Friday, May 29, 2009

Casting a Fly

The goal of FLY FISHING is to "Perpetrate the Fraud". The fraud is using an artificial fly and the perpetration is presenting it to the fish in a manner that looks real and natural.
First UNDERSTAND that in fly fishing, you are not casting the fly, as it is virtually weightless, you are casting the Fly Line. this is why you always match the weight of the Fly Line to the weight of the Fly Rod. Newcomers to Fly Fishing always seem to be enamored with the false cast. They see pictures of someone with a long length of Fly Line seemingly suspended in the air, either in front or behind them. It looks like such and artful technique. And it is!
False casting is mainly used while Dry Fly fishing. Truth be told, the majority of fish caught on a fly are going to be with nymphs and employ different casting techniques. A little entomology lesson will help understand this.
Aquatic insects live, in most cases, for several years under the surface in the infant or nymph stage. They cling to the rocks or vegetation on the bottom of the river or lake as they feed and grow larger. Only when the nymphs are ready to hatch into the adult stage do they swim to the surface, shuck the nymph casing and emerge as winged adults, much like a caterpillar morphs into a butterfly. The newly hatched adults float along drying their wings before taking flight to find a mate either in the air or on nearby trees. Once they mate, the females return to the surface of the water to lay their eggs and die. it is during the wing drying time and the egg laying time that they are actually on the surface of the water and you see fish rising and feeding on the surface. The period of time from hatching into adults, mating, laying the eggs and death is a matter of hours to days. So, if nymphs live for years under the surface and adults live for hours or maybe days, how should you be spending most of your time fly fishing? A dry fly hatch is a joy to fish but most of the time you will be casting nymphs to catch fish.
Techniques for casting using nymphs are either a flip cast or a roll cast. You can find more detailed articles on the interner on how to make these casts, but I'll attempt a brief description here.
A flip cast is used mainly on rivers and streams. As the current carries your nymph down stream, you keep your rod tip low and keep it pointed toward where the fly (nymph) should be under the surface. As the line starts to straighten out below you, you start lifting your rod up to about a 40 to 45 degree angle until most of the line is free of the water. Then you flip the line back upstream, with both wrist and arm action, to start a new drift. A good flip cast will reach about 15 - 20 feet upstream, giving you about 40 feet of drift above and below you.
A roll cast is used mainly on lakes and ponds. It is a technique that when done properly, appears like you are rolling the line out onto the water. To perform a roll cast, like any cast, you first must have some line out on the water. You then lift the tip of your rod, slightly outside your casting shoulder, until the rod tip is slightly behind your shoulder and the line starts to belly behind the rod tip. At this point, you roll the line out by slightly raising your hand and flipping the the rod tip up and forward with some amount of speed. This should cause the line to roll out onto the water. A good roll cast can reach out 25 - 40 feet.
Now for the false cast. A Dry Fly floats because of its name, it needs to remain dry. If your dry fly absorbs water, and it will, it starts sinking and no longer looks natural. False casting is used to dry the fly, so it will float again on your next presentation. Even with the sprays and silica gel products to treat your fly from absorbing water, false casting is still important when dry fly fishing. Another reason to false cast is that your fly line picks up dirt from the water surface and that dirt absorbs water and start to sink a floating fly line. False casting, therefor, also helps dry the line. They make Floating Fly Line treatment that can be applied if your line just doesn't want to float anymore. It's always best to clean your fly line periodically.
False casting requires the most technique of all the casts. If you just whip your rod back and forth, you will hear what sounds like a whip cracking. You just snapped off your fly... say good bye to a buck or two! False casting requires a slight hesitation in your back and forward casts to allow the line to straighten out before you start in the opposite direction. Herein lies another lesson in fly casting. When, in a back cast, allowing the line to straighten out causes the weight of the line to load, or flex, the rod in that direction. Allowing the rod tip to load, before moving the rod in the opposite direction, gives you the power to cast the fly. Imagine trying to throw a baseball without winding up.
My best advise to beginners to learn that hesitation is to practice in your back yard with your complete setup, line, leader and some cheap Walmart flies. Cheap, because you'll probably snap a few off the first couple of times with the bull whip method. Stand sideways to the direction of your back and forward casts so you can watch what your line and rod tip are doing. Start your back cast and when you have the urge to start the forward cast, stop for just a split second and watch the line straighten out behind you. At that point, you will also see the rod tip loading in that direction. Then start your forward cast motion watching the line move forward. Hesitate that split second until it straightens and the rod tip loads forward. Just keep repeating the forward and back cast with that slight hesitation or delay before you cast in the opposite direction. Watch the line, pay attention to the loading of the rod tip and you will soon understand the mechanics of the timing. If you are still hearing the snap of the fly smacking your line, hesitate a little longer, but don't allow the line to drop too low to the ground. Your final presentation to the fish should be after the back loading of the rod and should be a more powerful forward cast allowing the line to settle on the water in front of you with you rod tip pointing toward your target. At this time, you can also allow more line to feed out through the guides if necessary.
Remember, allow the line to do it's job and you won't have to work as hard casting. A properly matched line to your rod is one of the most important things in fly fishing.
Tight Lines!

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