Doug Macnair’s Cast Like a Pro – Part 4


4 Practice

To Learn the Fly Cast, Follow this Set-Up Routine. Since you will be learning new body movement, Rote memory is a great way to fix in your mind what you should be doing. Unfortunately, I won’t be with you when you practice the art of the fly cast; YOU, however, ARE FULLY CAPABLE OF SELF-CRITIQUE, PROVIDED YOU CARRY THIS BOOKLET OUTSIDE WHEN YOU PRACTICE. Remember: no practice, no competency. When checking yourself out, follow these steps:

  1. With the rod safely lying on the grass, strip off about 20 ft. of line and lay it out straight in front of you.
  2. With the rod at your feet, assume an open position to the target line that allows you to easily pivot in the direction will make the backcast. Do not place your feet too far apart. The position should be totally comfortable.
  3. Pick-up the rod at the reel seat and take up the grip, but in doing this, DO NOT RAISE THE ROD TIP. Leave the rod tip in contact with the grass. If you lift the tip, you no longer have direct contact with the fly; instead you have slack—the kiss of death to the fly cast.
  4. The grip has been previously discussed. Be sure that your thumb is on top of the cork grip with your index finger beneath the grip. Your wrist is in the DE-COCKED position.
  5. Turn the rod hand about 45 degrees from vertical so that you can see the finger tips of your fingers, but only the side of the thumb, not the thumbnail.
  6. With elbow close to your body, begin the backcast slowly and, at the same time, pivot your upper body in the direction of the cast using your hips and legs.
  7. Accelerate the cast with increasing speed until your rod hand reaches a point about 90 degrees from where you began the backcast. At this point, execute FLICKSTOP. Remember: THE QUICKER THE FLICK AND THE STOP THE TIGHTER THE LOOP AND THE GREATER THE LINE SPEED. This is the power stroke of the fly cast.
  8. If you have done this properly, you will see the line going up and out and the loop of the fly line as it unrolls. You will also see the edge of you thumb—but not the fingernail!
  9. If there is no LOOP, STOP! Do not go further because it is a waste of time. Start over and follow the guidance STEP-BY-STEP.
  10. If there is a LOOP, go forward …
  11. Just before the line fully unrolls on at the end of the backcast, begin the forward cast movement, SLOWLY. (A failure to follow this guidance leads to a “wind-knot”, better described as a casting failure.)
  12. As you move the rod into the forward cast, be sure the casting elbow leads the rod until the final moments of the cast. Watch the cast!
  13. As you make the forward cast, begin pivoting your body back to its original position.
  14. With the elbow leading the rod and returning to the side of the body, the speed of the forward cast is increased. It ends when you unload the rod with a FLICKSTOP at about 11 o’clock, but be sure to follow-through dropping the rod tip until it is once again returned to the fishing position—close to the water.
  15. Simple? Yes! But the obligation is yours—keep this booklet close at hand. Read it over and over again until you have memorized what’s been said. Practice the techniques, stopping when you foul-up and beginning again at the point where you made a mistake.

Remember: The Munchkins told Dorothy: “The best place to begin is always at the beginning.” Simply follow the Yellow Brick Road. If you do, know this: you will master the cast.What went right? If all went well, your cast formed a beautiful loop in the fly line that unrolled perfectly. It is tribute to your grip, stance, low rod tip, attention to watching the backcast and, most of all, executing FLICKSTOP.
What went wrong? Sometimes it doesn’t go right. Instead of a perfect loop, the end result is a non-loop. A non-loop looks a little like this depiction. Non-loops are typically caused by one or more of errors: (1) passing the rod through too long an arc; (2) dropping the rod tip too low at the end of both the back and forward casts because of a limp wrist; (3) not driving the rod with sufficient speed to cause it to bend or load. Correct these errors by narrowing the arc, controlling the wrist and stopping the rod immediately after the final acceleration.

There is also the problem of the Tailing Loop. To some degree, it stays with all fly-rodders throughout their casting life. If you do not think it a problem, be advised—it is! The first time those little teeny-tiny knots show up in the end of the tippet, know that you, too, have been bitten by the evil tailing loop bug. Most folks call them “Wind Knots.” They are, of course, anything but that. The truth is the first time the rod is “jerked” forward into making the forward cast, that jerky start will leave the mark of the tailing loop. Jerking the rod unevenly applies power at the wrong time forcing the rod tip to sharply dip. The dip results in the rod tip following a concave line during the cast. Where the rod tip goes, the line will follow. The tailing loop is always lurking, waiting to tell a fly caster the sad truth: “You did bad!” Over the years, the average fly fisher repeats this error many times. The lesson is obvious—do not jerk the rod forward when beginning the forward cast.
A tailing loop can also result if the backcast and forward cast travel along the same plane. Avoid this circumstance by following this guidance—backcast using a high sidearm stroke but do not allow the forward cast to follow the same line; instead follow a slightly different track that’s a bit more vertical. In other words, allow the strokes of the back and the forward casts to follow a slightly oval. With experience and practice, modifying the casting stroke will become natural depending on the specifics of the cast desired.

From experience, I know that if you will follow these guidelines, you will become a fly caster in very short order. Please know that advanced casting techniques have deliberately not been mentioned. And for a good reason … Mastery of the basics is a prerequisite to what follows … Happiness!

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