Learning to fly fish: The cast

Fly fishing for trout

One of the objectives of this website is to encourage those who have not fly fished before to give it a try.  We aim to take you from being a complete novice to becoming a confident and competent fly angler, but what does learning to fly fish actually involve?

The first thing to learn is how to cast a fly. There are a number of steps in the learning process and I’ll try to summarise these here.

Step 1. What is fly fishing? We start with the fly, a fish hook dressed up with silk, fur and feather to look like fish food. We must get that fly to the fish and to do that we use two items of fishing tackle: a rod and a line. The rod and line work together to deliver the fly to the fish using what we call a fly cast. The fly line takes the place of the heavy lead weight used in other forms of fishing to propel the hook to the fish.

Step 2. What tackle do we need and how do we set it up? The fly hook has an eye to which we tie a thin piece of nylon called a leader. The leader is attached with a different knot to a thicker, heavier line (called a fly line). The fly line passes through a series of rings or eyes attached to the rod and the spare line is stored on a simple reel or winch. We’ll explain how to select appropriate tackle and show you how to set it up. We’ll also teach you some useful knots.

Step 3. How do we cast? The magic of fly fishing is the cast. As mentioned above the fly line is relatively thick and heavy, certainly in comparison with the usual nylon fishing line with which you might be familiar. The cast uses the weight of the line to load the rod like a spring or a catapult before throwing the line in the direction of the fish. The fly follows afterwards and the intention is for the fly to land on the water like a natural insect exactly where you want it to. We will start off teaching you how to hold the rod and then teach you two basic casts: a roll cast and an overhead cast. Those two casts are the foundations on which the skills of fly casting are built and at this stage you could start to fish but there is one more step that will give you a better chance of success.

Step 4. How do we cast further? Once the basic casts are understood, you will need to learn a few technical developments that will allow you to fish more effectively. You will learn to false cast (make a cast that doesn’t touch the water) and to lengthen your line. You will learn how to cast accurately at a target as well as learning tactics for dealing with difficult winds. At a more advanced level you will learn how to double haul for long distance casting and even how to cast around corners to improve the presentation of your fly.

Well those 4 steps sound easy, how long does it take to learn to cast? Steps 1 – 3 can be completed in half a day and then it is a good idea to spend a little time putting the lessons into practice. As in any sport, practice is essential for good performance. From there we can add in the more advanced elements when you are ready and depending on where you want to fish.

Find out more about learning to fly fish on our tuition page.

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