Before you head to the stream to start catching fish with a fly rod, there are a few things you need to learn: how to cast and how to tie knots. But don’t worry, these new skills aren’t difficult and learning them is fun. There are also some new terms you should learn and may want to refer to you as you take on this week’s activities, so we’ve created this short glossary to help. Once you’ve got the basics down, you’ll be ready to catch your first fish!
To dive deep and learn everything you need to know about fly fishing, visit the Orvis Fly Fishing Learning Center, which features how-to videos, knot animations, articles, and lessons that will help you catch any species of fish!
FOUR-STEP OVERHEAD CAST INSTRUCTIONS:
- Grip the rod handle with your thumb on top. Start with your rod tip close to the ground.
- Using mostly your forearm (rather than wrist), smoothly accelerate the rod backward until your hand is next to your ear and come to an abrupt stop. The motion is similar to how you would quickly answer a phone. After you stop the rod, the line should roll out in the air behind you.
- Just before the line straightens completely, accelerate the rod tip forward until it is at eye level, and abruptly stop. This will make the line roll out in front of you.
- Just as the line straightens in front of you, drop the rod tip to the ground, so everything returns to the starting position
HELPFUL OVERHEAD CAST TIPS:
- Try not to bend your wrist. Bend at the elbow so your forearm does most of the work. This motion is similar to how you would use a hammer to pound in a nail in a wall in front of you.
- The stops on the backcast and forward cast must be abrupt. This allows the rod to “unload,” which transfers energy to the line, sending it straight out from the rod tip. If you simply slow the rod to a stop, your line will just collapse.
- Turn your head to watch the backcast as it unrolls behind you. This will help you know if you’re stopping the rod correctly, and it will help you know when to start the forward-cast motion.
Once you can get the line to unroll straight behind you and in front of you, you’ve got the hang of it!
The Roll Cast
The roll cast is great for fishing in places where you have trees or bushes behind you that may get in the way of the backcast. Start in the same position above, with 20 yards of fly line plus the leader lying in front of you.
FOUR-STEP ROLL CAST INSTRUCTIONS:
- Slowly raise the rod tip until your casting hand is next to your ear, and the rod tip is pointing slightly behind you.
- The fly line will move toward you and form a curve of line between the rod tip and the ground. (This is called the “D loop.”)
- Now make the same forward-cast motion you did in step #4 above: accelerate the rod tip forward until it is at eye level, and abruptly stop. This will make the line roll out in front of you.
- Just as the line straightens in front of you, drop the rod tip to the ground, so everything returns to the starting position.
HELPFUL ROLL CAST TIPS:
- Make the backward motion slowly, so the whole line doesn’t jump behind you. You need that portion of the line on the ground or water in front of you to help load the rod.
- Angle the rod slightly away from your casting shoulder, to keep the line on the far side of the rod.
- Again, make sure the stop on that forward cast is abrupt.
Knots are important in any kind of fishing because they address the weakest part of the connection between you and a fish. In fly fishing, you’ll need at least one knot to tie a fly to the end of the leader (the clinch knot) and another knot to connect two sections of leader material—for instance, if you want to make your leader longer (the double surgeon’s knot). Check out our video instructions to learn how to tie these two essential knots.
Practice, practice, practice. You can practice tying these knots while you’re watching TV, riding in the car, or just hanging out. All you need is any kind of fishing line, a fly, and a pair of nail clippers. Put a piece of pencil eraser over the hook of the fly so you don’t poke yourself. Take your time—it’s always worth ensuring quality knots so you don’t miss an awesome fish!
Once you think you’ve got the tying steps down, see how fast you can tie each one. But make sure they aren’t sloppy! Can you tie a clinch knot in under 30 seconds? Can you tie a double surgeon’s knot in under a minute?
Next, starting with your rod in its tube, see how long it takes you to get rigged for fishing:
- Take rod out of tube and assemble it
- Attach the reel
- String the rod
- Add two feet to your leader
- Tie on a fly
If you can do this in under 5 minutes, you’re a pro!