The Angler’s Cast: Davy Wotton

Davy Wotton at left with longtime customer Neal Ruff who celebrated his 100th birthday with another day on the White with Davy. 41 fish total
Davy Wotton discusses the Cast, the essence of fly fishing.
The fact is that almost all fly fishing guides will say that the biggest issue they have to deal with is fly fisherman who do not have good casting skill. That’s not to say that all guides are good casters for they are not: either way they do know the difference or they should.
 It goes without saying that the essence of fly fishing is simply the manner in which you choose to fish, that is you cast a fly line with a rod or attempt to do so in such a manner as you are able to send the fly to the water.
Now consider that there are basically two movements required, one back and one forward _ granted there may be many variations of casts that may be used _ even so its still the result of the rod moving in two different directions.
So how difficult is that to achieve, for many it is very problematical. How many tangles do you endure during a days fishing ???
So lets take in in depth look at some of those reasons. The first that I would place on the list is this, which others may not agree with. I state my case based on more than 50 years of my professional life in the world of fly fishing and during that time spending 1000s of hours with my customers and friends.
The Rod
 It make no difference if you choose to spend $1000 or $100 on a rod, more or less they all do same, the difference is largely the action of that rod, components used, cosmetics and technology which are largely also related to cost not to mention the brand name.
A very good caster will be able to very quickly figure out the dynamics of a rod be it a cheapo or a high-end product, that said given his experience and personal taste for rod action it may well be a rod he chooses not to like, all be it he will be well able to use it to catch fish.
The newbie would have no idea for in the early stages competence in casting has not been achieved. Now the deal is this, is a cheapo rod likely to handicap the beginner, well no more so than a high-end fast action rod, both will be problematical.
That said there are rod actions that are generally more acceptable, for 90% of all trout fishing needs, generally in the region of 4 to 6wt with a mid flex action.
Therefore it is a mistake to assume that a high cost performance rod offers something a lower cost rod will not. If you are of the belief that is ok, he rod is but one of the components needed to fly fish, there is way more to it that just that.
Learning To Cast. (Summary )
 How many before they develop bad technique bother to take casting instruction from a qualified coach, nationally very few.
The problem arises when after some time of trying to figure it out and or having some worthless instruction those bad faults have become ingrained, and if that process continues more or less and in many cases impossible to eradicate. And so the fly-fisher will for the rest of his life have problems when the fishing conditions at the time demand a higher level of casting skill.
There are 4 primary factors for good casting skill.  Knowing how to effectively load the rod, perfect timing, casting arm control and non casting hand line control.
In the first case effectively loading the rod starts with the initial pick up of line from the water, that’s what will load the rod in the back cast which is essential for a good forward cast assuming your timing is correct. If not you will have a problem.
The non casting hand is just as important for its purpose is to control the fly line. Let it loose to early and line control and speed is lost. Line speed maintained is essential for good casting technique.
Loosing the line early for the forward cast  is a fault I regularly see. As is simply letting the line free from the non casting hand as it travels forward, that is a big mistake also a common occurrence.
The NC hand should always have control of the fly line during the entire casting stroke, its more or less the only way to effect a straight line cast and not a jumbled mess. Not only that by use of the NC hand line speed can be controlled in so far as the perfect cast is when more or less all energy created is exhausted at the time the fly lands on the water, only the NC hand can control that.
Use of the double haul for the majority of trout fly fishing is not needed, often as not the reason why tangles occur due to increased line speed with out line speed control. Fact is most rods will allow for a cast to be made in excess of 60′ without any double haul. Once again its simply a matter of knowing how to load the rod effectively on the back cast before the forward movement is made.
Now we come to one of the major issues which is excessive arm movement again a very common fault.  By that l mean rotating the arm in a high arm position which does nothing more that cause the rod to tip rotate in a large curve which then has the issue of not allowing the fly line to travel in a more direct direction with a controlled upper and lower leg, that creates further more resistance and reduces effective distance and accuracy, more to the point it is never a consistent way to control the fly line.
You will also hear persons say that they were told to cast with a stiff wrist, that’s BS. It almost impossible to cast effectively with a stiff wrist. What is more correct is to learn how to control the wrist movement so as it has total control of the rod movement with the use of the forearm and not the upper arm. In other words good casting skill is achieved by movement from the elbow to the wrist.
As l have demonstrated to many I can by just the use of my thumb, 1st and 2nd fingers have perfect rod control, l am not holding the rod with my hand, not saying that l fish that way but it proves a point that control can be achieved this way, it is of course more comfortable to hold the rod in the hand.
The simple test to determine if you do have at least good casting skill as a start is to do so on grass. Set out a string line of at least 60′. Stand facing it. Now start with say 20 ft of fly line make one back cast and set the fly line straight to the string line. If you can do that every time strip off a further 10′ of line and so same, if that is still ok then add a further 10ft of fly line.
Make no false casts, one back cast and one forward cast. As you strip off the extra 10 ft of line you should be able to develop sufficient line speed for the pick up to carry the extra 10′ to the backcast so increasing your forward cast distance.
If you cannot do this then you have problems which can relate to insufficient line speed, not loading the rod effectively, not effecting a good back cast, incorrect movement of the casting arm, the fly line wt it not balanced with the rod action, generally in this case it is all the above.Remember the longer the length of fly line out side of the rod tip then the faster it has to move, line speed.
There will be in some cases a difference in so far as how much line can be carried in the back cast and that would relate to short head WF profile lines, in this case once the head of the line is out of the rod tip on the back cast then it is the forward cast that will allow for the line to shoot forward, for most general trout fishing this is not the line to use.
There is one other factor here to consider and that is rod length. As a general rule the longer the rod so the casting stroke will differ,the longer rod requires more time during the fly line movement back and forth than a short rod, however in all cases line speed is required.
Rod and Line.
Today there is a ridiculous amount of fly line configurations out there, it matters not other than this. That the line you choose to use is matched to the action of the rod you use, that said here is the kicker.
You cannot take it for granted that if it states on the rod a specific line weight that will give you a balanced outfit. I have lost count of the times l see my fisherman have problems simply because the line wt or profile used for the rod in question will not allow for that rod to be efficiently loaded.
If for example you take say a 5 wt Double taper and compare that with the many different weight forward profile all will depend on the amount of line out side of the rod tip.
Both will feel very different, more to the point you will  have to adjust you casting stroke to adapt, so a DT 5 wt would be a very different deal to a WF profile line of the same weight, either way it has to be a balance. There will also be differences for the same line weight in profiles of sink tip and various sink rates.
So there you have it something to think /about and maybe consider what you need to do to improve your casting skills.
Davy Wotton.
The complete fly fisher.
Dec 2016.