Advanced Casting Skills

Determining what is actually an advanced casting skill can be one of those areas that is “All in the eye of the beholder.” What is advanced to one fly caster may come easily and not so advanced to another. For sake of simplicity, we will consider that any cast which utilizes a skill which is beyond that which is utilized in a simple “straight line pick up and lay down” cast, an advanced casting skill.

Once the basic casting skills involved in casting a straight line is mastered, the beginning student progresses to skills involving shooting line, mending the cast, performing slack line and other various forms of casts. For more detail on performing advanced casting skills, consider enrolling in one of our weekend clinics or private lessons. You can check out the upcoming dates in the section called “Annual Casting Clinics” as well as the contact information.

From time to time we will update this site to include points to consider when working on various skills.


Advanced Skill No. 1 “Shooting Line”

On occasion, we are faced with situations where we need to shoot line. In this section we will discuss not only the reasons why we “shoot”, but things to consider which may hinder our ability to perform at our maximum, as well.

The reason why we shoot line is relatively simple. We simply cannot or do not wish, for whatever reason, to carry the entire amount of line we wish to cast. Perhaps we need to make a 70ft. cast. Few of us have the skills necessary to carry 70ft. of line, so it may be that the alternative is to carry 50ft. during our false casting and shoot the remaining 25ft. When casting long distances, it is tiring to false cast long lengths of line so, again, false cast a shorter amount of line and shoot to your target. When retrieving your lure, you may wish to retrieve the fly line all the way to the leader butt, in which case it will be necessary to slip and/or shoot line on the subsequent casts. In some situations we cannot make a back cast with the entire length of line needed to reach our target due to trees, etc. and we are forced into shooting the extra line on our presentation cast.

When shooting line, the timing of the shoot is very important. Releasing the line prematurely or too late will impede the shoot and ruin the cast. The release must be timed to correspond with the time of the “stop”. Release too soon and the cast goes nowhere. Release too late and the cast may go as far as the line you are false casting but little or no line will shoot.

Inappropriate timing of the release will, as previously discussed, hinder our “shoot”. Other culprits to watch out far are coils, knots or tangles in our fly line, a dirty fly line, lack of sufficient power, stopping the rod too late, loops which are too open and hence don't have the necessary forward energy to carry the shoot, ice accumulated on the guides, failure to pass the fly line through ALL the guides when “stringing up” the fly rod, use of fly line intended for cold water in extremely hot conditions causing the line coating to soften and use of fly line intended for the tropics in cold conditions causing the coating to stiffen to the point that it will not shoot. In addition to the above one final reason that the line will not shoot would be if it was wrapped around the rod, i.e., wrapped around the end of the handle, duh! All these conditions are easily avoided but easily overlooked as well. So the next time your line won't shoot, it may not be all in your technique as much as in your equipment.

Remember, now that you are shooting line and fishing more water and catching more fish to practice releasing the fish you won't eat for someone else to enjoy.


Advanced Skill No. 2 DISTANCE CASTING

If you are not really serious about fly fishing, don't read any more of this article. Honestly, this is not for the passer by, the guy or gal who is on the fence. Get real or get out of the game. In the paragraphs that follow, we will analyze the many facets of the cast which can be incorporated into making you shine as one of those people who can really punch it out there, hit it out of the park, has really done his/her homework.

Preface: Defining Distance Casting

Many of us like to think of ourselves as really proficient and accomplished casters if we can routinely cast 50, 60 or even 70ft. That's not bad, but how about distances in excess of 90ft. plus. Just how far is far? The answer is up to you and all in YOUR MIND. (We will not include Tournament Casting for Distance Techniques in an effort to keep this publication to under 100 pages. That should give you some relief.

