Presenting A Fly With Your Back Cast Is Like Being Ambidextrous

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Photo by Louis Cahill

Photo by Louis Cahill

By Bruce Chard

Let’s talk about what I think is one of the most under-rated saltwater fly casts. The back cast presentation.

Imagine being ambidextrous and never having to worry about what direction the wind is blowing. That’s what a back cast presentation can do for you. Using your back cast to present the fly to the fish is a key ingredient in the recipe for success in the salt.
We all know that taking advantage of every opportunity will increase your odds of catching more fish. If you can produce a nice presentation on your back cast you can take advantage of every opportunity, in any direction. Add speed and accuracy, and you will become a great saltwater fly angler.
Using the back cast as a presentation cast can be a foreign concept. Most anglers do not effectively utilize the incredible versatility of this cast, because they don’t even know to consider presenting the back cast to a fish. Everyone thinks a back cast is just a back cast and that’s all.

Let’s start looking at the many different uses for a back cast presentations. I will also explain how to use these tactics to help you catch more fish.

Angler Awareness

Your ability to have a constant awareness of wind direction is crucial. Whether you are wading or fishing from a boat, your orientation to the wind will constantly be changing. Spotting a fish will call for a quick choice of a forward cast or a back cast presentation. Your ability to know which cast will be best, ahead of time, is key. As you gain experience, this step will become automatic.

Loop Roll Over

Fully extending your line arm on your back cast presentation will help add much needed power to help roll over the loop, turning over the leader and laying your fly out straight. Lay your fly out straight and your odds of catching fish go way up.

Keep an Eye on Your Target

Since you are casting forward 180 degrees away from the fish during a back cast presentation, it’s difficult to keep an eye on the fish. Turning your body to the side a bit and opening up your stance will help you to swivel your head easier during casting to help keep your eye on the fish. Beware when you open your stance, you risk breaking your rod path off a straight line plane, causing your loop to open losing distance and accuracy.

Back Cast – Forward Cast

When presenting your fly on a back cast you should focus on all the same things you would when presenting a good forward cast. High line speed, tight loops, double hauling and a correct trajectory are all important for a successful back cast presentation.
Strip Quickly and Take Up Slack
Opening up your stance while presenting your back cast not only helps you keep an eye on the fish but will also help you be in perfect position to start stripping your line right away. Since you’ve made a back cast presentation your rod arm is not crossing your chest and is already extended in the direction you’ve presented the fly. This helps you to strip faster and come tight to your fly quicker. It is very important after your presentation to immediately take out all slack in your line and come tight to the fly. The faster you can come tight to the fly the better. This is especially important when permit fishing.

Quick Back Hand Shots

The back cast presentation is great for taking advantage of those quick shots at fish that sneak up on your back hand side. If you are on a boat, the guide doesn’t have time to turn the boat if the fish is to close, so a quick back cast is a must.

Surface Glare

Low light can cause some fierce glare on the surface of the water. This makes spotting fish at a distance a problem. This is where a back cast presentation can be essential for success. Fishing for laid up tarpon on a calm day with tough surface glare can be intense. Even seeing a triple digit fish twenty feet from the boat can be nearly impossible.
Often when you spot a fish very close, he will be laying parallel with the boat on your back hand side. Too much movement will spook the fish so a low, side-armed back cast presentation is a must.

Forearm Power

Locking the fighting butt and reel seat of your fly rod against your forearm while presenting your back cast can help add additional power and stability. This takes a little practice but works great and helps a lot.
No Chest Casting

Many anglers try to make a back cast by taking their casting arm across their chest, like a windshield wiper, while they make a back cast. This action hinders their ability to add power during casting because their chest is restricting their stroke length. In the salt you need good line speed and accuracy, and this action makes it tough to do both.

Right is Right – Left is Left

Many times when anglers can’t see the fish, the guide does his best to help walk the angler into a back hand presentation.

A common misunderstanding is when the guide says, “cast more right,” the angler then makes his back casts more left. The angler thinks since he is making a back cast everything is backwards. Remember that when you cast, your line is moving in a 180 degrees straight line. Direction doesn’t change. If you cast more left on your forward cast the line on your back cast will move to the left as well.

11. Twelve O’clock Presentation

This is where presenting your back cast gets exciting. Knowing and understanding when it’s best to make a forward cast vs a back cast and doing it quickly is another important factor in the salt.

For example:
You are bonefishing in the Bahamas. You’re a right handed caster and the wind is on your right shoulder at three o’clock. You spot a fish at two o’clock at 35ft moving left towards 12 o’clock. The wind and the fish are on the right side of you and the boat. If you were to take a right-handed cast quickly, you would have to cast over the top of the guide and skiff risking hitting something or snagging the fly killing your presentation.
So you are forced to wait for the guide to turn the boat to the right so you can have a clear back cast over open water. When this happens you will now be forced to carry line in the air with the wind blowing it right into you, making the cast very difficult. If the wind is not to strong, you might be able to fight it off and make the shot.
Remember the fish is only 35ft away. The time taken to turn and position the boat is valuable and was wasted trying to get you into position to even make a cast. The extra movement of the guide and the boat could catch the eye of the fish causing them to spook. The water that was pushed off the moving boat will create a wake also alerting the fish of your presence.

You and the guide are now working harder to make this shot work while doing everything you can to spook the fish. It’s a frustrating salt water scenario that is all too common.
The answer is so simple. Turn to your left on the deck of the boat and make a cast parallel to the boat. The line as you false cast is now down wind of you. You know the fish is at two o’clock and moving towards twelve. You just simply present your back cast at twelve out in front of the oncoming bonefish. How easy was that? No extra movement from the guide and boat that will spook the fish. No loss of valuable time. No fighting the wind in your face.

Start taking advantage of a back cast presentation and you open up all kinds of opportunities.

Bruce Chard
Gink & Gasoline
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3 thoughts on “Presenting A Fly With Your Back Cast Is Like Being Ambidextrous

  1. Having a good backcast is a must! I learned this the hard way the first day I spent on a bonefish flat. All day I had problems presented to bonefish where a cast needed to be made in the 12-3 o’ clock range in order to lead the fish. I was horrible. Things happened that I didn’t know could happen when casting a fly rod. I broke a fly off on the poling platform while small school of large bones were crossing in front of the boat. That went well with my guide. I knew he wanted to smack me with the pole, but he took it in stride. From then on out he would just strategically move the boat for me to be able to make casts in the 9-11 o’ clock range. That worked better for me, but he had to work more. Needless to say I figured out quickly just how important having a good backcast is. For me, it especially makes my day easier when fishing from a boat.

  2. I’m only learning to cast now. Isn’t your back cast basically supposed to mirror your front cast anyway – to properly load your line? Or maybe this feeling is just due to the pre-cursory/basic stage of learning I’m in now?

  3. I cannot agree more. There is a backwater I fish. You fish under the trees on the edge of a deep drop off. If you cannot backcast and are right handed, the most productive water is not fishable to you. This place is what has made me a great backcaster, spending hours here throwing big flies for Pike.

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