I have noticed a fairly consistent stream of "New to Fly Fishing" threads. I was thinking how it might be helpful to have a thread for little tips on improving your overall casting ability.
Some tips are fairly well known like 10 oclock/ 2 oclock for rod position, while others may be things you figured out and work for you.
Personally, I'm far from an expert caster. Decent or fair caster maybe. Nor am I familiar with all the proper or foormal mechanics of a cast. Many lunkers have passed on my presentation. I have coaxed a few out of their depths.
I think I read that Henry Winkler (The Fonze) said after learning to fly fish, "It took me a half hour to learn how to fly fish, now I have the rest of my life to perfect it."
So for me I guess my top three things to improve a newby cast would be
1) Timing is everything. The pause between the back cast (when rod is straight up) and fore cast is essential. A count of 1,2,-pause- 3,4 between lifting through to presenting the fly makes a world of difference. At least for me it did.
2) Relaxing the shoulders and arms. A cast will flow much better when the muscle groups used are free from tension, stress or over flex. Try to find just enough strength to accomplish your cast while letting the rod do as much work as it can.
3) Good posture and weighting. A little tip I picked up from Tai Chi that may help those with fatigue and back or arm pain. Many people when standing on two feet split their upper torso weight 50/50 on both legs. This is referred to as double weighting. The classics say whatever arm you are working with you should be weighting or putting more weight down on the opposite leg. If the rod is in your right hand then most of your weight should be on your left leg. Its important not to hyper extend or lock your leg, but rather have a gentle comfortable bend in it. If you ever have watched a blue heron or crane stalk its prey it uses one leg to control the body. The same is true for humans.
This will give you more power and control in your casting arm.
Good tips. I especially like number 3. It's an aspect of the cast I never really considered much. weight distibution as deeply as you've gone into. Now I can't wait until the sun comes tomorrow and play around with weight distribution. Wouldn't this also possibly help with balance issues I have?
If I may be kind of rude here, the timing of casts is not a strict numbered count even though a simple count was used in A River Runs Through It.
The pause varies with the amount of line being carried. Short line, short pause. Long line, long pause. Let watching the unrolling loop dictate when you stroke in the opposite direction and you'll avoid 'cracking the whip' or a very weak cast by casting against a slack line.
1- practice means do it at home, or a park, but not while fishing. I know lots of guys who've fished for decades without improving their cast, in spite of trying.
2- pick a straight line you can see in the background, hold your casting hand up, and practice tracing your casting stroke along that straight line. Start in super slo-mo. Do that for five minutes, or until it's perfect, then speed up a little. Progress in this way until your moving at full speed, and tracing a perfectly straight line. Do it again tomorrow.
3- go to a park with a few pie plates or hula hoops, and lay them out at intervals. Tie on a dime sized piece of bright yarn in place of a fly. Casting to targets usually improves all aspects of the cast. Accuracy begets efficiency, efficiency begets distance.
These are great tips and a sure way to improve your casting . One thing I'd like to add from a recent experience. Once you become a fairly accomplished caster you get in a routine and if all goes well you continue in this vein . If you are doing something that is affectingyour casts you may not know it. My suggestion is every now and then have an experienced fly guy watch you . You may be surprised at subtle little things you have forgotten or need correcting.
On a recent trip my guide complemented my long accurate casts but questioned some of my late Hookups. What I was doing without realizing was not controlling my cast for a brief moment at the end of the presentation. By removing my stripping hand for a brief second and then re picking up the line I was losing that short moment that could easily spell fish or no fish. When he showed me I was totally unaware but this small adjustment improved my day by leaps and bounds. So I think having those experienced eyes made all the difference and now I'm conscious of it!
"I was born to fish" Lee Wulff
"There's more B.S. in fly fishing then there is in a Kansas feedlot." Lefty Kreh
" It ain't over till it's over." Yogi Berra
"Your not old,you've simply acquired a patina." Swirlchaser
Here is a link to those 5 with animated sketches illustratiing each. If each is read thoroughly then the animation is clicked., it should be easy to understand and to see what the caster needs to do in order to make the rod and line do its job.
I would highly recommend that all new casters bookmark this link, and review all 5 "tips" before each practice session.
I would suggest watching your backcast while casting, and taping your casting motion as Dan suggests, then comparing what you see in it to the animations above and trying to figure out where you are going wrong. That is assuming you can't, or don't want to get any casting instruction.
If you don't know the basic mechanics required in a cast, how can you self-analyze your casting?
These are things I tell those just starting with a fly rod.
1) Let the rod do it's thing, the rod is what casts the line, and no amount of extra force will improve on that.
2) When starting out, limit the distance until you get the timing & technique, and can make accurate casts. 30-50 ft is a good distance range for most fishing situations to start with. Distance will come with practice once the basics are learned.
3) Practice with a leader & something tied on to simulate the drag of a fly. A tuft of yarn works well.
4) Patience, no one learns to cast a fly rod without it.
bigjim, I understand where you are coming from but #1 doesn't work for me.
The rod can only do one thing...straighten. It has been calculated, by better men than me, I might add, that the potential energy from the rod only accounts for less than 20% of the total energy needed to cast a flyline. That means that over 80% comes directly from the caster via leverage. However, that 20% (more or less) is vital and where that 20% is directed will have a significant influence on how the cast turns out.
My three; Use a a relaxed thumb on top grip, it restricts wrist movement better than a V grip. Fore finger up also works but is not so comfortable.
Emphasis should be on loop formation not casting the weight of the fly line.
Fly casting has to mirror back and front, if you only watch your fore cast you are only seeing half the picture. Learn to glance back and see what's going on behind you.
I agree with WJC the 5 essentials are a good guide to start with.
If timing is a problem then try casting on the horizontal it will help and then progress to the vertical.(take a look at the joan wulff casting video if you prefer to see it visually as written can confuse)
The stops are very important for loop formation.
Then the lift off the water is a main consideration.No slack line,if there is you are off on a bad start.Always eliminate slack line first and the rest will follow.