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Casting Tip of the Month - Underhand Casting

courtesy Atlanta Fly Fishing School

Question: Now that the “dog days” of summer are here I’m finding a lot of fish are holding in the shade under overhanging tree branches. Do you have any suggestions how to reach fish back under low overhangs? I’ve been trying to cast side arm but it doesn’t get the fly back very far.


Casting under low overhanging limbs and structure like boat docks can be a tough one for the fly caster. You’re right on course with the side arm cast to keep the loop low and horizontal. Many fly casters don’t realize just how high an angle an overhead cast is coming from. A 5 ˝’ tall caster will hold the rod butt 4 ˝’ off the ground plus a 9’ rod plus a 2’ to 5’ tall loop puts the fly 16 or more feet in the air. In addition to your basic side arm cast, you might try an underhand cast. The goal of this cast is to not only have your unrolling loop horizontal, but to actually have the fly delivered lower than the line. It’s the opposite of an overhead cast where the fly is delivered on top of the line as the loop unrolls. In the overhead cast the fly is on top because the stop at the end of the final forward casting stroke allows the rod tip to travel forward and DOWN. To execute the underhand cast simply cast side arm as near to horizontal as possible and as you stop at the end of the final forward casting stroke, lift the rod tip UP. This way the following fly line will pass under the rod tip and the loop will form upside down. The loop and fly line unrolling upside down makes for the most delicate presentation. I’ll sometimes use it dry fly fishing for weary trout in the middle of the stream, too. A second cast to help you probe under very low structure is the skip cast. The skip cast requires a very tight loop whose energy is directed straight forward as well as to substantially over power the cast. If you cast sidearm at a low enough angle the fly and line will skip across the water just like when you skipped stones as a kid. This works best on short casts and smooth water and requires the tight loop for the skipping line to pull the fly back under cover. If you’re intentionally going to try tangling with timber you will want to fish barbless and with a weed guard as hang-ups are inevitable…but it’s worth it to get your fly to the best sheltering lie. If the fish are not biting you can always brush up on your techniques for skipping those stones.

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