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How To Fly Fish Cast Saltwater

by Bruce Chard   |  November 19th, 2012 0

Three ways to improve your presentations on the flat

We have all heard the old saying “Practice Makes Perfect.” But repetition doesn’t make this old adage true. Let’s face it. Saltwater fly fishing is tough. Wind, weather, and difficult fish force errors on even the most experienced fly fishers from time to time. There are simply too many uncontrollable variables to become “perfect,” but with practice you can reduce your margin of error and become damn proficient—taking advantage of a higher percentage of your opportunities.
In saltwater casting there are three skills that almost everyone can improve: using the backcast to present the fly, making a short (quick) cast, and increasing line speed. Here are my thoughts on why these three skills are so important (and under-appreciated) and how to improve on them.

Backcast Delivery
If you are ambidextrous, you never have to worry about what direction the wind is blowing or which direction a fish is coming from. For the rest of us, using your backcast to present the fly accounts for up to half of your opportunities—so you’d better make those backhand casts count.
As a guide, the most common problem I see with the backcast is that people don’t consider it a viable option, or they don’t have the awareness to know when to use it.
When you are on the casting platform, try to be aware of the wind direction at all times. The greatest casters in the world will pin their shirt to their skin if they don’t pay attention to the wind speed and direction. You should also pay attention when the boat swings left or right, or whether the shoreline angles left or right because these changing angles potentially change the angle of your cast. These are mental skills that can be developed, and as you gain experience you’ll become more aware of all these external factors, and that puts you one step closer to knowing when you should use a backcast.
To beat a strong wind coming in at their casting side, some fly fishers attempt to cast with their arm across their chest, and the rod working over their opposite shoulder. Don’t do this. With your arm in this position you greatly reduce your stroke length and your power. Casting over your opposite shoulder works great with a dry fly and a 3-weight rod, but doesn’t work in the wind with a 10-weight rod and a crab pattern.

When you use a backcast to present the fly, remember to keep an eye on your target. This is difficult to get used to, but pays huge dividends. Most trout fishermen never see their own backcast because it is overhead, over their shoulder, and directly behind them. But they always keep an eye on their target.

In the salt it’s even more important not to lose track of the fish, so turn your body sideways to your target and open up your stance so it’s easier to swivel your head and keep your eyes on your target.
Cast sidearm, not overhead, and fully extend your hauling arm on the presentation cast to generate the power you need to turn over the leader and make it land straight.
An accurate cast in the salt means that not only is the fly on target, but the leader is extended and the fly is ready to swim immediately. There should be no need to strip in slack before you can begin to move the fly.
Opening up your stance like this not only helps you keep an eye on the fish, but also puts you in perfect position to start stripping your line right away. Since you made a backcast presentation, your rod arm is not crossing your chest and is already extended toward your target. This lets you strip line immediately, and come tight to your fly quicker. The faster you can come tight to the fly the better. This is especially important when permit fishing.

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