For nearly every fly angler, the biggest hurdle to overcome when learning the sport is the art of casting. Fly casting requires patience, finesse, and timing in order to be done right. Bad casts mean that you’re not able to get a good presentation in front of fish, which in turn leads to fewer chances at putting anything in the net.  

That’s why, if you ever take a guided fly fishing trip, your guide will often spend the first few minutes of the trip watching your cast. A good guide teaches you how to improve your cast, and your chances of catching something worth bragging about.  

You don’t have to be with a guide to work on the most critical skill in fly fishing, though. All you need is a basic knowledge of fly casting, time to learn, and a willingness to study water and identify when and where certain casts are required.  

Today, we’ll look at three different casts in two separate situations both the upstream and downstream versions of the curve cast, reach mend, and water mend. These tips, along with the video, give you the tools you’ll need to practice casting on your own – and most importantly, watch that practice result in catching more fish.

Upstream Curve Cast  

The upstream curve cast is one of the best ways to achieve the longest-possible drag-free drift when casting across multiple current seams. The idea behind the curve cast is pretty simple: you want to throw a cast in which all of your line curves in an upstream direction, eliminating any drag caused by fly line caught in a current below your fly.  

The idea is simple, but the execution is what gives a lot of angler’s trouble. The foundation of the curve cast – in both the upstream and downstream variation – is the sidearm cast. Most fly anglers are familiar with this cast because it’s so useful when you have a lot of overhanging branches. And, in all honesty, sometimes it’s just easier than an overhead cast.  

To make a curve cast, you’ll want to start with a sidearm cast. Pick the line up off the water, move the rod tip back, and wait to feel the line load the rod. Then, instead of bringing the rod all the way forward to complete the cast and create the picture-perfect loop, stop your cast short.  

This essentially “overpowers” the cast, which causes the loop in your fly line to stop and curve back in on itself. Then, the fly will drop, and you should follow that drop with your rod tip.

Why use it?

As shown in the video, a curve cast is a great way to make sure that your fly gets as long a drag-free drift as possible. By throwing a cast that curves back in on itself, and doing so upstream, you essentially “stack” line above the fly so that nothing will drag your fly out of its spot in the current.  

When to use it

You’ll want to use the upstream curve cast when you’re facing a river with a current running from right to left. The upstream curve puts all your fly line above your fly, ensuring a longer drag-free drift.

Downstream Curve Cast 

Downstream casts are rare, especially in today’s angling world, but there’s still a place for them. The downstream curve cast is executed exactly as the upstream, except you’ll throw a sidearm cast across your body (assuming that, like most fly anglers, you’re right-handed).   

When to use it

The best use for a downstream curve cast is when fishing to something on the opposite bank with a right to left current, and your line needs to move in a uniform speed downstream to get the right drift.  

Upstream Reach Mend 

This is a much easier cast than the curve. The reach mend is really effective if you don’t need such a long drift as to necessitate a curve cast. It still helps you control where your line is on the water – thereby controlling drag – but it’s often used when casting shorter distances or on smaller rivers.  

To execute the upstream reach mend, simply cast overhand. Once you’ve false-cast enough to see where your fly will land, and to make sure you have enough line out, you’ll want to simultaneously shoot line on your forward cast while moving the rod horizontally upstream.  

What this does is eliminate the need to throw a mend upstream once your line hits the water. You’re essentially throwing the mend while your line is still in the air.  

Why use it?

The upstream reach mend is great for throwing across multiple current seams to a small pocket of soft water. It lets you keep your distance from actively-feeding trout while giving them the best presentation possible. It’s a solid alternative to the curve cast, especially if you’re fishing a stream that’s too brushy to allow a curve cast.  

When to use it

The upstream reach mend is best used in situations when you have to cast shorter distances across multiple seams.  

Downstream Reach Mend 

The downstream reach mend is, once again, the exact same cast as the upstream mend. The only different is that this time, instead of moving your rod horizontally upstream while on your final forward cast, you move it horizontally downstream.  

When to use it

The downstream reach mend should be employed when you have a lot of slow water between yourself and your casting target. This reduces the amount of line available to be pulled out of your target zone by a stiff downstream current.

Upstream Water Mend 

This is one of the first technical casts fly anglers learn. The water mend is simply the method of picking up line and moving it up or downstream in order to eliminate drag during your presentation. When you hear a guide yell “Mend!” this is the cast they’re referring to.  

The best way to execute a water mend, either up or downstream, is by thinking of it less than flicking line and more of picking it up and moving it. A good water mend uses the natural resistance of the water to power the movement of the fly line, which means a subtle change in your rod’s position is all that’s needed to make this work.  

Why use it?

The upstream water mend is used by every angler, every day. Or close enough that it doesn’t matter. It’s an all-around great technique that allows you to move line in or out of currents to reduce drag on your flies or strike indicators.  

When to use it

The water mend is best used when you’re fishing short distances that don’t require you to mend both running and head sections of a fly line. It’s also most effective when done immediately after your casts hits the water. Continuous mends can be used to lengthen a drift if needed.  

The downstream water mend is identical to the upstream water mend in every facet.  

These casts may seem intimidating, but they’re worth mastering. The key to success in fly fishing is presentation, and these casts will help you improve your presentation – no questions asked.


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