Updated: Sep 17, 2022
It’s been a long winter here in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia and finally it is time to knock off the rust and get fly fishing again. If you are like most anglers, you don’t have many opportunities to fish throughout the year and you really want the first trip out to be successful so you catch fish instead of tree branches. Well hold onto your hats because I have a couple of quick fixes to make sure that you are casting great in no time.
The first thing that we need to do is make sure we have some room to practice. You don’t want to be continuously fighting your surroundings while trying to focus on what you have going on. A field or parking lot is great, or a small pond is even better. When you have found a suitable location then we want to start with about 30 feet of fly line. Most streams in the area aren’t much wider, so there is no need to try to cast more while practicing than what is actually applicable.
Next we are going to hold our hats in our casting arm’s armpit. Don’t drop your hat while you take a smooth back cast. Keeping your arm next to you will allow the wrist and forearm to move together while you pull the fly line over top the rod. Keeping your arm in will also allow a better feel of your rod loading and sensing the timing for your forward cast. You should be able to cast forward while still keeping your hat in your armpit. If you drop it it is because you are reaching in your cast and you will create an arching line instead of a driving loop. If you can consistently keep your arm in and next to you, then you should get your feel of your cast back in a few minutes. Subsequently, feeling the rod loading will tell you when to come forward and lay down a nice smooth cast.
The second fix that will allow you to get on the water quickly is a solid roll cast. By roll casting most of the time you can use the water tension as well as stay out of the trees. I tell everyone the biggest thing about the roll cast is that you can never do it too slow. With the line on the water in front of you, you can slowly raise and draw back your rod tip. Your line should stay on the water at all times in this process. Once your rod tip is behind your shoulder and pointed up in the air come to a complete stop. This stop can be a second or twenty minutes, it is more important that you stop completely.
When you are ready push down with your thumb in the direction you want to cast. This motion should be firm, and stop abruptly parallel to the water. I tell people it’s like you are chopping through a whole carrot. It needs to be enough to cut it in half, but we don’t need the carrot pieces to fly to the other side of the room. The line should roll out on top of itself, delivering the leader and then fly. If your line piles up in front of you, then it just means a fuller stop before coming forward, and then casting with more force to propel the line.
There’s definitely more than a good look and shade for a good hat so hold onto it!