February 08, 2022
Just as fishing situations don’t always call for long casts, they often don’t call for straight casts. In golf, an obstacle, wind, or dogleg fairway may compel a golfer to curve the ball’s flight to the right (called a fade for a right-hander), or draw it to the left. To achieve this, he alters his grip, stance, and swing path, which in turn modifies the angle at which the club face meets the ball.
Similarly, a fly caster who can throw a curving line has the ability to cast around branches, logs, and rocks, put slack into the line for drag-free floats, or retrieve flies from right to left or from left to right. Curve casts, while requiring practice, are easier to master than most anglers imagine.
Some use the terms “hook” and “curve” synonymously; I use “hook” for a curve cast that turns very sharply, even as much as 90 degrees.
Contrary to what some people believe, the line does not go in the direction that the rod is pointing at the end of the cast. Rather, the line continues going in the direction the tiptop is moving when the rod shaft straightens after it has been bent, or loaded.
At that point all energy stored in the rod has been transferred to the line, which continues unrolling in the direction the tip was traveling—up, down, or to the side. Any overswing of the tip may send a shock wave into the line, but does not change the basic direction of the cast. Understanding this is vital if you want to control the direction of the cast.
Here’s how to get started throwing curves. The simplest curve cast travels in one plane. For convenience, let’s assume you cast right-handed. Make a sidearm cast with the rod traveling horizontally—parallel to the water—but overpower the cast and check it abruptly. The line travels ahead and continues turning to the left. With practice you can make it curve accurately at various distances.
Years ago, this was dubbed a positive curve. To make a negative curve, or to the right, some instructors advocated slowing up the cast and letting the loop fall in a curve on the water. Some still preach this, but in reality it is not a curve at all, since the line never straightens. This cast is imprecise, inaccurate, and is impossible to cast around anything. It also reveals that the caster doesn’t really understand what makes curves work.
Instead, for a curve to the right, make the same cast across your body, with the rod to the left or, better yet, make the cast sidearm with your left hand. The latter is actually easier for most people, especially for shorter casts.
Casting with the rod in a vertical position—which you may have to do in restricted quarters—is a bit more difficult, since you are dealing with two planes. However, you can make longer, more accurate, and sharper line turns.
Based on what I’ve explained above, understand that the tiptop must be traveling in a curve or arc prior to straightening. A hook cast requires that the tip make a sharp turn when straightening.
Since the only innate ability a rod has is to straighten, this means that you must load it in a curve. To curve the line to the left, keep your thumb behind the grip and finish your forward stroke with a very brief, sharp turn of the hand before the stop. You can think, “push your thumb” or “turn your knuckles” to the left, or imagine screwing in a light bulb or turning a screwdriver.
Make the action exceptionally short and quick, and don’t stroke downward; rather, keep the hand and grip at roughly the same height throughout. This final motion loads the rod with a slight twist, which will recoil and throw a curve into the line.
The simplest way to make a right-hand curve, since your hand won’t turn as readily to the right, is to cast with the rod tilted over your opposite shoulder. On the forward cast, when your forearm is about 45 degrees in front of you, turn your thumb and knuckles sharply to the right, again being careful not to drive the tip downward toward the water.
There are several ways to cast hooks and curves—I’ve given a few of the most efficient here. But don’t wait until you’re confronted with a situation on the water before learning how to execute them.
Once you can start curving the line, practice curves and hooks by laying something on the ground and trying repeatedly to cast around it, to the right and left. Even better, push dowels or stakes into the ground at 5-foot intervals out to 30 or 40 feet and cast around them in succession.
Another good training routine calls for cloning the cast. Lay a line out on the ground in a curve, and try to match the curve with your cast. This will develop great consistency. You will increase your versatility and catch more fish by mastering these casts.
Ed Jaworowski is the author of The Cast: Theories and Applications for More Effective Techniques (Stackpole Books, 2006).