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Minor Notes on Casting Angles

To my mind there are five basic casting positions: from downstream (6 o’clock), from down-and-across (7-8 o’clock), from across (9 o’clock), from up-and-across (10-11 o’clock), and from upstream (12 o’clock). The exact importance of “how far across stream?” or, “are you casting from river right or river left?” are nothing more than semantics, because the same ideas apply to 9 o’clock as they do to 3 o’clock, for example. What I am going to do is present which casting positions will be beneficial in what generic (very generic) type of situation, and will offer a couple tips that will help you use each position effectively.

Downstream Position

A good hook setting angle, out of sight form the fish, little if any mending is required. Nice and straight forward. Casting straight upstream works well in choppy or swift water, along the bank, and when getting very close to the fish, the way George Anderson does it on those technical spring creeks. The benefit to this position is that creeping to within 15 or 20 feet of the fish is possible if one is careful, and by doing so can deliver repeated casts in the fish’s feeding lane. Little mending is ever done with this type of fishing, so once you get into position, your job is well on its way to being finished. With this type of fishing, a very short drift, perhaps as short as six-inches, is desired.

Down and Across

The bread and butter of fly casting. When I’m working up a stream, it would be an awful lot of work to try and get a straight downstream position all the time, and I don’t always want to, anyhow. Casting from a slightly off to the side position will more easily allow false casting out of the trout’s window, minimising the chance of being detected. Also, presenting the fly to the trout without the tippet drifting over first is quite doable. With this type of cast, instead of landing the line on the water then mending upstream, try doing a small pile cast. To do this cast you quickly drop your rod tip to the water’s surface just before your line straightens out. This will pull the line down before the fly line completely straightens out, leaving a small amount of slack in the line and leader, which is usually enough for a nice drift. A reach cast also works quite well, and is described below.


I like this position if I’m on a wide flat, or need to cast from this angle because of wading or access restriction. I can often see the entire fish if on the flats, this angle gives me good perception, and I can often see the fish’s response to my offering. A pile cast as described above is a good way to get a nice drift (described above), and a strong reach cast also ensures a good float. To accomplish this cast, you move your casting arm and the entire rod sharply upstream as your cast unrolls. This will put the fly slightly downstream from your line. Another benefit to this is that the fly drifts slightly to the side of the tippet, so spooky fish have less reason to reject the offering.

Up and Across

If the fish are being completely snarky and I think I need to get a as much of my gear out of the way as possible, I’ll step the tippet size down and do my best to get the fly to the fish before the leader ever enters the field of vision. I don’t particularly like getting directly above the trout, so I’ll get above them, and slightly off to the side. When fishing from this position, I use a combination pile/reach cast, where I do the reach, but drop the tip of the rod to try and get a bit of slack into the system. When I need to resort to this length to get a fish, drag will be the deal breaker as often as not. Practice your casting with this one.


I don’t like this position, but I guess it needed to be mentioned at least a bit. This is for super picky trout. Those wise-old suckers (well, it at least sounds like suckers…) that you’ll either catch or put down with one cast, which is good, because it’s tough to cast from this position more than once or twice without spooking the entire pool of trout. Once your fly drifts past the trout, you either line the fish with your neon-fly line, or you create a huge wake when you pull your line against the current during the recast. That’s why I’d prefer the up and across position, given the choice between the two. For this position, the only specialised cast needed is the pile cast, as described above. As your line is drifting down, shake the rod tip up and down to feed more line out, extending the drift.

Nick Sliwkanich

Written by: Nick Sliwkanich

Email: nick@westernsportfishing.ca