Fly casting is an integral part of fly fishing, it is one of the foundational skills needed to fly fish. Most often than not as a beginner angler you learn the standard overhead forward cast and the roll cast. While these two casts can get the job done in most scenarios there are a handful of more advanced and less common fly casts that can be very useful out on the water. You might be surprised that the casts outlined below are casts you might already be doing. Read on to learn more about the specific advanced fly casts and how to perform them effectively.
1.) The Reach Cast:
The reach cast is hands down one of the most efficient ways to cast dry flies or dry dropper rigs. In the summertime, it is not uncommon for our guides to solely use this cast. The reach cast is also called the mend cast, it is ultimately a traditional cast with an in air mend added to it. So instead of letting your flies fall onto the water and then mending your line, with the reach cast you mend your line on the forward part of your cast, in the air. When your flies land on the water there has already been a mend put into the line and a drag-free drift can be achieved with no extra-effort. This will speed up the time your flies will be in the strike zone, resulting in more hookups and less effort.
To properly perform the reach mend cast, start out with your normal setup for a forward backcast. Bring the line back behind you, pause, and as you begin to power forward change the trajectory of your forward cast slightly upriver to get the line to travel and your “follow-through” of your forward cast should be slightly up-river creating this in air mend. Your flies will land “pre-mended” giving you a nice long drag-free drift. There will also be instances where you might do the reach mend cast to pre-mend your flies downstream depending on the fishing situation.
A longer 9-foot leader and rod with medium-fast action is best to perform this cast.
2.) The Steeple Cast:
The steeple cast is an extremely useful cast when you have little to no room to backcast. It can be a great advanced fly casting technique to take the place of a roll cast, or if a roll cast cannot be performed due to lack of water around, too fast of water or boulders or grass at your feet. Most anglers have likely already performed a steeple cast and haven’t even realized it. It is quite simple.
Unlike your traditional backcast where you bring all your line directly behind you for the backcast, with the steeple cast you will bring all your line above you, up in the air, stop early, and then power forward into your forward stroke. If you think of a clock with your traditional back cast where you are coming back to 10:00, stopping, powering forward, and then stopping at 2:00 on the forward stroke. With the steeple cast, you will bring your back cast up and stop at 12:00 not letting the line get directly behind you instead up above you and then powering forward and stopping at 2:00. You are doing this based on that there is some sort of obstacle like trees, rocks, or a steep bank not allowing you to cast behind you.
The steeple cast is generally not a long distance cast and is best used in casting scenarios where less than 30 feet of casting is necessary. But, it can be very useful to master the steeple cast for more technical casting scenarios like the one mentioned above.
3.) The Pile or Parachute Cast:
The pile and parachute casts are both advanced fly cast that all anglers should have in their quiver. These casts are slack line casts that can be helpful when fishing downstream, across currents, or in back eddies. When performed properly the casts will result in a good amount of slack line right out at the end of rod tip, providing your fly with room to be swept in the current or swirled in the back eddie without any drag occurring. The steeple cast can be challenging to perform in high winds and is definitely not your most accurate of advanced fly casts.
To perform the pile and parachute cast begin your normal back cast and as you power forward stop earlier, say at 12:00 instead of 2:00. This will create a big open loop and the fly line will begin to “pile” in the air. With a pile cast, after you make your stopping motion at 12:00 on the forward stroke, you can slowly begin to lower your rod after your fly has landed. Whereas, with the parachute cast, after you make the stopping motion at 12:00 on the forward stroke, you will pull your rod tip to the water, speeding up the process to get the fly in the ready position.
The parachute cast is better used when fishing faster water. As you want to speed up the process of getting your fly ready and rod tip in the ready for a strike. Whereas, with the pile cast it is a slower setup. It may be best suited for a swirling back eddies or slower water.
Both of these casts can be extremely effective in presenting your flies across the current. As the “pile” of slack line will act as a buffer allowing your fly to be drag-free for a longer period of time.
4.) The Single or Double Haul:
You have probably heard the term “hauling” if you have spent any time saltwater fly fishing or fly fishing with larger weight rods. Hauling can also be effective when fly casting for trout. Especially when the wind comes up or if you are fishing heavier weighted flies like streamers. Single and double hauling is an advanced casting technique that will increase your line speed. Thus, increasing your distance and power of your fly cast.
A haul can be described as a simple tug on the line, that will increase the line speed and flex the rod, resulting in more power and distance to the cast. To perform a single haul, begin your normal back cast and as you are powering back simply tug on the line and then reposition your hand back to where you left off. This tug will result in a flex in the rod creating more line speed. The single haul is just one tug or haul on the backstroke. A double haul is when you add an additional tug on your line on the forward stroke. This creates even more distance and power. The double haul is very popular for saltwater fly anglers. It can be useful when fishing for trout but the single haul seems to be more widely used.
Hauling can take some practice to train your muscle memory to perform, so be patient with this advanced casting technique. Hauling is a casting technique that every angler should master over time to help increase casting distance.
5.) The Bow and Arrow Cast:
The bow and arrow cast is exactly as it sounds. The cast is performed by holding the fly with one hand and flexing the rod to create a bow shape. Then letting go of the fly as it shoots out like an arrow. While many might think this cast is just for the photo or the glory of using your fly rod like a bow and shooting your fly like an arrow. This cast can be extremely useful in tight fishing quarters with many trees and branches around.
While it may seem pretty straight forward there are some basic techniques to keep in mind. To perform the bow and arrow cast simply take hold of your fly. Make sure to grab hold of the bend of the hook and not the front of the fly. If you hold the front of the fly it can often spring forward and catch your hand. After you have your fly in your hand, raise your rod tip up parallel to the water and bring the fly up by your ear, aim the cast by pointing the rod tip, and let it fly. It is very useful when fishing on very small creeks where no backcast or even roll cast is possible.
The bow and arrow cast can deliver your flies across the stream into the target zone with accuracy. Be sure to try it a few times before you are in tight quarters. It can be helpful to get the hang of it to prevent snags and improve accuracy.
Practice on and off the water.
You can practice the casts listed above at any local grass field or lake. If you are struggling to find fishable water due to runoff head to the local park or lake to try practicing these casts. Another good way to improve your casting is to film or have someone else film your casting. You will be able to see exactly what you are doing right and possibly wrong within your casting stroke. By understanding the advanced fly casts listed above, you can have more tricks up your sleeve to get the fly to the fish in the most challenging situations.
If you are preparing for a specific trip or want hands-on instruction, one of the professional guides at Vail Valley Anglers can give you a 1-on-1 instruction into fly casting. Be sure to stop by the shop today or give us a call at 970-926-0900. Be sure to check out this previous blog for some basic casting tips.
Patrick Perry, Former Guide, and Content Contributor, @patperry