As I watched a 'Casting Clinic' I noticed one basic mistake that many fly casters
make is what I refer to as a 'Soft Stop,' or a failure to STOP THE ROD'S TRAVEL.
I have watched some of the best fly casters, both live demos and on videotapes (one I can
slow, pause, and rewind.) I have received lessons from some to the best i.e. the late Joe
Brooks, Lefty Kreh, both Borgers, Joan Wulf, and Bill Gamel. I have read books and
studied the art of fly-casting. Taken and passed the FFF Instructors course. All of this
is in the way of qualifying the following instructions I will call:
Fly Casting Basics
Let's not worry about the new computer designed, super-fibers, weighted fly-lines,
graphite rods, super slick SIC guides, making trick casts or double hauling. Remember
fly-casting has been around for over 500 years, and the ultra new equipment has only
been on the market for less then 25 years. Sure "new" has made it a lot easier to cast
50 or 60 feet with a 6-wt. outfit. It is the basic fly casting stroke that makes it work.
I like to say, "It is as easy as flysoup."
What I saw at the clinics was a rainbow of colored fly lines doing something like this:
1. Start the rod moving backward from some where in front. Moving
backward to somewhere in back of the caster.
What was missing? The STOPS. The STOP is what transfers the
energy from the hand the rod 'STOP' the line causing the loop.
The harder or faster you stop the rod the smaller the loop. Both the back-cast and
the forward-cast need this stop to transfer the energy of the moving rod, to
the dragging line to form the loop of energy that appears to run down the line's length.
2. Move the rod forward fast till about straight in front.
3. Slowly lower the rod to the grass, or re-preform step 1.
This stop requires some muscle training that you can learn by practicing with or
without a rod and about anywhere. You can use half a rod or a pencil or just your
finger or thumb sticking up. (Depending on which ever grip you use). You might
look around to see if anybody is watching you, Move your hand through the
basic fly casting stroke. That is:
1) Start with your forearm in front of you parallel to the ground.
If you do not let the line touch the water or grass on the front cast and go right into a
back-cast you are "false casting." We use the false-cast to dry our flies, change direction,
and let out more line. Remember this; false casting will tire you out and you
have a better chance of tangling you line and leader. Use the false-cast as little
as you can when fishing. This is training. So repeat it again and again.
Remember this: you can not make a good cast or apply the casting
stroke until the end of the fly line is moving.
2) Move your hand up and back to be even with you ear, thumb or finger pointing
straight up. STOP your hand by tightening your arm and hand muscles like
"freezing" your hand. This is a Back-cast. Note: The elbow has moved up also.
3) PAUSE. This will let the line complete the backward travel before you start the
Remember this: The timing of the back-cast is very important. To
help you get the timing down. After you stop the rod say "One Mississippi."
Then start the rod forward.
Now move your hand in the forward casting stroke until your hand would be just
in front of your face, your finger or thumb might be pointing at 11 o'clock.
4) Again STOP your arm' travel with the freezing of your muscles. This
is the forward cast.
5) Then drift your arm and elbow down till the rod is parallel to the ground.
6) Repeat the backstroke.
This simple exercise will train your muscles to STOP. If your rod and line are forming
rainbows you are not fly-casting. What we are trying to do is form a small tight loop with the
top and bottom parallel. See drawing below.
The following drawings are showing a forward cast. The back-cast loop should look the same.
It might run a little upward. That is the plane might be tilted a little down in front and up in
back. This would be a forward cast into a breeze. When you are casting from a shore or
where there are obstacles behind you, that will try to snag your fly; this will help by keeping
your back-cast higher. Changing the plane is just aiming the back cast higher or stopping the
Remember this; the line will go in the direction the rod tip was traveling when
the rod was stopped.
When you go out to practice casting use about thirty feet of line. This will load the rod. Remember
'lesson one' on line weights. The loop will form as you get up enough speed with your arm as long
as you STOP the rod travel. Learning the 'speed up – stop' is the key to fly-casting.
After that it is just as easy as flysoup.
You can do the practice casting just about anywhere there is enough room. About 60
feet is needed, 30 in front and 30 in back for the back-cast. I have taught fly-casting on rooftops
in downtown Ft. Worth to open fields and golf courses, I like the golf courses the best. The short
grass does not grab the fly line. You do not need the water to practice on, except for the roll cast.
This cast uses the water's drag to load the rod. That is another lesson. Try to develop the 'loop'
then control the size of the 'loop' by stopping faster and slower or changing the speed of the arm's
travel before the stop. Do not overpower the rod, let it do the casting. You just STOP the
rod When you can form loops that are about twenty to thirty inches in size you are a good fly caster.
I did not show the backcast, it should have the same high rod STOP.
~ Allen Crist