The side cast fly fishing technique is one you have to know if you don’t like catching trees. Perhaps the most common problem in stream fishing, especially in fairly small creeks or brooks, is how to cast your fly with trees or branches over your head. Or when you need to cast your fly under overhanging foliage, even if you yourself are in an open river or lake. Casting under a bridge presents the same problem. You can’t use the regular overhead cast.You sometimes need the side cast.
Supposing the trees or branches are at your left, you then use a right-hand side cast. The fundamentals here are just the same as in the overhead cast except that it is made in a horizontal, instead of vertical, plane. This prevents the line from rising to any height in the air.
In the right-hand side cast technique, the rod tip is first raised a little vertically (to bring the line and leader to the surface of the water and start it moving towards you), and then your arm and rod are swung down and to the right until the rod is pointing about half way around to your right. During this movement, the hand is turned over so the palm is up.
The elbow is the pivot of the side cast technique and is allowed to fall well back to the right hand side of the body as this movement is made. Then turn your body on the ankles to the right until your eyes are fixed on a point about three quarters of the way around to the right from where the fly started.
With the side cast, a smooth backward horizontal, and slightly upward, hitting action is then made with the rod, starting slow and finishing fast, to a position three quarters of the way around to the rear. This fly casting technique will extend the line in a flat loop backward in a horizontal plane directly away from the spot where you want to cast your fly. Stop the rod abruptly with the thumb at the end of the back cast.
The turn of the body should precede the back cast, so you can determine the exact place at which to stop the rod. It is only by a continued and increasing backward force applied to the rod by the hand and wrist, from the elbow, by the muscles of the forearm that power can be communicated to the line.
This force is most effectively applied by the forearm only when a rigid control of the wrist is maintained while the fly is in the air. Bending the wrist back like a hinge during the back cast, or during the pause at the end of the back cast, will cause a wide, sloppy loop in the fine, both on the back cast and the forward cast.
As the rod is stopped, and during the pause at the end of the back cast, the body should immediately turn forward on the ankles, and the eyes be turned forward toward the spot you want the fly to light. The forearm stays where it was until the turn is completed — by which time the line will have straightened out behind you.
With this fly casting technique, the forward stroke of the rod is made by the muscles of the forearm, through the thumb, with the wrist kept under rigid control. The forward cast is, as always, an accelerando movement made horizontally and slightly upward, stopping at 22 1/2 degrees from the line where you want your fly to light.
The left hand, or back hand, side cast is made just like the right hand cast except that the hand is turned palm down, and the cast is made by bringing your arm and rod back to the left.
I suggest that you learn and practice the right-hand cast until you have it mastered before taking up the left hand side cast.
False casts by the side cast method are executed in the same way as the regular or delivery side casts.
There is one additional advantage of the side casts technique in fishing that is often overlooked. A fish is more likely to see your moving rod and line in the overhead cast than he is the low moving rod and line in a side cast. This is especially true in bright sunlight. A fish who can see you seldom strikes, so the side cast sometimes gets more fish, even in open water casting.