Step One: The Mind Game

Casting for distance not only requires that you have the proper equipment and that you have read and put into practice techniques passed on to us by truly great casters, but, also, DEMANDS that you have the emotional fortitude to pick up that stick day after day, week after week, month after month for perhaps a year or more before it finally begins to come together. It's hard, emotional work, demanding discipline to get out there 4 or 5 times a week, patience to get through those months when only a few feet are gained, and sacrifice to work through the injuries or verbal jabs from those who just don't get it and belong anywhere but on the water. It's tough physical work and your wrist and elbows will scream for relief if you screw up and overdo it or insist on practicing bad habits. Is it worth it? Do you really mean it? If so read on.

Step Two: The Line

Every story has a beginning. This one begins with the line. It's one, in my opinion one of the most crucial elements of our work here. So many of the characteristics of fly lines today come into play in distance casting beginning with there cleanliness, length, taper, slickness, and stiffness, as well as there internal components.

Don't expect a dirty line to perform to the manufacturer's intention. Clean your line regularly. How often is regularly. Well, as often as it takes. The water you practice in has microscopic algae, among other small or minute suspended particles which adhere to the coating of the line impeding its' function. If your line is sinking and it's a floating line, that may be an indication that it needs cleaning. Take the time to clean and recondition the line. Personally, I clean my fly line every 3 rd time on the water. In this case you can't overdo a good thing or more frequently if conditions warrant it.

Regarding its' length, make sure your line is longer than the intended distance you intend to cast, unless, of course, you are using a shooting head (a topic for another day). Most lines designed for distance lines are at least 105 ft. which meets the requirements for this article.

As far taper, I desire a line which will allow us to false cast and carry as much line as I can. A head with a long taper such as in excess of 60 ft. would be advantageous. Considering that we should be able to shoot, at least 50% of what we carry, such a head may be the minimum to cast upwards of 90ft. or more. Remember that a short head will result with some degree of overhang limiting the amount of line we carry in the air while false casting and limiting the amount we will ultimately shoot. Some will argue that a double taper line is not a bad choice since you are not limited to the length of line you false cast. The disadvantage in this case is the amount of weight you are asking the rod to keep airborne as you false cast longer and longer lengths of line. Carrying 70 ft. of a 7wt. line is equivalent to false casting a 15 wt. line. (Every 5 ft. of line in excess of 30 ft. adds the equivalent of one weight to the fly line) Modern day rods are up to the challenge and routinely perform such duties with advanced casters using the proper technique.

A note of caution is warranted here. While carrying the maximum amount of line is advantageous in distance casting, find your sweet spot. You may be able to control 50 feet of line in the air comfortably and maximize your final shoot and cast to 90+ feet. Trying to carry 65 feet of line may be more than you can efficiently false cast with well controlled loops and ruin your chances at shooting to 90 ft. Control is the key here. Again, find your sweet spot.

Jim Teeny distance line is the Long Shot, available in line sizes 4 through 9. This weight-forward taper is a long-belly design, with seven feet of front taper that transitions into a 32-foot belly and a short rear taper, for a total head length of just over 40 feet. With this line, one should easily cast beyond 60ft and more. Want to cast farther, find a line with a longer head and/or develop and improve your skills. Just for comparison, Teeny's standard weight-forward line has a front taper of five feet, a belly of 25 feet and a rear taper of two feet, for a total head length of 32 feet.

Obviously, a slick line will slip through the guides far easier than a “not so slick” line. Today's manufacturers do a great job at imparting a slick coating to the exterior of their lines. Keep it clean to keep it slick. If the temperature is in excess of say 95degrees and you are using a cold/fresh water line, after a few hours in the sun the coating of the line may “wilt” and soften to the point that it will simply not shoot properly through the guides. With high temperatures at play, you may need to consider a tropical line which is stiffer and is made to withstand the high temps without wilting. They remain slick even after hours of sunlight and high temps. However, they will not perform as well in cold temps or cold water since they will become too stiff to shoot properly.

