Making A 100 Foot Cast Is Easier Than You Think

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Photo by Louis Cahill

Photo by Louis Cahill

 

Casting a fly 100 feet is not an unattainable goal.

In response to my review of the T&T Solar a reader asked,

“This may be a dumb question, but how do you get 100′ of line out on a cast?”

It’s not a dumb question and it deserves a detailed answer.

It’s easier than you think. That doesn’t mean that you will read this article and instantly be able to do it. My point is more that most folks who are trying to make long cast are trying too hard and that’s a lot of their problem. Distance casting is about timing and technique, not power, and with a little practice a hundred feet is perfectly doable.

You will have to excuse me here, but if I don’t make a few qualifying statements I’ll be called everything but the son of God in the comments section. 

First, and likely most important, you don’t have to make a long cast to catch fish. Even in saltwater an accurate forty-foot cast is more important than a long bomb. In trout fishing the long cast is almost non-existent and can even be a liability. That said, there are times when a long cast will add to your catch. There is also a lot to be said for the confidence you gain from mastering the long cast. Making a long cast requires good technique and there’s no downside to being a better caster.

Secondly, let’s not get hung up on the number. Although I can cast 100 feet when everything goes right, 90 feet is a much better working distance for me. I can make that cast with a greater degree of accuracy and consistency. Both are important and your number for accuracy and consistency is what’s important. It will always be a little less than your maximum distance. For the sake of discussion let’s just say “long casts” and define that as anything over 70 feet.

So, if you are still interested in making long casts read on and if not, move on and spare us your dissertation on Euro Nymphing.

The Price of Admission

There are a few things you will have to master before distance is an issue of concern. It’s far more important to master these than to cast any given distance. Any high school coach will tell you, it’s fundamentals that score points, not heroics.

Good timing

It’s crucial that the timing of your cast is spot on. That means that you are waiting for the line to straighten out completely, both in front of you and behind, before starting your stroke. Creep, moving your rod before the line straightens, is a killer of good loops.

A straight line path

Way too many anglers think of the casting stroke as the tic-toc motion of a metronome. This reeks havoc in the majority of fly casts. In order to make a tight, energized loop, your rod tip must travel in a straight line. The physics of how that works is simple but invisible to the eye.

When you cast the rod bends, compressing the path of the tip. When power is applied smoothly, this compression causes the tip to travel in a straight line. If you are not an engineer by nature, it is enough to know that the motion is a push forward and a pull back, not the waving of a wand.

A loaded rod

It’s the rod that casts the line, not your arm. If you feel like you are winding up and pitching a baseball, you’re missing the point. Your job is to bend the rod, it’s the release of that bend that throws the line. If, like most casters, you use a thumb on top grip, there is a simple exercise I use to illustrate this idea.

Hold the butt section of the rod in front of you with both hands. Your hands should be shoulder distance apart with one hand on the grip. Place your thumbs on the side of the rod closest to you. Your casting hand should now be in a normal grip position. Bend the rod naturally with your thumbs as if you were going to snap it. Just don’t. This is the same bend you should be putting in the rod when casting. The opposing hand is the weight of the line. Remember this when driving the rod forward with your thumb.

The Double Haul

To cast for distance you will need a well energized line. This will allow you to shoot line effectively, which is key. You’ll need a good double haul. It will need to be smooth and well timed and the length of your haul will change in proportion to the amount of line you are carrying. This will help generate enough line speed to shoot lots of line.

Rather than write at length about the double haul here, I’ll provide you links to some articles with everything you need to know.

Bruce Chard’s Double Haul Drill

The Double Haul

Joel Dickey’s Line Speed Drill

There are plenty of other details you can perfect to improve your distance, but these are the big ones. If you can get a handle on these you can cast a full fly line. Now let’s talk a bit about the specifics of the cast.

What to carry and what to shoot.

Most anglers, including myself, have a tendency to carry too much line when making long casts. If you’re not familiar with that term, carrying line means keeping line in the air while false casting. There are a lot of reasons you should make your presentation with as few false casts as possible. One of the most important is that false casting gives you more opportunity to make mistakes. That’s never more true than in distance casting. It’s in you best interest to present the fly with no more than three false casts. That’s totally doable on a long cast and I will explain how. First let’s take a minute to talk about lines.

