Tactics and Techniques

The No-Cast Cast.

Wading along the bank of the Bighole River, I found myself in an unfortunately familiar and somewhat sub-optimal position of biting off a bit more than I could chew by way of wading out a bit further than my stature allowed in pursuit of an upstream seam that I “knew” held fish. 

I was above my belly in river, having left the stony shore we had anchored the drift boat on and slowly leaned further and further into the current.  The bank was too thick with brush to maneuver.  My determination had me casting upstream, balancing on slick stones, and flirting with the more and more likely outcome of a wet ass and no fish.  A skill set I am well versed in…

READ: WADEOUTTHERE | The Least Discussed, Most Controversial Skill Set on Any Trout Stream. Part 1 of 2.

READ: WADEOUTTHERE | The Least Discussed, Most Controversial Skill Set on Any Trout Stream. Part 2 of 2.

Curious if I had made the right choice, I looked back downstream.  My brother and father were casting methodically and pleasantly from the bank.  Easily enjoying the day, while I, once again, found myself in a tight spot of my own making.  My self-doubt was interrupted when I saw a fish rise between us.  And then another.  Slowly a new strategy grew in my mind. 

My first thought was, how could I have not spooked those trout?  Did they laugh as I blindly moved past? 

Trout laughter, while not observed in nature (yet), is a phenomenon I strongly believe exists. 

However it happened, I was directly upstream of trout that were aggressively feeding on the surface.

The fish on the Bighole had been taking dries on long drifts since we arrived, so I knew that I would likely not hook up if I cast directly to them.  The main problem was that I needed my fly to land pretty much where I was standing and then drift downstream to the fish.  Unwilling and/or unable to move and not wanting to manage the cast upstream all the way down to the fish, I decided to use the No-Cast Cast.

I am sure this idea exists somewhere in the many books and techniques about casting, but I stumbled upon it more on accident than on purpose. Generally while enduring similar scenarios while chasing trout in places I “knew” held trout.  In any case, it has helped me from time to time and it might help you.

The Mechanics of the No-Cast Cast.

There are two techniques for performing the No-Cast Cast.  Both are rooted in the premise that you are not actually casting, but still getting the fly to the fish.  Thus, the name.

The first technique is to pick up your line at the end of your drift and pull the fly back upstream and then let it drift back down.  You may want to cast downstream to get line out and then execute the line pick up.  Simply done, either way.

The second is a normal cast downstream, with one exception.  When your line is fully extended in front of you at the time you would normally lay the line down, you make a slight jerk back with the rod tip and pull the line back.  This creates a sort of half back cast.  Just a small tug back is required so that the fly starts its rearward motion but never reaches the back cast.  It will land somewhere out in front of you as you face downstream and allow for the fly to float downstream as you feed line. Keeping the rod tip up when you pull the fly back allows for more control of the backward motion.  With practice you can become more precise with where you want the fly to land on the water.

After the fly and line land on the water, you can feed line downstream so that you maintain a natural drift and are still ready for the hook set.  This involves pulling the slack line off the water with your non casting hand and using the friction of the water to pull that slack line out with upward motions of the rod tip.  There are many YouTube videos that show and explain how to feed line downstream.  Here is a great video from Reds Fly Shop demonstrating this process:

Uses of the No-Cast Cast.

I use the No-Cast Cast when I want to present my fly downstream with a natural drift and one or all of the following is a factor. 

  1. I want to avoid having to cast upstream and have the fly float all the way down to where I am targeting the fish downstream.  This can be because I think the dry fly may submerge in that long of a drift or because I think my nymph will snag the bottom in shallower water upstream. 
  2. The fish I am targeting are almost directly downstream, which would make it hard to have the drift come downstream on top of where I am standing.  Still do-able, but sometimes not desired.
  3. I want to present the fly quickly downstream with slack to allow for a natural drift. 
  4. Fishing in tight quarters where casting may be difficult.  Tree branches or brush can make it easier to gently pick up the line and let it float back downstream.  You can roll cast downstream and tug it back as well.  This can help avoid getting hung up and while allowing a solid drift downstream.

The No-Cast Cast.  Not the best name and not very pretty, but it gets the fly to trout downstream with a natural drift.  And a natural drift is a big part of landing trout no matter where you stand in the river or how pretty your cast is.  Give it a shot the next time you Wadeoutthere.


Jason Shemchuk

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  • Reply
    Terry Knight
    March 5, 2020 at 7:36 pm

    Great lesson learned! All to often we as fly fisherman forget we are fly fisherman nit fly casters. The end goal is to fool ole butter sides or Mrs. Pink stripe regardless of how “tight” the loop is or complex the cast is. As it is said, history is written by the winner. No one will put an asterisk by your picture of a 24 incher because your cast want at 10 and 2 lol

    • Reply
      Jason Shemchuk
      March 6, 2020 at 4:14 pm

      That’s right my friend. Keep the goal in mind. Let’s all get better but not worry about how we look while we’re doing it. Great comment. Thanks.

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