Fishing is nothing more than trying to induce a fish to accept a hook in his mouth. This is attempted through a plethora of offerings using a variety of methods and gear. For the most part, once the “bait” is in the water paradigms tend to equalize. How it gets there is what makes fly fishing special.
The casting of a fly rod is the qualifier that separates fly fishing from other forms of catching fish. A four-year-old can figure out how to cast a traditional fishing rod and operation of the different types of reels is just a formality. The casting of a fly rod is something quite different. It requires skill. Practiced mechanics and muscle memory must combine to produce a cast. This must be learned under ideal conditions and then be adapted to a variety of changing conditions and challenges. High banks, obstructions, the wind, rain, distance, and water conditions are just some of the challenges for the caster.
Manipulating a tiny fly at the end of 30 to 50 feet of line with a long flexible stick to land precisely where desired is the objective. How that happens is a combination of skill and artistry. The mechanics of producing a movement on a 9 foot plus fly rod to influence the placement of a fly on the end of a 30 ft plus weighted line are a study in physics. Mass, acceleration, force, power, and speed; the ability to Influence these denominators is fly casting
The same laws of physics that produce a soaring perfectly executed cast are the same ones that will doom it to a fluttering failure. Each movement of the cast must be executed with precision and the correct amount of speed and exact timing. Similar to a golf swing, a fault in these metrics will anger the laws of physics and much like a poorly struck golf ball careening horribly off course a fly line will do the same, resulting in similar nastiness. A well-executed cast delivers the fly to its intended target and lands it on the water in a manner enabling the best chance at enticing a fish to a momentary lapse in judgment. Conversely, when it goes bad any number of repugnant results can occur. Bad casts crash on the water sending fish darting for cover. Flies get stuck in trees or drift poorly in the water alerting fish to their intention. Bad casts can literally tie a line in knots in mid-air requiring vast amounts of patience and dexterity to return to a usable condition.
Power in a cast is produced effortlessly and feeling the rod load and release its energy into the line inflicts a satisfying feeling of mastery. A perfectly executed cast is a thing of beauty. A synchronization that sends a fly line rocketing through the guides delivering a fly to intercept perfectly with the desired target. Casting creates a rhythm to working a piece of water in search of fish. Cast, drift, mend, drift, repeat. It is a rhythm that begs to be interrupted. Anticipation builds with each cast and when the line comes alive with a fish on the end of it and the rod loads only this time with the object of its intention it’s a feeling that cannot be described. It has to be felt to understand.