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Ally Gowans on developing the basic cast

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Learning To Fly Cast - Part 4

Once the basic cast described in my previous article can be consistently performed to a good standard, it is time to develop the essential skills for fishing.

This part includes how to extend line, retrieve line, false casting and its uses and changing the direction of the cast.

Shooting line

'Shooting line' describes the technique of releasing line during a cast to extend the distance. It is performed during after the forward cast. (It can also be performed after the back cast but not at this stage of learning!) It is essential that the line to be extended or 'shot' is held ready in the line hand and released only when the power stroke is completed and the line has extended past the rod tip and therefore has already began to turn over. If line is released during the execution of the power stroke, the rod will straighten and the cast will suffer. If released too late after the rod has stopped little or no line will be 'shot'.

The easiest way to hold the line is between the forefinger and thumb of your non-casting hand. A simple means of learning when to release line is 'STOP (the rod) and LET GO'. It is also important to always have slack line between your line hand and the reel so that moving the rod during the cast does not tug at the line hand! If the line is released without any resistance from your hand the forward cast may not extend correctly because good turnover depends upon resistance from the rod end to straighten the line out fully. Do not therefore let go the line completely and expect good presentation every time.

The recommended method of 'letting go' is not actually to release the line from your hand completely; instead it should be allowed to fall between your forefinger and thumb. That way you always have control of the line because it never leaves your hand. Letting go completely may aid you to gain maximum casting distance but do not use more line than necessary for your ability because ideally the line should tighten up completely just as the cast fully extends to ensure good turnover. Line can be 'shot' with any type of cast.

Simple line retrieve

Having managed to extend the length of line being cast it is important to learn how to retrieve line prior to the next cast. You may ask 'Why does line have to be retrieved', 'Why not keep casting more and more line'? Unfortunately the anglers tackle, skill and strength are limited and that determines the maximum amount of line that can be cast. If too much line is being used the cast will fail and so it must be shortened to what the angler can comfortably back cast. There are several methods of retrieving line but for the moment only the basic method is described. Place the line from your 'line hand' under the second finger of your 'rod hand', release grip with your line hand and pull the line with this hand from the underside of your 'rod hand'. In addition to simply retrieving line for casting this type of retrieve is commonly used to 'work the fly' whilst fishing.

False Casting

False casting is casting line without water contact, so the forward cast is not 'presented', instead the line is allowed to straighten in mid air, in the same manner as a normal backcast and the motion is repeated back and forth until the angler decides to present the fly. To perform the basic false cast (i.e. keeping the line moving horizontally) move the rod back and forward equal angles either side of the vertical position for each stroke. Use the tip of the rod to make the casts and a smooth rhythm to make the line extend completely at the extremities of each cast. Aim to get perfect loops front and back. Once mastered false casting can be developed into some very useful practice exercises. It is an excellent method of drying out a dry fly and also allows distance to be accurately measured so that presentation to a rising fish can be perfected before the fly is allowed to alight. Perhaps its most common use is in extending line and increasing line speed to allow line to be shot greater distances. Our next use will be to help to make changes of direction. It is a big mistake to make unnecessary false casts whilst fishing. Keep them to a minimum to conserve energy and reduce the chances of mistakes and tangles.

Changing direction

Changing the direction of a straight line cast is very important during fishing and is accomplished by either changing the angle of the backcast alone or during both the backcast and the forward cast. Small changes of angle, say up to 30 degrees can (with practice) be achieved by turning to the new direction before lifting the line into the backcast which is aimed in the opposite direction to the new forward cast. Lifting speed has to be increased to compensate of loss of efficiency caused by the angular change. Changing the angle on both back and forward casts can change the direction by over 45 degrees, but with larger changes of angle the efficiency deteriorates rapidly until it becomes very difficult for most anglers to cope with. Another method of changing large angles is have a few 'bites at the cherry'. Use false casts to change the angle between each cast until the required direction is achieved and then present the fly. Perhaps the most elegant and efficient way to change direction is to use one of the Spey casts to align the backcast then perform a short roll cast before lifting into a straight line backcast and delivering the fly. With practice it is possible to perform a 'roll lift' directly after changing direction with the Spey cast. In this case the forward false cast is hit high and continued into a straight line backcast without any water contact. Detailed guidance on roll casting methods will appear in later parts.

My next piece will develop the straight line casts further and explain how the basics can be adjusted to suit wind conditions.

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