This Week's View

by Deanna Lee Birkholm
August 1st, 2005

Let's Pretend

For just a moment, let's pretend you are a self-taught fly fisher. Maybe you've read a book or two or some columns here on Fly Anglers OnLine, or maybe even picked up a casting video. You have learned enough to make your casting work for you. You can get a fly out to where the fish are. Best of all, you catch fish! That is success. It is just an educated guess on my part, but I would bet 80% of American fly fishers are self-taught. You aren't alone.

Let's add a little more to our 'lets pretend.' Say you only fish lakes and ponds. You've never fished moving water - as in rivers or streams. If that is what you want to do it's fine. Or, what if you have only fished rivers or streams but never fished a lake? Would you like to fish somewhere different from your usual? Or what if you are invited by a good friend to fish his favorite water with him? Are there differences?

Say you've been fishing poppers and wet flies for panfish, bass or other warm water species and the invitation is to fish trout in a world famous river or two? It's grasshopper season, and that is a dry fly. Could you adapt your casting? Would you even know where to start? How about something a bit smaller than a grasshopper (at least the size of it is familiar), let's put a size 16 Adams into the mix. Now what do you do?

One of the questions which hit my email this week was about false casting. What is it's purpose? Is it something you use for pond and lake fishing? Or something only dry fly fishers use? And for that matter, what do they use it for?

The false cast has 2 basic uses ('tho there are more).
    1. Dry the fly.

    2. Extend line.

Start with drying a fly. You could just hold the fly in your hand and blow on it until it is dry, or put it in between a folded piece of amadou and squeeze gently. Or false cast it back and forth a couple of times.

False casting presumes you aren't getting the fly wet on either the forward or backcast. (Although I've sure seen a battalion of fly fishers "casting behind themselves.") If you know the most basic casting stroke you can false cast. Don't know? If you haven't read it, read Castwell's HOW TO CAST. It isn't a joke, print it out, take it outside with your rod and do it.

The basis of HOW TO CAST is stopping the rod. Stopping the rod is what makes the line go. In spin fishing, the weight of the lure takes the line out. In fly fishing, the weight of the line takes the fly out. Two totally opposed concepts.

Using Castwell's HOW TO CAST will allow you to fish to about 30 or 40 feet. You can add a little line to that by just stripping off about ten feet of line and letting it sit on the ground. Then, just as you are ready to make your final forward cast, just when you have stopped the rod, let go of the line in your line hand. It will 'shoot' out. As you extend line (which you can also do using the double haul) you have to change the casting arc. If you haven't been casting long enough to be able to feel the line behind you unroll, just turn your head and look at it! The line should roll out like a carpet - when it is straight, make the forward cast. Try practicing the false cast by keeping the line going through a minimum of three forward and backward casts without touching the ground (or the water).

Without using the double haul, 30 or 40 feet, (depending on how young or strong you are), is about the limit one can cast. The weight of the line wants to drag the line down, and keeping it in the air long enough to false cast, or extend line becomes a problem. The double haul (dh) solves that problem.

Why use the double haul? It divides the work between both hands, makes casting less work, it allows you to cast in wind situations, make longer casts, dry your fly faster - and use less false casts. The double haul increases line speed, and helps load your rod. It is just a more efficient method of casting. I routinely use the double haul with any and every rod. The smallest rod I own is a 3wt., but I do use the double haul with it. Once you've learned it and it becomes automatic, you simply do it.

If you have tried to learn the double haul and not mastered it, try really watching all three of the mini videos here: The DH. Watch for the exact hand motion with Castwell's line hand. It is, Pull, Cast, Feed. The pull and feed are done with the line hand! Also note the casting arc extends when the length of line increases.

One more point. Controlling your casting is controlling your flyline. Watch to see what the line is doing as it leaves the tip of your rod. It should look like a letter 'J' on its side - that is a 'tight loop. It will go farther than a cast which looks like a letter "C" - but if you are casting big flies, you may have to make a cast which looks more like the "C" to keep the fly from hooking on the line and causing a wind knot or tailing loop. You need to be able to make either a tight loop or a big open loop any time you want to need it. Practice line control. Practice accuracy. Practice stopping the rod! Do not just go out and aimlessly cast. Work on something specific.

You can improve your casting - and just maybe the let's pretend will become reality. ~ DLB

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