If the wind is a serious consideration, casting with a cold water line may not be the best choice. A warm/salt water line of equal delineation, say two 7 wt. lines, may be advantageous since it will inherently be of a slightly smaller diameter. Since salt water is more buoyant than fresh, line manufacturers design them with a slightly smaller diameter which will cast through the wind better than the thicker equivalent fresh water line. A sinking line of similar delineation, again a 7 wt. for example, will it, too, be of smaller diameter yet and slice through the wind like hot butter. I, recently, used a slow sink line to reach 70 ft. upwind to some specs which were hitting clousers only 2 ft. down. Try as I might, I could not reach them with the fresh or salt water floating fly lines. I had very little trouble with the fresh/cold water slow sink line which saved the day.

Fly lines have many chemical and physical components which make up their internal composition. Hydrophobic agents or tiny glass beads may added to help floating lines float. Tungsten may be incorporated in sinking lines. Sinking lines are generally cast with a slower tempo and open loops and are not generally thought of as lines used for long distance casting. Sun blocking agents may be added to prevent premature deteoriation from the sun. The outer layer of the line may be comprised of polyurethane or polyvinylchloride, PVC. The innermost layer may be a single strand of monofilament or some complex weave of multiple strands of mono or Kevlar or Dacron. While Kevlar and Dacron are used in the manufacture of shooting heads used in distance competition (mainly in Europe), this is beyond the scope of this discussion.

Step Three: The Rod

The trend today seems to be in building faster rods with the inherent nature to cast tighter loops and hence farther. While this may be true to a point, if a rod is so fast that you are unable to load it properly, then you may be better off with a slower rod which you can fully load with good technique ultimately casting farther. Recently, I was preparing for a tarpon trip and was evaluating Temple Forks 12 wt. TiCR and 12 wt. TiCRX series rods. My wife, Deb, and I were attending a fly casting conclave so I was able to borrow and cast the two rods with the same 12 wt. weight forward floating fly line. I consistently outcast the faster action TiCRX rod with the slower TiCR rod by 10 ft. simply because I was able to load it more. The stiffer and faster rod was just too much for me to load. Conclaves are a great place to see first -hand what the manufacturers have to offer. Take advantage of these wonderful opportunities. Companies like Temple Fork, Sage, and dozens of others are always willing to display and promote their wares.

Obviously, the longer a rod's length, the greater the leverage one has at his/her disposal and should be able to cast farther. The most common length used is 9 ft. and is adequate to casting 90 plus feet.

Step Four: The Reel

The reels only function in this case is to store the line, hence, use the lightest reel possible for the job. It will make practicing less tiresome on your rod hand. A lighter reel may, also, allow for a more abrupt stop creating tighter and more efficient loops. Splitting hairs here but we are scratching for every foot we can get.

Step Five: The Stance

Considering the fact that we will want to have a stance which will allow for maximum arc and stroke length, an open stance seems to make the most sense here. For a right handed caster, he/she would position the right foot to the rear allowing maximum movement and distance of the stroke and the widest arc possible. This, also, allows for maximum body sway back and forth and allows the caster to watch the line unroll behind to time the forward cast at just the perfect moment and plan the final shoot following that perfect back cast. This being said, there are those who cast very efficiently with a square stance incorporating maximum body lean and ultimately long efficient stroke lengths and the widest possible arcs. To each his/her own.

Step Six: The Grip

While a “thumb on top” grip provides us with a very powerful grip, there is an inherent disadvantage to this grip which I see on a regular basis with students who are attempting to cast farther and farther. As they begin to reach farther back to increase their stroke length, there is a tendency to twist the wrist at the very end of the stroke resulting in the top leg of the loop (the fly leg) to swing out of parallel. If you find this to be your nemesis as well, try a “V” grip. It's similar to griping a tennis racquet. While being a powerful grip, it, also, allows full extension on the back cast with little or no inherent twisting. The arm simply extends back laying the rod down with perfectly parallel loops allowing you to cast efficient tight loops.

