The Fly First or Angular Cast is the Italian Style of Casting's basic everyday cast the equivalent of the standard overhead cast that the majority of us use. The cast was developed particularly to overcome drag and the effect of wind when fishing fast flowing mountain streams. As it's name suggests the fly is landed before the fly line and the majority, if not all of the leader and tippet. With the cast being angled down towards the water and delivered at high speed the opportunity for wind to take the fly off target is significantly reduced and with the fly landing before the leader etc. the opportunity for variations in water speed to induce drag is also reduced. 

Learning the Fly First Cast introduces the angler to many of the techniques used in the other casts of the Italian Style and as such is the first cast that we teach anglers wanting to learn the Italian Style of Casting. In this section we will try to introduce the angler to basics of the Fly First Cast and it will hopefully wet the appetite to learn more by attending one of our workshops.

The Plane and the Axis

The casting stroke used in this cast is significantly longer than that used in the conventional overhead cast used in trout fishing. To achieve this the casting stroke is carried out with the rod travelling down a plane which is angled at between 30 and 45 degrees from the vertical with the elbow at mid casting stroke 150 to 200 mm away from the body. This angle from the vertical we call the Plane.  Besides the rod being angled away from the body the casting stoke is angled down towards the water which combined with the high speed of the cast allows the fly to land before the fly line and leader. The following diagram shows the angle of the Plane and the length of the casting stroke.

Consider that you are just picking the line up from the water to start the back cast with the rod tip almost touching the water:

  • There should be no slack in the line.
  • Gradually lift the rod tip to start the back cast. lifting the line into the air and starting to drag it back into the back cast.
  • Progressively accelerate the rod / line as the back cast progresses until the rod tip just passes your body.
  • Then rapidly accelerate the rod / line through a relatively small angle to load the rod more fully, we call this the Thrust. This is achieved by a rapid acceleration of the arm and a small rotation of the wrist.
  • Instead of stopping as in a conventional cast now drift the rod back, we call this Vibration Dampening. This allows us to use a much longer forward casting stroke than is possible during conventional casting.
  • Now immediately start the forward casting stroke. (Do not pause between the end of Vibration Dampening and the beginning of the forward stroke)
  • Progressively accelerate the rod / line as the rod moves forward until the rod is well forward of you. Then rapidly accelerate the rod / line as the rod passes through a small angle this will load the rod more fully we call this the Thrust. The Thrust is achieved by a rapid straightening of the arm below the elbow and a rotation of the wrist, this is particularly pronounced on the final delivery cast being similar to a rapier thrust. It is at this point any line to be shot is released.
  • Instead of stopping as in a conventional cast now drift the rod forward, we call this Vibration Dampening.
  • If this was a false cast repeat the back cast otherwise continue the forward movement of the rod until the rod tip is close to the water.

​​​It should be noted that during all phases of the cast the fly line should be travelling directly over the top of the rod tip in the same Plane as the rod tip is travelling.

One of the most common problems we find, particularly with people who have been casting in the conventional way, which only uses a very short casting stroke, is that they tend to initiate the rapid acceleration of the Thrust too early in the casting stroke and are actually decelerating the rod by the time it comes to delivering the fly line drastically reducing the energy available to the cast and hence the line speed which can be achieved. The rod should be at its maximum loading at the very end of the Thrust.

Formation of the Loop

The loop is formed on the delivery stroke by the difference in height between the highest point the rod tip reaches during the thrust and its height at the end of the thrust, the smaller this height difference the tighter the loop will be. This is a very important universal point which applies to the majority of casts, even the roll cast.

Important Points

  • When looked at from the front the rod is held at an angle of 30 to 45 ⁰ to the vertical.
  • The elbow is held between 150 and 200 mm away from the body when level to the body. 
  • From the side the rod follows a line approximately 50 degrees to the horizontal. (This will vary depending on the distance to the final target.)
  • The casting hand / rod tip should stay in the axis throughout the length of the casting stroke, i.e. should not follow a curved path.
  • A small rotation of the rod hand from the straight line or axis will result in a much greater deviation of the rod tip from the desired straight line path resulting in a wider loop and a reduction in line speed.

The first two points give more freedom to make a longer casting stroke when compared to a typical overhead cast. The third and fourth points help to produce accurate casts with tight loops less affected by wind.

To maintain a straight line path with the rod tip needs a positive input from the casting hand / arm, try this exercise:

Find a nice smooth vertical wall, orientate your hand and casting arm as shown in the above diagrams i.e. elbow 150 to 200 mm away from your body and your forearm orientated  at between 30⁰ and 45⁰ to the vertical now move your arm forward as if casting. You will find that your hand naturally comes away from the wall. To maintain contact with the wall it is necessary to progressively push your hand away from you by increasing the distance between your elbow and body. As your hand comes back towards you on the back cast the wall will push your hand back in towards you until your elbow is level with you and then you will have to push your hand back towards the wall again as your hand passes behind you to complete the back cast. Practice this until it becomes second nature to keep your hand on the wall and you will make a significant improvement to your casting.

Keeping your casting hand / rod tip in axis is one of the most important aspects of Italian Style Casting and will also benefit other casting styles.

The Casting Stroke

​There are three main parts to the casting stroke whether it’s a forward or back cast, these are a period of progressive acceleration in which the rod is relatively lightly loaded followed by the thrust in which the rod is rapidly accelerated in a very short space, this has the effect of heavily loading the rod. At the end of the thrust the rod slows significantly, the rod tip rapidly unloads catapulting the fly line forward generating high line speed. This is then followed by a follow through of the rod which we describe as vibration dampening in which the rod is further slowed. On the back cast this generates more space so that a longer casting stroke can be made on the following forward cast. One very distinctive feature of the Italian Style is that in general there is not a stop or pause whilst the angler waits for the fly line to straighten out before starting the next phase of the cast, this straightening occurs during the vibration dampening period. At the end of the vibration dampening phase of the casting stroke instead of pausing the rod immediately reverses direction to begin the next phase of the cast whether that is the back or forward stroke. The following diagram shows the sequence for the forward casting stroke of the Angular or Fly First Cast.

With the casting casting stroke following the Plane and the length of the stroke there is a tendency for the casting hand to describe an arc pivoting around the elbow. This has a detrimental effect on both the energy of the cast and its accuracy. To maximise the energy in the cast and hence the line speed attainable it is necessary for the rod tip (and the casting hand) to follow a straight line when this is achieved we describe the cast as being in the Axis. See the sketch below for a diagramatic illustration of what is meant by being either in or out of the Axis

Once the angler understands the importance of progressive acceleration, the timing of the thrust and the importance of the height difference during the thrust and puts this into practice they will find that there is a sudden improvement in their loops and the line speed that they can achieve.

The Non Casting Hand

The non casting hand fulfills two functions in the Fly First and many of the other Italian Style Casts.

Firstly it is used to hold the additional line required for the line shoot which forms an essential part of the cast both adding distance to the cast and adsorbing the energy of the cast so that the fly lands relatively gently on the water. The additional line is usually held in two loops the first loop being released just after completion of the Thrust on the false cast and the second after completion of the Thrust on the final delivery stroke.

The second way of using the non casting hand in the Fly First Cast is to introduce a haul and this can be done either passively or actively. When initially learning the cast it is recommended that the passive method is used. In this method the non casting hand is held into the angler's lower chest and remains still during the entire cast, the movement of the rod / casting hand effectively providing the motive force for the haul. In the second method the non casting hand introduces an active haul on both the back and forward casts. The timing of the haul is critical and should coincide with the period of maximum acceleration during the Thrust.

The Fly First or Angular Cast