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'And I'm left handed'
The Pupil

setting up
what is...?
what fish?
why fly fish?
how we invented...
overhead cast
overhead faults
roll cast
roll cast faults
shooting line
putting it together
after the lesson
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Starting to fly cast

Flycasting works by using the weight of the flyline ('Ah, that's why is so thick!') to bend the rod like a catapult and then, by forcing the rod to unbend, it casts the line for us. This is not completely true incidentally, but it is a nice way to look at it.

There are several ways of holding the rod. The most popular, for mid-weight rods, is to 'shake-hands' with the handle and place the thumb on top.

Pull some line off the reel with the free hand.

Holding the free hand above the handle, with the tip of the rod pointing downwards, shake the rod slowly from side to side. The freed line should slide down the rings and join the other line that you had pulled out earlier. This works best over water since the surface tension gives you more resistance to work against.

Slowly sweep the rod tip behind you and then flick it forwards. The flyline should pick up, flick forwards and land in a straight line. This is actually your first cast, and is a roll cast. Well done!

Overhead Cast

We are going to learn the overhead cast. The overhead cast is so called because, wait for it... we cast the line over our heads. It is the classic cast one thinks of when considering flyfishing.

For this cast, I would like you to have approximately 10 yards of flyline outside the tip of the rod. If you don't have sufficient, pull some more line off the reel and repeat the process laid out before. It is important to have the flyline lying out reasonably straight in front for the overhead cast to work.

Karen: Why ten yards?
Paul: Because ten yards is the length of line manufacturers use to match the weight of the flyline to the flex in the rod. Therefore it's a good starting point.

The next thing to do is to trap the flyline between your index finger and the rod. This is to stop any line being pulled off the reel when practising this cast. Stick your free hand in your pocket.

Karen: Why?
Paul: To stop it messing around with the rod or line.
Karen: Why would it do this?
Paul: Because this is something that some beginners do.
Karen: So this is a natural reaction?
Paul: Yes, it seems to be.

Now you are ready for the overhead cast. We can also call this the 'pick-up and lay-down' cast.

Karen: (says something unprintable)

Starting position

Stand with your right foot forward (if you are right-handed), knees slightly bend and comfortably in balance between the two. Now I know that you will find yourself crouched behind thorn bushes, lying face down in ditches and hanging upside-down out of trees when you come to actual fishing, but for practising our first casts we may as well make things easy for ourselves.

Starting with the rod tip touching the lake surface, your elbow in a relaxed position by your side and the line lying directly in front of you, slowly raise your hand, lifting the line off the water. As the rod nears the vertical speed up and flick the line upwards, squeezing the hand as you do so. I would like you to imagine that you are trying to flick the line vertically upwards above your head.

What will happen, assuming that you do this correctly, is that the line will smoothly lift off the water and accelerate upwards and backwards. When the rod is stopped the line will continue to travel over the top of the rod and form a loop. This is the casting loop. It's an important concept to grasp. This loop travels through the air, constantly unrolling and the line straightens out behind us.

The position you should attempt to find yourself in, at this point, is with your hand slightly outside your elbow and level with your ear.


After you have stopped the rod and completed the backcast (or upcast - both are descriptions of the same thing) what you do next is critical. It is this: nothing! You have to wait. The loop of line must travel backwards and fully extend before you start the forward cast. If you try casting forwards while the loop is travelling backwards, you are going to create several interesting effects. Firstly, you will be casting the rod like a whip, possibly breaking the sound barrier in the process, giving an almighty crack. Secondly, the energy of the line travelling backwards will negate the energy of the line travelling forwards and the whole lot will end up in a catastrophic heap at your feet.

When to start?

So you must wait for the line to straighten. 'And how long does this take?' I hear you ask. Well this depends on how much line you have outside the tip, and how quickly the loop is travelling. Basically it takes as long as it takes. Not very helpful huh?

Some instructors teach you to wait for a 'pull' as the line straightens. I think this is a bad thing to teach. Not because you are wasting energy, but rather because any pull against the rod tip causes the rod to flex, and the line to bounce against it. This is an awkward position with which to commence the forward cast.

Other instructors teach you to watch your backcast straighten. If you can do this without twisting your waist and rotating your shoulders, then this is ok. (Either rotate the neck and only the neck, or stand side on using a separate foot position. Standing side on is called the 'open stance'. Facing forwards is called the 'closed stance'. In my teaching experience I find that most pupils learn far quicker with the closed stance).

For long casts in particular, I am conscious of watching the loop straighten. I turn the head after I have made the stop on the backcast and not before. I then return the head to the forward-facing position before making the forward cast.

Instead of watching for the loop straightening you can watch the line as it passes over your head. This gives you a fairly good idea of how long it is going to take to straighten out behind you.

Once the line has straightened you can start your forward cast. The way to make this is to slowly rotate the hand forwards and flick the tip. A nice analogy is to imagine you are flicking an apple of the top of the rod.

Flicking the apple

The line should now travel forwards and over the top of the rod forming a loop. This loop will unroll and the line will straighten in mid-air. The line will then gently fall, as one, onto the water surface. As it does so, follow it down with the rod tip. This is the pick-up and lay-down cast.

Steve: The Stop is not a 'sudden' act like breaking, but a smooth 'end of movement'. Yes ?
Paul: The 'stop' is actually both a sudden act and a smooth one. It is not is a violent act. You must stop the rod abruptly. The best casters have the most abrupt stop. Squeeze the hand. However you MUST relax the hand immediately afterwards, otherwise the hand continues to travel forwards, and the rod tip kicks.

To recap here are the five components:

  1. The lift, which merges into

  2. The upward flick

  3. The pause

  4. The forward flick

  5. The lowering of the rod / follow through.

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