Step Seven: The Pick up

You might initially think that the pick-up has little to do with distance casting. Think again. If you are in a situation where time is of the essence, a gentle yet powerful pick up with a well controlled back cast loop with a minimum of rod leg shock waves will allow you to shoot without any further false casting. The more back cast you make (the more false casting done) the more likely things will go awry and foul your chances at a great distance case. Performing a pick- up of say 50ft. with a well controlled back cast with minimum shock waves sets you up for shooting line on subsequent forward and back cast and making that 90+ cast with perhaps only two complete casting cycles. Practicing this distance casting pickup technique may well save the day on that 20lb. redfish you spot on your next salt water marsh trip.

Step Eight: Power Application

Correct power application, as partially discussed above, is critical from the initiation of the pick-up. In addition to the pick-up, performing each portion of the casting cycle, i.e., the back cast and the forward cast in a manner which incorporates a smooth acceleration will help to produce a straighter path of the rod tip (no tailing loops as a consequence of that dipping tip). This will, also, result in tighter more efficient loops and will, also, result in fewer, if any, shock waves throughout the rod leg of the loop.

Step Nine: The Stop

Much research and discussion has been given to the topic of the almighty “Stop”. Suffice it to say that until someone undisputedly proves otherwise, an abrupt stop will go further to producing a tighter loop than one which is not so abrupt. Tighter loops are essential in directing the direction of energy of the cast forward as opposed to open loops in which the energy is dissipated outwardly throughout the loop in an inefficient manner. If your loops aren't 6 in. or less, the distances we are considering will be nearly impossible to attain.

Step Ten: False Casting

There are many reasons to false cast. As beginning students you learned that you could use false casting to dry out a fly. Does this mean you don't false cast when wet fly fishing? False casting can, also, be incorporated in changing the direction of our cast, or used to shoot or take in line, to help line up our trajectory until it is just right. It can be used to make sure we have just the right amount of overhang if need be. If using a DT (double tapered line) you won't experience overhang. It can, also, be used to make sure we wait until the perfect back cast is made before we shoot with our final presentation cast.

We've actually touched on several reasons to false cast which are important in distance casting. When carrying a great deal of line (greater than 60 ft.), it is a good idea to aim the back cast at a slight elevation. Since it takes a few seconds for the loop to unroll that distance, gravity tends exert its' effect in a noticeable way and the whole line begins to drop. We don't want to hit the ground behind us so we have to elevate that back cast somewhat. While we may be elevating the back cast slightly, it will drop some and nearly approach hitting the ground behind us. We are going to elevate the forward cast as well so this will, also, help us stay in agreement with the 180degree rule where the lineup of the back cast and the forward cast forms a straight line.

Should we be carrying more line in the air than the head thus creating overhang, we don't want that overhang to be greater than we can manage. For some of us this may be only 3 ft. For the best of casters it may be 10ft. Experiment with different lengths of overhang and see what length works best for you.

False casting until the perfect loop is attained (6inches or less) with the proper trajectory, no slack in the back cast, few or no shockwaves in the rod leg and you are set up for the perfect foreplay. Without it you won't get to 2 nd . Well, you get the picture. Now that everything is lined up perfectly in the rear, do we let that final presentation cast fly. I can hear the fireworks now. No. Not without some further discussion.

Step Eleven: Stroke Length

The is a saying that goes like this. “Short line, short stroke length. Long line, long stroke length.” Since we are going for extreme distances we will then be carrying somewhat long lengths of line, demanding that we use the longest stroke lengths possible for producing maximum speeds and straight lines paths of the rod tip. Cutting back on stroke lengths now would increase our chance of producing tailing loops.

Step Twelve: Arc

Just as in stroke length, the same saying applies. “Short line, narrow arc. Long line, wide arc.” This is important to maximize the speed of the line and maintain that straight line path. Without these wide arcs, you flirt with throwing those tails. Pick up your rod and prove it to yourself. False cast 40 feet of line with perfect loops. Now cut back on your arc. What happens? It doesn't take much of a reduction to see those tails beginning to form.

