Outdoor FunTips & Techniques

Fly Rod Casting Techniques: Forward Cast & Back Cast Basics

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By Mary

As a fly fisherman, it’s important that you learn and practice fly casting basics relatively early.

It’s a fact that your casting technique must be well-honed in order for you to be successful.

Years ago, fly fishing anglers used a lot more wrist action than they do today, because poles were stiff and rigid.

Those were the days before graphite fly fishing rods. Graphite rods changed fly fishing casting considerably and today the arm and shoulder is where the action is.

Still, the fundamentals of casting are the same. The fly line goes over your head, behind you, and then it is cast to the target.

Let’s go over some of the basic fly casting techniques.

Note: Most of the links provided in this article go to videos so you can actually see the right way to cast a fly rod.

Holding The Fly Fishing Rod

There are 5 main fly fishing grips, but for beginners, I recommend you hold the rod firmly, similar to the position you use when shaking hands.

  • Be sure your hand is at the fly fishing grip’s center, with your thumb on the top.
  • Position your line between your fly rod and your first finger.
  • Once you are holding your fly fishing rod correctly, pull 8 to 10 yards of fly fishing line off of your fly fishing reel.
  • Move the rod’s tip rapidly in a horizontal position.
  • As you’re doing this, your fly fishing line should feed down your fly fishing rod and onto the ground.

The Forward Cast

The forward cast adds new dimension to fly fishing. Teach yourself this forward and back fly casting technique until your casts are perfect:

  • First, aim at your target (an old pot or skillet works great).
  • Then, take a mental note of the distance from your hand to the target.
  • Finally, use your thumb and wrist to push the cast forward to that target.

Remember, the line will always follow the direction of your thumb. Use your forearm to push the cast forward toward the target by rotating it from your shoulder and elbow. Your wrist should remain perfectly still.

The cast must be smooth and should stop immediately at the finish of the cast. Be sure your forward cast causes your fly fishing rod to move in an arc. Your elbow should follow a straight horizontal line.


The Back Cast

When you back cast, you walk backwards.

Here’s how to do it:

  1. Your fly fishing line should be out in front of you. Raise your forearm until the line tightens. You do this by lifting the tip of your fly fishing rod. Keep your wrist locked in a bent position and allow your forearm to bring the rod backward. Turn the rod over to cause a loop. At this time, your fly fishing rod will load. As you become more experienced, you will know why this loading move is important in fly fishing.
  2. When your rod reaches the top of your back cast, the fly fishing line will release. At this time, pause. The hand holding your fly fishing rod will be behind your shoulder. Be certain the fly fishing line is straight before you bring it forward for the cast. Do not start the forward portion of the cast too soon, or your fly line will not unfold properly.
  3. As you cast, your fly fishing line should always be tight, so you can maintain good control. Tight loops should form on both forward and backward casts. Be certain that your fly line is always horizontal with the ground.

Be sure to practice these basic fly rod casting techniques until you can hit your target perfectly (almost) every time. Then, you will be ready to catch the really big fish!