Here’s my biggest takeaway from being a full time guide: Casting is hard, but it’s an essential skill. And many anglers don’t work on it enough. Some seem happy to get the fly near a target, giving very little thought to where and how the tippet and leader will land.
But do you know how many options there are for that leader placement? It’s endless. Should you land in contact or out? With slack on top of a lagging curve on the soft side of the bubble seam? Should you tuck the nymph in vertically or gently arc in a fly-first entry? And will you land the leader upstream or downstream of your streamer, because that position dictates the head orientation of your Bunny Bullet Sculpin.
All of these options are in the palm of your hand— under the cork and at your fingertips. And there’s only one way for all of it to happen — with speed in the cast.
I talk about this a lot. I’ve written about it — put more juice in the cast. The crew and I did a full podcast on the importance of fly casting, and we highlighted speed and crisp stops as the most critical elements in any casting style.
That’s right, I said any. Maybe you believe that speed in your cast or a decent casting form in general is unimportant, because you’re just nymphing. Slinging that weight around is good enough, right? No, it’s really not. If you’re a Troubitten regular, you know that I say this frequently: it’s casting, not lobbing. And learning to cast, with every type of rig, opens up the whole game of fly fishing.
I run into this every day: Anglers have been told that if they’re fishing with weight, and especially if there are multiple things on the line, like split shot and an indicator, then it’s best to keep the casting loops wide open and lob the line forward — maybe just safely water haul it on every drift. If you subscribe to this common approach, you are selling yourself short. Way short. Cast with speed and good loops.
READ: Troutbitten | You Need Turnover
Do you know that you can get a perfectly-placed fly, weight and indicator, all in one seam on a nymph rig? That rig will get a true dead drift, from the beginning — even on the drop. And you can get the alignment of everything in the air, even while casting across the river. But all of it is possible only by keeping speed in the cast. Try it with open loops or a lob, and that kind of control over the landing of three things on the leader is impossible.
READ: Troutbitten | One Great Nymphing Trick
Dry flies must turn over to employ a stop-and-drop style of delivery with slack line to the fly. Maybe you’d like to throw an overpowered curve? Speed is the only way to get it done.
Keep speed in the cast. Form good casting loops and let the rig turn over. Only then can you choose the landing spots for everything on the leader.
Casting deficiencies are built into the common angler, often because it’s what we are taught. We’ve all heard the open-loops recommendation before. But how will you cast a streamer under an overhanging branch — or any setup in tight cover — without excellent, tight loops? You won’t. You’ll avoid it and miss some of the best opportunities on the water.
What should you do around obstacles and structure? How do you get the fly under branches and limbs, and how can you jam the cast into a tight pocket between two rocks?
Increase the casting speed. Do not slow it down.
Our natural response to the situation is to be cautious, but that results in a slower cast — what I call babying it in. Slowing down the cast opens the casting loop, so your rig goes over the branch instead of under it. Tight loops are the only way to succeed in thick cover and tough spots. And that only comes with good casting form, regardless of the rig and the flies.
A couple of weeks ago I wrote about why I hate the water haul cast as a standard approach. It’s a great once-in-a-while problem solver, but it’s far too limiting to use regularly. Another problematic technique is a roll cast. A good one results in a leader and fly that turns over in the air before it lands on the water. How do you do that? With speed? A great, fast roll cast is a beautiful thing to watch and fun to perform. But under-powered roll casts result in an open arc of line that finishes its turnover on the water and lobs in.
Unfortunately, a great roll cast is one of the toughest things to learn. More unfortunately, lazy roll casts are often taught as the easy way to plunk your next delivery somewhere near the target. But life can be better than that.
All fly types — all rigs — need speed to reach their potential.
Cast. Cast with acceleration and good crisp loops. Do it with dry flies, nymphs, indicator rigs and streamers. And don’t let anyone tell you differently.
Fish hard, friends.
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Enjoy the day.
T R O U T B I T T E N
Thanks Dom. My current rod is medium action and I’m debating about going to a faster action. I fish small spring creeks, so delicacy and tippet protection are important. Is rod action a factor here in achieving the casting you describe?
Hi Matt. That’s a good question. But no, medium action works great. Soft action is also fine. There is a range of what I mean by speed. But good acceleration and crisp stops is what it takes, regardless of rod action. I tell my guests this all the time: you can’t cast with too much speed. Trust me. That is almost always the case. Smooth speed. Not ridiculous. Just great acceleration.
Great article Dom! I notice that casting with speed gets more comfortable as you learn more about your rod of choice and how it performs. Your thoughts on roll casts got me wondering, have you done any type of spey casting? I think you would enjoy the speed and accuracy of those casting methods. Have a good day!
Right on. I probably would. But, no. We don’t have that opportunity here. Trout will not take a swung/dragging fly like that very often.