I get many of my column ideas from my clients. It may be a trip they took, or a bucket list fish they want to catch, or a skill they are very good at — or not so good at. This column happens to be about the latter.
Recently, I had two separate clients (Berk and Don) who had no clue how to make a simple roll cast. Both of these guys were decent casters, able to get the fly at least toward a targeted spot (if not right on it) and throwing loops good enough to carry line 40 to 60 feet.
The roll cast is a technique that fly fishermen of all levels will use on a daily basis, so I was surprised at the lack of skill and technique these two guys had. Normally, a roll cast is something learned early on in your casting education. I usually teach it to beginners at the end of a first lesson or at the start of the second.
Why use a roll cast?
• For getting line outside of your rod tip in order to cast. When you first strip line from your reel to start fishing, you will either use a series of overhead casts or roll casts to extend the line outside the tiptop of the rod to then make an overhead cast.
• Removing slack before starting a cast. If you have a pile of line in front of you, simply roll cast to remove the slack before you start your cast.
• As your presentation cast, especially with dries, nymphs and streamers. The roll cast helps you avoid obstacles behind you when a typical back cast can’t be made. I did this up the proverbial saltwater creek yesterday — and caught fish doing it.
• Taking a dry fly off the water, undisturbed, with a stealthy roll cast is an effective means to dry off the fly and to reposition it for another drift with an overhead forward cast.
• To change directions. You are fishing in one direction — say, 12 o’clock — and you need to cast to 9. Instead of picking up all the line and making several false casts at different increments back around to 9, simply strip in some line, lift your rod and roll cast in the direction of your target. As the line straightens (but before the fly hits the water), pick up, make one back cast and shoot to your target.
• To bring a heavy fly out of the water to make it easier to cast. Fishing with an intermediate sinking line and a weighted fly such as a Clouser takes different techniques than normal to cast. We fish this way a lot over deeper grass flats and holes.
To make the pickup easy, fish the fly back to within 20 feet or so, then lift your rod up and back. When you see your fly come up to the surface, without stopping roll cast forward. Just as your fly straightens out and hits the water in front of you, pick up then back cast and forward cast as usual.
My clients needed work on these last two. Luckily, they both wanted to take the time to learn how this worked, so we did. Berk even caught a nice snook using his newly acquired change-of-direction cast. Both he and Don caught several trout using the lift-roll-and-cast method over the grass.
Practice roll casting every chance you have. Learn to do it forehand and backhand. Remember even though the roll cast may not go as far as the overhead loop cast or be as glamorous, perfecting the roll cast is just as important to catching fish on a fly rod. Give me a call if you want to work on the roll cast, or any casting technique to help you become a better fisherperson.
Roll with it, baby, and stay fly!
Capt. Rex Gudgel is a fly fishing guide in the Boca Grande area and an International Federation of Fly Fishers Master Certified casting instructor. If you’d like to take casting lessons, book a trip or just need more fly fishing info, contact him at 706-254-3504 or visit BocaGrandeSlamFlyFishing.com or CastWithRex.com.