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Unlike other casting methods, fly fishing can be thought of as a method of casting line rather than lure. Non-flyfishing methods rely on a lure's weight to pull line from the reel during the forward motion of a cast. By design, a fly is too light to be cast, and thus simply follows the unfurling of a properly cast fly line, which is heavier and tapered and therefore more castable than lines used in other types of fishing.
The physics of flycasting can be described by the transfer of impulse, the product of mass and speed through the rod from base to top and from the transfer of impulse through the fly line all the way to the tip of the leader. Because both the rod and the fly line are tapered the smaller amount of mass will reach high speeds as the waves in rod and line unfurl. The waves that travel through the fly line are called loops. Determining factors in reaching the highest speeds are the basal frequency of a rod and the transfer of the speed from the tip of the rod to the fly line. At the moment the rod tip reachest its highest velocity the direction of the cast is determined.
The type of cast used when fishing varies according to the conditions. The most common cast is the forward cast, where the angler whisks the fly into the air, back over the shoulder until the line is nearly straight, then forward, using primarily the forearm. The objective of this motion is to "load" (bend) the rod tip with stored energy, then transmit that energy to the line, resulting in the fly line (and the attached fly) being cast for an appreciable distance. Casting without landing the fly on the water is known as 'false casting', and may be used to pay out line, to dry a soaked fly, or to reposition a cast. Other casts are the roll cast, the single- or double-haul, the tuck cast, and the side- or curve-cast.
Dropping the fly onto the water and its subsequent movement on or beneath the surface is one of fly fishing's most difficult aspects; the angler is attempting to cast in such a way that the line lands smoothly on the water and the fly appears as natural as possible. At a certain point, if a fish does not strike, depending upon the action of the fly in the wind or current, the angler picks up the line to make another presentation. On the other hand, if a fish strikes, the angler pulls in line while raising the rod tip. This "sets" the hook in the fish's mouth. The fish is played either by hand, where the angler continues to hold the fly line in one hand to control the tension applied to the fish, or by reeling up any slack in the line and then using the hand to act as a drag on the reel. Some fly reels have an adjustable, mechanical drag system to control line tension during a fish's run.
Beginners tend to point with the rod to where they want to throw, but the movement of the hand has to be a contolled speed up and then come to an abrupt stop. The rod will then start to unfurl and the tip of the rod will reach a high speed in the required direction. The high speed of the rod tip toward the target gives the impulse to make the cast, the abrupt stop and retreat of the rod tip is essential for the formation of a loop. Experienced fishermen also improve the speed of the line leaving the rod tip by a technique called hauling, applying a quick fast pull with the hand holding the line. At the end of the cast when the line is stretched the line as a whole will still have speed and the fisherman can let some extra line through his fingers making a false throw, either forward or backward or to finish the cast and start fishing.
There are a great number of special casts meant to evade problems like trees behind the angler (roll cast), the pulling of the line on the fly by the action of the stream, or to make the fly land more softly.