Two men casting rods in a river

Proper Casting Techniques: A Fishing Guide (2021)

Lance Wilkins
Lance Wilkins
Editor @ CallOutdoors. Outdoor gear-head and adventure addict. I fish, camp and enjoy to writing about my adventures.

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Casting is an art and you only become great at an art form through endless repetition. Although some people prefer using bite alarms like the ones I reviewed here, I believe many will agree that casting your fly rod is one of the best things about fishing.

Basic casting is quite simple, it’s all about timing when to release your lures at that perfect moment in your rod swing, but being good at casting is in the detail. 

I have fished for 30 years and have been casting a fly rod since I could hold a rod. I thought I was good and had my casting techniques down. Then, I went and worked in the Bahamas and Seychelles alongside anglers as addicted to fly fishing as I am, and they were better as they didn’t skip out on practice time.

Multiple fly fishers in a river
Fishing with friends is sure to bring out your competitive side

Join me as we run through everything you need to know about casting and its techniques, so you can be on your way to casting better than ever. 

What is the best casting technique? 

It may seem odd to start with this question to most anglers in the world, but the answer is one all anglers should hear. The best casting techniques or casting methods is the one that puts your lure where you want it to be so it catches a fish. This might be 110 yards into the surf or 6 feet away under an overhanging tree. 

Why can’t I cast very far? 

This is a common question asked by many an angler in their lifetime and the answer is one of three things; you haven’t done enough practice, you’re using the wrong casts for the situation or patterns, or there is something wrong with your setup. These are just a few of the many reasons you could be having issues casting farther.

How do you cast properly? 

The basic form of a cast is to pick and target where you think a fish is. Then you’ll use the right amount of force to swing your fly rod and lure behind you and then towards your target, letting go of your lure at just the right time, so it goes in your chosen direction and to the distance you desire.

How can you improve your casting? 

Excellent casts start with having a balanced fly rod, reel, line, and lure that are correctly rigged. 

… if it’s fine-tuned then it goes faster …

Imagine a race car, if it’s fine-tuned then it goes faster, the same applies to casting and the gear you’re using. 

I’m guessing you thought it was going to say practice to that question? Well, I am, that’s the one thing you should always be doing, and even though I’ve mentioned it 3 times, it might come up again. 

Here are some pointers for getting your gear right. 

Check your lure and line weight 

Every rod and reel is designed for a specific line diameter, and every rod is designed for a specific range of lure weights. There is a reason for this, and it’s so that you can cast as well as possible and target different fish.

Different fishing lures in a line on a table
Choosing the right lures for your setup is crucial

If your fly rod states it works with ¼ -⅛ ounce lures and you put a ½ oz lure on, you’re overweighting it and your accuracy will suffer. If you underweight it at 1/32 oz, your distances will drop. 

Always follow the weight guides for line and lures on your setup and you’ll get the best out of them with each cast and and maximize your chance to catch fish. 

Load your spool correctly 

The way your line goes onto your reel is the same way it’s going to come off when you cast, so it better be loaded on properly if you want the ability to hit your target with every cast. 

When loading the line onto your reel, make sure the spool you’re loading the line from is label side up. This will match the line memory with your loading so it comes off your reel in a smooth way. 

Also, make sure there are no overwinds when adding the line by filling your reel slowly, as these will catch mid-cast. And don’t fill your spool full, leave around an eighth of an inch so your line doesn’t fall off by mistake. 

TIP

If using braid, make sure it’s hard once on the reel by winding it on tight. If it’s soft, the braid will bite, tangle, and possibly snap. 

Reset Your Baitcaster With Different Lure Weights 

When you change lure weights you’re changing the tension on the spool and braking system, the parts of a baitcaster that need to be fine-tuned for casting. 

When you go up or down lure weights, one of my best tips is to adjust the tension you might accidentally create with the spool and not the brakes as you can move it around much more easily until you find the perfect tension for your cast. If the lure weights change dramatically, you might have to use the brake though. 

Essential Knowledge For Learning Casting Techniques 

We have touched on the basic technique of casting a bit and essentially you’re trying to make sure your flies hits the water surface just where you intended it, but there are some tips to help you out. 

