Let me get something straight here before I say anything… I am not a Certified Casting Instructor, nor do I have any other “credential” that would publicly indicate that I’m a fantastic caster. The fact is, I’m not a fantastic caster, and the only casting competition I’m likely to ever have a chance of “winning” are those I have against the fish I’m trying to catch. If I’m really lucky, I might take honors in the occasional, “I bet I can cast farther than you.” type of challenge my son or a fishing friend might engage me in.
With that being said, I do have three pearls of wisdom that have served me well over the years, and I’d like to share them with you here.
1. All casts start slowly. This is one of the first “truths” I discovered when learning to cast a fly line. I really can’t take credit for discovering it though, because I actually read it in a book. But it is probably the single most important tip I have ever learned, and it has become a sort of mantra for me. If my cast is starting to fall apart, this single thought has come to my casting rescue more times than I can tell you.
2. Don’t worry about going fast, just worry about always going faster. This tip goes hand in hand with the first one. If you start the casting stroke fast, it’s difficult (if not impossible) to continually accelerate. Remember that the moment the line is going the same speed or faster than your casting stroke (the rod tip), you are no longer “loading” the rod. Which means you are no longer “storing” the energy that will actually cast the line. In fact, if you stop accelerating, even the slightest amount during your casting stroke, you are losing energy. By starting the casting stroke slow, you have “room” to continually get faster throughout the entire stroke.
3. The stop makes the go. If you did the first two things right, the only thing left to do is stop. Immediately. Just freeze the rod. The better you can do this, the better the rod can impart the stored energy it has to the fly line and send it on its way. Any continued movement simply mitigates some of the energy. Think of it this way. If you placed a book (or some other loose item) on the seat of your car, and then, while traveling at high speed, stopped instantly (like running into an immovable object) where would the book go? Probably through the windshield, right? In fact, everything in the car that wasn’t secured would go flying forward at (in essence) the same speed the car was traveling. But if your car came to less of an abrupt stop (like hitting an object that “gave” when you collided with it, or simply braking hard) the book might still fly forward, but maybe all it did was fall on the floor rather than go through the windshield. That’s because the continued forward movement of the car simply didn’t allow all of the energy to be transferred to the book. And if you don’t come to a complete and immediate stop with your rod on your casting stroke, you’ve effectively done the same thing. You robbed the fly line of energy.
The length of your casting stroke, the timing of the backcast and forward cast, and all the other “stuff” that makes a good cast are beyond the scope of this simple post, and I’m probably not the one to get that information from in the first place. But I firmly believe that if you apply the three principles above, you’ll be well on your way to forming great loops. And remember those principles apply to the back-cast as much as they do to the forward-cast.