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NY, NJ, CT, RI Edition
June 03, 2009
Volume 20 � Number 6


Salt On The Fly
by Anthony Alessi

Tips For Better Casting With A Fly Rod

Fly fishing has always been my favorite form of angling. There is something very appealing to me about the equipment used and how it is used to reach and fool feeding fish. Next to hooking and landing nice fish, the act of casting with a fly rod is the thing I find most enjoyable. It wasn't always that way though. At first, and probably for years, consistently good casting was an elusive goal. In fact, sometimes, it was very frustrating trying to cast well through an outing. Over time, though, I was able to learn techniques that helped me become a more competent caster. Here are a few of the things that helped me along the way.

1) Let the rod do the work.

I remember when I was new to the sport how I would work that rod back and forth with my teeth clenched, struggling with all my might to launch that line as far as my strength would let me. It took a long time for me to realize that I was actually working against myself in doing so. A fly rod is made to do the work for you. Once you realize this and begin to use the rod correctly you will be amazed at how well the fly rod is designed to do the job. So take a deep breath and relax and begin your casting stroke more slowly. Let the rod bend more lazily as you start either a back cast or a forward cast. At the end of your stroke let the rod straighten and know that it is the rod as it unloads that propels the line so efficiently. Every once in awhile, when fishing with someone who does not use a fly rod, I will hear a comment on how fly casting looks like a lot of work. In actuality, when done right, it is a relaxing, and very enjoyable exercise. So when you find yourself getting worked up into a lather trying to cast to the fish that are feeding right there in front of you, take a deep breath and slow down.

2) Draw a straight line.

We are all guilty of it at one point or another. The fish are breaking in front of you and you try to make a cast only to have your fly slap the water behind you ruining your cast. It is easy to drop that rod tip after the back cast stroke and it is this subtle mistake that is causing the problem. Understand that your fly line will always go in the exact same direction that your rod tip was traveling at the end of your stroke. If you drop your rod even slightly at the end of either your back stroke or forward stroke it will cause a change in the direction your line will travel. Here is a tip that helped me solve this problem. Imagine that your rod is a pencil and the sky above you is a blank piece of paper. Your task is to draw a straight line across the paper. If you can visualize this as you are casting it will help you keep the rod tip moving in a straight line. This is a small thing that made a big difference in my casting.

3) Shoot a little line on the back cast.

Maybe it's just me, but it took me a long time before I caught on to the notion of shooting line on the back cast. I actually started doing this by accident. On occasion the line would slip from between my fingers on my back cast and when I was sometimes able to get my fingers to grip the line again quickly before my forward stroke, I found that my cast forward had more punch than usual. I realized that by shooting a bit of line on the back cast I was actually loading my rod better and thereby was able to produce a more powerful forward cast. This made casting into a stiff breeze easier for me. Another advantage to shooting line on the back cast in addition to on the forward cast is that it will allow you to launch the line with fewer false casts, which should be your goal also.

4) Develop good line control skills.

Learning the above stated techniques won't do a dime's worth of good if your fly line is wrapped around a cleat on your boat or tangled up in your basket when you are about to launch a cast. It is always worth spending the time necessary to make sure your line is ready to be cast before you begin. Firstly, take the time before fishing to stretch your line. I use my truck's side view mirror. I simply wrap my line around the base of the mirror and walk the one hundred or so feet necessary to get all the line outside the spool. Then, I put my thumb down on the spool and, keeping my rod tip pointed at that side view mirror I pull and stretch the line for about thirty seconds. If I'm on my boat and I need to stretch my line I do it in sections. I put my foot down on the line and pull on each side of that line while it is pinned under foot. I can stretch the line in six foot sections this way. Of course, you don't want to be wearing work boots when you do this. After you have been casting for awhile you will often find that your line starts to bird nest a lot and becomes generally difficult to work with. This is because as you cast your line actually starts to twist little by little with each cast. One way to fix the problem and get back to smooth casting is to snip off your fly and make a few long casts without it. If there is a good current you can feed out a bit of line as well. After two or three times of casting and retrieving without your fly attached your line will untwist itself and you can go back to fishing.

Well, there you have it, a couple of small but hard earned lessons that helped me to start really enjoying the art of casting with a fly rod.

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