One of the most important skills a fly angler needs to learn to how to cast a fly rod. You have to be able to cast accurately if you want to catch fish and generally improve as an angler. So here’s our Fly Fisher Pro guide on how to cast a fly rod effectively when fly fishing!
Casting takes lots of time, practice, and patience to get right. But once you do, you’ll be so glad you spent the time mastering your casts!
From basic to more complicated techniques, we’ll cover it all. With our helpful tips, you’ll learn to tell your roll cast from your overhead cast, and how to improve it and get that perfect loop and trajectory!
Why You Need to Master Fly Casting
You might be wondering why it’s so essential to master fly casting. Can’t you just get by, even if your cast isn’t perfect? Well unfortunately, the honest answer is no! You need to be a good fly caster first to become a great fly angler all round.
When it comes to fly fishing, your fly patterns have very little weight. Unlike fishing with common types of fishing lures and bobbers, you don’t have the weight to get your fly to the water. You’re reliant on casting correctly so that your fly line pulls your fly down to the water in just the right spot.
When you can get the hang of the basics of casting, including good form and reasonable accuracy, you’ll see an immediate difference in your fishing experience. These techniques are vital so that you can get your fly to the fish, achieve a natural presentation, and catch lots of fish!
How To Cast A Fly Rod (Step-by-Step)
So let’s get onto how to cast a fly rod and learn the basics of fly casting. First of all, it’s worth investing in some casting lessons with experienced guides who can walk you through the basic techniques. You’ll get a considerable head start on casting properly, and your guide should be able to iron out any difficulties you’re having.
But don’t worry if your budget can’t stretch to fly casting lessons right now. We’ve got all the tips you need to become an expert caster!
The two most common that you need to know are the overhead and the roll cast. Only after you’ve got these basic casts under your belt should you try moving onto more complicated techniques.
The basic elements of an overhead cast are that your rod needs first to bend, to travel in a straight line, and then pop to a stop. When your rod bends (also known as loading), you generate lots of energy that is stored within the rod and released then the rod stops abruptly. This creates enough power to throw your fly out into the air and land where you want it on the water.
So for an overhead cast, you need to load your rod and then bring it to a stop on the backward cast. Follow this immediately with a smooth acceleration and then a stop on the forward cast, launching your fly through the air and into the water.
You need to keep your rod straight without arching it too much, or your fly will hit the water too soon rather than moving through the air first. Take care not to swing your arm too far backward either, as you will wear yourself out and your fly is more likely to land on the water behind you.
This is ideal when you have very little space and you can’t do a regular overhead cast. Here’s how to do a roll cast if there are overhanging bushes or trees behind you.
For an efficient roll cast fly fishing, you’re reliant on the D-loop (the line that hangs behind your rod). Try to get as much D-loop as possible without getting tangled up in the trees, so that you can achieve a faster line speed and a stronger cast.
For the forward stroke, your arm should start off in the key position – level with your shoulder with the rod pointed up and slightly back. Drive the rod forward, and when your arm extends fully, flick your wrist to rotate the rod. The line should roll out beautifully over the water – and that’s your roll cast.
It’s handy to have a false cast in your fishing repertoire. You can use this basic maneuver to change direction, work out the distance of a cast, or even let your fly dry out as it sails through the air (especially useful for dry flies!)
The way to do this is by preventing your fly from hitting the water. Just before it does, use another backcast to swing your fly up, keeping it airborne for longer. Just be careful not to overuse this technique.
Shooting & Handling Line
It’s not just the casting techniques that are important. You also need to have a clear understanding of how to handle the line to be a competent angler. Identifying the exact moment when you should release the line is a great skill to have.
There are two ways to spot the right moment to shoot your line out. You might be able to tell when you see the tell-tale sign of a loop rolling out in front of you, or you might rely more on the feel of the line. Either way, whether you see a loop or feel the pop to a stop, you need to be ready to release your line at just the right moment to perfect your fly casting.
If you release your line at the wrong moment, you’re likely to end up with tangles. One of our top tips for anglers is to control the line with your other hand, which will make it easy for you to strip in line while keeping your rod tip low.
Advanced Fly Casting Techniques
Once you’ve got the hang of the basics, you can try moving on to these more advanced and technical techniques.
When you want to achieve a dead drift presentation on the water, this calls for a slackline cast. They work wonders for presenting your fly naturally and convincingly in a downstream direction.
One of the most popular slackline casts is the parachute cast. You can do this by casting as usual but with a high forward trajectory. Next, you need to pull your rod downward to allow the line to pile up on itself. This will create that sought-after natural drift and reduce the drag on your fly, making it look like a tasty bite to eat for the fish.
This comes in handy when you want to get your fly around something obstructing your way. You can’t use a regular pick up and lay down cast, or even a roll cast, so anglers rely on a curve cast. Nail this, and you’ll improve your chances of catching fish, no matter how tricky the environment.
Our top tips for a great curve cast would be to start off with a standard sidearm cast. The key is to flex your wrist and overpower your rod, hooking it around the object blocking your path. Make sure to twist your wrist as you stop the rod, to get that extra power to turn your loop and your fly.
