Back Cast Training

Practicing the back cast should be a priority for every fly fisher concerned about improving his casting technique. Accuracy placing the fly depends as much on the back as on the forward cast.

And for improving the back cast nothing better than training accuracy: being accurate is a sign of good loops and good tracking. That solves 50% (maybe more) of the problem of being accurate in presenting our fly to the fish.

I am talking about accuracy when tracking is usually related to distance casting. Well, I am not a distance caster, what I want is to develop skills that are practical for my fishing, and my fishing isn’t about distance but about avoiding drag with a dry fly.

Great distance casters recommend to practice tracking by means of picking a distant target for the backcast which is aligned with the forward cast. That assumes that, prior to starting the back cast, you turn your head backwards and focus on the target. Good for distance casting but not for fishing. When fishing a dry fly to medium distances we don’t watch our back cast.

So this is the key of the exercise shown on the following video: presenting the fly accurately with the back cast without watching the target during the casting stroke. Using only the rod hand (without hauling) will be even better.

The target is at a distance of 17 m from my feet.

To straighten or not to straighten. That is the question.

We all employ much more effort than necessary to cast. Great casters stand out from the crowd due to its elegant, fluid style. We say that they make casting to look easy. Their effortless, graceful motion is something we should strive for.

For years the simple task I am presenting here has been an integral part of my practice. I encourage you to allocate it 15 minutes in all your training sessions.

The concept is easy: just cast with the goal of avoiding the tip of the line and leader to straighten. At first you’ll see that it sounds easier than it actually is, but when you get things going smoothly it results in a very enlightening exercise.

First, we are conscious of how little force we need to put the fly 10-12 meters away: if you use the elbow forward style it is enough to let the arm fall due to gravity and add a little flick of the wrist.

If when fishing you are using more force than that it’s sure that you are wasting energy somewhere.

Second, if we are using the energy needed to get the fly at 20 meters to put it just at 10 meters… how will we have the control to present the fly to a fish that is rising at 20 meters? Or when it rises at 15 meters and we are confronting a head wind? The more force we put into a motion the harder it is to make it straight, smooth and accurate.

Third, you are controlling a fantastic drag-free cast, one which puts slack in the only position that works for every tricky current configuration: tip of the line and leader.

The Role of the Loop

The idea that the loop is the element of the cast that moves everything forward is prevalent in the casting world.
Following is a quote from a current conversation on Sexyloops which ellaborates on that concept:

“Because for a loop to unroll there has to be a force pulling the fly leg along, that force come from the momentum change at the loop front. If it stops unrolling the whole thing collapses pretty quickly.”

But, actually, the loop is just the result of the interaction between fly leg and rod leg, and obviously (as Newton’s first law clearly states) the fly leg doesn’t need a force to keep going.

Before loop formation all of the energy and momentum are in the line. The line wants to go on forward due to its own inertia, but after line launch the caster holding the line’s front end forces this front end to turn around: that process is what forms the loop and the rod leg.
The rod leg, by moving slower than the fly leg makes the loop to rotate; the fly leg makes the loop to travel forward in the direction of the target.
Here is an example of the only way in which a loop can pull the fly leg forward:

Actually the loop doesn’t pull forward the line, neither the fly leg nor the rod leg. The key is in the interaction between those both elements of the line: it is that interaction what makes the loop propagate and travel towards the target.

By holding the rod leg we get the necessary difference in speed between rod leg and fly leg for the loop to propagate. The fly leg moves the loop forward:

The rod leg pulling the fly leg forces it to rotate:

The real role of the loop is to keep the fly leg in tension. Without that tension, due to the pulling of the fly leg by the rod leg via the loop, the former can not keep its shape and turns into cooked spaghetti, resulting in another demonstration of the well known flying abilities of pasta:

It is for this reason that we may consider the loop as the steering wheel of the cast: it keeps the line going in the right direction, but the engine of the car is in another place.

Anyway the main use of the loop is never mentioned: to prevent that, after a 20 m cast, the fly fall at the tip of our boots :-)