Fundamentals of the Straight-Line Cast

Fundamentals of the Straight-Line Cast

Instruction By Dusty Sprague

Fundamentals of a Straight-line Cast
Dusty Sprague

 Pick-Up without Slack Line. The rod needs to pull against the weight of the entire line and leader extended beyond the rod tip when the cast begins – no slack in the line or leader. Hold the rod tip close to the surface and strip in enough line to get the fly moving. Smoothly lift the line off the water and into the initial back cast.

Bend the Rod. Rod bend and line speed are needed to make the cast and result from rotating the rod at the end of the casting stroke. Rotating the shoulder, elbow or wrist, usually in some combination, rotates the rod. For short casts, little rod bend is needed and can result from a slight rotation of the wrist, elbow or shoulder alone, or in combination. Longer casts require more rod bend using longer casting strokes and are best achieved using a combined rotational movement of the shoulder, elbow and wrist. For long casts, begin with a smooth pulling motion to remove slack. Steadily increase speed, delaying rod rotation. End the cast by rapidly rotating the rod to an abrupt stop. The key is maximum rod tip speed at the end of the cast.



Adjust the Stroke Length – the distance traveled by the hand during the casting stroke, from beginning of distinct acceleration to the stop. The length of the stroke varies with the length of line being cast. For a short straight-line cast use a short stroke – Figure 1. For a longer cast use a longer stroke -Figure 2. The path of the hand should be straight away from and straight to the target area.

Adjust the Rod Arc – the angle between the rod butt at the beginning of the cast and the stop position. The width of the angle should match the bend in the rod to maintain a relatively straight path of the rod tip. A relatively straight path of the rod tip produces a narrow loop of line. The rod tip should stop just below the on-coming line.

Adjust the rod arc to fit the bend in the rod. For short casts use a narrow arc; for longer casts use a wider arc. The intent in the figures below is to illustrate casts with the same amount of rod bend but with differing rod arcs. A rod arc matched to the bend in the rod will produce straight path of the rod tip and a narrow loop – Figure A. A rod arc too wide for the bend in the rod will produce a wide loop – Figure B. A rod arc too narrow for the bend in the rod will produce a tailing loop – Figure C.

Adjust Timing – the pause between strokes to allow the line to fully straighten without losing tension and falling dramatically. Wait between strokes to let the line straighten. Good timing – adequate pause – is long enough to allow the line to straighten fully with just the leader not yet straightened. Poor timing is not waiting long enough or waiting too long. Watch your back cast when you practice!

Select the Casting Angle. For casting to close targets stop the hand low in front and higher in back, unrolling the line just above the target. For more distant targets the hand path should be more parallel with the water. To reach targets under obstacles, tilt the rod to the side, casting more parallel with the surface.

Good Casters Do the Following:

• Begin the cast by removing slack
• Select a casting angle in-line with the target
• Smoothly lift the line into the initial back cast, opposite the target
• Smoothly accelerate the hand along a straight path
• Rapidly rotate the rod at the end of the stroke
• Adjust the rod arc to fit the bend in the rod
• Stop the rod abruptly
• Pause to allow the line to straighten

12 Sins of the Flats

12 Sins of the Flats

Instruction By Dusty Sprague

Redeem your wicked ways by recognizing your flats-fishing flaws, and fixing them.

Capt John Kumiski wrote those words 14 years ago as a lead-in for his article on the same subject for Saltwater Fly Fishing magazine. John identified 10 sins common to flats fly fishermen – mistakes that resulted in refusals – rejections – no hook-ups. We continue to make the same mistakes and I’ve added more that plague us as we seek success on the flats. Many of these sins can be avoided with a little fore-thought and practice.

1. Wearing bright colors. Wear subdued colors. Bright colors and movement alert the fish to your presence. When the fish sense danger they just won’t eat. Wear subdued colors. White, bright orange, red or yellow and certainly bright lime green or chartreuse clearly stand out and make one conspicuous to the fish — wear those before and after but not while fishing.

2. Being slow to get ready to fish – be ready to cast within a minute or two of your arrival on the flat. I can’t count the times we’ve arrived at a flat and I’ve taken too long to get ready. Who is up next – my buddy or me – we argue about it — suddenly we see the fish…right there !… and neither of us is ready — and the opportunity is lost. If you are fishing with a friend decide before you get to the flat who will fish. Before the boat comes to a complete stop the rod should be coming out of the rack and you should be moving to the casting deck ready to strip line from the reel and either make a clearing cast or re-stack the line preparing for immediate action. If you can be ready to cast within no more than 2 minutes you should be able to take advantage of any opportunities that come quickly.

3. Being noisy – be quiet and observant. When a fish hears an unusual sound they go on alert and often develop lock-jaw. If you want more shots at fish on the flats conduct yourself like you are stalking the wary wild animals that they are. If you can approach the fish and present the fly without the fish becoming aware of your presence, your probability of success increases significantly. Be quiet and observant.

