Your one-stop website for fly fishing the White River, the Norfork Tailwater, and Lake Taneycomo
Casting Help for Beginners: Learning to properly load the fly rod
There are two continual problems that I have observed while watching new casters or when helping people learn how to cast. Most beginners seem to have trouble with their casting arc, and I think this is one of the biggest challenges of learning how to cast. I have noticed that neophytes do not have any real difficulty getting the pause and the timing down, but the position of the rod tip is critical when loading the rod. This issue must be addressed if one is going to realize the most efficient casting stroke. First, we need to understand that the proper casting arc consists of the ten o’clock to the two o’clock positions that are taught to fly fishing beginners. Accomplishing this arc is easier said than done, and this is why why I want to expand on this concept. This will help anybody who is having trouble getting their line to lie out flat after the final forward cast.
It is very important to understand where to stop the rod on the back cast. This is where fundamental problems begin to surface. Even though most fly fishermen are taught to stop at the two o’ clock position, many go all the way back to the four o’clock position - or even further, and this is because the forearm muscles have not developed the proper muscle memory at this point. Those new to fly casting should keep in mind that when they lower their rod past the two o’ clock position, they are forcing the fly line towards the ground, which prevents the rod from loading correctly. Loading the rod is crucial for allowing the line to function properly, especially with respect to increasing casting distance. Developing proper loops will amend this issue. If one drops the rod tip too far back on their back cast, the line will not lie out straight on the subsequent forward cast – instead, it will pile up, which creates a mess and lots of frustration. The piling of line occurs because the rod did not load in a way where there is enough force to cause the line to shoot out of the rod. I cannot stress the importance of loading the rod enough. If the arc is flawed, all of the subsequent casting actions will fail. The rod tip MUST adhere to a straight path. Think about the stroke used when painting a ceiling. If the brush drops off the ceiling at any time, it means that the painting stroke is suffering from a lowered arc. That creates a wide loop which and with respect to casting, your line develops a mind of its own – most new to fly casting suffer from this problem.
Professional instruction will definitely help at this point in the casting process. I teach people to stop at 12 o’clock. This way, if they go a bit further back, which is the natural tendency of beginners, they will actually stop the rod in the perfect position. Stopping at 12’oclock also develops the strength in the muscles of the arm. Because most who are learning do not really realize that they are dropping their rod further back than needed, this exercise can actually be of great help. Beginners should always be conscious of where they stop the rod, and by turning their heads and watching the back cast, they will be able to see exactly when the line is straight behind them. If a person does not pay attention to what they are doing wrong, how will they ever fix any problems? I like to tell people to start high and end low. This means to stop higher on the back cast and aim lower with the forward cast. This will help to effectively carry the loop forward so that the line is not able to pile up. This will also help a caster feel the load in their rod tip right away. Try stopping at 12 o’clock if you are having difficulty turning the fly line over and see if it makes you a more proficient caster.
Here are a few other visualization tips that helped me way back when I was learning to cast a fly rod:
1) You must always have a pause in your cast between the end of the back cast and the beginning of the forward cast. This pause gives the fly line the chance to straighten out behind you. Once you feel a slight “pull” from the line, it is time to commence the forward stroke.
2) Close your eyes and try to feel the fly line load your rod tip. Beginners do not really understand what loading the rod tip means, so I like to teach this concept right off the bat. If a person can load the rod, they will become a functional caster quite a bit faster. Very few casting instructors ever tell their disciples to close their eyes. I personally think that they should because people learn best by feel and every teaching trick will work for someone.
3) NEVER try to pick up a bunch of slack line when initiating the casting stroke. So, make sure your fly line is STRAIGHT before picking it up. This will make it virtually effortless to pick the line up when making a new cast. Also, working with a straight line will prevent a lot of tangles on your rod – trust me on this one as I fix tangles for a living, or at least it feels that way sometimes. Good luck and I hope this article helps all the beginners out there who are struggling with the basics of casting and rod loading.