Fly fishing is never without challenges, and most of those stem from the attempts of a fisher to cast a fly rod. If you’re one of the 6 million Americans who love this game by heart, this comprehensive guide will teach you how to cast with a fly rod accurately and enjoy it with all its payoffs.
In this article, you’ll be introduced to the BIG picture of fly fishing with no technicalities absent.
Let’s start with fundamentals and then the important details.
The use of a lightweight lure, often an artificial fly, gives fly-fishing the special character it’s known for. Unlike other casting methods involved in any typical fishing endeavor, fly-casting has its distinguishable points, which as an angler, you need to keep in mind to make a quality cast.
Why Is It Different from Normal Casting?
Regular casting performed with a typical fishing setup generates some forward momentum that provides the weighted lure the energy it requires to pull the fishing line off the reel. But, fly-casting involves lightweight feather/fur lures.
So, you cannot really throw a feather as far as you could a stone. See? The weight is the biggest challenge.
Made of thick PVC or some kind of urethane coating, a fly line casts the lure (fly). Let’s know-how. Your casting stroke generates energy that travels through the hefty fishing line supporting the fly’s movement. For more clarification, imagine using a whip!
How to Give the Rod the Energy It Needs?
Did you ever try bow hunting? An archer uses his/her physical energy to bend the bow, an action that stores energy in the bow which when unbends releases that energy.
Now, put this science in practice. The only difference here should be that you need to make a casting stroke doing smooth acceleration.
What Makes a Good Cast?
The prerequisite to a perfect cast is the smooth transfer of the energy in the fly rod into the line.
You need to create smooth acceleration in your casting stroke making a sudden and controlled stop that lets you set the rod straight, transfer the momentum (energy) into your line, and cast it out towards your target.
Now, you know how fly-casting works, don’t you?
A fishing line is a must-have regardless of how you make your fishing outfit. For this particular fishing method, its role is every bit as important as your fishing skills.
Different Types of Fly Lines
The type of line you’re using is important because each kind is designed to maintain specific interaction with the water. These three types are common.
- A floating line floats on the water’s surface.
- A sinking line, as the name suggests, sinks (goes down) into the water.
- A fly line with a sink tip is something in between a floating and sinking line as the better half of the line floats and the remaining part (a few feet) sinks.
What makes a fly line different?
Traditional fishing lines go with the weight placed by sinkers, which make it easy for distant casting into the water.
Fly lines do a very crucial job by providing the weight and required the ability to cast.
As an indispensable component of your fly-fishing gear, these lines may involve a good price which proves worthy if you can set it up correctly.
What is a Loop, What is a Good One, and Why Does It Even Matter?
As you make a casting stroke, the line drifts behind the tip of the rod. When you stop the stroke, energy gets through the line causing it to unroll following the traveling direction of the rod tip. All these create a specific formation of the line which we call a loop.
Do you want to make a good cast? Form a good loop. That’s how anglers define the importance of a loop. No matter what distance you’re targeting at, you need to create an efficient loop, maintain its good shape, control the direction, and regulate the loop speed.
Ideal loops are the ones with a U/V-shape and velocity enough to allow the line to unroll smoothly without suffering from shock waves or sags. Open loops may also prove useful for those using weighted flies.
A few factors determine the shape and size of a loop. They include the stop, the horizontal path (the one the rod tip travels), and the closing gap (turnover). Follow these rules for casting properly.
- Short and quick turnover make a firm stop, and the loop will be tight if the stroke path is straight.
- Make sure the loop top unrolls in a parallel direction to the bottom and unroll your cast in parallel to the ground.
- A good thing is a narrow loop that has 2-3 feet of space between the bottom and the top.
The Fly Fishing Rod Basics
Knowing what the rod does (you may already have known) and how you should set it up for an advantageous casting stroke is important too.
What Does a Fly Fishing Rod Do?
A fly-fishing rod helps anglers achieve the same objective as the traditional rods do but a little differently. Unlike a common rod, fly rods are designed to leverage the line’s weight to cast. It makes the line stand in the center of the rod’s activity.