A standard fly line is 100 feet long. The section called the head is usually the first forty feet. The head contains all of the weight needed to load the a fly rod which matches the given line weight. The head has three parts. The front taper, the belly and the rear taper. The other sixty feet of line is what’s called running line. It is thin and supple compared to the thicker, heavier head. It is made for shooting, not carrying line. If you try to carry the head with the running line for very long you’ll be in trouble.

So here is the part you are going to like. You may have struggled getting to the point where you could cast forty feet. Here’s the good news. The next sixty is going to be much easier! When you are casing at distances under forty feet you do not have access to the full weight of the head. Once the full head is out of the guides, your rod will load much more efficiently and your line will shoot much farther, carried by the weight of the head.

So let’s break down those three false casts. You should already have nine feet of line out of the rod tip when you begin casting. Your job in those first two false casts is to make good loops and get the head out of the guides. You will need all of the skills we talked about earlier to do this but it’s very doable. The most important thing is that you effectively shoot line on both your forward and back casts. No way around that!

When you are ready to start the back cast for what will be your presentation cast you should have about fifty feet of line out of the guides. At this point you are committed. The angle of your cast should already be dead on your target. You will not be able to steer the cast by the running line. You now have one back cast and one forward cast in which to put out another fifty feet of line.

This is simpler than it sounds. The key is in having nice tight loops, good line speed and a clean double haul. Shoot twenty feet of line on your back cast and thirty feet on your presentation and you’re there. Again, don’t get worked up about the numbers. In the real world every cast is different. Don’t let me catch you marking your line with a sharpie. Master the techniques and trust the process. You’ll get there.

 

Distance casting is not for super humans. You can do this. It’s going to take some work but it easier than you think. Just focus on the fundamentals and don’t try to power it out there. You’ll be casting the whole line before you know it.

Louis Cahill
Gink & Gasoline
www.ginkandgasoline.com
hookups@ginkandgasoline.com
 
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24 thoughts on “Making A 100 Foot Cast Is Easier Than You Think

  1. Just want to make sure I got this right before I go home and practice on the lawn…
    You have 9′ of line out in front of you to start.
    You pick that up for a back cast and shoot 20′ backward (false cast #1) .
    The line straightens out fully and you come forward for a forward cast and shoot 30′ (false cast #2).
    The line straightens out fully again and you bring it back for the last back cast but this time you don’t shoot any line (false cast #3).
    The last false cast straightens out and you accelerate forward to a stop and shoot pretty much whatever amount of line your line speed will give you.
    Did I get that right??

  2. I would like to talk to industry person about how the newer saltwater lines are being constructed and the best way to cast them? In particular the larger sizes 10wt and up. Everyone of the newer lines seems to be over weighted and very front end head heavy. I base this on the older SA Mastery Tarpon lines, the sand colored lines not the blue ones. As you stated above they seems to be designed to shoot and not carry line because there is so much weight in the lines. The older lines you could carry 60 feet and shoot 20 and 20 and get to 100 feet easy. These new lines will not let you do that. I have taken to underlining some of my rods because of this.

    • You are very right Jason and although these lines are great for making the first shot from the ready position, they put you in a tough spot when you need to pick up line and shoot again. You have to strip the line back in to the head. No other way to make it work. If you like a long belly line try the RIO Technical Tarpon taper. It’s made for just what you’re talking about.

  3. I’ve been following U two for awhile now and w/the tips and vids I can say Chard and the other young man who wanted to jump on a Hammerhead and w/lots of practice has done more for my cast than anything else I’ve followed so thanks. I love to cast and can honestly say w/the right fly line on my 8wt I can make a 100′ cast w/the right wind maybe 110′. I think that is pretty damn good for 5’7″ 65 years old! Of course I’m much more accurate in the 75>85 range. I’m still working on it every chance I get, I live on a bay and I have waded measured the distance between mine and the neighbors dock. 85′ to his front corner and I can throw right past it! I do have sharpie marks on my line and I like them for an indicator on how much to strip out on deck so I’m keepin’ those :).

    • Wayne, you have no idea how happy that makes me. That’s my goal here with G&G. To spread the love of fly fishing and help folks be better anglers. Thanks for your support!

      I do not mark distance on my lines. None of the numbers mean a thing when you are out fishing. I strip my line of until there are about 5 bands of fly line left on the reel. On my Nautilus G8 that five feet of line left on the reel. There is of course no need to take all of the line off the reel because you can’t strip set with your backing.

