth it.


Presentation is the ability of fishermen to get the fly into the fish’s strike zone without spooking it and then triggering the fish to strike the fly. It is vital for the fly to look realistic whether you are dead drifting a dry fly or swinging a nymph. Basic presentation has three main parts: setting up, casting, and mending. Setting up is the position you are in when approaching the fish which is determined by the type of fishing you are doing.. Casting is most important because it gets the fly into the initial strike position. The fly fisherman must be very accurate and gentle to avoid spooking the fish. Fisherman should practice their casting and be able to land the fly with as little splash as possible. Another aspect of presentation is mending. Mending is the ability to control or adjust the line and fly while it is on or in the water. The mend is used in both dry and wet fly fishing. It is primarily used to extend the length of a nymph or dry fly dead drift. This is best accomplished by slightly raising the rod tip and then moving it in a semicircular movement. The direction of the semicircle will depend on whether you want an upstream or downstream mend and this maneuver can be repeated multiple times during a single drift.

When presenting a dry fly there are two ways to set up on a fish. You can approach from downstream and cast up to the fish. This type of presentation can be successful in faster water or in rivers where the fish are not too line shy. Once you have achieved this position you will cast the fly several feet above the fish and let it drift back toward the feeding fish. To improve the drift of the fly a reach cast can be initial used and an upstream mend can be used during the drift. The second approach is from upstream of the fish. In this approach the fisherman must be extra careful not to make much noise or wake while getting into position. The fish should be anywhere from forty five to eighty degree angle downstream of the fisherman. Once again the fly should be presented a few feet above the feeding fish and drifted into the fishes feeding lane. A reach cast and an upstream mend can be used to help improve your drift. This type of presentation is vital in fishing slower water and for educated wild fish. Nymph fishing is a very successful way to catch fish because of the great numbers of nymphs that exist in our streams and rivers. Biologists estimate that nymphs account for about eighty five percent of a trout’s diet. When presenting nymphs to a fish there are also two ways to set up. The first is to set up below the fish and cast up and across the stream. The current will dead or naturally drift the fly to the fish. The fisherman must mend the line to insure the natural drift and to keep the line taut enough to set the hook. Once the fly and line pass the fisherman more line should be feed, extending the initial drift causing the fly to swing in the current. This change in action will make the nymph look like it is trying to escape or emerge to the surface. At the end of the swing the fisherman can then raise the tip of the rod causing the nymph to skim across the surface. This movement often provokes a fish to strike. The second way to present a nymph is from above the fish. The fisherman begins this process by casting the fly across the stream. The fisherman must throw an immediate mend if they want any dead drift at all. This type of presentation is often used to imitate a swimming nymph. As the current swings the nymph, the fisherman can twitch it to improve the swimming action. When the swing is finished the fisherman can raise the of the rod causing the fly to skim across the surface. Both of these presentations can be used successfully depending on how you want the fly to act.

When presenting a wet fly to a fish, the fisherman should set up above the fish. Cast the fly across the current in front of you. The fisherman must decide if they want to begin the swing with a dead drift or if they want the fly swim upon impact to the water. If a dead drift is desired, you need to throw an upstream mend into the line. If you want the fly to swim immediately then just let the current begin to swing the fly. The amount of bow in the line will determine the speed of the fly. The bigger the bow the faster the fly will fish. Changing the speed of you fly can help trigger fish to strike. The use of a shorter leader will help control the fly and help hook a greater number of fish. Wet fly fishing is a great way to introduce people to the sport. It can be very productive and it is easy to pick up.

Streamer fishing is very similar to wet fly fishing. However the presentation of the streamer is what fools the fish into striking the fly. In the other types of fly fishing the fly and its natural movement work together to fool the fish. Most streamer imitate minnows so it’s the movement of these streamers that must fool the fish. There are two different ways that the streamer can be presented to the fish. In both cases you should set up above where you believe the fish will be. An angled downstream cast should be made to start the fly above the fish. Here is where the two methods differ. With the first method you let the current swing the fly and give it movement. The speed of the fly can be controlled by the amount of bow in the line. At the end of the drift you give the fly line short strips causing the fly to make six to ten inch darts. This darting motion can induce strikes. The second method is very similar to the first. In fact it is exactly the same until the fly begins to swim. Once the fly begins to swim you begin the short six to ten inch stripes. This will give the fly the darting action all the way through the drift. In either case the water should be fished in a systematic way to insure you cover all of the water.

Presentation plays a vital role in the success of any type of fly fishing. In order for a fly fisherman to be successful they must approach the fish properly without alarming it. An adequate cast must be made followed by proper mending of the fly line in order to present the fly in a life like manner. All aspects of presentation must be met in order to fool the fish.

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