• Chris O'Byrne

The Elbow in the Fly Cast, 2

Let’s Get Moving


You are ready to add distance to your fly cast once you can easily pick up and lay down thirty feet of fly line and shoot another ten or fifteen feet. At this stage too, you might benefit by focusing your attention on the elbow.

The next ingredient to add to your solid and efficient cast is the ability to move the rod tip farther back, and then farther forward. As casting instructor George Roberts put it in his outstanding video Saltwater Flycasting, “The potential power of the cast is determined by how deeply you can draw the rod into a bend.” Your ability to pull the rod into that ever more powerful curve comes from extending the casting arc.

Commonly called drift, this extension of the arc is simply moving the rod farther backward after a crisp stop. This movement will give you more distance to accelerate the rod tip. And your elbow plays a role in this technique too (see The Elbow in the Fly Cast.)

If you focus on the movement of your rod hand while attempting to move the tip of the rod farther, you might fall into the self-defeating habit of reaching down on the back cast and the forward cast. This will pull your fly line into the ground. Instead, think about three movements with your elbow.

After you’ve stopped your back cast (and forward cast when false casting), slide your elbow toward a distant target. As your elbow goes the extra distance behind your body, the tip of the fly rod will follow. Be sure that this back cast target is in line with your final target so that the longer loop of line travels past your head. As you develop this ability to cast significant lengths, your elbow can help you carry that extra line.

Now may be the time to lift your elbow off Lefty Kreh’s shelf. Raising your elbow will raise your hand, the rod tip and the extra line you can now carry. As one of the Godfathers of fly fishing, Joe Brooks, pointed out in his Fly Casting Fundamentals, “Raising the elbow during the back cast helps in getting the line in the air.”

While there is some bending of the elbow in short casts, with drifting comes real extending and contracting of the joint. As you slide your elbow, and your body turns, extend the joint. Then, after your pause to allow the line to unroll, re-bend your elbow while moving it forward. This movement will help pull your body in a powerful turn. When your elbow has moved forward of your body, extend the joint again to completely release all the power you’ve generated.

Most fish are caught at moderate distances, sure. And you can have fun at a dance by leaning against the gym wall. All together, these movements of the elbow will hold the line higher and pull your body away from the target, creating that longer casting motion. So, have some fun. Get your elbow moving, extend your cast and bomb some fly line out there!

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