This section is from the book "The Boy Mechanic Vol. 2 1000 Things for Boys to Do", by Popular Mechanics Co.. Also available from Amazon: The Boy Mechanic, Vol2: 1000 Things for Boys to Do.
By Stillman Taylor Part IV
How to Cast the Fly '"TO be able to cast the artificial fly a distance of 50 ft., or more, and let the feathered lure alight upon the desired bit of water as lightly as a falling leaf is no small accomplishment, for fly casting is an art, and to become an expert, much practice is necessary. The personal assistance of a skillful caster is not often available, but if the angler will follow the suggestions outlined, a beginner will soon grasp the knack of handling the fly rod, and the casting will steadily improve with practice. As the knack of handling a gun is best gained - not in the field, shooting live game, but through shooting at targets - so may the art of fly casting be more quickly acquired by intelligent practice conducted away from the stream, in the back yard, or any other place roomy enough to swing the rod and a moderately long line. By practicing in this way, the angler's attention is focused upon the cast and is not partly occupied with the excitement of fishing. To make a good beginning, let the reel contain about 25 yd. of common, braided, linen line (size E is about right) and instead of a fly, or hook, affix a small split shot to the end of the line. It is well to begin with a cheap rod and save a good outfit, and if the angler learns how to make a fairly long and accurate cast with a common rod, he may feel assured that he can even do better with a first-rate outfit.
The first point to observe in making the cast is to grip the rod correctly, and this is done by grasping the rod at the right point where it balances best. By shifting the hand about this point of balance is quickly found, for at no other point will the rod "hang" well in the hand In casting, the reel is turned to the under side of the rod with the thumb extended along the top of the grip, as shown in Fig. 1. Taking up an easy casting position, with the left foot slightly advanced, pull from the reel about 25 yd. of line and let this slack line fall in coils upon the ground in front; bring the rod up slightly above the horizontal, as shown in Fig. 2, and with a quick snap of the wrist, avoiding shoulder or body movement, throw the tip upward, checking it sharply as soon as the tip is carried over the shoulder about 25° beyond the vertical plane as in Fig. 3. This snappy upstroke of the rod makes the "back cast," by projecting the line high in the air, and carries it well behind the angler. Before the line has fully straightened out behind, and before it has an opportunity to fall much below the caster's shoulders, the rod is snapped forward with a quick wrist-and-forearm movement, which throws the line forward in front of the fisherman and in the direction he is facing, which finishes the cast with the rod in the position shown in Fig. 4.
Ill: Fig. 1-The Proper Way to Take Hold of the Handle with the Reel on the Under Side
Long and accurate fly casting is much more a matter of skill than muscle, and while some fly fishermen cast directly from the shoulder and upper arm, and thus use a considerable amount of muscular force in making the cast, this cannot be regarded as the best method of casting. The great elasticity of the fly rod ought to be taken full advantage of by the caster, and if this is done, casting will be naturally accomplished by the wrist and forearm. To make strenuous efforts to hurl the fly through the air, using an arm or body movement, is extremely tiring after an hour or so of fishing, while if the cast is made from the wrist, aided by the forearm, the snap of the rod may be depended upon to project the fly to greater length of line and allow it to fall close to the desired spot, lightly and without splashing.
Timing the back cast is the most difficult detail of fly casting, because the line is behind the angler and the eye cannot aid the hand. The novice will soon acquire the knack of casting, however, if he will remember to keep the elbow close to the side, and to keep the line well up in the air when making the back cast, and to begin the forward movement before the line has fully straightened out behind him. After a little practice, the hand will feel the slight tension communicated to the rod as the line begins to straighten out, and this should be taken advantage of to correctly time the forward movement. Counting "one" for the upstroke, "two and" for the interval required for the line to straighten out in the rear, and "three" for the forward movement, is also a good way to time the cast.
At the beginning the caster should make no attempt to secure distance. Accuracy and delicacy in placing the fly on the water is of much more importance than length of cast in trout fishing, and to attain this end, it is a good plan to place a newspaper about 25 ft. distant and try to drop the end of the line on this mark. When the caster can drop the line on the target lightly and with reasonable accuracy, he may feel justified in lengthening his cast. Other casts than the overhead cast just described are occasionally used, as the Spey, switch, wind, and flip casts, but the overhead cast is mostly used, although it is much more difficult to master.
To make the Spey cast, the angler requires a rapid stream which will carry the line downstream until it is straight and taut, the tip of the rod being held as long as possible to accomplish this end. The rod is then raised high in the air with a quick wrist movement, which lifts the line from the water to the extreme end, then without pausing the rod is carried upstream with just sufficient force to let the fly fall just above the angler. The line is now on the reverse, or upper, side of the fisherman, when with a sweep of the rod the line is projected over the water's surface - not along the surface - in the manner used in making the overhead cast.
Ill: Fig. 2 - Begin the Cast with the Rod in a Position Just above the Horizontal Plane
The switch cast is sometimes useful when trees or rocks are immediately back of the fisherman, thus preventing the line from extending far enough backward to make the overhead cast. In making this cast the line is not lifted from the water, but merely to the surface by raising the tip of the rod. The line is dragged through the water by carrying the tip in the direction one is standing until it is as far in the rear as the obstructions will permit. By a quick downward sweep of the rod the line is projected with sufficient force to roll it forward in a large coil or loop, much as a wheel rolls on a track.
The wind cast is a modification of the switch cast, but easier to make. The caster brings his line almost to his feet, and with a quick downward motion of the rod the line is thrown in a long loop against the wind. The underhand and the flip casts are so simple that it seems almost unnecessary to describe them. Both are short casts and are only used when the angler is fishing in an overgrown stream. The underhand cast is really a side cast, inasmuch as the short line is lifted from the water in a loop and propelled in the desired direction by a side sweep of the rod. The flip cast is made by holding the fly between the thumb and finger and with a few coils of line in the right hand. Bend the rod like a bow, release the fly suddenly, and the snap of the rod will project it in the desired direction and allow it to drop lightly like a fly.