4. Can’t see the fish – Seeing fish requires good vision, polarized sunglasses and a practiced eye. If you need corrective lenses to see well and you are a serious flats fishermen, the most important investment you can make in your hobby is to get your eyes fixed or buy prescription polarized sunglasses. You’ll be able to see the fish you seek. Copper, amber or rose colored shades are best for the flats.

With good vision and polarized sunglasses good anglers have learned to use a relaxed scan of the water, moving side to side, first out at a distance, then moving closer, looking for subtle differences in water movement that may indicate fish – nervous water, wakes, tails, and pushes – and then when something grabs their attention looking for fish shapes, parts of fish, and subtle differences in colors. The more you are on the flats the better you will get.

5. Hesitating to cast – don’t hesitate. If you hesitate once a fish is in casting range you may miss your best opportunity. Hesitating allows the fish time to move, possibly further away or get too close or change directions such that the retrieve of the fly will pull the fly into the fish, a very unnatural move. You won’t need to cast 90 feet….a 40 to 60 foot cast will likely do the job.

6. Excessive false casting – Minimize false casting. A waving rod, the reflection of sun on an unrolling line or leader, the flash of a fly, the movement of arms and body….all can frighten a fish or put them on alert. Minimize false casting and unnecessary movements. A goal ….no more than 2 false cast cycles…delivering the fly on the 3rd forward stroke. If you can deliver the fly with fewer strokes by all means do it.

7. A related issue is the plane of the cast….more vertical or more horizontal. Vertical casting planes are useful for accuracy and for long casts, to prevent the line hitting the water as gravity pulls the line down as it completes unrolling. The horizontal casting plane, casting side-arm, with the rod traveling parallel with the water, can be an advantage in that the low-to-the-side rod plane keeps the rod, line, leader, and fly lower to the water and less visible to the fish. You will have to increase the tempo of the casting cycle to prevent ticking the water but that is a small adjustment to make for the advantages this plane offers.

8. Attacking the fish with the fly – bad retrieve angle – reposition before casting. In nature, prey will not attack a predator. A fly moving unnaturally toward the fish will most often spook the fish. Consider the angle of your retrieve before making the cast. If the retrieve will pull the fly into the fish try to reposition to avoid that angle of retrieve.

9. Bad Presentations – recast. If you make a cast that is too short, the fish will never see your fly. Don’t hesitate to recast after a silent pickup — strip in line until a quiet pickup can be made. Ripping the fly from the water frightens the fish and most often results in a very poor back cast. Conversely, if you make a cast that is too long, several things can happen none of which will lead to a hook up. The essence is to make an un-hurried but fairly quick and accurate cast the first time. Practice by casting to small targets are varying distances, for example, a scattering of paper plates on the lawn. Begin with the fly in hand and try to hit the plates, scattered from 20 to 50 feet, with minimum false casts. Try to get the fly to the target within 7 seconds. Poor casting skills along with an angler’s inability to see the fish are the two most common reasons for failure on the flats.

10. Using the rod to manipulate the fly – move the fly with the line-hand. If you move the rod to move the fly you will have undoubtedly put an angle between the fly line and rod, with the rod angled off to the right or left of the line, or angled upward. If the fish takes the fly and you then strip-strike the flexible rod tip will absorb the strike and you will not likely hook the fish well, if at all. Its best to keep the rod pointed straight down the line to the fly, creating a straight path from your line anchor point on the cork handle to the fly. With this straight path established, when you strip-strike the hook moves immediately into the fish and you can get a solid hook-up. If the hook does not set the fly will have been pulled forward only a foot or two and the fish may take it again offering you a second opportunity for a hook-up.

11. Lifting the rod to set the hook – use the strip-strike. Lifting the rod to set the hook works best for small, thin, very light-wire hooks, using weak tippets, on soft-mouthed fish, like cold-water trout. Many saltwater species have hard mouths and we use thicker-wired, larger hooks that are more difficult to penetrate tough mouth tissues. The strip-strike is much more reliable for the reasons stated above.

12. Setting the hook based on visual clues – set the hook when you feel the fish. If you set the hook based on seeing the fish take the fly you will often miss the hook-set.

Hopefully being more aware or being reminded of these wicked ways will lead you to improved performance on the flats. Tight lines !


Saltwater Quick Cast

Saltwater Quick Cast

Instruction By Dino N. Frangos

Unlike casting to holding trout in a stream the saltwater cast presents different challenges. In saltwater your target fish is always on the move. If fish are not moving something is going to eat them. This reality sets the stage for the challenges of saltwater casting in delivering the fly quickly, accurately, and with stealth to a moving target. Can you deliver a fly to a fish at 60 feet with three or fewer false casts?

