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Friday, April 10, 2020

Casting Tendencies ~ 4/10/2020

Another helpful post in my current state of mind of reaching out and sharing my thoughts and knowledge on all things fly fishing. I do find such to be comforting during this unusual period of our lives. So for those new to the sport, I hope this brings some enlightenment, and answers a few of the questions on casting that you may have. Special thanks to my past guest Seth for the topic, it's been really cool to see his skill set improve to the point he can now go out and be successful on his own.

I’m not a FFI Certified Casting Instructor. I do know how to break down casting instruction that is easily digested though, and often in baby steps as to not flood my students with too much information. I think that is key, to just take each step slowly so muscle memory is at least opened up to having good habits form. Below are the most faults I see while instructing on a day to day basis, or simply watching another angler from afar while out in the great outdoors of water, flora, and fauna.

Overpowering your cast – I’m guilty of this at times and it’s typical of most men to do, thinking more power will equal a greater distance. This is why most women excel at casting because they rely on finesse and timing. When overpowering rods that are a slow and medium action, they will fold and collapse with wasted energy, and not reaching the rod’s fullest potential. All one has to do is slow down their casting stroke while relying on the basic fundamentals

Often, it is the last final forward cast where the entire series of casting strokes fail to become a good presentation because the caster will force the rod forward, which will deflect the rod energy more than the previous casts and ruin the tempo, thus affecting the loop and the final delivery which most often results in the tailing loop.

Elevated casting plane – If your fly, leader, or your fly line is hitting the ground on your back cast, your casting plane is too elevated. This results in frayed leaders, broken hook points on your flies, and sometimes snagging the ground behind you. An elevated casting plane also affects the final forward cast where your fly line dies out, comes up short, and does not reach the intended target. I see this type of situation the most. To understand this better, let‘s look at an even casting platform. The rod stops at 10 o’clock on the forward cast, and 2 o’clock on the back cast. Drawing an imaginary line from the forward stopping point to the backward stopping point displays a level horizontal line. An elevated casting plane occurs when the rod stops at the 10 o’clock position, and on the back cast at the 3 o’clock position, or even worse as far as the 4 o’clock position. Now draw that imaginary line between the two points, and you can envision that upward unwanted angle that makes your cast die out and fail. Reverse the scenario for a downward casting plane, where your fly, leader, and line come down too aggressively and crashes onto the water’s surface (not ideal for dry fly fishing LOL). 

Breaking the wrist – There will always be some sort of wrist movement when casting, it is the excessive movement of the wrist at the wrong time that robs the caster of producing a nice sexy loop. It is a problem that can affect all casters from beginner to expert. 

I see this all the time too with most of my guests. When a caster breaks their wrist between the stopping points of their casting strokes it moves the tip of the fly rod off a horizontal casting plane, and the result is sloppy at best, both on the forward cast and the back cast. 

Cracking the whip – We’ve all done this when we first started, and it’s not pretty. When I’m guiding, I like to nip this in the bud as soon as possible. Lots of flies can be cracked off to faraway places and disappear in a short time. This is caused by not letting the line full extend on the back cast, while rushing the forward stroke. 

It’s ok to look over your shoulder and watch the line fully extend before starting your forward cast, at least then you can see what adjustments you need to make to be successful. One must be patient to achieve this. Remember, the more line you have out, the longer the pause between strokes, even if its fractions of a second.

Too much false casting – Depending on the length of your presentation, it should only take 4 casting strokes at a minimum to achieve your target, and dry your fly off if your dry fly fishing. This fault is painful to watch because 80% of the time the new student is doing a great job and only needs to send it, but they continue to cast, and cast, and cast until the rhythm is lost resulting in a tangle, or a wind knot. “ok, you’re good, drop it in”, “ok next forward cast send it!”, “ok, next one for sure…..” Then it all goes bad.

Practicing a good sequence of casts then laying it down will do wonders. Practice that in sets, over and over, and you’ll be dialed in no time.

Unsuccessful lob cast with nymphing rigs – Whether I’m teaching indo or tight line nymphing, many of my students struggle with making the proper lob cast back upstream after a drift has been made. First a typical nymph rig has a lot of moving parts and hinge points. Anywhere you have an indicator, tippet ring, swivel, added split shot, and multiple flies there is going to be hinge points. Add all those up together and much can go wrong resulting in some of the most horrific bird’s nest ever to be created. When starting the lob cast back upstream, be sure your line is fully extended and taut downstream. This simple act will help the rod load and be able to function properly. Next, bring the split shot, and flies near the surface so there is a clean exit from the water. Too many times I have witnessed my students trying to make the lob while the heaviest part of the rig is near the bottom of the river, 4 feet down. Add slack in the line, and the motion of making a lob is fruitless. So, after the drift is made, extend your arm downstream, make sure the line is taut, bring the heaviest part of the rig near the surface, then bring the rod up and slightly behind you and make the lob cast with a slow to fast acceleration. As the nymph rig exits the water, continue the motion of the rod upstream, stopping the tip to your intended target.

Here’s a bullet list of some sound fundamentals to think about when your practicing, or better yet – Fishing!

  • Keep a level casting plane.
  • Abrupt stops at the end of each casting stroke.
  • Wait for the line to fully extend before making the motion to the next stroke.
  • Slow to fast acceleration from the beginning to the end of your casting stroke.
  • Keep a slightly off center casting plane to your side to keep the loop away from your body.
  • Send it, earlier than you think.
  • Learn the single haul as your skill set progresses, increased line speed is your friend.

Improving your casting does not have to be painful, or too technical that you just want to give up. Make it enjoyable by keeping it simple and fun. The goal is to be able to make a successful presentation in real time fishing conditions that will enhance your experience on the water. Your cast can be compared to a golfer’s swing, once you learn the proper mechanics, one can tweak the cast to their own personal style that suits them best. For further reading on the subject go here:

One of the best certified casting instructors ever, Jeff Putnam has not only taught me a lot about my own casting, but some very helpful tips to teach casting more proficiently with my students:

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