Illawarra Flyfishers Club


The Curve Cast


I have seen the curve cast performed both on video by Lefty Kreh and on the water by Andrew Wheeler. Andrew and I were fishing for bass along the Kiah River, south of Eden, and had come across the remains of a very old bridge which was overhanging the water next to some blackberry bushes. We knew there would be a fish in under there, and as a normal cast was impossible due to the angle, Andrew started babbling something about a "curve cast" being the only way to go.

Now I could understand the principles of the cast, but executing one properly is another matter entirely. Andrew proved this by attempting about 15 of them before finally one rolled the fly out neatly around the corner of the bridge pylon and underneath the old beams. The little Gurgler was allowed to rest for a while, then on the first strip, a decent bass nailed it, but missed the hook. Needless to say, I learned two lessons - 1) sometimes a resident fish will still respond to the right presentation even after 15 bad ones; and 2) the curve cast is a very useful tool to have in your fly fishing arsenal!

Now I am not the right person to pen a how-to article on the curve cast, so instead I will borrow an article written by Antony Boliancu, of the Goulburn Valley Fly Fishers. The article and pics were submitted to me by our own Ron Williams - many thanks to both parties.

The Curve Cast

Text and Pics by Antony Boliancu

When beginners try fly casting, the first casts they learn are straight-line casts. Guides teach new casters the chop cast for use in drift-boat fishing and on a stream. It's an easy way to get a fly fisher started, and the cast works fine for presenting the fly to spots in broken water. You drift fast, chop cast, let the fly sit for a second or two, and then lift, float, and cast again.

But very quickly, as they advance into more complicated "technical" fishing, fly fishers learn that they must "mess up" their casts to be successful. They learn "dump casts," "pile casts," "tuck casts," "reach casts," "sail casts," "roll casts," "stack casts," and the list goes on. These "fishing casts" are not designed for parking lots or fishing shows. And they are not equal. Each has its own discreet utility. All are designed to solve specific fishing situations. Each is usually tailored by expert fly fishers to take the drag off a fly in a tough presentation.

The fishing casts are the ones that separate the expert from the novice in fly fishing. They are the presentations that catch more fish. And in the repertoire of fly-fishing casts, nothing is more difficult to learn than the curve cast. Its utility should be obvious to any fly fisher who has spent time on the water. 

Lefty Kreh is the master of the curve cast, and he uses it all the time when fishing. Years ago, on his first trip to England he was offered a shot at a well-known tortuga brown on the Kennett in a lie that defied traditional presentations. Witnesses testify that he caught the elder statesman with a perfect curve cast on the first presentation.


When to Use a Curve Cast

If you are downstream of a rising trout and want the fish to see the fly before the line (right-handers), use a left-hand (positive) curve cast if the fish is to your left upstream. If the fish is to your right upstream, use a right-hand curve. The same technique can be used for curve casting to fish lying downstream of you or behind a boulder. The cast can also be employed with a reach to increase its curve and your fly's drag-free drift. The curve casts can also be used, both upstream and down, to tuck flies back under overhangs where trout lie under protective cover. And it can be used to cast across fast currents into slower bank side currents to hook the fly downstream and create longer drag-free drifts. A curve cast enables you to present your fly, not your line, to the fish first. It works with upstream or downstream presentations. If a fish is to your left (right-handers), use a left-hand curve cast (photo). If a fish is to your right, use a right-hand curve.

Here are two ways to do left- and right-curve casts. One is easy to learn; the other is a bear.


Easy Left Curve

The easy way to make a left-curve cast (for right-handers) is to simply cast sidearm and slightly overpower the cast with a sharp, crisp stroke. The line/leader will hit the end of its travel and then hook to the left. The reason is simple: inertia. The excess energy in the line carries the leader and fly beyond the turnover point into a left hook.

