Fly Fishing – Introduction
Fly-fishing is a very unique way of fishing. Unlike bait or spin fishing, casting a fly uses the weight of the fly line to make the cast, whereas, bait and spin fishing relies on the weight attached to your line or the baits themselves for casting. Therefore, a different set of skills is required just for casting.
Fly-fishing, regarding the fly or bait end of the line, is broken down into classes, as well. To keep it simple for this writing, an angler can fish the bottom of the stream using nymphs or streamers, the water column, using streamers or wet flies, or the surface using dry flies. So in “general terms”, dry flies for the surface, streamers, and nymphs for the bottom or under the surface, and terrestrials, which are insects like ants, beetles, spiders, to mention a few, and can be fished surface or subsurface, depending.
One thing about fly-fishing, which is part of the adventure, is gaining an understanding of aquatic life. The life cycle of insects and the knowledge dictates what to choose to place on the end of your line. The old saying among fly-fisherman is always “matching the hatch”. This means that as insects develop from the larvae stage to adult stage, each change offers trout different food selections. Trout hone in on certain insects at certain times and if the angler can choose from his collection, a fly that “matches”, he greatly increases his catch ratio.
Fly tying then becomes the next step to fly-fishing. Making your own flies is a lot of fun and learning how to do it gives you an endless supply of flies to cast. There are good books, videos and even
The Breakdown of Fly Casting
As simple as this may sound, in order to catch fish, one must get their fly out to where the fish are. Fly-casting, that is, placing a fly into or onto the water, is very different than all other forms of casting. Unlike having weight to pull your line off a real, fly line is the weight that propels your fly to its location. Developing the technique or skills to deliver your fly is what fly-casting is all about.
I would be the first to tell you that many guys catch trout on fly rods and do so with the clumsiest of Fly-casting techniques and with poorest approach and presentation there is. In many ways, the beauty of fly-fishing is, if you’re catching trout perfect! But to trout fish with increased odds to your favor, developing a good technique of casting is really a must. So let’s take a general look at fly-casting.
I need to pause here for a second and have you picture in your mind an important aspect and that is the word – load. To cast a line requires energy and the transfer of that “energy” down the line. We refer to this energy as “load”. To illustrate what I mean, imagine a rubber band sitting on a table. A rubber band sitting on the table does just that, sits there. But if one pulls on it, the stretch of the band builds load. Let go of one end and the “energy” of the stretch snaps it back towards the other end. Now, don’t be offended by my elementary or wrongly worded approach to explaining this but instead, bare with me and understand, when a fly rod lifts the line off the water, as the tip of the rod bends slightly under the weight of the line, it is building “load”. The more pull on the rod or “loading”, the more energy is being “loaded” to the line. With this in mind, let’s move on.
The act of fly-casting can be broken down into several component parts, elimination of slack line, acceleration, efficient loop formation, casting stroke and pause. These make up the components of a cast. Let’s examine each of these and look at what they mean and do.
» Elimination of slack line. Slack elimination is the most efficient way to cast a fly line. To begin each cast having a straight line from rod tip to fly eliminates the slack and allows the rod to load properly, otherwise, the casting stroke will have a portion of the stroke wasted by having to remove the slack.
» Acceleration. Acceleration is really the function of the hand on the rod and the ability to load or bend against the resistance of the fly line. As the rod hand goes into motion it accelerates in speed until the rod reaches a perpendicular position to the target. The hand speed then increases in speed from this point and ends with a short abrupt stop. Most of the acceleration actually happens near the end of the stroke.
» Efficient loop formation. The rod tip creates loops in the line when casting and the caster generally creates, for the most part, four loop shapes when casting.
1. A “straight-line path” to the target, when done properly, will make a narrow loop and an accurate placement of the fly onto the water will follow. The top portion and the bottom portion of the loop should have a separation of about 20” with the top of the loop traveling directly overhead of the bottom portion during the cast. The narrow loop has a better wind penetration capability as well.
2. The second path is called a Convex path. In this case the rod travels in a large upward arc instead of a straight line. This widens the loop and decreases wind resistance. The end result is a loss or compromise of accuracy.
3. The third path the rod tip travels is called a Concave path. This path is created when the rod tip travels in a downward arc forming a closed or tailing loop. The tailing loop compromises a full turnover of the loop and therefore also compromises accurate fly placement. Often too, what are known as wind knots are made in your line. Wind knot are literally little knots that appear in your leader (line) from the line’s ability to, in a sense, pass through itself to form the knot.
4. The fourth path is the Lateral path of the rod tip. This move of the rod tip is swinging out to the right or left instead of moving in a straight target plane. It’s often referred to as the “swinging loop”. In other words, the top of the loop is out farther left or right of the bottom loop. To put it plainly, it’s a casting fault that creates this loop.
» Casting Stroke. The length of the line being cast determines casting stroke. It stands to reason that a shorter cast is made with a shorter stroke as is a longer cast is made with a longer stroke. The weight of the fly line is distributed over its length of course, so a shorter line will weigh less than a longer line. Proportionally so, the load and rod bend will be less or more depending on line length. The key to forming a good loop, in this case, is matching the casting stroke to the amount of tip bend to maintain the proper straight-line path.
» Pause. Pause is also referred to as timing. Pause takes place as one moves his hand from front to back and front again. The timing evolved is letting the loop straighten before beginning the next stroke. This loop straighten is “loading” the rod. If the timing is off, the loading does not occur properly and slack develops in the line allowing the line to fall towards the ground. Pause is the key, to good casting.
I know what you may think after reading the above, what crazy scientist came up with all of that technical mumbo. But if you think about it in simple terms, where ever the tip of the rod goes the line must follow. The act of casting takes practice and after time it becomes easier and smoother. Every good caster develops a rhythm to his or her cast. I once had a guy say to me that he casts his fly rod in a manner the same as throwing a dart. He pushes his rod forward rather than the typical attempts to flick your wrist. His explanation was very helpful. As you continue to learn to cast you’ll see how each of the above loop descriptions will take place and noticing them will help you develop your style and skill level.
The last thing I want you to remember about all this is no matter how bad you may be at casting a fly line, once the fly is on the water and presents itself just right to the trout, chances are good he’ll take it. But the better you get at casting, the fewer trees you end up in, the fewer tangles you’ll have, and you’ll spend more time fishing and catching. The above information is here to help you become a better fly fisherman by getting a better understanding of, in this case, the cast. So use this information to help, but don’t get so serious that the fun goes away. If it isn’t fun well, it ain’t fun!