How to Assemble a Fishing Rod (Fly Model)?
Learning how to set fishing rod precedes all your attempts to know how to cast it. The assembly is a step-by-step task that shouldn’t take you longer than a couple of minutes.
- Put the different segments of the rod together.
- Slide your fishing reel into the seat of the reel located at the rod’s bottom.
- Create a loop knot right at the line’s end.
- Use a fishing knot to attach the leader to the line’s end.
- Use a tippet to the leader’s end by securely tying it with a knot.
- Attach a lure to the tippet’s end with a strong knot.
- Set the line about 0.30–0.61 m or 1–2 feet longer than the rod.
Main Types of Fly Fishing Casts
Following are some casting techniques and their variations for a deeper understanding of what you’re going to experience plus useful tips on how to use a fishing rod for success in fly-fishing.
Overhead Cast: Back and Forward Cast
If anyone has the right enthusiasm to learn hands-on fly-fishing, the overhead cast technique represents the ground rules of fly-casting because the majority of other variations is built upon it.
The technique consists of two separate parts, such as the forward and the backcast which is required for providing the rod with the required energy and making the forward cast.
A backcast is the backward swing of your fishing line, an action that is intended to prepare for casting. Coming right after it, the forward cast transmits the energy in the rod into the line to take the fly to your target.
A backcast requires open space, and when you don’t have that, you have another way to go: perform a roll cast! You need to roll the line following a motion that replaces the backward cast stroke and builds the momentum.
Unsnagging Roll Cast
An aggressive form of the roll cast, the ‘unsnagging’ cast follows the snag’s direction making sure that you roll cast enough line beyond the snagged fly to dislodge it. This technique works for those with snagged flies that are not too securely hooked.
Other Types of Casts
Once you have confidence in your ability to perform the above techniques, you would find it just okay to try some more.
If you have stream fishing in mind, this cast will be your favorite. The best thing about this technique is that the lure might mimic a free-floating life such as an insect which increases its likelihood of being caught by a fish.
After casting your lure over the moving water and before having the fly landed, you need to move your arm and the rod following an upstream direction so that you can arrange the line comfortably and the drag in the flowing water becomes less apparent.
Mastering this technique, you can have an edge in stream fishing by pitching some curved variations to take the lure into hard-to-reach areas.
The sidearm technique is liked by anglers who are fond of casting in windy conditions or under tricky overhanging vegetation. An added advantage is that you can avoid your fellows when all of you are in restricted areas.
When you need ‘zero drag’ floats in eddies, streamers, or wets, the tuck cast proves useful. Ideal for nymph fishing, you can use it for sinking your weight pretty quickly. In this technique, the fly will land first with the leader on its top.
Using the rough or strong wind to your advantage is the principle of wind casting. Despite having nothing special in the cast, the fastest and the tightest loop is all you need because having a loop that’s the least wind-resistant is the key.
Now that you have got the theory in mind and equipment in hand, it’s time to learn the actual thing: how to cast with a fly rod?
3 Most Popular Fly-Casting Techniques
You might try many things as discussed above, but these three will always come as your priorities.
1. The Backward Cast
The backcast is what gets you started with actual fly-fishing. It’s the prerequisite to many casting strokes along with the forward cast. So, you should read carefully.
- Stand and keep your shoulders pretty square.
- Use the four of fingers to grip the rod while wrapping around the rod handle with the thumb on top and the reel staying down.
- Pull the line off your fishing reel (about 25 feet) and feed it out the rod tip.
- Keep the line straight in a horizontal position and stay in the square with the target having the feet about your shoulder-width apart.
- Go low on the rod tip and accelerate the fly rod up and backward, maintaining a single smooth motion.
- As the rod goes beyond a vertical position, you need to stop the acceleration. Make sure the stop is not only abrupt but also deliberate.
- As the fly line unrolls and gets high into the air right behind you, it’s time for you to pause to have the line completely extended.
