Getting started: half a cast
Take up comfortable stance, with either one or both feet facing forward, and grip the rod handle as you would a tennis racquet, with your arm raised and hand holding the rod over and slightly behind your head. An additional two rod-lengths of fly line should be lying behind you on the ground.
Bring the rod tip over your head (rather like a ‘serve’ in tennis, but a little slower). Do not bend or flick your wrist but keep it locked so that the butt of the fly rod handle remains close to your forearm.
You need to move the rod at the right speed so that the line will form a loop. Too fast and there will be no loop at all: too slow and the loop will be too big.
Do not follow all the way through, but stop your ‘serve’ once the rod tip is in a forward position. The line should then stretch out in front of you to lie flat on the ground. If it does, congratulations on your first cast! If not, keep trying until you can see a loop in the line and until the line stretches out straight in front of you.
Practice until you begin get a feel for when to stop the forward casting action so that you form a loop in your fly line. Then work on making a smaller loop.
As you become familiar with the casting motion and what you need to do with your arm, you’ll find you have more and more control over what happens, and you’ll gradually be able to narrow the loop in the line. This is the basis of casting a fly. The narrower the loop, the further you’ll be able to cast your fly.
Your first cast
Start with your fly rod in a forward position, line laid out flat on the ground, and start your cast by moving the rod backwards before then bringing it forwards. This should lift the line from its position in front of your body and stretch it out behind you, at which point you perform the the fowards motion to create the loop. Again, remember to keep your wrist locked. Flicking the wrist is the most common mistake people make.
There’s much debate over whether overhead or side casting is ‘best’. Whilst you’re still learning, side casting allows you to have an idea of what your overhead casting action looks like, and this is invaluable. We’d advise you to learn both, and then make up your own mind when to use one or the other.
How to cast? Rather than raising your arm over your head, keep your forearm parallel to the ground. To go back to our tennis analogy, if an overhead fly cast is a serve, then the side cast is a little like a forehand slice. Other than that, the same rules apply: keep your wrist locked, and create a tight loop in the line.
Vary your casting length
When actually fishing, sometimes you will need to send the line over shorter or longer distances, so practice both longer and shorter strokes so that you can use whatever is called for. Stay focused on a narrow loop as this is the key to a straight cast over distance when correctly executed.
Casting in the field
Whether you put your new skills to the test at your nearest fishing hole, stream, lake or river, you will need to learn how to adjust for the wind, distance and the types of flies used. Different rods and different lines will also require slightly different actions. However, the basics never change, and with regular practice you will find that the casting motion becomes effortless.
Do remember that practice makes perfect. There is great satisfaction when everything falls into place: indeed, the joy of perfecting one’s cast often equates to the joy of catching a fish!
With thanks to Harry Salmgren