Timing is Everything!
Timing is as important in casting a fly successfully as it is in other sports.
What does a batter do after he steps up to the plate and digs in? He waits for the pitch doesn’t he? He doesn’t start swinging as soon as the pitcher starts his windup. The batter waits for the pitch and times his swing to make contact with the ball.
Much like the batter we must “dig in” and wait after stopping the rod when making a cast. We must wait for the loop and line to nearly straighten before beginning the next casting stroke. Why is this important? Well, have you ever noticed a cracking or snapping sound as you are casting? A sound, much like that of a whip cracking is often the cause of a missing fly at the end of your tippet!
The goal of every cast is to load and unload the rod properly. If a forward or back cast is begun before the loop or line is not nearly straight after the stop, the fly line will be going in two different directions. If the cast is begun after the line has straightened it will begin to fall. In both cases line tension is reduced or lost, slack is introduced and the rod will not be loaded properly.
How would we know when a line is nearly straight? If we wait until we can see that the line is straight, it is too late. The line has begun to fall. We can’t react quick enough to begin a cast when we see the loop and line actually become straight. So we need to start the cast a little before the line actually straightens. A good signal to know when it is nearly straight is when the fly line has the shape of a candy cane or the letter J on their side.
With that in mind, we can see the forward cast loop as it rolls out but what about the back cast loop? No worries, there are several methods that will help you determine when the loop/line has nearly straightened. One method is to turn your head and watch the back cast until the loop/line is nearly straight before beginning the forward cast. This is suitable to do occasionally but not on every back cast because you are taking your eyes off the fish/target. When you take your eyes off the fish/target your accuracy will most often suffer. Especially in the salt, because the fish are constantly moving and if you take your eyes off them to watch your back cast you can lose sight of the fish. To eliminate watching your back cast you can use a count method to keep your timing the same on the forward and back cast. For example, when you make your stop on the forward cast, start a counting rhythm, one thousand one, one thousand two…or something similar. Remember the count when the line nearly straightened, a candy cane or the letter J. Now without watching your back cast, make your stop. Then use the same count before beginning your next forward cast. Using this or a similar method will help with your timing and allow you to keep your eyes on the fish or target. It will also greatly help your accuracy.
Another method that some use, is feeling the rod start to load before beginning the next cast. With this method you have to be careful. The reason is that by the time you start to feel the rod load, the line has already straightened and is starting to fall due to gravity and losing line tension. If it falls too far it may hit the surface of the water or get tangled in vegetation. In this method a higher back cast will help so by the time you begin your forward cast the line has fallen to an above horizontal or horizontal position, not a below horizontal position. This is especially true if you are fishing from a kayak or a float tube, as you are closer to the surface of the water.
Remember our mantra: long line/long stroke/long pause, short line/short stroke/short pause.