Step Thirteen: The Haul

Two of the most important prerequisites to throwing maximum distances, is SPEED and TIGHT LOOPS. Considering speed, it's obvious we can generate only so much power/speed with the use of our rod arm. I encourage you to first maximize your use of your rod arm. Only once you have obtained the maximum amount of power/speed and control using your rod arm ONLY should you then proceed to the next step which is the use of your line arm to incorporate a haul. Should you introduce the haul prior to this, you only mask some potential problems in your casting and never attain your full potential.

The use of the haul is crucial to obtaining maximum distances and allows us approach distances unattainable before its' introduction. I report to you a brief history of the haul as it was relayed to me by my good friend and Master instructor Eric Scherer of California.

“The first documented description of the double haul known was at the 1934 American Casting Association national tournament in St. Louis Missouri. A Portland Oregon man, Marvin K. Hedge, won the fly rod distance event using a technique that was unknown to the other casters. This was the double haul. At that time the average of the three best of five casts was used to determine the winner and Marvin Hedge averaged 136 5/6 feet with a long cast of 147. As were many of the prominent casters of that era, Marvin Hedge was a tackle rep. The longest winning average before that had been 121 2/3 feet in 1928 and the longest long cast had been 124 in 1931 so it seems that the double haul provided an edge but not a huge edge. However, in following years this changed. By 1937 an average of 176 2/3 with a long cast of 183 was recorded in the national championships. One thing to remember is that these were outdoor contests with the wind helping so some differences could be traced to a brisk favoring wind.

Also, these were bamboo rod figures. In the 1997 nationals the men's event was won by Steve Rajeff with a 182 and the women's with a 137 by Alice Gillibert, which was also a new women's record. Biggest change of course has been the graphite rod. The rod for this event is now 9 feet long versus 9'6" in the thirties. We also have nylon running line now. However, the double haul is still the same and still the name of the distance game.

Marvin Hedge was the first to bring the double haul before the world in the 1934 Nationals, in August at St. Louis. However he had demonstrated and taught the haul to members of the Golden Gate Club in the summer of 1934 during a week's stay there. He received two pairs of  shoes from a member who had a shoe store as his honorarium. Herman Hittenberger, who began competitive casting with his father Carl in the early thirties and was the all accuracy champion at the 1936 Nationals, recalls that there were casters using the haul on the back cast and casters using the haul on the forecast but that he never knew of anyone using the double haul until Marvin Hedge showed it to the Golden Gate club in 1934. Herman remembers that Jules Cuinan, who won the American all around championship in 1931, used the haul on forward casts but not a double haul. And Jim Green, who spent the summer of 1937 traveling with Marvin Hedge to European casting competitions and won some of them, recalls that Marvin Hedge recounted that he first saw the double haul being used by a fisherman on a river. Jack Sparks, a casting champion and journalist of the pre war era, has mentioned that the haul was used as early as 1922 in the San Francisco area.

It was many years before casting instructors began including the haul in their dissertations. Field and Stream magazine published a 1941 manual, for beginning and expert casters with no mention of the haul seven years after it had revolutionized casting.”

Step Fourteen: Rod Bend

Without the maximum amount of rod bend, we aren't fully loading the rod and getting the maximum output from our equipment. The incorporation of the longest stroke length with the widest arc with the most amount of power/speed all work towards producing maximum rod bend. Think like a marine and be all that you can be. Load that rod to the peak of your ability. With maximum rod bend we get maximum output of the rods' performance.

