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Saltwater Fly Fishing Basics - Part II

By Bill Luscombe, 🕔Mon, Mar 21st, 2011


I just finished teaching another fly-fishing course to 19 enthusiastic novices and I always enjoy fielding the vast array of questions that they ask. More than that, however, I like helping them learn to cast. I find it quite amazing that, with just 2.5 hours of theory and three hours of practical training, nearly the entire class can cast well enough to go fishing.

There is usually one or two however, who just can't get it right. Sometimes it is due to a physical impairment, but most of the time it is a lack of timing. I try to spend extra time with them, and eventually they reach a level where they too can cast well enough to fish, but their timing is still forced and it usually takes many more hours of practice before they can truly say they are comfortable casting.

Casting a fly isn't difficult; it is 10% strength and 90% timing. The first step towards learning to cast well is to get your hands on a good rod. Ultimately, your reel is little more than a glorified line holder (for the trout fishermen anyway) and your line is simply a means to an end (the end being a way to deliver the fly to the fish), but your rod is a wand of wonder. If you can only afford one piece of expensive equipment, this is where the money should go. Buy a good serviceable rod that is built well and casts well, and it will perform year after year (many good rods come with lifetime guarantees), but buy a cheaply made rod and you'll regret it almost immediately.

Cheap rods can be recognised right off the bat. The fastest way for a manufacturer to save money on his rods is to skimp on the number of guides. A good rod should have a guide for every foot of rod length, not including the stripping guide (the big one closest to the handle). That means that a nine-foot rod should have nine guides plus a stripping guide. The guides keep the line close to the rod blank as the line slides through. If there aren't enough guides, then the gaps between the guides become too wide. This allows the line to move about too much and it will slap against the blank when you shoot the line out. This results in poorer, shorter casts.

Tip spiral and damping speed are two more things that affect your casting. Damping speed is the speed at which the rod tip stops moving when you stop moving the rod. The faster the damping speed the better the rod will cast.

Tip spiral is to be avoided. When you stop moving the rod, the tip should continue to move in the same plane as you were moving it until it stops. Rods sometimes have the guides mounted in the wrong place in relation to the spine and this causes the rod tip to change direction when you stop casting and try to shoot the line. Worse yet, some tips will change from an arc to a complete spiral as they dampen. This causes the rod to cast ringlets in the line as it shoots through the tip. This causes excess friction and shortens your distance. The tip should stop quickly and not change direction once you stop casting.

Lastly, when you're casting remember that the rod was designed to cast the line. You must "load" the rod by forcing a bend into it when you cast. Many of my students under-power their casts and use the rod like a lever because they are afraid it might break. This inevitably results in collapsing loops and piles of line at their feet. Remember, the rod was designed to cast the line. Let the rod produce the power, you must simply apply pressure at the right time to cast well.


Bill Luscombe has been hunting and fishing for most of his 42 years. He has been flyfishing for 20 years. He instructs flyfishing, and has done so for the past 12 years. He also instructs the federal FSET firearms course and the BC CORE hunter training course. He is an award-winning outdoor writer and has been writing freelance since 1987. He has been published in BC Sport Fishing Magazine, Outdoor Edge, BC Outdoors, Western Sportsman, Island Fish Finder, and the BC Hunting Guide.

Bill Luscombe was born an army brat and raised in Ladner (Delta, BC) where he was raised hunting waterfowl and pheasants. He presently resides in North Cowichan on southern Vancouver Island where he has lived and worked full time as a professional forester since 1982.

He presently works in Nanaimo for the BC Forest Service and continue to write the fly-fishing column for BC Sport Fishing Magazine as well as contributing articles freelance to various outdoor magazines in western Canada. Bill Luscombe is also a BC Director of the Northwest Outdoor Writers Association.

"Catching fish is not hard. You simply need to understand what makes them tick. If you think like a fish, you will catch fish. It´s as simple as that."- Bill Luscombe


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