You Can't Buy a Good Fly Cast

December 6, 2016

You can’t buy yourself a good fly cast. You can try, we’ve all seen it attempted with pathetic futility.  Everyone has a “buy it all Bob” in their network. You know that guy. He has more fly rods than you have socks.  He has a different fly line for head winds, tail winds, nymphs, streamers, and lighting conditions.  If you have a friend like this please send us his contact information. haha. Joke.  I only say joke because we already got to him! 

I hate to burst anyone’s bubble, but you CAN’T BUY A GOOD CAST.  It is impossible.  High end rods will make bad casts the same way an inexpensive rod will.  Just at higher line speed and then you just look silly because you have a $1,000 rod in your hand a fly stuck in your ear.  Deeper because the fly was traveling so damn fast.

How Do You Become a Great Caster?

Practice is one thought that comes to mind. I have done a lot of mentoring for anglers from all skill sets and walks of life. Young, old, new, experienced, rich, poor, men, and women.  I have been teaching casting professionally for 17 years but only really “got it” on how to teach a few years ago.  Like many instructors, I would nag my students and say the same old annoying clichés that all fly fishers of self-proclaimed expert status use.  “You’re breaking your wrist, you are going back too far, you aren’t waiting long enough, you’re waiting too long, use your wrist a little, you aren’t going back far enough…” and on and on.  Like many instructors I probably made a lot of people rethink fly fishing.  Golf Discount has reaped the benefits of poor casting instruction for years as former students spent their allowance money at the local golf shop. No more will we teach with annoying cliches! 

If you want to be a good caster, you have to fully understand HOW the cast works.  Instead of somebody just telling you what to do, a good student must first understand how the cast works.  There are many layers to this, but I’ll hit on a couple of the key principles involved in the fly cast. If you can follow me here and understand this, you will become a great caster and won’t look silly while holding that $1,000 rod anymore.

What is the Number One Thing You Can Do to Improve Your Fly Fishing?

Learn to cast better. Its right there, plain and simple.  The ugly truth.  A more efficient cast allows you to cover more water, use less effort, frustration is minimized, enjoyment is maximized, less tangles, more fish, and the better caster you are - the more likely you will be able to catch fish on your terms. 

Simple Truths of the Fly Cast

  1. The rod doesn’t have to move fast to make a fly cast.  The line just needs to be tight. It doesn’t matter how fast you move the rod, if it’s under tension it will load up and spring forward resulting in a good fly cast. 
  2. You can’t push fly line.  Its impossible. The entire cast is setup behind you.  Think about THAT.  Quit skimming and think about it.  You can't push the fly cast. 
  3. The path of the fly will parallel the path of the rod tip.  This is probably the simplest nuance, but is rarely understood by anyone but the most advanced casters. Sit and ponder this for a bit.  It will be the best time you ever spent on your fly cast.  Take your hand, wave it around, and picture what a fly would do if it were tethered to your finger. 
  4. The only part of the rod the fly has direct communication with is the tip.  The tip of the rod is in charge. It directs everything the fly does both back and forward. 
  5. The casting stroke ranges from 10 to 2 if it were measured on the hands of a clock.  Much of the time yes. BUT 11, 12, and 1 aren’t involved.  Sit and ponder that until you get it.  The rod tip travels on a flat plane during the cast while under tension. 
  6. The fly rod should be driven straight, no swung.  How will the fly know where to go if we swing the rod? If you drive the rod tip forward the fly knows exactly what to do.
  7. You have to know how to Double Haul to cast a long distance. False. Your cast needs good architecture more than it needs power.  If the cast is efficient and the trajectory has a good shape it will travel plenty far enough. A Double Haul can only help if your fly and casting loop has precise direction down range. 
  8. Your backcast is 80% of the fly cast.  If you are able to get the line tight behind you, the forward cast is easy and efficient. Effortless in fact. That's how good casters make it look so easy. 
  9. Distance casting is overrated.  Said no great fly caster ever. Not one.  If you are a good distance caster it means that you have achieved a mastery of the fly cast which translates into efficiency and accuracy.  Short casts are now chip shots. 
  10. Did you notice that I didn’t once talk about breaking your wrist, or your elbow position, or any other body parts?  If you understand these things your ergonomics will fall in line naturally.  

