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Casting 101

At some point during your fly fishing career, you will be in the market to purchase a fly rod. When buying a new fly rod there are a few questions that need to be asked during the selection process. Where do you plan on fishing with this rod? Are you fishing on Gore Creek or are you traveling to the Florida Keys to hook up on a Tarpon? These are two completely different situations that require two completely different rods. How often do you plan on fishing? Are you a weekend warrior or are you going on a two month trek from Georgia to Maine along the Appalachian Trail?What is your price range? It cannot hurt to have an idea about how much money you want to invest because the price range varies extensively, from $50 up to $1,200 and then some.All of these situations will affect your final choice, but before you decide, you should have your casting stroke evaluated by a professional. To be able to compare a few different rods and see what works best for you is the simplest way to get the right rod.Once the rod has been purchased you have to learn the proper techniques to become an efficient and effective fly caster. I have taken information from my teaching background, simplified and shortened it into a tight little package that hopefully all can relate to and understand. Fly casting is not an art, but a simple mechanical process involving leverage and angles. Every cast is different and before you make each cast you have to ask yourself, “What do I want? Do you want the line to go straight or curve? Do you want a narrow or an open loop?” Every motion with the caster’s hand or arm will be transferred to the line via the rod. The line takes every motion of the caster and magnifies it to a point where it can be managed and read. The ability to understand the cast by way of the line is a talent that is achievable yet complicated. Action A produces result A and action B produces result B. This is what we strive to understand and when you do you will know what exactly you must work on and what needs to be done to improve your casting. Driving or putting in golf, serving or lobbing in tennis are all understood to be different applications of basic principles. No two golf shots are the same. Therefore, the golfer’s motions must change slightly in order to conform to the constant principles at work in every swing. The golfer first decides what result he wants, and then applies those constants in different ways to achieve those results. So, it should be with fly casting. A fly rod can do only one thing on its own and that is to straighten. In order to cast a fly rod we must make the rod do something it can’t do by itself, bend or load. Once you understand the bending-straightening process you can understand what you must do to make things happen. I have put together four main principles relating to this process that I feel all casters need to have in place for the cast to work effectively and efficiently.– Before you can bend or load the rod, you must have line tension against the tip of the rod so that when you move the rod, the weight of the line will hold the tip back, causing the rod to bend. This can be achieved by taking up any slack line either by reeling it in or by stripping the excess line in with your stripping hand.– Once the slack is gone and the line is tight against the tip, the only way to load the rod is to move the casting hand always with increasing speed throughout the stroke from the first movement, slowest at the start, fastest at the completion. The faster the acceleration and stop of the casters hand, the tighter the loop will be. This is how every cast is made. Simply put, speeding up the hand loads the rod, and stopping it allows the rod to unload.– The line can only go in the direction the tip is moving when the rod straightens. In each cast, your target, hence the direction and angle of elevation may vary. Determine first whether you want the line to go downward, straight ahead, or upward at the completion of the cast. Where the rod stops is not nearly as important as the direction the tip is traveling when it stops.– The longer the casting stroke the easier the stroke. If you want the rod to do more work and you less, make the stroke longer. The shorter the stroke, the harder you work. The longer lever, moving through a longer distance, gives way to a greater mechanical advantage.Remember that distance is a completely relative term when it comes to fly casting. The weight of the fly, wind, obstructions overhead or to the rear, and other factors all have to be taken into account.You do not have to keep your hand only in one position. You do not have to keep you elbow to your side. You do not have to only allow your rod to travel between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. Breaking the wrist during the cast is a horrible habit, but sometimes we all break our wrists while casting. These common conceptions are only guide lines to assist us, hopefully disposing common bad habits before they set in. The four points that I listed above though are things that I feel are not guide lines but basic principles that you must put in place and apply every time you cast or fish. Never hesitate to ask any qualified shop personnel to assist you in the rod selection process, to evaluate your casting stroke, or just to pick their brain about how to execute each cast as efficiently and effectively as possible.Mark Sasi is a guide for Gorsuch Outfitters. He can be reached at 926-0900.


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