By Louis Cahill
Sometimes you’ve got to come at a problem from a different angle.
I’m a sidearm caster by nature. I think it’s in my DNA. I threw a baseball sidearm when I was a kid and I’ve cast a fly rod that way for as long as I can remember. It was a necessity on the streams where I learned to trout fish. Under the heavy canopy of trees and mountain laurel you find in the southeast, it’s the only effective way to reach the fish and keep your flies. I literally had to teach myself to cast overhead for situations where it’s a better technique but my sideways cast has served me well in the salt.
Here are a couple of reasons that I feel a sidearm cast is superior for saltwater fly fishing.
It’s one of the most effective ways to deal with wind. Wind is not a uniform movement of air. There is a turbulent zone near the water that moves slower. The higher your line is off the water, the stronger a wind it travels in. Keeping your line close to the water takes advantage of the turbulent zone to make for easier casting. The sidearm cast also allows you to straighten your line closer to the water, within the turbulent zone. This means your fly is not as likely to be blown off target by the wind.
In a moderate wind, off your casting shoulder, a sidearm cast uses the length of the rod to keep your fly at a safe distance. If your line speed is high enough you can manage this in a surprisingly stout wind. The sidearm cast is also an important component of the Belgian cast. This cast will handle even stronger winds.
In addition to fighting the wind, a sidearm cast is less likely to spook fish. You can cast slightly off angle and work out line without the fish seeing your line in the air, or its shadow on the water. This extra stealth makes a big difference with spooky saltwater species.
The sidearm cast also makes a more delicate presentation. When the energy of the cast is dissipated, the fly drops for a height of only a few feet. An overhead cast will fall from much higher and make a much bigger splash. Add to this the common problem of too much residual energy in the cast and the difference is pronounced. In a sidearm cast this energy is directed parallel to the water. In an overhead cast it is directed downward, adding to the force of gravity.
If you aren’t using a sidearm cast for your saltwater fly fishing, you should give it a try. Get out and practice on the lawn. Work on developing the line speed you need to keep the line traveling nice and level. Before you know it you’ll be catching more fish in the salt.