Expert Advice From Chad LaChance
By: Heather Madsen and Chad LaChance
Fly fishing can seem intimidating to anyone who is new to the sport. There are so many different techniques and pieces of equipment to choose from that it can seem overwhelming. That’s why I asked Chad LaChance, a professional coach and angler and the host of Fishful Thinker, to write down his top 10 casting tips for beginner fly fishers. Hopefully, his advice will help you avoid some of the most common mistakes beginners make, and make your introduction to fly fishing as smooth as possible.
1. Spend the bulk of your budget on your rod and line, not the reel. The line and rod need to work together and be matched by “weight” (5-weight rod needs a 5-weight line), because the weight of the line is what is cast, and casting power and line speed are a result of how much the line bends or “loads” the rod. Loading the rod is paramount to fly casting!
2. “Weight forward” lines are easier to learn with. The overall weight of the line may be labelled as 5-weight, but where the weight is concentrated along the line affects how it loads the rod with a given amount of line out. A weight forward line carries more weight in the front third of the line, while a “double taper” line centers the weight along the line. Having that weight shifted forward helps your setup stand up against wind better, and it’ll be able to handle longer leaders.
3. Good fly casting is not muscle; it’s rod loading/unloading and timing. Most newer fly casters tend to not give the line enough time to roll the loop out before initiating the next stroke. This results in the caster getting farther behind on timing, which does not load the rod. When the line is rolled out mostly straight and you can start to feel the line pull on the rod, that’s when you’ll want to start the next stroke. This will store the most load in the rod to transfer to the line (and load equates to energy and line speed). There should be a very distinct pause in the rod movement as the line rolls out, with longer casts requiring a longer pause.
4. Practice false-casting (keeping the line in the air for a whole series of strokes) with an average amount of line out, focusing on feeling the rod load. Work towards being able to keep an evenly sized, fixed length loop in the air with timing. When you get a feel for it, vary the length a little bit at a time until your average casting range is comfortable. During this process, feeling the rod load/unload is the key. Your line hand controls the length of the line out; pulling some line back with your line hand, known as “hauling”, will speed up the line and load the rod more; try it when you start to get behind on the cast. False casting is used to adjust line length in the air, adjust direction, and possibly to dry a fly as well.
5. Avoid the temptation to watch the line in the air, especially on the back cast…learn to feel it through the rod. You’ll also want to avoid the temptation to stretch out your rod arm; the rod arm should stay tight to your body, most commonly with the elbow tucked in. If your elbow is straightened out more than 90 degrees, you are out of control and working too hard. Tuck the arm and focus on feeling the rod work!
6. Focus on stroking through the forward or back cast, with a distinct and crisp stop to the rod motion at 11 and 1 on the clock dial. The stop is as important as the stroke—it’s what transfers the energy to the line!
7. Accelerate smoothly through the stroke, but stop crisply at 11 and 1. The stop will allow the rod to transfer its stored energy into the line, but in order for that to work, you’ll need to have power behind your stroke.
8. Start each cast with the rod tip close to the water surface so you have “room” in the stroke to pick all of the line up. Once the line is in the air, the rod tip will always stay up high during any false casts, only dropping to follow the line out on the actual cast. You should still stop the rod high on the actual forward cast, but then follow the line as the loop rolls out to present the fly.
9. Keep casts to the mid range in length in the beginning, 20-30 feet of line is manageable. shorter and longer casts take more time to master.
10. Always remember that your line hand not only controls slack while fishing, but also directly affects the speed of your line loop. Learn to use both hands together to generate the most speed and control.
If you have any questions about what was discussed in this article or if you want to learn more about fly fishing casting, visit us in-store at your local Sportsman’s Warehouse, or online at Sportsmans.com.