Better fishing pictures: Casting

Published Jan 29th 2007

Freezing a cast in one picture frame is not at all easy


Casting shot in different ways

If you look in casting books, ads for fly lines or just the odd fly fishing magazine, you will often see some fascinating pictures of casting. Lines forming the most beautiful arcs in the air, clearly illustrating one of the fascinating things about fly fishing: the beauty of the cast.

Taking pictures, which capture this essence of fly fishing is not easy. To get a good casting picture you need to be on par with several things. You will need:
- a caster who can actually cast
- to get him or her to use a visible line
- some fairly short casts
- good light
- a good background
- good control of your camera

When all these things come together, you will still need a bit of luck to get a really good casting picture.

Fill flash - The line can be difficult to expose with a flash, but for filling when shooting against the light and trying to freeze action it comes in handy
Fill flash
You can shoot casting on any occasion where the chance is there. Sometimes you will be in a situation where the conditions are great, mainly light and background, and just be able to press the shutter release to get a good shot. But if you want to be really sure in your case, prepare a bit.

Demands on the caster
You want to shoot a model, who can actually cast. This means someone, who can form some nice line arcs, control the line in the air and follow your orders about direction, line length, distance etc. Most anglers can do this, and provided you know what you want, you can instruct even a less skillful caster to perform the act.
Make sure the rod and line are balanced, making it easy to use. We do not want the caster to struggle with the casts. And equip the caster with a light and bright line. White, yellow, orange, chartreuse and similar bright colors work best. A floating WF line is preferable because we want the line as thick as possible. If you can choose between several lines, choose the beefier one.

Visible line - Again using trees as a background to ensure that the line is visible
Visible line
Shoot a lot of images - If you have a camera that can shoot sequences, use it! The more shots you do the greater the chance that you get a good one.
Shoot a lot of images
One of the good ones - This was one of the frames that worked from a whole series.
One of the good ones
The scene
First of all you will want light in your back and the caster on a dark background. Situations where the sun is low are definitely the best, so it's morning or evening or Scandinavian winter that offer the best light. The background should preferably be dark: forest, pine trees, a dark bank, rocks, a mountain backdrop or something else that offers a uniform, dark curtain behind the caster.
You also want some water, and preferably enough of it for you to get in the water and still have a good distance to the caster, who will be casting with his or her side to you. There aren't many places like that out there, so if you find it, note it for future casting pictures.

Camera settings
Arm yourself with your fastest camera if you have a choice. You want fast reaction and also the ability to take sequences of pictures if possible. An SLR is the best bet, but a smaller, compact camera can also take some nice casting pictures. As a starting point, a short telephoto lens is good, but you should also experiment with other focal widths if at all possible. Both longer telephoto lenses and extreme wide angles or even fish eye lenses are interesting. If you're using a zoom lens, zoom in to get the telephoto-effect.
Make sure your camera shoots at fast shutter speeds. Select a shutter priority program - often called S - if that is an option. A fast shutter speed of at least 1/250th of a second will freeze the motion.

If your aim is to get the line in the air, instruct your victim to cast a short distance with a fairly slow and deliberate casting motion. A casting length of 10 meters or about 30 feet is suitable unless you are aiming at illustrating long casts. Capturing 20-30 meter or 60-90 foot casts properly is difficult. You want to get the blind casts, and the forward cast is usually the one that will give you the best impression and composition. This is where the angler's attention is, and what most of us connect with fly casting.
Let the angler work out some line and keep on blind casting to get a good rhythm and some nice line arcs.

Place your model in a convenient location with room for both backcasts and forward casts. Place yourself perpendicular to the casting direction and with the angler to one side facing "into the picture". Don't go too far away. The face of the person casting should be distinguishable. By keeping the casts short, you can frame the scene tighter. Since we want to get the line in the air, the angler should be on the edge of the picture casting across to the other edge.
Start shooting.

Variations of the casting theme

Other casting motifs
Casting is of course other things than arcs of line in the air. The casting motions, double hauls, the bent rod and other aspects of the cast can be equally interesting. You can use the same techniques to get these situations, but also frame the subject differently and use your creativity.

You can get some great shots by combining the techniques we have already covered in this series such as going low, using the magic light of the sunrise and sunset and just varying your approach.

My photography site called might interest you if you like photography.

A series
These are all the articles in our series about better fly fishing photography. Read this series and you will learn a lot ebout getting better pictures while fishing. General outdoors pohotographers may also pick up a thing or two...
Better fly-fishing pictures

User comments
From: Tanbay · tanbays·at·  Link
Submitted September 22nd 2009

All photos great.
I'm interested in casting,
I wish you success

From: Etienne Benade · etiennebenade·at·  Link
Submitted May 2nd 2007

Freezing a cast line is extremely difficult but what helps is to get the subject against a dark background. If there are dark trees or rocks, position your subject between you and the background. This will sometimes allw you to open the lense one stop which helps so you can increase the speed.

From: Carl · webmaster·at·  Link
Submitted April 2nd 2007

Taking snapshots from quality video clips also work very well.

From: Clint Ewing · clint.ewing·at·  Link
Submitted February 1st 2007

Backlighting can help bring out the flyline.

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