  4. I can hit 100′ if all the stars align correctly but they rarely do on the flats. Hitting 100′ in perfect conditions is much less important than being able to consistently hit 60-70′ in a 10-15mph wind and be accurate inside about a 3′ radius with no more than 2-3 false casts.

  5. Hmm… I have to admit: Shooting line on my back cast is really not my strong suit. I guess that gives me something to practise during the summer.

    Thanks for the tip about only false-casting with the head-section. It makes total sense… how could I not see that before.

    Keep up the good work..

    Best wishes from Munich.

  6. Golden rules of casting further – move the tip of the rod;

    1. Further – the greater the distance you can ACCELERATE something the faster it will ultimately travel.

    2. Faster – see point 1. Tip speed comes from late rotation, don’t prematurely burn up any of your casting arc (creep) – save the rotation for the very end. It should look like this \\\\\\\/

    3. Straighter – Tracking is the usual issue, that’s a straight line path of the rod tip in 2 dimensions. This is the first one to master.

    Practise practise practise.

    Easy to write, not so easy to do.

  7. I’m gonna say BULLSHIT. I’d say very small percentage of fly casters can cast 100+ feet. Even with lots of practice 100+ cast is not easy.
    I live in San Francisco and can go to the casting ponds which have markers for every 5 feet. Its is VERY hard to cast 100+ feet.
    If you cast the whole 100′ fly line out that doesn’t mean you just cast 100′. The line does not all lay out straight.

      • I agree that casting a 3wt up to a 6wt is not easy and down right impossible with cheap line and a low end Rod. Face it, the distance record on a 6wt is like 110 or 120′. I started August 2016. Starter rod was a Fenwick HMG. Line was “made in China.” I was lucky to get 50′. Went to a med. high end orvis line 6wt 100′, Bam, 75-80ft., good form and accurate. I would think upgrading the rod, I could easily see 100 feet with little effort.

  8. Thanks for this… I’ve been beating myself up tying to pick up and recast
    60′ of 12 wt. line. Makes a lot of sense to reset and load the rod properly
    With shooting head. Just like casting a skagit line on my switch rod.
    Thanks.
    Still working on building line speed and timing with my double haul.
    Too bad I only get to the salt 1 week a year.

  9. Thanks Louis , I appreciate G&G and your advice. your explanation makes a lot of sense to me and I think carrying too much line is a mistake I’ve made recently on my longer casts. Although I won’t likely “fish”100 feet of fly line, practicing the 100 foot cast will certainly improve my timing . I like to fish with my 9′ 4 weight so I practice with that rod . Is it reasonable to expect 100′ on a 4 weight ? I’ve done it a couple times on my 6 wt. but I’m not consistent . With the 4 wt. I hit about 80 . Thanks again

      • Streamers are said to be most effective when fished as close to swinging across the river, 90deg from the flow. To do this it’s advised to cast 70deg down river to get that flat swing across the current. A cast to the other side of a 35ft river (cast at 70deg) would be about 100ft. I just picked up a 5wt dually switch rod to give this a try (and to learn scandi casting). And of course nymphs and soft hackles work great in this presentation. If this works for me, then yes, there is a use for a 100ft cast.

        I would also add to this discussion that I found casting an 8wt for distance much easier than a 6wt, and I have a feeling the guys who say they can cast a 5 or 6wt 90+ft can also throw the baseball in from the warning track. The 8 really helps, and that’s why I chose the 5wt switch over the 4wt, with a 5 being closer to a conventional 8wt.

        MIke McNally

  10. Well said & qualified advice. Shooting on the back cast is a ‘special’ tip IMO. If you are a steelheader up to your waist or on the flats with a head wind, being able to cast a long line with a single handed fly rod is a skill you can achieve if your addicted to fly fishing for sea run. I would add that casting a full line on grass a true 100′ consistently is a worthy goal. For me, this is my target with a shooting head & mono running line. However, distance casting practice absolutely opens up presentation opportunities that are only available to gear fisherman when actually casting a fly for a hook-up.

    • I primarily fish on a small Lake, 1 miles of shoreline on a 3-1/3 acres. Not much need for a boat, unless you need to hit the deep holes.A casts of about 90′ is a must. The trick is the treeline behind me, so being able to shoot line is the only way to get there. Other than that, everything is under 70′ and accurate which I think is more important anyway. You can’t catch fish in weeds or trees. Although, I admit I have done the latter when a LBM launched on a popper stuck on a limb, as my fishing partner exclaimed, “I quit!..anybody that can catch fish in a tree is too good for me.”

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