Step Fifteen: Straight Line Path (SLP) of the Rod Tip

So let's review and sum up what we have accomplished thus far. We've managed our most controlled and ideal back cast incorporating the best loop shape we are able to create with the trajectory of the line now almost hitting the ground behind us. The back cast is perfect and while we shot line, it is now taunt and without shock waves. Ready for the forward cast, we recognize we have to max out our speed by incorporating the widest arc, longest stroke length and best timed haul possible. We direct our forward cast with a slight elevation and achieve maximum rod bend. I should mention here that as we perform the cast we “throw” our whole body into the forward motion of the cast thrusting and reaching as far forward as our “body sway” will allow. All these maneuvers on the forward cast are to produce the straightest line path of the rod tip possible resulting in the tightest and fastest moving loop attainable because remember, we are after SPEED AND TIGHT loops. Congratulations, you've reached your mark.

For further details consider joining us at one of our clinics or for a private session. Call at (337)344-0908 or e-mail at

Recommended readings:

Joan Wulff's “Fly-Casting Accuracy”

Lefty Kreh's “Ultimate Guide to Fly Fishing”

Joan Wulff's “Fly Casting Techniques”

Al Kyte's “Guide to Better Fly Casting”

Kreh's “Casting with Lefty Kreh”

Some Thoughts on Improving Accuracy

When you attempt to improve your accuracy when fly casting at any distance, you first have to come to grips and identify what in your casting isn’t working.   Perhaps it’s something you aren’t aware of in the first place.  This is probably one of the most common problems.  Of course, in that case you should have some outsider who can help analyze your cast.  But how do you know you need help if you don’t know what is wrong with your casting?  You need help if you aren’t as good as you want to be!  If this is the case, then Welcome to the club.   Read on if you want to help yourself self-diagnose your casting maladies which are affecting you hitting your target.

There are so many scenarios that present themselves, it would be impossible for me to cover them all; however, this should get you started in the right direction.

First, analyze the layout of your final forward cast (what we casting geeks call the presentation cast).  If it lies straight on the lawn or water, you are on the right tract.  If it kicks to the left (and you are casting horizontally and right-handed), then you are possibly twisting your wrist at the end of the cast (near the position when you stop the forward motion of the cast).  That is often the case when you try to overpower your final cast.  Soften the presentation cast and that left hook should then disappear.  If you need that extra power, the following cure should help.  Another reason for that left hook is casting less than vertical.  This imparts a natural left hook unless you do something to correct for this.   You want to adjust for this by turning your wrist slightly over to the left just milliseconds prior to the end of the cast.  If you turn too much it will cause your fly leg to kick to the left while in the air affecting accuracy and distance.  Layout may be with the fly leg lying on the left side of the target or kicking to the right side if the rotation had enough power.  Adjust your twist to get a straight lay out.

Now that we have a straight lay out, let’s look at another issue.  If the cast is too short or too long, you could benefit from learning to ”hover” the fly.  You are attempting to get the fly to hang a few feet over and/or short of the intended target.   The fly hangs just long enough for you to see where it is in reference to the target.  More on this later.

Accuracy on the water is different than accuracy on the practice lawn.  We are generally more relaxed and casting is more fluid when practicing.  When we are casting to a fish, our knees get weak and perhaps our whole body gets to shaking.  If this is you, then, again, Welcome to the club.  I will say that the more common cause is the failure to practice with the lures you plan to fish with.  Cut off the bend of the hook and spend time casting with it.  Chances are your loops will need to be wider and more fluid (that is casting a bit slower or softer with just a little less speed).  Practice seeing just how tight you can get those loops without the possibility of hitting your rod with the lure or your head with the lure.  The best of casters throwing yarn flies have to adjust to casting a heavier lure.  Belgium cast helps with heavier lures.

Often times the cause of bad casting accuracy is changing the way we cast when fishing compared to practice.  When facing windy condition, moving fish, a guide behind us barking orders, we change from casting with good form to perhaps casting to targets too far for our potential or, perhaps, Belgium, casting.  While helping us contend with the obstacle in the rear of the boat or the wind, it is not the most efficient and accurate of cast.  It is, however, widely use.  If you do this, Welcome to the club, once more.  Once more, practice this cast to see for yourself what your loop shape limitations are with various lures and what distance limitations are. 