You can improve this left curve by adding a sharp movement of the rod tip to the right after the power-stroke/stop of the rod in your forward cast. The movement is: sidearm stroke/stop/reach right. This sequential movement increases the inertial effect on the line/leader/fly, deepening the curve. Weighty flies curve the line more sharply inertially, but they also require more overpowering of the rod in the stroke. The left-curve cast can be made at different distances from your rod tip by simply lengthening or shortening your line. The cast is particularly effective in showing the fly drag-free to a fish feeding upstream and to your left, keeping the line to the fish's right to prevent lining. 

The place to learn curve casts is on your lawn during practice sessions. On stream is a poor place to practice fly casting. Simply place a cap on the lawn at different distances and attempt to curve the line end, leader, and tow yarn (tied to the tippet) around the cap. The practice should teach you how to slightly overpower the cast with a sidearm stroke followed by a right-reach of the rod tip. 

To make a left curve (right-handers), cast sidearm and slightly overpower the cast with a sharp, crisp stroke. Inertia will make the line/leader hook to the left when it hits the end of its travel. For a right curve, tilt the rod in a plane overhead and at a 45-degree angle to the left of your head in the forward stroke and overpower the stroke/stop. 


Easy Right Curve

As in the left-curve cast, the right-curve cast can easily be made by overpowering the cast, in this case to the right. Simply tilt the rod in a plane overhead and at a 45-degree angle to the left of your head in the forward stroke and overpower the stroke/stop. The line/leader/fly will hook to the right.

If you reach sharply leftward after the stroke/stop, you will sharpen the right curve. Inertia causes the overpowered line to curve to the right. The sharper the stroke/reach, the sharper the curve.

The tough left-curve stroke is overhand, straight forward with your arm, but sharply to the left in a tight arcing motion with your wrist and hand. The rod tip should trace an arc-left path overhead and the line will follow. 


Tough Left Curve

The line goes where the rod tip goes. Thus, if you stroke a left curve with your rod tip, the line will follow. This means that you must learn to stroke a left curve with your rod tip, no easy matter, but doable. The best way to learn this left-curve cast (for right-handers) is to practice stroking sharply and tightly left while casting on your lawn. The stroke is overhand, straight forward with the arm, but sharply to the left in a tight arcing motion with your wrist and hand. The rod tip should trace an arc-left path overhead to make the cast work. Again, this is an overpowered cast that causes the line end to curve left inertially.

This cast is difficult to make in calm weather. It's nearly impossible to make in a wind and with large, air-resistant flies.

To make a tough right-curve cast, create a right arcing motion with your arm during the power stroke. With practice, you can learn to make the sharp right turn of the arm needed to scribe a right arc with the rod tip. 


Tough Right Curve

The right-curve cast using this technique is even more difficult to make (easier for left handers). In this cast, you must make your arm and wrist scribe a right arcing motion during the power stroke. With practice, you can learn to make the sharp right turn of the arm needed to scribe a right arc with the rod tip. But it will not be easy.


Embellishments

You can add a nice touch to the tough left-curve cast, if you like. When you stroke the rod to make the tip hook to the left, make the stroke slightly upward. The rod tip will trace a hook-left-and-up arc and the line will follow. In still air, the leader/fly will hook out and upward and then pause in the air and die gently, like thistledown settling to the water's surface, in a gentle "pile-cast-left." This cast has limited use for casting small drys on flat water in calm conditions.

For casting small drys on flat water in calm conditions, make your stroke slightly upward. The rod tip will trace a hook-left-and-up arc and the line will follow. In still air, the leader/fly will hook out and upward and then pause in the air and die gently in a "pile-cast-left." 

Practice, practice, practice. They say in golf that you "drive for show and putt for dough." So I'm told! In fly fishing you cast long for show, but you hook, reach, and dump for trout. Expert golfers practice for hours on the putting green. Successful fly fishers practice for hours casting to, through, and around targets on their lawns. It's fascinating to watch them later on stream . . . messing up their casts and catching fish. I just wish I was half that good.