Beginners guide to casting a fly rod

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Posted at 10:13 AM, Aug 01, 2021
and last updated 2021-08-01 12:13:01-04

Blue Ribbon trout streams flow through Montana’s landscape and draws hundreds of thousands of anglers to the region each year. But learning to fly-fish takes time and money. That can keep newcomers to the sport on the bank rather than knee-deep in one of those Blue- Ribbon trout streams.

Truth be known, it is intimidating to get started. First off, there is the expense of buying equipment. There are lots of pricey rods and reels, waders, boots, leader, tippet, and of course, flies. But you don’t need a lot of expensive equipment to get started. In fact, most guides will tell you to save that money and invest in casting lessons.

Josh Standish is a guide for Montana Trout Chasers in Gallatin Gateway, Montana and has taught countless numbers of people to fish in Montana’s waterways. He sat down and talked with MTN about what it takes to get started casting a rod.

Josh encourages his clients to find a nice open space to practice. A pond, or open trail without a lot of trees is best so that your line does not get caught up in tree limbs or weeds. If you have ever used a spin rod to fish, a fly rod will be completely different. Rather than the weight at the end of the line like a lure on a spin rod, the weight is held in the line and helps push that line forward.

“It is exactly the opposite of a spin rod” Standish explained. “We don't bring the rod back real slow and then throw it forward real fast. We are doing the opposite. We are going to throw the line back quickly because we’ve got to get this line to build up energy so that it will flex this rod tip.” Once that line is behind you and bends the rod, it doesn’t take much motion to start that line forward.

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The next thing is how to properly grip the rod. Standish explained that you hold the rod loosely on the cork with your thumb on top of the rod. “I tell people to choke up towards the top end of a cork, kind of like when you have two strikes on you in baseball” Standish explained.

It is easy to make mistakes casting a fly-rod. Especially when starting out.

“The most common mistake that people make is that they try to throw it like they would a baseball or a football” Josh told us. “You’ve got a nine-foot lever in your hand that has a lot of flex to it. If you let this tool do its job, it will do it very efficiently and very easily.”

Casting is pretty straight-forward. The energy is really generated on the back cast.

“Get that line accelerating backward so it will straighten out, flex that rod, and then it is a very simple motion forward” Standish explained.

Most people talk about the rod staying between 10 o’clock and 2 o’clock. That is great advice, though Standish has a slightly different approach.

“I tell most of my clients to think about one time and that’s lunchtime. You want to think about 12 o’clock because you want to stop that rod tip nice and high.”

He teaches this to keep the line from dropping too far back. Where the tip of your line goes, your line will go.

“If you go too far back, your line's going to throw up in the air. If you stop at 12 o’clock, your line is going to be on a straight-line path where your line is going to go outwards instead of upwards” Standish continued.

While Josh coached me, he uncovered plenty of bad habits but was able to quickly correct those errors and had my light looping out and hitting my targets quickly. Josh says that it just takes a little practice to get down the timing and to stick to the basics.

“The rest will come with experience,” he said.

While there are plenty of other great tips when getting started, we will cover a few of those later. Work on a few of these tips and you will be ready to cast, or fix your cast, in no time. In the meantime, keep those lines tight, rods bent, and most of all, have fun!