When you attempt to improve your accuracy when fly casting 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 track. 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. The layout may be with the fly leg lying on the left side of the target kicking to the right side if the rotation had enough power. Adjust your twist to get a straight layout.Now that we have a straight layout, 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 end of the hook and spend time casting with it. Chances are your loop 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 casts. It is, however, widespread use. If you do this, Welcome to the club.
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 layout 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 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. The timing of the haul is the probable culprit. Troubleshooting here is most difficult but necessary. The 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 microsecond 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 a few casts 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're 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 sidearm casting generally used for saltwater 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 a 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 45 min. the class just to discuss leader designs at our school so there are a 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 backcast 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 cast 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 passed 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 January2015for sale. One final word on accuracy: The backcast should be 180degrees 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 backcast at 2:00position to allow for the 70ft. backcast 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