Starting fly casters are taught to false cast. Casting is usually on grass and the casts are horizontally back and forth ad neuseam. The mantra is to cast in a straight line, so the back cast and forward casts are 180-degrees opposite each other i.e., a straight line in all planes. This horizontal casting becomes so ingrained that casters naturally use it when fishing and that is an unforced error. Imagine fishing on the beach and you cast horizontally straight out over the water, then the line and the leader will unroll several feet above the surface. However, the fish are not there (tip – they are in the water). Now, we are always dealing with wind and if we deliver horizontally the wind has several feet to mess with our presentation, usually detrimentally, before the fly gets to the water.

So, pick a spot on the water where you intend to place your fly. Now, drive the fly line straight to that point and try to straighten your fly line and leader just inches above that point. Now, the wind has much less room to screw up your cast. It is very easy to understand this first part but now this happens. Yes, casters make a flat horizontal backcast and then try to cast at a spot on the water. However, the cast now has a big ugly loop that is hard to point at anything in particular. When the 180-degree rule is broken bad casts follow.

180-degree rule not obeyed
180-degree rule not obeyed

Therefore the whole trajectory must be straight (180-degree rule obeyed). So, now the cast must look like this.

180-degree rule obeyed

180-degree rule obeyed

For some reason, casters find it difficult at first to tilt their trajectories like that but they must. If casters would regularly watch their backcasts they would catch on quicker. The closer the intended delivery is, the higher the backcast must be. The trajectory, of course, flattens out as the target moves away from the caster, but the 180-degree rule always applies.

It is especially important to be mindful of this when fishing from a boat because standing on the bow adds still more height to a horizontal cast.

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