Making the Speed Cast

Making the Speed Cast

Plus, why buy a rotary vise?

  • By: Buzz Bryson

Help! The guides are ready to kill me. I do some saltwater flats fishing, and I find that often I can't get the fly in front of a moving fish fast enough. Do you have any tips to help me get my casts out more quickly?

You have to understand the guide's predicament. He's done his job by spotting an elusive, hard-to-see fish, managed to plot an interception course, and put you within casting distance of that moving target without spooking it. "All" you have to do is drop the fly in front of the fish's face…

The key, as you've indicated, is speed of delivery without sacrificing accuracy. You will need to be able to present the fly with only two, or better yet, a single, false cast. To do that, you'll need to be able to make the speed cast.

The speed cast is basically this: The angler stands in the bow, poised to make a presentation, as the guide searches for fish. The rod is held comfortably at the ready, with 20-30 feet of line outside the rod tip and trailing in the water in a loop. The angler holds the fly in his off hand (by the bend of the hook, so he doesn't inadvertently drive the barb into his finger!). It's important to keep the line in the water under tension, as that tension is what makes the cast work. The actual casting motion involves flipping (rolling) that line up and forward--keeping tension on the line/rod--then making the back cast (maybe two, if necessary) and presenting the fly. No lazy series of false casts here, please; just rear back and fire. The process isn't that difficult; after a bit of practice, it will be as easy as a normal roll cast.

But speed is, as mentioned, only half the battle: Accuracy is just as important. You need to make the cast without ever taking your eyes off the fish. And obviously, you shouldn't make the cast without seeing the fish. In fact, it's best to coordinate with the guide long before you see the fish. As you stand in place at the front of the boat, pick out an obvious point--a coral head, rock, or other obvious landmark--in front of you, and ask the guide what "time" (virtually all guides use the clock face, with 12:00 always being the bow of the boat) and distance your target is at. Not infrequently you'll find that what you consider to be 60 feet is only 40 to the guide, and that your 10 o'clock is his 11 o'clock. The point being, in order to be successful you'll need to calibrate your "clock" and sense of distance to the guide's notions of these same dimensions long before a fish swims by.

A third component to the speed cast is accurately judging the proper trajectory. Keep in mind that the fish is moving, as is the boat, and the wind will always be blowing, if only a little. As a guide friend once told me, you have to spot the fish, make that one false cast (or two) and, in those five seconds, complete your calculations concerning fish speed, boat speed, closure rates, wind, distance, and

then…MAKE THE CAST! Five seconds: that's it.

This isn't trout fishing, where one has time to load and tamp a pipe, tie on the just-so PMD, and pick out the specific riser to cast to. Flats fishing requires staying at the ready position and maintaining a high level of concentration for hours at a time and, regardless of wind speed and direction--which will effectively change every time the guide tweaks the boat direction--when the guide says, "Tarpon, 50 feet at 11 o'clock, moving right!" delivering the fly to the target in five seconds.

Obviously, the key to success is practice. Another guide once told me the best way to practice is to stand in your yard on a

rocking chair, have a friend roll a hula hoop in front of you, and practice tossing the fly through the moving hoop. If you can do that consistently, I reckon you'd satisfy most any flats guide. Unless perhaps you don't drop the fly quietly enough… --B.B.

I'm ready for a tying vise that is not strictly a beginner's tool. Does a rotary vise offer enough advantages to justify the extra expense?

The decision is really as much a personal preference as a financial one. The advantage of the rotary vise is that it speeds up any tying steps that involve wrapping materials or thread around the shank of the hook. For example, many dry flies are built by tying in lots of hackle and/or wound bodies of quill, dubbing, chenille and the like. If you find those steps to be slowing you down, I'd give some thought to a rotary vise. If possible, sit down with someone who is proficient with a rotary vise and have him or her put it through its paces. You'll quickly see whether the rotary will offer sufficient advantages to switch.

And, if you do buy that new rotary vise, there's a DVD called Rotary Fly-Tying Techniques that might help you use it more efficiently [See New Gear, July/October]. For further information check out or call 207-453-6242. --B.B.

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