Entering the Brine
One of the most drastic changes a fisherman has to make when moving to the salt, is the need to cast at some distance from the skiff, but also having the ability to do it quickly and accurately. Bonefish, tarpon and our other flats denizens are typically always moving. One has to be able to judge the distance and the speed at which a fish is moving, then place a fly/bait accurately above the path or the intended target. There is a very small window of opportunity, and it closes quickly with each passing cast. Add to this the ever-present breeze off the Atlantic, and it gets a little tricky for a novice. Both spin fisherman and flyfisherman have to make a few changes to their casting stroke in order be successful on the flats.
Fly fisherman... the casts are a bit different in that they may require slightly more distance.. With most new " freshwater" clients that have found themselves on the bow of my skiff, I find them to be wrist casters, equipped only with a short "chopping" stroke and very little shoulder involvement. While in the salt, the wrist certainly has some involvement in the cast, but overuse is the number one reason for a weak cast, especially during the backcast. The forward and backcast essentially require the same technique, it's just that one is moving forward toward your target (forward cast) and one is moving (in a perfect world) 180 degrees away from the target. (backcast) Perfected and the flyline shoots out away from the skiff on a line parallel to the horizon, allowing each cast to load the rod for the next cast. One of the first things I'll do is try and have my clients envision the water we're floating upon to be at eye level. Rather than making a cast "down" to the actual water, we want a cast that travels higher and parallel to the waters surface. If one was to dissect a cast and break it up into three parts (the beginning, middle and end), one would need only to work on two things.. where the rod tip stops at the end of each cast and how it travels to get there. Sound simple? Well it is. The direciton of the cast, that is to say, where the flyline goes to, is determined by the direction the rod tip (the very end) goes in at the very end of the cast. If we finish with our tip headed down, down to the water our flyline goes. If we finish with the tip being swept to the right or left, then we are again not finishing in the direction of our intended target.
Breaking one's wrist strongly on the backcast throws the rodtip, (and consequently) the flyline down to the water, where the rod is unable to load up for the forward cast. The entire cast sequence, (from end of rod tip moving to end of rod tip moving) on either a forward or back cast should follow a very flat path, one that the rod tip travels very nearly parallel to the surface of the water. The hand should move (once again) in a flat path, parallel to the water. If one was to imagine having to open a curtain, the hand would have to move along a flat path either forward or backward, the distance depending on the amount of the curtain opening. Pulling downward at any time would not necessitate the opening, only perhaps pulling the curtain rod off the wall. So goes it with flyfishing.. the hand should travel along a flat path with very little movement up or down along the path it travels. The longer a cast we need (or the stronger the wind), the longer our stroke is. If one keeps the hand level along the path (cast), so should the rod tip travel as well, allowing a cast which neither travels downward or upward at the end of the cast. The height at which the rod tip travels during the middle of the casting stroke, and the height the rod tip finishes at at the end of the cast, determines the size of the loop of the flyline. So if we are able to keep that hand/rod tip level during the cast, our loop should be fairly small at the end of the stroke, headed out above the water, the flyline traveling flat and parallel to the surface of the water.
Watching your flyline on the forward AND backcast is a ideal reference for the health of your casting stroke..
"loading" the rod
The ability to have the weight of the flyline react against the flyrod and have the rod work (bend & assist) for you while false casting. Optimally assisting each forward and back cast of the rod.
Fly Casting into the Wind
The trick to casting into the wind is to throw the line (or more properly, the rod tip) horizontally into the wind, not down at the water. Most clients have a habit of breaking their wrist on the back cast, throwing the line down at the water. The rod then fails to load for the forward cast, losing line speed in the process. First time in the salt? The casting should be done with a minimum of wrist involvement. While practicing your casting, tie a bandana or use a piece of velcro backed cloth circling the rod and your wrist. The rod should work as an extension of your forearm. Most anglers have been taught to "arc" cast from "10 to 2". Although fine for short, finesse casting on a river or stream, it promotes the angler to cast downward at the water at the end of each rod stroke. I'll usually tell my anglers to imagine the water level is five feet higher and to cast at the surface of it. The casting stroke in either direction, should be fairly parallel to the water surface. Watch the fly line, and you'll learn plenty about your casting technique. A bit of practice, and you won't find yourself intimidated by a 12 or 15 knot breeze.
turn your head!
Watching your flyline is a ideal reference for the health of your casting stroke.. If the cast is falling downward at the end TO BE CONTINUED....
next up.. no dancing on the deck, casting creep & put your hands together for the bonefish