Something I think which is widely overlooked, is practicing the cast you KNOW you routinely use when fishing.  Too often, we practice casts not normally used when fishing.  Practicing the basics is one thing, but they are just stepping stones to what we need to be burning up the turf with. 

In most cases, in order to cast accurately, we have to have a straight lay out of our cast.  Some cases dictate otherwise, but these are the exceptions.  They need to be practiced as well.  For example, if you want to cast around a corner, around a stump, in front of a fish facing away from you without lining him, you need to practice a curve cast.  That’s another story.  

Getting back to the norm, let’s review.  We need a straight layout.  We have discussed what is referred to as tracking in para. 3 above.    Appropriate tracking occurs when the fly leg is in the same plane as the rod leg and results in a desired layout of the fly line and leader.   Check. We need to accurately estimate distance.   Hovering helps us with that.  Check.  That’s fine for 45 ft. + or - but how about, 50ft. plus.  We may not be able to hover a fly at those distances.  Tight loops, high line speeds and the ability to accurately shoot line to the target is the game here.  We will now go into a practice drill to help with loops and increasing line speed.

Begin by false casting the length of line you can control with tight loops (loops under 2 ft.).  This will probably be around 45 ft.  False cast slowly using a haul.  Now increase the speed of the false casting.  You will have to haul faster, haul longer distances and cast faster so pauses between casts are of shorter duration.  Your arc and stroke length will have to widen and lengthen as well.  You know you are getting too aggressive and out of control when the loops are not tight anymore and probably beginning to throw tails.  At that point stop and try to see where you went wrong.  Timing of the haul is the probable culprit.  Troubleshooting here is most difficult but necessary.  Timing of the haul and length of haul is critical.  Once you master throwing tight loops faster and faster at that distance with great control (no tails), you can then add 1 ft. and repeat.  Add a foot every 3 days or so.  You need to truly master each foot of line.  Soon you will be false casting 1 ft. loops at high line speeds and shooting greater distance than ever.  Only by practicing shooting to targets at those extreme distances will get you the accuracy you are striving for.  No shortcuts.  Sorry.  Welcome to the club.

Some additional thoughts on the subject of accuracy:   Other factors which may affect the final outcome of the cast include your grip, stance, leader design, looking at your back cast, fly line taper and the trajectory of your back cast.  Will discuss them shortly. 

First the technique of “hovering”.   The purpose of hovering is to get an idea of where your lure is in relation to your target.  To begin learning the skill, I would suggest a large fluffy yarn and approximate leader length of 8ft. with a tippet size of approx.  8 lb. test and 2 feet long.  This will allow the loop to turn over without a dramatic kick but turn over and hang in midair for the micro second it takes to see where it is prior to the back cast.  Start off by casting to a target approximately  30 ft. away.  Casting relatively slow and loop shapes about 2 ft. wide,  making your forward stop at approx. 10 o’clock pausing just long enough for your loop to turn over and see where the fly is in relation to the target.  Be sure to use a fly color which you can easily see in the light conditions which you are casting in.  Chartreuse or white works well in low light conditions.  Ideally you would hover it a foot or so above and/or in front of the target.  As you improve, your cast speed can increase with tighter loops.  You can begin using smaller yarn flies as well.   You will reach a maximum distance of approx. 45 ft. effectively hovering.  Once you master the skill, revert to casting a real lure with leaders you use when fishing to see how far you can effectively hover.   When fishing you will want to make as few cast as possible, obviously, before the presentation cast.  You may, also, consider casting to the side of the fish so as not to spoke it.  Pick a target off to the side at the same distance as the fish false casting to it.  When satisfied with the distance, turn and cast to the fish.  You will notice that when you lay the fly down it may land farther out than it was when hovering.  If you hold the rod at the position of stop when hovering it should fall relatively straight down, however , if you follow through and lay the rod down as you normally do when casting to fish, the fly will land 2 or more feet away passing up the target.  Adjust where you hover and how you follow through to compensate for this.

