Updated: Feb 18, 2019
No one ever taught me how to reach cast until I taught myself... and that’s a shame.
Even after attending a “fly fishing school” that, all things considered, gave me a great foundational knowledge of how to fly cast, I didn’t know how to make a reach cast to add slack to my drifts. Being that it is one of an angler's most valuable weapons for achieving that ever-challenging "drag-free drift", it would have been nice to become comfortable with it from the very start. Looking back, 'm sure I would've caught more fish in those early days.
The reach cast is great for making drifts when casting across the river, and it is relatively simple to learn. In a nutshell, it gives you extra drift distance by adding slack to the line before it hits the water.
Okay so, how do you do it?
To perform a reach cast, make an ordinary four part cast across the current, but before the line hits the surface, “reach” your rod upstream at roughly a 45 degree angle. By moving the line upstream of the fly in mid-air, the fly lands with all of the line upstream of the drift, which allows the fly to drift naturally for longer than it would if you casted directly across the current. Sometimes, a few extra feet of drag-free drift makes all the difference as you present your fly to a selective trout.
Practice makes perfect
As with any cast, or anything for that matter, practice makes perfect. Using a grassy patch of your backyard, a local park, or a nearby field, you can practice the sequence of movements that allow you to execute a perfect reach cast. If you know the proper movements, it won't take long to get the hang of it.
For reference, you can check out this great video by Orvis, that helps you visualize what the reach cast looks like.