Fly Casting Basics for the Beginner

So, you have purchased the basic equipment needed for fly-fishing. You have also bought some of the secondary tackle items such as a fly box and polarized sunglasses. You have even mastered the art of rigging up your rod, reel and line. This is a very good start! But before you can catch a fish you must also begin the process of learning to cast.

The Basic Fly Casting Action

The first thing to learn is that fly casting is really just a simple repetitive flicking action: flick the rod back, then flick it forward, then flick it back, then flick it forward. The flick comes mostly from your wrist, although you should move your forearm back and forward as well (otherwise your wrist will get very over-worked and sore!)

What am I Trying to Achieve?

Back-flicking Motion

Back-flicking Motion

The basic purpose of this back-and-forward flicking action is quite simple. What you want to do is flick back and forward so that you keep a certain length of fly line up in the air.

As soon as you stop flicking, the line will fall earthward and you are back to square one. But if your line is up in the air and moving back and forth, you can then lay it down in front of you on the water at any moment – and in the exact place you want it to land.

Notice also that you can walk forward or backward while you have fly line moving in the air. This is extremely important in river fishing: you need to be able to move upstream with line in the air, ready to lay the line down when you have moved up far enough that your next cast will cover new water.

Forward Flicking Motion

Forward Flicking Motion

If you flick about five or six yards of fly line backward and forward, you will notice that the line forms loops as it moves through the air, as in the drawing above. This is good!

When you are fly casting you want nice big loops in your line. A big loop means that the fly itself is not getting too close to your fly line.

When the fly gets too close to the fly line, nasty tangles and wind knots quickly occur.

The first thing that a novice fly-caster should do is find a large area of grass, for example in a park or on a tennis court, and start to practise flicking backward and forward with five or six yards of line. Practising on grass is good because grass is soft and thus won’t damage your fly line. Never practise fly casting on concrete or hard ground

It’s also advisable at this point to practise using just your fly line. In other words, when you are really just learning the basics, don’t bother with a trace and a fly. Just concentrate on keeping the line in the air for a while, creating some nice big loops, and then getting your fly line to land in a straight line on the grass in front of you. This is the basic fly casting action that complete novices should try to master first of all.

As you practise, try to concentrate on letting the rod do the work. Remember it’s really your rod that casts the line out, not you.

If you have been casting with a spinning outfit for any length of time, you will tend to try to ‘cast’ the line out there in front of you with your arm. When fly casting, you want your fly rod to ‘shoot’ the line out instead. Your job is to facilitate the action of the rod, so that it casts the line out as best it can.

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