I have mentioned the technique of presenting a fly with your back cast several times in different columns, yet I find that no beginners and few intermediates have even thought of using it and many long time fly fishers just don’t work on it. Thank you to Capt. Joel Dickey for your explanation and teaching tips on this technique.
Using the back cast as a presentation cast seems like a foreign concept at first. Most anglers do not effectively utilize the incredible versatility of this cast, because they don’t even know to consider presenting the back cast to a fish. Everyone thinks a back cast is just a back cast and that’s all.
But that’s not all it can be. It’s not even close. Let’s start looking at the many different uses for a back cast presentations. I will also explain how to use these tactics to help you catch more fish.
Your ability to have a constant awareness of wind direction is crucial. Whether you are wading or fishing from a boat, your orientation to the wind will constantly be changing. Spotting a fish will call for a quick choice of a forward cast or a back cast presentation. Your ability to know which cast will be best ahead of time is key. As you gain experience, this step will become automatic.
Loop Roll Over
Fully extending your line arm on your back cast presentation will help add much needed power to help roll over the loop, turning over the leader and laying your fly out straight. When you lay your fly out straight, your odds of catching fish go way up.
Keep an Eye on Your Target
Since you are casting forward 180 degrees away from the fish during a back cast presentation, it’s difficult to keep an eye on the fish. Turning your body to the side a bit and opening up your stance will help you to swivel your head easier during casting to help keep your eye on the fish. Watch out, though — when you open your stance, you risk breaking your rod path off a straight line plane, causing your loop to open losing distance and accuracy.
Back Cast=Forward Cast
When presenting your fly on a back cast, you should focus on all the same things you would when presenting a good forward cast. High line speed, tight loops, double-hauling and a correct trajectory are all important for a successful presentation, no matter which way you’re facing.
Quick Backhand Shots
The back cast presentation is great for taking advantage of those quick shots at fish that sneak up on your backhand side. If you are on a boat, the guide won’t have time to turn the boat if the fish is too close, so a quick back cast is a must.
Low light can cause some fierce glare on the surface of the water. This makes spotting fish at a distance a problem. This is where a back cast presentation can be essential for success. Fishing for laid up tarpon on a calm day with tough surface glare can be intense. Seeing even a 100-pound fish 20 feet from the boat can be nearly impossible. Often when you spot a fish very close, he will be laying parallel with the boat on your back hand side. Too much movement will spook the fish, so a low, side-armed back cast presentation is a must.
Lock the fighting butt and reel seat of your fly rod against your forearm while presenting your back cast. This can help add additional power and stability. This takes a little practice but works really well, and will help a lot as you start working on this technique.
Right is Right, Left is Left
Many times when anglers can’t see the fish, the guide does his best to help walk the angler into a back hand presentation. A common misunderstanding is when the guide says, “cast more right,” the angler then makes his back casts more left. The angler thinks since he is making a back cast, everything is backwards. Remember that when you cast, your line is moving in a 180-degree straight line. Direction doesn’t change. If you cast more left on your forward cast, the line on your back cast will move to the left as well.
The 12 O’clock Presentation
This is where presenting your back cast gets exciting. Knowing and understanding when it’s best to make a forward cast versus a back cast — and doing it quickly — is another important factor in the salt.
For example: You’re a right-handed caster bonefishing in the Bahamas (or redfishing in Charlotte Harbor). The wind is on your right shoulder at three o’clock. You spot a fish at two o’clock at 35 feet, moving left toward 12 o’clock. The wind and the fish are on the right side of you and the boat.
If you were to take a right-handed cast quickly, you would have to cast over the top of the guide and skiff, risking hitting something or snagging the fly and thus killing your presentation. No go. Instead, you are forced to wait for the guide to turn the boat to the right so you can have a clear back cast over open water. But you will now be forced to carry line in the air with the wind blowing it right into you, making the cast very difficult.
If the wind is not too strong, you might be able to fight it off and make the shot. Remember the fish is only 35 feet away. The time taken to turn and position the boat is valuable and was wasted trying to get you into position to make a cast. The extra movement of the guide and the boat could catch the eye of the fish, causing it to spook. The water pushed off the moving boat will create a wake, also potentially alerting the fish of your presence.
You and the guide are now working harder to make this shot work while simultaneously doing everything you can to spook the fish. It’s a frustrating salt water scenario that is all too common.
The answer is so simple. Turn to your left on the deck of the boat and make a cast parallel to the boat. The line as you false cast is now downwind of you. You know the fish is at two o’clock and moving towards twelve. You just present your back cast at twelve out in front of the oncoming fish.
How easy was that? No extra movement from the guide and boat that will spook the fish. No loss of valuable time. No fighting the wind in your face.
Start taking advantage of making back cast presentations and you open up all kinds of opportunities. Yes, it takes practice and it will be weird at first. But the results will be something else.
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 get 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.