2. The Forward Cast
Remember that the forward cast isn’t a standalone task. It requires your complete mastery over the backcast. Here’re the three steps you need to follow.
- The line should stay extended and in the air right behind you. If it’s the case, you need to bring your rod forward maintaining an accelerating and smooth stroke. No abruption, please!
- You need to stop with having the tip of the rod high enough to allow the energy transfer properly into the fly line and move it forward.
- You have to lower the tip of the rod as the fishing line unrolls. Make sure the line rolls out straight and quite the way to the fly.
Tips and Warnings
- Study the positioning of the rod tip during both casts.
- Keep the elbow as much close to the body as you can and the wrist straight.
- Use the shoulder and bicep to make the cast.
- Avoid using the wrist for generating the cast and any unnecessary motion to your cast.
- Try to see how the line finishes unrolling behind you. A long enough pause to watch this is okay.
- Keep the tip of the rod low and the line straight during the beginning and end of the cast.
- Don’t just rush! Take enough time to complete one and then move to do another.
3. The Roll Cast
Perhaps the trickiest of all casts, a roll cast may not be an easy shot for a beginner, but with practice, you can certainly get better. Here’re the steps.
- Let about 15-20 feet of the line out in the front.
- Think like this: you’re a clock and the rod is the hand. Sweep the tip of the rod up slowly behind your shoulder until it’s at 10 or 11 o’clock.
- Regardless of your being right-handed or left, keep the casting hand parallel to your ear and a little tipped outside your elbow.
- Make sure the start of the line is hanging exactly to the (body) side you’re going to cast from. Hanging down, the fly line should curve off the surface of the water forming a shape that resembles the capital ‘D’. It’s known as the famous “D-Loop” in fly-fishing.
- Get your cast started by flipping the tip of the rod forward smoothly.
- Accelerate your rod forward.
- End the acceleration making an abrupt stop with the cast unrolling smoothly over the water surface.
Voila, you’ve learned the roll cast!
Tips and Warnings
- Draw your line back steadily and slowly without pulling out of water. The line’s friction on the water surface allows the fly rod to load during the forward cast.
- Try to get the D-loop as perfectly as you can by looking over the shoulder during the backward cast to create a good slack loop.
You Know How to Cast with a Fly Rod. Now, the Dos and Don’ts
Knowing how to cast a fishing rod and doing it right most of the time aren’t same. To achieve consistent precision in fly-casting, you must avoid the following issues at any cost.
- Don’t start with your rod being too high off the surface of the water.
- Avoid lowering the rod tip too much.
- It’s advisable not to stand with your shoulders squared and face your target directly.
- Never force your cast.
- Remember hauling the line as you load the rod.
- Try not to move the rod in both backward and forward motions on different lines.
- Don’t forget to stop the rod as you finish a back and forward cast.
- During a back cast, avoid going too far back with your rod.
- Avoid throwing your fly instead of casting it.
- Try to get rid of a tailing loop (a casting fault that occurs as the line’s front and the leader crash into the fly line close to the cast end).
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
01. How Do You Cast off Fishing?
Answer: Assuming that you have set up your fishing rod, you need to know how to hold and cast it properly. Here’s a step-by-step approach for you.
- Take your rod comfortably by the dominant hand (the one that is more capable).
- Carefully rotate your wrist to have the wheel under the fishing rod.
- Stick out the index finger and pull in the line.
- Slowly reel the line (6–12 inches or 15–30 cm from the rod).
- Choose the target spot and rotate your own body.
- Flip the spool’s bail and unlock your line.
- Take the rod over the shoulder (the one of the dominant hand).
- Propel your forearm directly towards the target and throw the rod.
- Lift one of your fingers while casting to release your line.
- Have the line in grip again using the index finger.
- You can rotate the handle of the reel if the bait/lure needs to be in a more appropriate spot.
- Lock the line by flipping your bail to its locked position.
- Hold the handle with firmness and relax for a while (until a fish comes and bites).