If you’re right-handed, you’ll probably find a left-curving cast comes most naturally to you, as you’ll have more control over your rod in this direction. Underhanded curved cast is also useful for fly fishing dry flies.
Double Haul Cast
Double haul cast is one of the most difficult, but most effective, cast you can learn for fly fishing. Anglers use the double haul especially in windy conditions or when they need to cast long distances. However, it does require lots of concentration and sound coordination, so only attempt this after you’ve mastered the other tips.
A double haul works by pulling on the line on both the backward and forward cast. The result is that line has more weight, you get more backward deflection, and more energy is stored within the rod. Repeat on the forward cast, pop to a stop, and watch your fly and line soar through the air with all that power behind it.
The way to do this is to pull back around 18-24 inches of line with your other hand on the backward stroke, release the line as your rod straightens up, and then pop to a stop. Pause, and then do the same movements on the forward stroke. Haul and drift, haul and drift.
And that’s it! It sounds simple, but you’ll need to practice lots to get your hands coordinated and perfect the movements. Work on this until you’ve got it down to a fine art, and you’ll truly be a fly fishing expert. If you’re still practicing some of these casts, maybe it’s time for you to get a great practice fly rod.
Fly Rod Casting FAQ
In this section, you’ll find the answers to all those questions you’ve been wanting to ask about fly casting!
How do you cast a fly fishing rod for beginners?
To cast a fly fishing rod for beginners, start by pointing the rod tip towards the target. Make sure there is enough space between you and the target to make a full back and forward casting motion.
Hold the line in your non-dominant hand and grab the line around 12 inches from the end of the rod with your dominant hand. Make a backward motion with your arm and wrist, then quickly snap your wrist forward.
As you do this, release the line with your non-dominant hand and let the line “shoot” off the end of the rod. When you reach the end of the forward motion, let the rod tip drop down and the line should land in the target area.
How far should I be able to cast my fly rod?
The distance you are able to cast your fly rod will depend on your skill level, the type of rod you are using, and the type of line you are using. Generally speaking, a beginner should be able to cast between 30-50 feet (9-15 meters) with accuracy.
With practice and better technique, you should be able to cast further distances.
How can I practice fly casting at home?
You can practice fly casting at home by using a fly casting practice leader. A practice leader is a length of monofilament line with a weighted loop at the end. Attach the practice leader to your fly line, and then you can practice your casting technique without having to go outside.
How do you start a fly cast?
To start a fly cast, point the rod tip towards the target. Make sure there is enough space between you and the target to make a full back and forward casting motion. Hold the line in your non-dominant hand and grab the line around 12 inches from the end of the rod with your dominant hand.
Make a backward motion with your arm and wrist, then quickly snap your wrist forward. As you do this, release the line with your non-dominant hand and let the line “shoot” off the end of the rod.
When you reach the end of the forward motion, let the rod tip drop down and the line should land in the target area.
Can you use flies on a spinning rod?
You can use flies on a spinning rod with the help of a float or casting bubble. Even if you haven’t mastered casting with fly rods yet, you can still fish effectively with flies.
You need to adapt the technique to be able to cast small, lightweight flies with spinning gear, hence adding a float to help you get the fly where you want it to go.
How do you rig a fly rod?
When setting up a fly rod, first, grab your gear – your reel, rod, backing, line, and fly pattern. Set up your fly rod (the alignment dots should help!) Next, you need to attach the reel to the reel seat on the rod and lock it into place.
Now it’s time to add enough backing to fill up your reel – 100 feet should be plenty. Don’t forget the golden rule that your fly line should never touch the body of the reel, so fill it up with backing first. Tie your backing onto the reel with an arbor knot and wind it on smoothly and evenly.
If you’re looking for a fly rod that won’t break your bank, you should consider looking at used fly rods.
Finally, take around 30 feet of fly line and attach it to the backing with a nail knot or a double loop surgeon’s knot. String your line through the fly rod guides and then add your leader using a double surgeon’s knot. The final step is to tie on your fly, and you’re good to go!
You can also see our post here on attaching backing to fly reel.
How can I practice fly casting?
You can practice your casting from anywhere – the parking lot, a park, a grassy field. You don’t have to be on the river or at the lake to practice your casting!
You’ll make the most progress by practicing with one of the flies you use most often on the water. This way, you can replicate your style effortlessly on the water. Just remove the hook at the bend and get casting. (Always wear eye gear when casting!)
Make sure you try out and practice a range of different fly fishing casts so that you can pick the most effective for the situation when you’re out fly fishing for trout.
The Wrap Up
Never underestimate the importance of working on your casting. Once you can master the simple overhead cast and roll cast, move up to the next level and practice some curve and double hauls. You’ll see an instant improvement in your fly fishing performance, and you’ll catch more fish! You can’t say no to that!
This guide on how to cast a fly rod should help you perfect your casts. But if you have any more burning questions, feel free to get in touch by dropping us a comment and we’ll do our best to answer your question.
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