Your Homework

Here is one of many video tips that Red’s offers regarding better fly casting.  We feel it might be the most critical component of your fly cast.  

Get Some Skin in the Game

While you can’t buy a good cast, I haven’t met a great caster yet that doesn’t value and appreciate a fine fly rod.  Better rods are better. By better I am usually talking about more expensive.  Let's not mince words.  There are some other factors at play, like personal fit, feel, etc.  In general, however, the materials, components and construction of higher priced rods are simply better.  There is a lot of competition by many talented engineers in the fly fishing industry.  I have found things to be priced fairly accurately in accordance with value and performance.  Does this mean you can cast like a schmuck and a spendy rod will help?  Probably not.  But I’ll bet if you make that investment you’ll be a hell of lot more inclined to figure things out for yourself.  You now have skin in the game. A fine rod will meet you where you’re at.  It does provide a smoother, more forgiving, and all around more enjoyable experience.  Most anglers start with a stout beginner’s rod and move up. 

Think of it in terms of cars.  Would it be a good idea to learn how to drive with a Ferrari?  A KIA might be a better idea. A used KIA with steel rims.  As you learn to drive it’s not a bad idea to bang up the KIA a little bit, smack some curbs, ding up the doors, get into some little fender benders, and work out some kinks.  Spill your coffee in it for all I care.  Once you know how to drive however, a high-performance rig is going to do a lot for your enjoyment and performance.  I haven’t met very many good casters that don’t fish with at least above average rods.

We sell fly rods from all ends of the spectrum from $100 to $1,000, and we love to help anglers upgrade or get started. We sell it all.  A new rod often gets folks invigorated about casting again, and motivated to improve upon whatever skill set they currently have. You can’t buy a cast, but sometimes getting some skin in the game will push you towards personal improvement.   

  1. Thanks Joe. This is one of the best posts I've ever read about improving one's casting. There's a lot of truth (and practice) in what you wrote.
  2. Thanks, Joe. What to think about when casting is important, but I beg to differ with what that should be. Fly casting is like dancing - timing and movement is everything. One of the things you think about is not stepping on your partners feet, but that is an incidental to having the first two correct. The fly is your dancing partner, you have the lead, and your partner follows. You are both dancing to the same rhythm. Instead of music, the line, leader and tippet is the guiding connection. We watch and sense the line; not the fly. In my brain, the line follows the rod, and the fly is just along for the ride. It is the line we feel through the rod. So, thinking about what the fly is doing only becomes important at the end of the cast. Do you want it to be quiet (soft landing) or is noise what you want. Yes, get the fish's attention, or sneak up on it. This is a lot more important in the marine environment than the fresh water environment, where usually stealth is needed. What your line does can control all of this. It is the line that straightens out, or loops, or even pops the fly off the tippet. It is the line, leader and tippet that presents or lifts the fly quietly or with noise. If you are thinking of the fly as the guiding factor, you are thinking a spinning or bait casting rod and reel. Flys don't control the cast as do the rod, line, leader and tippet. <*)((((><
  3. Hey Joe,as far as being a buy it all Bob I couldn't agree more,it's something that i am trying not to be a victim of. When time permits me to do so I'm trying to teach myself to Spey casting with my switch rod,this process has greatly improved thanks to the help of your crew setting me up with some OPST Lazar line, Skagit head ,sink tips ECT. But my worry is that since I've aged a bit my circulation in my hands has changed and they get cold a bit easier. That mono may be hard to cast with . When time permits me I'll find out would you suggest having something else on hand just in case? If so, what? I'm done asking Cabela's or Bass pro anything all that has done is cost me more than I want to spend. I have enough trouble with my wife thinking that I need to be head to toe with stuff that says Simms on it.
  4. I read it and its a awesome post for fishing . thank you for this kind of post .
  5. I read it and its a awesome post for fishing . thank you for this kind of post .