3 casting tips that anyone can use
The quick way to gain control over your cast is to understand that efficient fly casts are mainly composed of straight line movement with pauses in between.
Most casting instructors will tell you that the main casting fault that they see, especially with beginner casters, is the dreaded ‘bent wrist’ fault. This is most easily noticed when the caster picks line up into a backcast, with the hand tilting and the wrist bending backwards prior to the stop. This typically results in large, rainbow-y loops that have a tendency to hit the ground or water behind the caster and have little ability to straighten out on the presentation cast. I typically have these folks concentrate on making sharp, straight lines that feel a bit robotic compared to the more organic, wrist bending style they were using before. By exploring this more condensed style of cast, people often feel increased efficiency and loops that tend to want to roll themselves out straight. A small adjustment, but an important one to get to the next level.
Uncontrolled slack is your enemy. Always try to get as much slack out of the line as possible, especially just before and during the cast. A mend is an example of controlled slack.
Intermediate casters are typically beyond the concerns of bending their wrists too far, but they still have efficiency issues to smooth out. I typically see folks that have one or both of the following problems that ultimately end up being the same problem: slack control. The first and most obvious has to do with where the rodtip rests while picking up into a backcast. For the most efficient positioning that eliminates the most slack, the beginning rodtip position should be near or in the water. Many of us, myself included, will violate this suggestion now and then, but it’s one I closely adhere to when casting heavy flies or sinking lines of any kind. Just that small adjustment can save a surprising amount of efficiency in your cast by eliminating slack that would otherwise hang between the rodtip and the water.
A similar problem happens during the backcast, where the caster chooses to bring their cast back at a low angle behind them and a higher angle moving towards the target. This causes the forward cast to climb up and over the caster’s body, which can put unwanted slack into the forward cast and cause it to lose energy. Practicing with different angles of straight line paths will help the intermediate caster gain more control over the entire process of the cast, pushing them onward into the advanced caster realm.
A smooth transfer of energy throughout the cast is usually best. Herky jerky movements are inefficient and often lead to knots forming in your leader. Check for knots often, and re-tie as needed.
Once anglers are considered proficient at controlling the angle and tension of a cast, they can still benefit from pushing themselves further. One of the ways that I push students is with drills that require concentration on two distinct aspects of their cast. For instance, asking someone to be accurate with their cast at 50 feet, but to do so with as little effort as possible. I work with people who have spent a good portion of their career fly fishing in saltwater, and they can be exceptional casters. I have found that one of the areas that I can help them further their skills is by asking them to stop hauling and focus completely on what they can accomplish with only their rod hand. This allows them to polish up their energy transfer skills without leaning on their haul to help. Then, they add back in the haul with the benefit of better transfer skills and end up with a holistically better cast.
One of the things I find most fascinating about fly casting in general is the endless path of things to learn and improve upon. It truly is a sport and a vocation that one can take as far as they’d like, pushing themselves and their equipment as far as they’d like. I get no greater satisfaction than helping people along on that journey.