When it All Aligns ……

Get more accurate casts, better casts and better hook sets with the right alignment
THE romance of fly fishing lies in the curves: the bend of a river, the flow of the water around a rock, and the rings of a rising trout. But the best things with fly line happen in straight lines from the flow of a cast and the spring of a rod coming tight to a fish.

If you converse with casting weenies, or a couple of fellow travellers around this place, you’ll eventually hear mention of the third Bill Gammell’s 5 Principles of Casting: which says in essence that everything with a correct cast happens in a straight line. (Curve casts, or some other aerial mends I hear you ask, are really screwed up casts performed with purpose).

When it comes to the practice, over the principle, figuring out where that straight line should be is an issue in itself: which is why golfers spend so much time on alignment. Getting your feet, hips and shoulders aligned with the target before you start the whole casting thing will make life a lot easier, and result in more fish eating your flies and getting hooked.

Unlike golf, you actually have a couple of choices here: as in everything fly fishing the answer is always “well, but”. Traditional trouty casters adopt a very front on, square to the target approach, which if you are in need of some serious accuracy is your best bet. The side-on Lefty Kreh salt water school, adopt a more side-on stance for a longer stroke, with the line of the hips and line of the cast paralleling each other on the address, finishing with the hips pretty much square to the target.

Most of us can walk into a spot and find our target and get aligned, but I can still recall the moment of revelation in my first fly fishing season that if I shifted position or aligment my cast would go naturally to a different spot in the run I was fishing.

Nate having an out of body experience: (from left) Closed Stance; Correct Alignment; Open Stance.

But what gets forgotten is the benefits of staying aligned during the drift of the line: maintaining the angle of the line 90 degree to your casting shoulder. For a start rotating with the line will extend your dead-drift, even without mending. When you have a take Gammell’s principle means a more efficient movement of the line and fly, which equates to better hooksets.

Colloquially, a hook in line with your casting shoulder will eat up any slack in the line faster than any of the other weird hooksets you see. From the picture above the Closed stance induces tendencies to set the hook over your opposite shoulder, which is weak, slow and inefficient. The open stance tends to induce big low sweeping hooks to move enough line. Both of these will lead to fly fisher’s running backwards _ a manouvere almost totally guaranteed not to end well.

And these aren’t just for trout sets: on a strip-strike you will be more efficient as well if you are correctly aligned. Either the closed or open stance above will mean your strip will bend the rod tip, soaking up energy you need to hook the fish.

Ben Levin admiring the scenery on the Buffalo, Gabe trying for a last fish

In a boat, whether its one of our White River jons or a drift boat, positioning and alignment will go along way to deciding how much fun you will have. Generally, when you start the drift, you will want have your seat, either 90 degrees to the centreline of the boat or slightly downstream depending on your guide’s preferences, like Kelly Galloup and Mike Schmidt in Chad’s boat in the top pic.

Start angling the seat back upstream even slightly and nothing good is going to come of it: Your hip and should alignment is going to send the flyline back upstream time after time into your fishing buddy’s water etc, or way back behind the boat if you are in the rear seat like Gabe in the pic above.

Even worse is attempting to cast downstream of the boat from this alignment. The ONLY time this works is when you are too embarrassed to ask for a potty break: I guarantee you will be on the bank, with your guide unpicking a wind knot.

Incidentally if you notice the curious angle the drift boat laying in the pic above Gabe is also committing the cardinal sin for a drift boat passenger: getting out of the knee locks and wandering to the gunnel: which makes the boat unstable and harder to row and your guide testy on the 4th or 5th reminder. It’s not so critical on the river jons but getting lined up on the centerline for a run under power is going to make your guide feel all warm and fuzzy.

Get lined up and you never know what sort of good stuff is going to happen.


  • Davy Wotton emailed me the following comments:

    I would draw a little issue here so far as having competed in many casting events both distance and accuracy.
    That a square face on stance is not the best way to achieve accuracy. For a right handed caster if the right foot is forward and the related body position is also turned so that the casting arm is more in line with the eye accuracy placement is easier to achieve. Likewise to become very accurate most rod movement should be directed from the forearm with positive wrist control and not upper are movement.
    In many ways the stance, body position should resemble how a dart thrower addresses the dart board.

    In the case of distance casting if the caster has foot forward, some prefer right others left that will allow for the body to move both rearward and forward to increase arm movement and rod length stroke while maintaining balance. In other words the rotation of the body should be brought into effect for max energy related..

    Granted if and when fishing from a boat this is not always possible due to the restriction of movement.
    That said in many cases casters use way too much upper arm movement in the case of a general fishing cast/presentation.

    Davy Wotton
    Davy Wotton
    American International Schools of Fly Fishing
    and Guide Services
    How to Fly Fish DVD’s
    Tel 870 453 2195

    • Davy is absolutely right, the foot-forward, cast down the line of your eye is the most accurate method of all. I omitted for clarity, probably shouldn’t have, but Davy’s comments gave me an idea for another piece, thanks mate … stay tuned.

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