02. Can You Put a Casting Reel on a Spinning Rod?
Answer: Yes, a casting reel can be paired with a spinning rod, and the reel stays considerably high up on the rod, which creates a particular style to inspire discussions among experts. Now, here’s the thing you should know.
Positive: You can get enough of the grip to make a cast comfortably.
Negative: Casting distance can be affected and the rod might lose its performance to some extent.
03. Can You Cast Farther with a Longer Rod?
Answer: Simply put, a long-distance casting rod typically gives a longer cast. Given that the action and the power are the same, a 7-foot fishing rod usually casts a lure at a longer distance than a 6-foot rod does.
Other Factors That Contribute to Determine the Distance
- Fly line tapers (weight forward coatings) assist anglers in making long-distance casts.
- Lighter and thinner fly lines also help you get a farther cast.
- Fishing lures with aerodynamic properties are helpful for distant casts.
04. What Is a Spinning Fishing Rod?
Answer: A spinning rod is designed to hold the reel underneath it with all the guides (5-8) placed along its underside for allowing the control of the line. Made from fiberglass or graphite and having various lengths, a spinning rod measures 5-8.5 feet or 1.5-2.6 meters including a PVC foam or cork handle.
It’s good to know when using a spinning rod is appropriate and which style suits you.
Shorter in length, very lightweight, thin line: Panfish, Trout
Medium length (6-7 feet): Bass fishing
Longest rods, elongated grip handles supporting both hands: Saltwater fishing, salmon fishing
Due to some design factors and basic functions, there’re misconceptions surrounding spinning and conventional rods. Here’s a quick take on the two distinguished types.
Spinning Rod vs. Conventional Rod
A conventional rod is pretty much similar to a casting rod, but they aren’t exactly same. A spinning rod doesn’t work as a conventional rod does.
Spinning rods are meant for beginners who have a little experience and practice with the gear. When fishing for a longer (more than just a couple hours) is your goal, these rods are there for you.
Suitable for anglers with all levels of understanding, conventional rods are oftentimes the strongest of all when fighting with the fish becomes inevitable. These rods are used with baits and lures.
05. What Is the Difference Between Casting and Spinning Rods?
Answer: A spinning rod is quite the opposite of what we call a casting rod, and the learning curve plus challenges presented by both aren’t the same either. Here’s a very brief overview.
Spinning vs. Casting Rod
Spinning rods are often preferred for fishers who have so much time to spend the day fishing. Allowing multiple casts with a little hassle, a spinning rod is the first thing you want to try within the first few months after learning the sport.
Casting rods, especially the ones with centrifugal/magnetic cast control, make it difficult for beginners. Since these rods are paired with advanced reels involving a lot of adjustments for the perfect settings, advanced and professionals have the best chances to excel in with a casting rod.
06. Is It a Good Idea to Convert Spinning Rod to Casting Rod?
Answer: Well, it’s never wrong for an avid angler to try this. It’s not impossible, but obviously, you need to have patience and skills. The process starts with the detection of the spine on your rod, and cautions must be followed. Otherwise, you would end up getting it damaged.
07. How Do You Fish Step by Step?
Answer: Fishing is a set of activities which correspond to each other. Here’s a quick list of tasks that one should perform to start fishing and enjoy the pursuit.
- Taking preparations (Learning the types of fishing, choosing a location, knowing when to go there, acquiring the license and documents, etc.)
- Buying the Right Gear and Outfit (Knowing your equipment and tools like fishing rod, reel, bait, lure, accessories, etc.)
- Taking the Learning Curve (Knowing how to cast a fishing rod, how to set up a fishing pole with a bobber, etc.)
- Exploring your options (Getting familiar with beach fishing, saltwater fishing, freshwater fishing, and learning how to fish from a boat and what is a boat casting rod? etc.)
- Going Fishing and Having a Proper Setup for Fishing
- Identifying the Mistakes and Learning from Experience
Well, that’s the end of your training on how to cast with a fly rod! What do you think should be the next BIG move? PRACTICE…It’s what will let you get along with the newfound angling skill. By the way, feel free to let us know if we can assist you any further.