The Basics of Casting a Fly Rod

Using a fly fishing rod can seem daunting to newcomers at first, but you can become proficient with using one with some practice. A fly rod is different from typical fishing rods as it uses a heavy line to carry the extremely lightweight fly to its target destination. An important consideration when casting is to ensure that the fly rod is flexible and bends as you swing it. This bending is necessary as it helps build up the force needed to propel the line when you cast.

Casting Basics

Step 1: The first step in casting a line is to properly grip the rod with you dominant hand. You should grip the rod as if you’re giving it a handshake, keeping your thumb on top whilst curling your fingers around the grip. The grip should be firm, but relaxed, in the same way you would grip a golf club. You should rest the butt (bottom) of the fly rod against your forearm.

Step 2: You should take your other hand (the non-dominant one) and pull a length of line, usually anywhere from 10 to 15 feet, off the reel. The actual amount of line needed to be pulled will vary according to circumstance, but a good rule of thumb is about three times the length of your fly rod. Keep a loose hold on this extra line while letting it dangle around your feet.

Step 3: Now you will begin your back cast, which features two stops at specific locations. Imagine that you’re standing on a river bank and that your head represents 12 o’clock and that your feet represent 6 o’clock. Begin with your fly line in front of you and cast the rod and line back by flicking your wrist and forearm backward, which will send the line up and over your shoulder. You should stop the fly rod before it reaches the 2 o’clock position (behind your head) and allow the line to fully unfurl behind you.

Step 4: Just as soon as the line unfurls behind you, flick your wrist and forearm forward. You should stop the rod’s forward movement at about the 10 o’clock position (in front of your head). The torque generated will propel the line forward, casting it out towards your target location while you’re still loosely holding the pulled line. It is important that you swing the rod in a straight line backwards and forwards. This ensures that your fly line will not wander off from your target location. Then bring the tip of your rod down, which will result in the fly settling upon the water.

This particular method for casting your fly rod uses the back cast. There are other casting methods that you can use if you’re more comfortable with them.

Bringing the Fish In

Now that you’ve mastered casting your line with your fly rod, it’s time to hook some fish and reel them in. Here are the basics of how to land a fish with your fly rod.

Step 1: Once your fly has been placed on or in the water, pull the slack out of the line and be prepared for a fish to bite.

Step 2: When you feel a bite, you need to set the hook by pinching the fly line against the rod’s grip with your casting hand and then raise the rod tip straight up. If you don’t manually secure the line, no force will be applied and the loose fly line will slip through the guides.

Step 3: After you’re set the hook and know that you have a fish on your line, keep your rod tip high and the fly line pinched. While this is being done, use your other (non-dominant) hand to reel in the extra fly line. Reel in any slack line as the fish can shake off the hook and get away if you leave any slack in the line.

Step 4: Lead the fish in the opposite direction of where it wants to go. If the fish jumps out of the water in an attempt to dislodge the hook, lower your rod to lessen its leverage. Keep your cool and do not jerk the rod.

Step 5: Now it’s time to land your catch. Avoid bringing your line into the rod past the leader connection so as to avoid problems, such as a broken leader or rod. Once the fish is tired, raise your rod to lift its head out of the water. This will allow you easily move the fish into your net. Use a net, preferably one with a rubber mesh, to land the fish safely and reducing the possibility of a broken tippet. Hold the net in the water and guide the fish into the net. If you are going to catch and release, then the net will allow you to keep the fish in the water while you remove the hook. It’s important not to touch the fish with your bare hands if you’re going to release it as the contact will actually burn them by removing their protective slime.