When casting from the bow of the boat line preparation is key. When you first step up on the bow make a clearing cast to a distance you will likely be casting. This is not an attempt to make your furthest hero cast. This cast allows the line and leader to stretch and straighten removing the coiling that comes from reel storage. This will also allow the guide to assess your casting ability.

Carefully retrieve the line and stack in an orderly fashion with the line closest to the rod on the bottom. Now when you cast the line shooting comes off first from the top of the stack. Place the line stack in front of you or on the side of the casting arm. If there is too much wind for stacking then place the line in the cockpit to keep it from blowing off the bow. Leave about 15 feet of line in addition to leader beyond the rod tip. This should be adequate to load the rod. With the line hand hold the fly at the bend of the hook point up to prevent the unpleasant sticking of a finger. Anglers often cast barefoot or in socks to feel a stepped on line. Stepping on the line will not help that special chance to cast to a permit.

Begin the forward cast with a roll pick-up and follow with a back cast haul. If there is a headwind, bring the line hand holding the fly under and to the side of the rod hand and begin a back cast. Follow this movement with a haul on the forward cast. Along with a smooth haul, try shooting line on the forward and back casts. Work towards presenting the fly to the fish at 60 feet with at most three false casts. Keep your eyes off the fish when casting. Consider making an “O” with your line hand index finger and thumb with the presentation cast. This gives you immediate line control should a fish take your fly as it lands.


4 Principles of Fly Casting

4 Principles of Fly Casting

Instruction By Dino N. Frangos

An effective fly cast will deliver the fly accurately with a minimal effort.  While the argument exists that for stylistic differences, the fact remains that there are fundamental rules or essentials that must be followed.  This article will focus and summarize Lefty Kreh’s Principles of Fly Casting.

Principle 1.  You cannot cast until the end of the fly line is moving.  Think of removing slack from the line.  During the casting stroke the energy stored in a loaded or bent rod must be transferred to the fly line.  Avoid wasting or shortening your casting stroke with unwanted slack.  Beginning with your fly line on the water start the back cast with the rod tip down close to the water.  Holding the rod tip up will cause a belly or slack to develop in the line between the rod tip and the water surface. Keeping the rod tip close to the water the rod will load almost immediately as the stroke begins.

Principle 2.  The casting hand and rod must continue to accelerate and then brought to an abrupt stop.  This speed up and stop motion will load the rod and launch the fly line.  The effect of acceleration will increase line speed which is helpful for a distance cast or overcoming wind.  The abrupt stop leads to an efficient energy transfer from the rod to the fly line as the loop is formed.

Principle 3.  The line follows the direction the rod tip speeds up and stops. Most casts call for the rod tip to follow a straight line path.  If the tip moves in a more convex or domed path the line will follow leading to an inefficient open loop.  Lefty describes trying to hit the rod tip during the cast with the fly line.  This effective exercise works wonders tightening up your loop.

Principle 4.  The longer the rod travels back and forward during the casting stroke the less effort is required.  The longer stroke creates greater rod speed and loading which leads to more line speed.  Let the rod do the work as an effective lever.  Don’t cast harder, cast with a longer stroke.

Practice these principles using a short line and leader (about 30 feet).  As your technique improves and muscle memory takes hold begin increasing the amount of line carried during the stroke.  You will become a better caster with a more efficient stroke and tighter loops with a lot less effort.


Casting Into the Wind

Casting Into the Wind

Instruction By Dino N. Frangos

When fishing the salt water flats from a boat or wading, the wind presents a challenge to your casting abilities. A few casting principles or tricks to overcome the wind may help to guide your fly with greater ease and accuracy. Time spent practicing the following suggestions will make your next trip to the flats more fruitful.

I term the main principles to successful casting into the wind “the three L’s.” These include line trajectory, loop size, and line speed. Now repeat these and memorize them! The objective of the three L’s is to launch your line and fly to the target as quickly and accurately as possible. These principles improve the chances that your fly line and fly stay on track. Aim to take the shortest path from A to B. Directing the line is where previous work on distance casting will translate into an effective wind cast. If you can cast 80 feet without wind, then a 50 foot cast into a 15 knot wind is doable.

When challenged with a headwind, you should direct the forward cast with a downward trajectory. A straight level cast or one directed upward may blow the fly and line back into you. Try a slightly downward angled cast to deflect some of the wind’s resistance. Remember the 180 degree rule for casting, so adjust your trajectory to have a higher back cast to accommodate a lower forward cast.

Loop size is crucial with all wind casts, especially a headwind. A tight loop is more aerodynamic and efficient to direct the energized line forward rather than wasting energy with a wide loop. Direct your attention towards maintaining a straight line path with your rod tip.

Proper line speed is also valuable to combat wind. These challenging conditions will pay dividends for practicing an effective hauling technique beforehand.

Finally, remember the proper tackle. It’s great fun to battle with a bonefish with a six weight rod, but with wind you may need to move up a weight or two. Don’t bring a knife to a gun fight.