Fly Casting is Fishing Glue

During the weekend the lakes outside our shop were frozen over with just a few gaps here and there, even so it was good to see several hardy anglers had braved the cold to try their luck.  In such low temperatures it can be difficult to tempt the fish, but sticking with something simple like a Black Woolly Bugger, Taddy or similar mobile lure will often pick up a Trout or two.  The key is to keep the fly in the water. 

Observing from our shop door which provides a view across the lake I could see that the anglers were having a tough time of it and it was nothing to do with tactics.  It was all about the casting.

Most of the anglers were regularly catching up on their back cast, or enduring the frustration of poor turnover …. a crumpled mess often resulting in tangles and lost fishing time.  Just what you dont need if there is limited fishing space and the conditions are tough.  All of the anglers had popped in to discuss where the fish would be located, what fly to use and so on, but not one quizzed me on their casting faults.  One angler did drop by the shop to discuss his fly line which had lots of memory, a serious problem that hinders good casting no matter how fine tuned.  But other than that, not a word about casting.

Knowledge regarding fish location, tactics and fly selection is all wasted if we cant present the fly accurately at the required distance.  Fly Casting is our fishing glue …. it sticks our knowledge together and turns it into success. So while the going is tough out there with freezing temperatures rendering many venues unfishable is this not a good time to be tuning up the cast?  I can guarantee that a little bit of effort during the low season will pay dividends later this year.  During this week I will post a few tips/exercises to help get you going because the season is not so far away!

Casting Tip 1 : Grip – Stance – Comfort

  • A comfortable stance coupled with a relaxed grip provides the foundation to good casting technique.  If you have never thought about this then next time you go for a practice session look at how you position your feet while casting. 
  • Traditional style features a closed stance with each foot pointing at the target and positioned so that one foot sits just in front of the other.  This is actually an excellent technique for lining up a cast accurately and also helps to ensure a straight rod path.  However it is not the most comfortable positioning for everyday stillwater fishing in which case adopt an open stance
  • An open stance allows for freedom of movement and feels natural but be careful not to rotate the hips.  Always keep in mind that we are trying to develop a straight rod path ….. get yourself comfortable and you should be well on the way!  Check out this image which shows an open stance.
Example of a fly casting open stance

Fly Casting - Open Stance

  • Now that we have a good foundation the next crucial element to address is the “grip” or as I prefer to term it “the hold”.  Picking up the rod with relaxed hands is imperative to success, golf coaches call it “soft hands” and this most certainly applies to fly casting.
  • There are a host of grips available but for general casting try placing the thumb on top of the rod, as per the image below.
A comfortable fly casting grip

A comfortable fly casting grip

  • A good way to think about “holding” a fly rod is to imagine the grip you would use to pick up a screwdriver for example.
  • Other ways to remember the grip include “a friendly handshake” or “using a tack hammer” …. we are not banging in 6″ nails!
Similarity between holding screwdriver and fly rod

The "screwdriver" fly rod grip

So there we have it, some extremely basic tips but the foundation to good casting nontheless and an all too often over looked element.  Next time I will add some information regarding the formation of loops and good timing with a few excercises to help.  Even if the playing field or garden doesnt inspire you then why not take 5 minutes out during your next fishing session to start developing your cast …. assuming there is no ice of course!  With a little practice the techniques will become second nature and the results will speak for themselves.

Many thanks to Henry Gilbey for images used to illustrate this blog post.  Check out more of Henrys work here

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