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How to Cast a Fly - Keys to Fly Casting

Five keys to casting a fly

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Let's face it, you're not going to become a world-class caster by reading a quick blurb about casting on the Internet. Casting is an art that takes practice, and lots of it. But these basic pointers could certainly help improve your casting skills if you practice often. Here's a look at my five keys, or in this case Ps, to casting:

Patience

The most important thing anglers need to realize when attempting a particular cast for the first time is that it's going to take time to get it down. I've been fly fishing nearly my entire life and it seems every time I go trout fishing I spook at least one fish because I either rushed a cast or didn't take enough time to study a drift.

Practice

It makes perfect. You don't have to drive all the way out to your favorite stream to get in a little practice time with your favorite fly rod. In fact, it's probably better to avoid the water all together and practice your technique in the yard or at a nearby park. You could even practice in your own home if you take your rod apart and tie a 3-foot piece of yarn to the last rod piece. Using the end of the rod and yarn like a mini fly rod, calmly push the yarn out as if you're throwing a baseball. As the line nears full extension, pull the yarn back for the backcast as if you're pulling a pushpin out of the wall. Continue the push-and-pull technique until the yarn's path shows you have mastered the overhead cast.

Position

Everyone has a unique casting style. Don't confuse style with technique. You'll know you're using the wrong technique if your wrist starts to hurt or your fly does a cannonball on the surface. There are three ways to grip a rod, pick the one that's most comfortable and works best for the type of water you fish most often. For the basic overhead cast, keep your wrist locked straight and your elbow at your side. Your elbow should remain at the same height as you push and pull the fly line back and fourth. The elbow can move forward and backward with the cast in a straight-line motion, but keeping it from bouncing up and down will help with the accuracy and distance of your casts.

Placement

Always cast perpendicular to your body. Rookie anglers who place one foot in front of the other, or try casting from side to side, are setting themselves up for failure. When practicing in the yard, try to get the fly to land on the surface directly in front of you and as gingerly as possible. Light casts mean heavy fish. Heavy casts mean no fish.

Pickup

Many anglers don't realize that retrieving the line can be as important as casting it. In the morning and evening hours fish often feed on the surface and leaving the fly in the surface film for a second longer could make all the difference. During the rest of the day, fish hold at various depths and a slow retrieve or sinking line is the only way a fly is going to reach the strike zone. When you're fishing a body of water for the first time, ask around and see where the fish are holding throughout the day and then practice trying to locate those feeding zones with your fly.
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