Casting a Fly Rod Using the Overhead Cast

We’ll start with casting a fly rod using a straight forward overhead cast where you have plenty of room for a back cast that won’t end up with your fly and line caught in a bush or tree behind you. Remember that in fly fishing you don’t have a weighted lure or bait to reach your target. Instead, when casting a fly rod it’s the weight of the fly line that delivers the fly.

The key to properly casting a fly rod is in your arm movement. First, imagine a view of your body looking at the side on which you’re holding your rod. Then envision a clock face with your head at 12 O’clockand your feet at 6 O’clock. With your thumb on top of the rod and at least a rod’s length of line out in front bring your forearm back sharply to a position with the rod pointing at about 1 O’clockand stop abruptly so that the line will loop to the back. That’s what is known as the back cast. After a count of about 3, with a steady and forceful thrust bring your arm forward to the point at which the rod is pointing to 10 O’clock and stop sharply to allow the line to shoot forward toward your target. I should tell you that many casting instructors recommend stopping the back cast at 12 O’clock instead of 1. It’s really not that important so long as you stop abruptly. What is important though is making sure that you use your forearm without lifting your whole arm.

If you are casting a fly rod right, the line will land gently on the water and allow the fly to drop lightly so as not to scare the fish.  It’s important throughout this movement to keep your elbow close to your body and not let your arm flail wildly. One rule I follow on the back cast is to keep my thumb in view. That prevents you from taking the arm too far back and breaking the wrist resulting in the line falling to the ground in back of you. A trick many use to prevent this is to tuck the butt of your rod handle under the cuff of your sleeve. If you’re not wearing a long sleeved shirt try putting a big rubber band around the rod handle and your wrist. If the rubber band stretches too far, it’s a sign that you’re probably flexing your wrist too much.

I saw one fisherman standing in the middle of a stream do just that. He was making a number of false casts (that’s a means of letting more line out before making the final forward cast). On one such false casts his back cast didn’t land on the ground but instead dropped his fly in the stream. On his strong forward cast,  imagine his embarrassment when a fish that had taken that fly hit him in the back of his head.

Sometimes when you have been casting a fly rod over 1000 times (nowhere near an exaggeration) your arm will get tired and you’ll get a little careless with your wrist and let it break on the forward thrust. That results in your rod going to far forward and causes the line to land hard on the water often scattering any fish. If that begins to happen, the best thing to do is take a time out and maybe sit on a log for five minutes or so to give your arm a rest. Then when you resume fishing concentrate on your arm movements and try to get back into the proper rhythm.

The key to properly casting a fly rod is:  practice, practice, practice! On the back cast for example you will cultivate a feel for when to start forward. That’s known as allowing the rod to load before making the forward thrust cast. If you start forward too soon and don’t allow the line to develop a loop and your rod to load on the back cast, you’ll know it when your line hits the water in a jumbled mess. Again, I say: practice, etc. Oh, and by the way, you don’t have to have water to practice. A nice open lawn will do just as well. Just forget the fly for this exercise. No use catching a dandelion.

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