Learning to Cast a Fly
The use of the rod in casting can best be learned at the stream-side as distinguished from the library.
Any old hand can very quickly show you how much you know in regard to this —that is, if you are willing to learn. But be careful about choosing your tutor. Not every man who wears a halo of gaudy trout flies on his hat-band is a fly-fisherman; in fact, very few of them are. Pretty nearly every man who ever caught a trout "knows all about fly-fishing" but, strangely enough, prefers to use bait; or, quite possibly, in fact rather more possibly, uses bait and, for exclusively conversational purposes, prefers to use flies. Needless to say, this sort of fly-fisherman will not make a very profitable or efficient coach. In a way it is a simple matter, casting a fly; but it's one of the things which are well worth while doing “right "— and that is not so simple.
In default of personal coaching, however, the following suggestions concerning how to cast with the fly rod may be of advantage. Fly-casting is a matter of two motions, the back cast and the forward cast. It is also a matter of the wrist — not a straight-arm shoulder-swing — and that brings us to the first essential advice. The proper way to hold the rod is to have the thumb extended along the upper surface of the hand grasp and not bent around it. If you hold the rod in this way it will help getting your wrist into the cast. Another thing, mentioned later, also, in connection with the single-action reel: Have the reel on the underside of the rod (and keep it there) with the handle to the right.
To make the back cast, using to start your practice about fifteen feet of line, the rod is swung smartly backward, overhead, to a position just a little beyond the perpendicular. The line must be thrown well up into the air so that it will not strike the ground or water behind the caster. To make sure of this the rod must never be allowed to go very far back. If, as advised, you stop the rod when it is slightly beyond the perpendicular the momentum of the back-swing and bend of the rod will carry it to the right position. A high back cast is essential to good fly-casting. Keep your elbow low and not too far from the body — not so close as to cramp the arm and make the motion awkward — and try to make the rod do the work. That is what a fly-rod is for. The rod will do the work if you get sufficient bend, or action, into it. It will not do the work if you cast at arm's length. To get rod action you must use your wrist.
Start the forward cast when the line first appreciably begins to pull on the rod from the rear, and bring the rod forward and down to a position a little above parallel with the water. The back cast should be started rather forcefully; the forward cast should start easily and finish strongly. When fishing do not delay the back cast too long—until the flies are at your feet. At first no attempt to gain distance should be made. Reasonable distance comes naturally with increased skill in casting without special effort in that direction. Accuracy, rather, is the practical fishing essential; and try to lay down a light fly.
As soon as possible learn to handle the line in the left hand; the longer you delay this the harder it is to learn. This method is employed by the majority of experienced fly-fishermen and has numerous advantages. Briefly, the line should be held in the left hand, grasping it between the reel and first guide, thus controlling at all times the rendition and recovery of the line. There should always be a little slack line off the reel for the left hand to work on. When you have progressed with your casting you will learn to shoot out this slack line through the rod guides at the finish of the forward cast, thus adding a number of feet to the cast. Also it is possible to play a trout in this two-handed manner with much more finesse than from the reel. The left hand feels, even anticipates, every movement of the fish, and the trout is never too roughly handled.
The cast here described is the overhead. There are other advantageous fishing casts such as the side or underhanded cast, the backhanded cast, the spey cast and others. These are mostly variations of the overhanded cast, fundamentally the same and descriptions of them may be found elsewhere.
Camp, Samuel Granger. Fishing Kits and Equipment,. New York: Outing Pub., 1910. Print.
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