River Valley Outdoors
Tips for fine tuning the cast
In this age of instant gratification, a lot of folks would like to believe they can just grab a fly rod and start catching fish.
Using a fly rod to catch a fish isn’t really that difficult, but sometimes new anglers get frustrated with the details of fly fishing – especially when it comes to proper casting technique. There isn’t any great mystery; it simply takes a good amount of practice to get to the point of actually catching a fish.
I’ve seen plenty of anglers that completely understand the finer points of reading water, the aquatic insect cycle, and feeding habits of game fish – but they totally fail to present the fly properly because they haven’t taken the time to practice casting enough.
After learning basic fly-rod casting skills, there happens to be a few techniques that help an angler hook more fish.
The number one problem I notice when fishing with new fly rod anglers is their failure to consider what their actions above the surface of the water might be doing to the fish under the water. Some new anglers splash the water with several failed casts, and then make a good cast to the same piece of water.
After flailing around the surface of the water, why would any fish stick around to see what happens next?
Now, don’t think that every cast I make rolls out there perfectly – I routinely throw out a sloppy cast. When I do make a terrible cast I immediately pick the line up off the water and cast to a completely different spot on the river or lake. This way, if I spook a fish by slapping the water with an awful first cast, my second cast doesn’t land in the same spot (the one without a fish).
Speaking of sloppy casts that spook fish; my next tip helps anglers avoid casts that slap the water hard enough to scare away fish.
Most anglers learn a system of casting where the arm moves on an imaginary clock and stops in the forward position at ten o’clock, and a rearward position of 2 o’clock. This works fine until an angler tries to set the fly gently down on the surface of the water.
If an angler can learn to really be “snappy” about stopping at the ten o’clock position, and also learns to slowly set the fly down immediately after the 10 o’clock stop, they’ll be well ahead of the curve when it comes to NOT spooking fish. Get in the backyard and practice this technique with a piece of brightly-colored yarn attached to the tippet until the yarn/fly floats gently to the ground.
The next tip involves confidence. A good fly caster must not have fear of failure when flinging the line out there – if there are obstacles in the way, don’t panic. Tree limbs, above water stumps, rocks, etc. – all of these things present challenges, but DO NOT have a fear of hooking these items. The one thing new anglers (and plenty of veteran anglers) do wrong when casting around obstacles is this – they proceed to toss the line out near the obstacle while staring directly at the obstruction.
For months on end a new angler practices casting at a target on the lawn. Their eyes and reflexes have been trained to work in sync to get a fly to drop on an exact spot. Now, when the angler gets on the water and throws a cast out there, they suddenly notice an obstruction and stare at it at the precise moment that they flick the line to the forward position.
This happens to be the most incorrect thing to do because your reflexes have been trained to follow the eyes. Wherever the eyes focus, that’s where the fly will land. If an angler goes to cast to a likely looking spot, proceeds to cast there, and then suddenly notices an overhanging branch that might catch the fly – guess what? The fly most certainly will sail into the overhanging limb, right where the angler’s eyes happened to be focused.
With these few tips, most average fly casters can polish off their basic skills and become “fish catchers.” Keep your eyes on the prize, and make sure to get in plenty of practice before hitting the water – and start catching fish.