October 1st, 2001

The Premiere OnLine Magazine for the Fly Fishing Enthusiast.
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Reach Cast - Do Not Leave Home Without It!

By Hans Weilenmann, Netherlands

Reading through a thread on the FAOL board on the subject of the Reach Cast I encountered several statements I could relate to, and several which I considered to be incomplete at best, inaccurate at the worst. At times any or all of the above appear in one and the same post.

Let me try and give you my take on the Reach Cast.

  • What it is, and what it is not.

  • What is the aim?

  • When to use it, and when not.

  • How to execute it.

  • When to combine it with other flavors of cast.

  • Hans' Mirror Game.

Reach Cast - What is it, and what is it not.

A Reach Cast is a cast where the line/leader/fly will fall in a straight line on the water, but where the line closest to the rod tip will be away to the side of the caster.

Note I specifically state that a Reach Cast results in a straight line delivery. The basic Reach Cast can be augmented by including additional casting techniques such as an arial mend (a 'bow' put into the line) or a curve cast (a positive or negative hook in the line/leader close to the fly).

Reach Cast - What is the aim?

The Reach Cast, used under the appropriate conditions and executed competently, will allow the angler a much longer drag free drift than would otherwise be possible. On moving water it is perhaps the most useful basic cast for any angler to master and use!

Reach Cast - When to use it, and when not.

The Reach Cast's power lies in addressing the following current situations:

    1. There is a gradual slowdown of current speeds between the angler and the intended drift lane. A typical scenario might be when the angler is positioned mid-stream and the intended drift is close to the bank, where generally the current speed has slowed down.

    2. There is a constant current speed between the angler and the intended drift lane. A typical scenario might be fishing a wide river, with a smooth/consistent current speed, where the angler either has waded out to mid-stream or the angler is drifting downstream on/in a watercraft at a slower speed than the prevailing current.

The Reach Cast is not the appropriate tool to address a situation where there is a mixture of slower and faster currents between the angler and the intended drift. Nor is it a suitable approach when fishing from one bank and aiming for a drift close to the far bank, with fast(er) current down the center of the stream!

Reach Cast - How to execute it.

JC phrased it very competently as follows: "The reach-cast is done by aiming your cast as normal, then as the fly is on it's way, reaching to your side with the rod as the line falls to the water."

And furthermore: "The way to get the most out of the cast though is to have plenty of free fly line ready and allow it to slip through the guides as you do the 'reach.' This will not shorten the cast and will give you a longer drag-free time before it starts to drag."

As I described earlier, the result of the basic Reach Cast is a straight line/leader, but angled away from the angler. The distance from the rod tip to the fly is longer than the straight line distance between the angler and the fly. As such it is imperative that after the casting stroke has been completed (in JC's words: "… then as the fly is on it's way…" the angler allows slack line to be pulled through the guides as the rod moves sideways to compensate for the longer distance and to avoid pulling the fly away from the intended target.

This is a very important aspect of successfully executing the Reach Cast. Without slack line to release in a controlled manner during the sideways movement of the rod you will be pulling the fly back from the intended drift lane!

Reach cast - When to combine it with other flavors of cast.

When there are different speeds of current between the angler and the intended drift lane, i.e. a mixture of slower and faster currents you have a situation where a basic Reach Cast will not work. In fact if the variation between the current lanes is significant you would do best to forget about using a Reach Cast. (How to tackle these conditions is another subject, for another time.)

Small variations in speed of different current lanes can often be overcome by combining a Reach Cast with arial mends. Another variation might be an 'implicit' Reach Cast, with a downstream hook. I call it an implicit Reach Cast, because it is executed without an explicit reach. The cast I am referring to is of course a side arm cast which is slightly overpowered, then checked (rod tip sharply stopped on the delivery cast) followed my a very gentle and short follow through.

These are but a few of the variations possible. You may want to think of a few more yourself.

Hans' Mirror Game.

Which brings me to what I call Hans' Mirror Game. Many a time the currents encountered can be deceptive and quite tricky to 'read'. And one needs a proper read of the situation to plan/execute the cast in order to obtain a decent drift.

Here is a small trick you may want to try. Let the currents tell you about themselves, by using your line as the translator/interpreter. You do this as follows:

Make a straight line cast somewhat upstream and slightly short of your target. Now observe how your line behaves as it drifts downstream. Note where the downstream bellying occurs, as well as which parts of your line lag behind the main flow. Your line has effectively told you which current lanes flow fastest, which slowest, which in-between.

Now 'freeze' that formation in your mind and 'flip' it upstream in a mirror image of itself, i.e. the sections of line which were furthest downstream end up the most upstream. This is how your want your line to lie on the water at the end of your cast to get the best and longest drag free float!

All you need to do now is to figure out how to make the cast in such a way to get your line to lie like that as it drops onto the water. ~ Hans

About Hans

Besides being a fly tyer of note, Hans was a tournament caster and is a FFF Europe Certified Master Flycasting Instructor, and a member of the FFF-E Casting Certification Advisory Board. He does fish too! Visit his website at: www.danica.com/flytier.

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