February 02, 2022
By Steve Rajeff
This article was originally titled "Going the Distance" in the Oct-Nov-Dec 2010 issue of Fly Fisherman magazine.
While saltwater fly fishers depend on the efficacy of a quick 90-foot cast, and the most successful West Coast steelhead anglers cast long lines all day, many trout fishers disregard and refuse to refine their distance casting skills.
It’s true that in trout fishing the casting distances are normally more modest, but learning the principles behind distance casting—and mastering them—can pay dividends in any casting situation. Effective distance casting requires efficiency of motion. Translated to trout stream fly fishing, these same efficiencies leave you less fatigued at the end of the day and more important, they help you beat the wind, cast bulkier flies, and get your fly on target more often. Here are six basic principles that are crucial for getting more distance out of your casts.
Create Narrow Loops
A tight, wedge-shaped loop is the result of moving the rod tip along a relatively straight path. It represents the most efficient application of energy, since little energy is lost in upward or downward motion. Conversely, a wide loop forms when you move the rod tip in an arc like a windshield wiper blade. A loop shaped like the leading edge of an airplane wing or the front of a sports car cuts through the wind better, making you a more effective caster at all distances and in all weather conditions.
Master the Double Haul
A “haul” is nothing more than a pull on the line with the line hand to accelerate the fly line. A single haul takes place on the forward cast only. A double haul occurs when you pull the line during the forward and the backcast. Here the author gets maximum effect on the backcast haul by extending his arm forward away from the reel.
One danger of a poor double haul is that through poor timing or poor hand position, you can actually introduce slack that detracts from your cast instead of helping it. Here, the author “feeds” line into the unrolling backcast at the correct moment by bringing his line hand close to the reel as the line straightens behind him and his hand drifts backward before beginning the forward cast. When he begins the forward cast, his line is tight and his hands are close together for the forward haul.
The haul on the final delivery cast pulls the line down, away from the forward-moving reel (and line). After the haul, the author releases the line and “shoots” the line forward.
Drift on the Backcast
For maximum distance, your rod hand and rod tip should travel along the longest possible path—especially when carrying long lengths of line in the air. To help your hand move along this path, your casting hand should drift backward, following the backcast.
Control Your Wrist
At the end of the false cast, the author’s wrist is straight and locked to emphasize the stop and release all the energy from the rod into the forward cast.
On the final delivery cast, the author extends his arm forward to the stop position, then drifts forward a few inches while relaxing his grip to create a V-shaped loop and absorb vibrations from the rod.
Throw Your Body Into It
Baseball pitchers don’t throw strikes with just their arm. In most athletic pursuits, if you want maximum speed or strength with your arm, you must throw your body behind it. Here the author has shifted his weight from his back foot to his front (left) foot like a quarterback throwing a touchdown pass. Body rotation during this weight transfer adds acceleration and distance, provided the rod tip still tracks straight.
Manage Your Line
Too many good casters spoil an otherwise excellent cast merely by not managing the slack line. Whether you are in a boat, on the beach with a stripping basket, or fishing a large river, it’s important to make sure your line launches cleanly through the guides. Here the author has three loops of line ready to cast. When stripping line in, form the longest of three loops first. The second and third loops are progressively shorter to prevent intertwining and tangles during the cast.
Steve Rajeff is G.Loomis’s director of engineering. He has won the U.S. all-around casting championship 36 times and the world casting championship 14 times. These photographs were shot while testing G.Loomis’s new NRX fly rods on the Skeena River near Terrace, British Columbia.