Vol 7 No. 41 - July 4, 2007

The secret to successful fly fishing

Reel TIme


A well-formed fly cast is a work of art.

By Rusty Chinnis
sun staff writer

Fly fishing, like any other form of angling, requires a certain level of commitment to guarantee success. In 28 years of chasing various species in local waters, I’ve found that the knowledge I’ve acquired, and the practice I’ve committed to has been vital to fooling fish on the fly. It seems that every year the fish get smarter and harder to approach. That, of course, has something to do with the increase of fishing pressure on local waters. I’ve even adopted a good friend’s saying when people inquire about the fishing. My response is, "Fishing is great, but the catching varies."

One thing will always remain true. The anglers that pay attention to their surroundings and hone their technique will have better success day in and day out. This particularly applies to fly casting. Finding the fish is just the first part of the equation. I know many guides that tell the same frustrating story of putting clients on fish and then realizing that they haven’t developed the skills to get the fly to the fish.

I learned the fundamentals of fly casting when I studied for my Federation of Fly Fishers casting certification course. While a well presented fly is often refused by a fish, at least you have a chance when you can get the offering in front of it. By learning and practicing the following fundamentals, you’ll increase your odds when it comes to catching, and you’ll learn to enjoy the process even when the fish don’t cooperate.

It’s critical to develop an understanding of the physics that are involved, but practicing them will translate into the muscle memory and timing that’s ultimately required. I assure you that the time you spend mastering the following fundamentals will be well worth the effort:

1. There must be a pause at the end of each casting stroke, which varies in duration with the amount of line beyond the rod tip. This allows the line to unroll and load the rod for the next cast. Often referred to as timing it’s critical that the line doesn’t begin to descend towards the ground.

2. Slack line should be kept to an absolute minimum in the casting stroke. Slack line prevents the rod from loading and applying power to the cast. Common mistakes include:

• Not anchoring the line against the rod or with the rod hand;
• Movement of the line by outside forces like wind and water;
• Starting the cast too high;
• Rough, jerky application of power;
• Poor timing between the forward and backward cast.

Of these, the most common comes from starting with the rod too high, which forms a belly in the line between the rod tip and the water. To prevent this, start with the rod tip pointing at the water.

3. In order to form the most efficient, least air-resistant loops, and to direct the energy of the cast toward the target, the caster must move the tip in a straight line.

4. The size of the casting arc (stroke) must vary with the length of line past the rod tip. If you are making a short cast there is only a small amount of line needed (which only weighs a small amount) and only a small casting arc is necessary to load the rod in a straight line for a cast. As the length of line increases, the stroke must be increased to load the rod.

Remember: short cast, short stroke; long cast, long stroke.

5. Power must be applied in the proper amount at the proper place in the stroke. In general, the power is applied slowly at first, gradually increasing to a peak at the end of the stroke. There should be a crisp stop at the end of the stroke, forcing the rod to come out of its bend. This is commonly referred to as the speed-up and stop. I think it is best described as a smooth acceleration to a fast stop.

The old saying, "Practice makes perfect," may be a bit optimistic when it comes to fly casting, but there is no doubt that practicing the fundamentals will improve your enjoyment of fly fishing and your odds of catching fish on a regular basis.

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