The Extended Bow & Arrow cast

Article by: Fred Steynberg

River fishing for trout can differ from country to country, river to river and bend to bend.  The strength and depth of the water, eddies, intermingling currents, trees, bushes, undercuts, rocks and log-jams can either help the angler or add to the difficulty factor of the cast.  Trout use all of the above to their advantage, not just for protect from predators but also to position themselves where a constant food supply might be “served” to them by the currents.

To overcome obstacles in a river system and present a fly to a particular fish, the fly fisherman requires two important skills.  The first is a basic understanding of the workings of the fly rod in his hand and second competent line control.  The unity of rod and line comes only with understanding and practice.  It is of primary importance to understand why a fly line shoots, curves and shapes in a certain way when executing a cast. This is one factor that can almost instantly improve a cast.

However, not all casts or aspects of the cast and line control are difficult.  A simple yet effective short distance cast rated highly by Jason Borger, is the Bow and Arrow Cast.  This must be one of the oldest casts or casting techniques in the history of fly fishing and is relatively simple to execute.  One can almost imagine the pioneers of fly fishing who, with a string of line attached to the tip of a stick, practiced the Bow and Arrow Cast to present an imitation to their quarry.

As simplistic and effective as the Bow and Arrow Cast is, it has one short- coming: distance.  It often results in the fly landing a couple of inches or feet short of the fish.  On one encounter during my first trip to New Zealand with Dean Riphagen, I questioned the efficiency of this cast.  We came across a log-jam in the river with most of the current flowing below it.  A good brown lay facing straight into the current but directly below the log-jam.  It was only with luck that we spotted the slight movement of the tail that stuck out below the log as the fish moved forward to eat something just in front of the fallen tree.

I climbed down an embankment to get as close as possible to the fish, which was facing away from me. My cast was obstructed by the embankment and vegetation close behind and around me.  All this time, Dean managed to take video footage of the event as well as one or two still pictures, one of which illustrates the position of the fish.  We both agreed that if I succeeded in hooking the fish that it would most likely snap my tippet on the log-jam soon after.  We could either take up the challenge or move on, saving time and frustration.  Unaware of our presence because of the log jam blocking its view, the large fish leisurely continued feeding in regular intervals.  With numerous Bow and Arrow Casts, I managed only to place the fly on its tail and once or twice on, or just over, the log.  The cast was consistently just out of reach.  I needed to get the fly a foot or two ahead of the fish.  The fish might then identify the fly with its binocular vision and rise to the occasion.

After several unsuccessful attempts, we left the brown in peace with the failure of the task haunting me until we got back to South Africa.  Back home, I immediately began to work on a simple, effective way to improve the Bow and Arrow cast.  The Extended Bow and Arrow cast was born a couple of days later.

This cast takes a little practice to perfect.  It is not a cast to use around every bend in the river but a tool to get a fly into otherwise difficult lies where the fly fisherman may find himself in a tight spot.  An angler who learns this cast will, if you pardon the expression, add another arrow in the quiver of his fly fishing knowledge.


  1. Pull the line from the rod tip so that you have approx. 1 – 1 ½ m of fly line hanging below your left hand as illustrated. Don’t have more slack out of the reel, the line between the rod tip and reel should be taught.  Don’t overcast.
  2. Loop large loops from the nearest end of the fly line to the rod, between the thumb and forefinger of the right hand.  Make sure that the loops do not cross over one another but lie as illustrated.
  3. Keep the fly and last bit of leader/tippet in the left hand.
  4. Pass all the loops from right hand to left, between thumb and forefinger, all the while keeping the fly pinched between thumb and forefinger.
  5. Pinch the fly line in the rod hand with the index finger.
  6. Stretch the right hand out in the direction of the target
  7. Pull the left hand back past your left ear if you are right handed and right hand past the right ear if left handed. Cock and release, creating an arch or bow in the tip of the rod.  Make sure that the tip of the rod ends up pointing in the direction of your target after the release.
  8. The distance for a bow and arrow cast should be between 6 - 7 m from point of standing, with an Improved Bow and Arrow Cast about 11m from point of standing.

If this method seems too difficult, 1 – 2ft can be added to an ordinary bow and arrow cast by simply holding the end of the fly line in the thumb and forefinger of the arrow hand.