Shadow Casting

Shadow Casting

Viking Lars | Saturday, 19 August 2023

I don’t think there’s a reader here who hasn’t seen or read Norman Maclean’s book, “A River Runs Through It”. If you haven’t, do it - it’s excellent and not only because there’s fly fishing in it (which does help). The main character of the story is Paul, who is a gifted fly fisher, infamous for a technique called “shadow casting”. Paul is played by Brad Pitt, who can’t fly fish or cast a line, so his double is none other the equivalent to Brad Pitt, only in the fly fishing world, Jason Borger. Jason performs the “shadow cast” in the movie.

But I digress - I apologise. It’s not about shadow casting today, it’s about casting shadows, which of course as an activity would be called shadow casting, but let me skip the semantics. Casting well, precisely, presenting the fly as it should be presented, being able to cast in impossible places, overcoming tall vegetation and still cast, wading fast rivers in big boulders, crossing spongy bogs, where you can sink to to your waist at any time and much, much more are all important skills. But it doesn’t matter if you never get within casting distance of the fish.

All fish are wary to some degree, some extremely wary, others not as much, but they can all be spooked. There are many ways of spooking fish, two of which are quite common.

Stepping hard on the bank, sending waves into the river. That spooks any fish.

Casting shadows! Shadows can put most fish down. A moving shadow spells danger to a fish.

It’s something most beginners aren’t aware of and of course, every angler needs to be aware of them. It’s not always easy, even possible to avoid them, but I of course try as much as I can.

The worst is a low sun, which casts long shadows. That means that if you’re approaching a lie or a spotted fish, you might need to go a long way around. If you can, always choose a spot or a bank that throws your shadow away from the river. If that's not possible, you'll need to crawl!

But shadows aren’t all bad - as long as they’re stationary. Dusk and dawn are often good times to fish. At dusk, light fades ans fish tend to be less spooky, or move making them easier to cast. If you pay attention, dusk can fall a bit earlier on the river than around you, so to speak.

As soon as the sun sits low enough that a shadow covers just half river, concentrate your efforts, fishing or spotting, in the shaded parts.

I’ve often caught, or at least spotted fish, moving in the shaded areas, which the other half of the rivers was in full sun.

Pike aren’t as easily spooled, because they rely on their camouflage, where obviously trout are extremely wary of moving shadows. Grayling too, but less so. Salmon and  migratory sea trout are wary as well, but rarely to a degree where they run off. But they will hold deep and be very hard to catch for a half an hour or more.

Have a great weekend and cast less shadows!


PoD: A long shadow shadow in the setting sun.