the Overhead Cast
By Jason Akl
overhead fly cast can be broken down into
two main phases, the back cast and the front cast.
single most important aspect to fly fishing is the ability
to accurately present flies to feeding fish in a matter of a
few second's time without spooking fish from repeated false
casting or noisy splash-downs. Learning the fundamentals of
a proper overhead cast is very important to beginning fly
fisherman because these casting ground-rules are what fly
anglers will need to accomplish more advanced casting
presentations such as roll casting and shooting or hauling
line. For most beginning fly casters, watching an
experienced caster loop 40 to 50 feet or line repeatedly can
be more than intimidating. Truthfully, a lot fish are caught
by anglers between 10 to 30 feet, so learning the basics of
short distance casting is very important for anglers. At
first attempt the overhead cast will feel difficult to
perform but with repeated practice and a few pointers your
casting stroke will become smooth and powerful enough to
deliver flies to fish even in the toughest of conditions.
A general rule
to follow is that the back cast
dictates how good the front cast is going to be.
The overhead fly
cast can be broken down into two main phases, the back cast
and the front cast. To begin the casting stroke the back
cast is the first skill needed to get the line off of the
water and into the air. A general rule to follow is that the
back cast dictates how good the front cast is going to be.
Meaning if things are going bad at the start of the cast
there are probably not going to get better so you should
dump the line and restart. There are many different ways to
do it, but this is how I learned.
First off you want
to set yourself up in an open area with lots of room and
free of obstructions above eye level. Nothing can be worse
for confidence then getting a new fly line wrapped up in a
telephone or power line. Pick a comfortable position for
your body with your feet approximately shoulder width apart
(if you are right handed then your right foot should be
slightly ahead of you left foot).
Start with the
tip of your rod to the
ground and about 15 feet of the line out.
Start the rod tip
touching the ground in front of your body with approximately
10 to 15 feet of line spooled out of your rod tip lying
directly in front of you as well. Begin the cast by slowly
lifting your forearm, raising the line up off of the ground.
As the rod nears the 10 o'clock position in the air, flick
the line upwards while squeezing the grip as you perform the
lift. If you do this line lift correctly, the line should
smoothly rise off of the ground and accelerate upwards and
into the back cast. During this lift, make sure that the rod
stops at the 2 o'clock position and not bending the wrist,
allowing the line to loop over top of the angler and
straighten out behind them.
Raise the tip
to about the 10 O'clock position.
One of the most
difficult concepts to understand during the overhead cast is
the temporary needed to allow the line to straighten out.
Most angler feel that they have to be in constant motion to
keep the line moving through the air and that just is not
so. Once the rod has stopped abruptly at the 2 o'clock
position, the line will continue to travel to the back of
the angler and this is the point where the pause becomes so
important. As the line is unrolling from the loop it was
traveling in, the angler has to wait with the rod in the 2
o'clock position for the line to completely straighten out
before starting the forward cast. If the angle does not
allow the line to fully straighten out on the back cast and
starts the forward motion, the energy of the back cast will
negate the energy of the forward motion leaving the line in
a tangled mess. On the other hand, if the angler pauses too
long, the line will straighten out and begin to drop in
height before the forward motion making the fly touch down
on the water's surface behind the angler.
From the "10"
position use your forearm to
quickly bring the pole to 2 O'clock.
There is no magic
answer to tell beginners how long to wait before getting
started with the forward cast. You have to allow the line to
fully straighten out on the back cast and the only way to do
this is with practice and attention to detail. The length of
this short break differs depending on the amount of line
out, and how fast the line is traveling. For some beginners
turning their necks and using the open stance to watch the
back cast is the answer, while others try and approximate
the loop straightening by watching the line go over their
heads and counting down while in the closed stance.
As the line
loops behind you, a short pause
is necessary to let the line straghten out.
Once the line has
straightened out completely, start the forward cast by
pushing the rod forward and flicking the rod tip when you
come to the 11 o'clock position. Similar to the back cast an
abrupt stop is used to throw the line once more over the top
of the angler.
After the line
straightens out behind you, you quickly move
your arm to the 11 O'clock position to loop the line
Dropping the Tip
After the line has been
brought back into motion with the forward stroke over the
angler, the line will ideally loop forward and unroll to
straighten out in mid-air. Once the line has successfully
rolled over itself it will start to drop towards the water's
surface and this is the time when the angler must lower the
rod tip and follow the line to the water surface. This
dropping of the rod tip will allow for a soft gentle lay
down of the fly line to the water's surface completing this
two-step casting stroke.
As the line
falls to the water, follow it with
the tip of your rod to gently lay the line down
1. Water splashes as the
line is lifted off the waters surface. The fault with this
cast is that the angler is not allowing enough time for the
line to lift off of the water's surface before trying to
flick the line into the back cast. The line must
successfully be raised into the air before it can be brought
into the casting stroke.
2. The line fails to
straighten out on the back cast. The angler did not hold the
pause long enough before starting the front stroke of the
cast or the angler preformed a soft stop in the back cast.
3. Crackling noise heard on
the back cast. The angler is treating the fly line like a
whip and did not allow a long enough pause before starting
the front stroke of the cast.
4. The line travels over
top of the caster into the back cast in a large open loop
then proceeds to land on the water behind the angler. This
casting mistake can come about from a few different errors
on the angler's part. First off; this fault can come about
from the angler forgetting or not stopping abruptly on the
back cast. Secondly; if the angler happens to break the
wrist on the back cast (bending the wrist on the abrupt stop
lowers the tip of the rod towards the water) and alters the
casting stroke sending the line to the waters surface.
5. The line travels over
the angler's head on the forward stroke but lands in wiggly
heap out on the water. This mistake is very common with
inexperienced fly casters, what is happening is that the
line has straightened out behind the fly angler and started
to drop below the rod tip. When the forward cast takes place
the line uses up its energy traveling at an upward angle
instead straightening itself out. To correct this all the
angler needs to do is stop the rod earlier (at the 2 o'clock
position) and make sure you are stopping the backwards
stroke abruptly. Another point to check is that the rod tip
is starting at the water's surface during the lift process
instead of horizontal to the water's surface.
this overhead casting technique is one skill that cannot be
picked up in a night or two of practice will make for a much
smoother transition in casting tuition. Each angler should
have a good grasp of the five main components involved in
overhead casting and those would be the lift, the rearward
flick, the pause, the forward flick, and the lay down.
No matter what type
of fishing you plan on getting involved with, proper
presentation plays a critical role in an angler's success
out on the water. With fly fishing in particular, where
there is going to be a large amount of line out on the
water, being able to present flies accurately to fish will
decrease your chances of spooking weary fish. Mastering the
overhead cast will make an average fly angler confident and
better able to productively fish all the different types of
water he or she may encounter in a day of fishing.
Jason Akl ©