Holding the rod in what is called a “V” grip for distances greater than 50 ft. is recommended.    It helps to keep your loops on track thus helping to  eliminate the legs going out of parallel at long distances.   At distances less than that, it is, also, fine but you may consider a thumb on top. Thumb on top is a powerful cast and assists you with accuracy by actually pointing your thumb in the direction of the target.   If your tracking is OK and your loop shapes are satisfactory and the legs are in the same plane, don’t change a thing.

How you are standing on the bow of the boat will affect your accuracy.  Square stance is fine for close in casting.  As your distances increase, to allow for longer stroke lengths, a right hander should move the right foot back only so far as to allow you to make longer stroke lengths and keep your balance.  This could, also, assist you in keeping from rocking the boat, affecting accuracy, and avoiding spooking the fish.  True, there are some long distance casters who cast with a square stance, however.  It may be something to try if the other doesn’t work out for you.  It’s more for horizontal casting, however, not the side arm casting generally used for salt water fishing under windy conditions.

As to the leader design, I am guessing that you usually go with the leader the guide recommends, or perhaps, you tie or design your own.  Whatever the case, you want a leader which turns over with minimum kick at the end of the cast.  Heavy lures are difficult to tame, however, and you have to adjust the leader accordingly.  We have a 45 min. class just to discuss leader designs at our school so there are lot of factors to consider.  Also, you want a leader for your purposes, that will turn over completely and not fall in a heap or die as the loop reaches the end of the leader.  Again, adjust your leader and /or tippet length per the needs of your fly size and your purpose of casting.

Looking at your back cast can cause a few problems with accuracy.  While I recommend looking at the back cast while practicing, it should be left there in most cases.  Looking at the back cast when done properly is fine, however, can lead to unparallel loop legs (bad tracking) and poor trajectory, not to mention losing sight of the fish.

Understanding fly line tapers is critical to casting accurately, especially at distances past the length of the head of the fly line.  You should know the length of the head of the fly line you are using.  Try to sense and FEEL the taper change as you shoot the head through the rod tip while false casting.  Once you past the head out of the rod tip, you risk hinging which rapidly destroys your control of the loop.  Expert casters may be able to false cast with up to 10 ft. or so of “overhang” for one or 2 cast before the presentation cast.    Overhang  is the length of line out of the rod tip between the tip and the head.  If you keep this length shorter than 3 ft. or so you should be fine.  Experiment with different lengths of overhang and see where you start losing control of your loop.  Sometimes it is better to cast shorter lengths of line and shoot more during the presentation cast than trying to false cast with too much overhang.   If you feel this is a problem, try lines with longer head lengths.  FYI, I have been involved with designing a line for 7 wt. rods with a 54 ft. head.  With a 10 ft. leader and 9 ft. rod you could cast 73 ft. with no overhang.  The lines should be available by the end of January 2015 for sale.

One final word on accuracy:  The back cast should be 180 degrees from the forward cast. (180 degrees in relation to the direction of the cast and in relation to the distance of the target.)    The closer the target, the higher the trajectory of the back cast.  If this is not followed, accuracy will suffer.   For a target 30 ft. away the back cast should be thrown rearward to about 10 o’clock as opposed to parallel to the ground as when trying to cast to a target at 60ft.   For distances beyond 60ft. or so, there are other factors to consider.   In that case, one may throw the back cast at 2:00 position to allow for the 70ft. back cast to fully unroll and end up due to gravity just above the ground.  This will allow you to make the forward cast 180 degrees from it throwing the front loop to approx. the 10:00 position.  These are  approximate, but you get the idea.  Now join the club and get out and practice.


Keith Richard, MCI