A man overhead casting with a rod
The overhead cast is a great beginner technique to learn and master

The Basic Principles 

  • Hand position is key and you should have one hand around the reel seat and your off hand at the butt of the rod handle.
  • Begin your cast with one to two feet of fly line out of your rod tip, this makes it easier to control.
  • Match your hook and lure weights with your rod – as mentioned above.
  • Timing is everything. Create some gentle motion moving the rod towards your back, but never release the lure until your rod is in a forward smooth motion. 
  • When you finish your cast, always point it in the direction of your target on the water. This will ensure accuracy on your cast so that it goes straight. 

Spinning Reels 

A spinning reel is quite simple to cast with and one of the best things to know about is in regards to bail position. 

  • Before you begin your cast, start pulling the bail toward the rod so the line is as near to your hand as possible so you can grab the line with your finger. 
  • Once you have the line in your finger, hold it tight, open the bail and make your cast 

Baitcasters 

When fishing with and making casts with a baitcaster, a lot can go wrong, and it’s all about using your grip. 

  • Before making any casts, make sure your thumb is tight on the spool before you free it. 
  • Once you cast, your spool will run free letting line out only controlled by the reel tension and your thumb. When the lure makes a splash on the water or slows down, the spool will keep on going, and you’ll need to grab and stop it with your thumb to avoid a tangle.

Casting Techniques 

Overhead 

The overhead is one of the best casting methods to learn first as it’s the basis for a lot of more sophisticated casting techniques. It’s best not to skip learning a good cast like this one.

  • Make sure your reel is ready and there is enough line out of your rod tip. 
  • Check your hands are on the butt and by the reel seat 
  • Move the rod tip high behind you to 45 degrees and wait for the lure to arrive
  • Now push with your top hand and pull with your bottom hand to make a forward cast that pushes the rod forward
  • Release your lure once it’s moving towards the water
  • Point your rod towards your target, eventually, it will land within inches of it

There are many resources out there, such as the one below, that show you how to perfect your overhead cast.

A guide to overhead casting

Sidearm 

A sidearm cast is one of the best methods for casting lures/flies and sending it skipping under an overhanging vegetation or cover. It’s also great if you want to skip lures across the water’s surface or present it with a small amount of splash on the water.

If you have ever spent time skipping stones, the sidearm is more or less the same motion. And the sidearm is just like an overhead cast, instead of with a sidearm cast, your arm is horizontal, not vertical.

  • When ready to cast, move your rod to 45 degrees to the rear and to the side 
  • Pause, allowing the lure to arrive behind as well 
  • Pull with your bottom hand and push with your off hand
  • Release the line when the rod tip is beside you 
  • Follow through pointing at where you think the fish are 

Don’t go skipping out on this cast, it’s a very nice tool to have under your belt to help you deal with cover. Check out the video below for a quick look at how to sidearm cast.

How to sidearm cast

Roll Cast 

The roll cast is a sidearm cast with a twist and is one of the best techniques for casting when stealth presentation matters like when trying to land spooky bass or other easily startled fish.

The roll cast is also great for fishing into a tight spot next to cover, or putting your lures under overhanging trees and the lure will fly or skip just above the surface landing with a minimal splash. 

  • Check your fly fishing gear is ready for casting 
  • Using your wrist, roll your rod tip from forwards to 45 degrees to the rear
  • Using your wrist again, roll through a forward cast motion again
  • Let go of the lure and it should go skipping towards your target 

It’s a good cast to have in your arsenal and the video below really showcases its utility.

The stealthy roll cast

Flipping 

Flipping is the final fishing casting technique on this list. It is perfect if anglers need to move flies in a short stealthy cast on the water to a fish that is close by next to cover. The flipping casting technique relies solely on physics and barely any force is required from the angler to flip. 

  • Let out enough fly line so the lure is by the reel 
  • Hold the lure in your hand, release the tension so the spool is free, but keep hold of your fly line if spinning and use your thumb if baitcasting 
  • Move your hand across your body with your pole 
  • Let go of your lure raising the rod up and then down with your wrist only 
  • Make sure to stop the spool once the lure lands on the water 

Here’s another video that helps you visualize the flip cast.

A quick look at the flip and pitch cast

Casting Away 

Thanks for reading my article, I hope you enjoyed it. You should now know a load of different casts when spinning or baitcasting and I hope you hook loads more fish because of it. Don’t skip out on practice though.

If you ever find yourself in a situation of not having a scale handy. You can use this fish weight calculator to get the weight of your catch. Until next time, tight lines.

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Lance Wilkins
Lance Wilkins
Editor @ CallOutdoors. Outdoor gear-head and adventure addict. I fish, camp and enjoy to writing about my adventures.
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