This Week's View

by Deanna Birkholm

February 26th, 2001

Line Control

Anyone who has ever cast a fly line - or tried to, seems to have questions about how they can improve their casting.

It doesn't matter if it's short or long casts, dry fly presentation or slinging big weighted flies, the 'secret' to all is the ability to control your line. You just can't make a nice slack line cast with a dry fly if you can't make the line do what you want. Fishing big wet flies? They are heavy, and the cast needs to be adjusted.

But how?

Let's start with this - with a short line, say thirty feet, can you make both a tight loop and a big open loop on command? The tight loop should look like a letter 'J' on it's side. The big open loop looks like a letter 'C'. A hard stop on BOTH the forward and back cast produces the tight loop, lack of a hard stop gives the big open loop.

Got that? If not read it again.

The forward cast and the back cast should be the same. Identical! The same power and stop in both directions.

Turn your head and watch your back cast! The line should roll out, over the top, just like unrolling a carpet. When the back cast is straight out behind you, and the instant before gravity takes over and causes the line to drop, you make the forward cast. Too soon and you will snap your fly off, (that's the popping sound you hear) too late and your forward cast has no power and the line puddles onto the ground in front of you.

Your forward cast is only as good as your back cast! It is not written in stone anywhere that you can't watch your back cast! Making a dozen casts watching your back cast on each one will usually solve a multitude of casting problems.

Let's take it a step further, if you have a floating line and either a dry fly or a smallish nymph, the casting stroke you just worked on will work very well. The tight loop will deliver the fly nicely, you probably will want to put a little slack in at the end of the cast if you are fishing a dry fly. That is done by a couple of quick wiggles of the rod tip just before the fly hits the water.

Can you make just the tip of your rod wiggle? If you have to think about it, take the line out of the guides and try making just the tip of the rod wiggle. Hint: you must keep a firm wrist. Work on that until you don't have to think about it.

What happens when you have a wet fly, a sink tip, a big weighted fly?

Remember I said line control was the secret? Are you casting the weight of the fly? Or the line? You are casting the line! The fly goes along for the ride. If with a big fly, wet fly, sink tip line, your cast isn't working, stop! With a big fly, wet fly, or a sink tip (usually with a big fly also wet) the line STILL has to unroll like a carpet behind you. But the extra weight causes the fly and leader to tangle if the cast isn't just right.

Here's where the ability to make a tight loop and a big open loop comes in. The tight loop works for smaller flies, but it doesn't work in this case. If you have learned how to make both a big open loop and a tight loop, you should also know how to make a loop which I'll call a medium loop. One that is in between. This loop will allow the line to open properly behind you, and provide the power (energy) for the forward cast. It is just slightly less of the hard stop required to produce a tight loop.

Some suggest one has to slow down their cast to make wet flies or sinking lines work. The speed of the cast required to propel the line does not change. The line speed does not change. In fact, with sink tips and sinking lines the speed should be increased by using a double haul.

How do you know what to use? Cut the hook off a fly similar to the one you will be using, tie it on your leader and practice! Watch your back cast. It is almost impossible to practice your casting once you are on the water, do it at home or somewhere open where you can watch the back cast. Try making the line do exactly what you want it do. Once you have that ingrained, doing it when you fish is easy! ~ The LadyFisher

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