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Casting to Your Unfavored Side

by Captain Jim Barr on 01/31/20

Casting to Your Unfavored Side




I can't tell you how many times I get fly anglers on my boat who cannot cast to their unfavored side without bringing the fly line over the interior space of the boat. If they are a right hand caster as long as the fish are in the 12 o'clock to say 7 o'clock position, they are generally OK.

If however the fish are in the 12 o'clock position to anywhere back to 6 o'clock, their forward and back casts typically cross the boat imperiling the captain and the angler that may be on the stern deck. When I tell them to make a backhand cast or off shoulder cast so that the other occupants of the boat are safe from their line and fly hook... they are befuddled, with some asking me to steer the boat into a different position so they can reach these fish. This of course throws the angler in the stern off his/her casting game and causes me to reposition and in so doing potentially putting down the fish. This is why it is so important to learn how to cast to what I refer to as the unfavored side.

(See Diagram above to better understand the explanation.) For the right arm caster at the bow you are probably good at casting to positions to the left ranging from 11 o'clock to the 7 o'clock position because your forward and back casts are traveling over your right shoulder and the line and fly are not threatening injury to anyone else on the boat (barring heavy wind). If you attempt to cast to any of the clock points from 12 to 6 with your casts going over your right shoulder as noted above, your line and fly are going to cross the boat and endanger the captain or other occupants of the boat and/or hang up on the center console, rod rack or antenna. Conversely if you are a lefty on the bow- you're good to go from about the 1 o'clock position to about 5 o'clock, as the line is crossing over your left shoulder and out of harm's way. However when you want to cast to the 12 to 7 o'clock positions- you run into the same problem, the fly line is traveling over the boat and others on-board are ducking and putting on their flak vests and safety glasses!

If you are the angler in the stern, the right hand caster is safe in casting to the 1 o'clock to maybe the 5 o'clock positions, and the lefty is good from about 7 o'clock to 11 for the most part. The diagram above helps explain the scenario of right and left handed casters whose skills are limited and who can only cast effectively to their favored side. In each diagram the black lines represent the rod and forward cast direction and the lighter colored (faint) broken lines represent the rod and line in the back cast. Remember, the fly line ALWAYS follows the path of the tip of the rod. 

You have to extrapolate a bit to visualize the path of the fly rod and line in overhead casts (or slightly canted overhead casts) where the rod and line crosses near the caster's favored shoulder, to the light colored water areas. The light colored water (all non-red pie shaped water) represents the water these "One Dimensional Casters" are unable to reach without bringing the fly line over the boat into what I call the "danger zone".  

There are two fundamental casts you need to learn, and 45 minutes with a certified fly casting instructor (or a good video tape and casting book) can help to get you on the road to catching more fish and hooking less ears by converting you from a One Directional Caster to a Multi-Directional Caster. These are the "Off Shoulder" and "Backhand" casts (these are hot linked to You Tube videos illustrating these casting techniques). The Off Shoulder video is very short but it effectively illustrates this cast that when combined with a double-haul, creates additional line speed enabling the caster to increase their distance.
For good measure if you can also learn to roll cast to your unfavored side using the Single Handed Off-Shoulder Roll Cast- wow, you've nearly achieved fly casting nirvana!

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