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Fly casting is that part of fly fishing many of us take for granted, yet nothing is more important than for anglers to be able deliver their flies accurately under a variety of conditions. A long time ago, I was retained to provide instruction about aquatic insects to the students at the Wulff School of Fly Fishing. At the end of my first season, Joan asked if I would like to teach fly casting. I told her I never taught fly casting and that I was concerned about being able to teach the same way she did. Joan explained that she would tutor me over the summer, so I agreed, not knowing what I was in for. I thought I was a pretty good caster—boy, was I surprised! I don’t remember how many sessions it took before Joan completely restructured my casting, something I’ll always be grateful for.
Over the years, I became very good at analyzing anglers’ casting, only to find how inaccurate a lot of them were, despite years of fishing. Why the emphasis on casting? Other than fishing equipment, casting is one of the few aspects of fly fishing anglers have complete control over. Anglers that cannot cast accurately will have a great deal of difficulty rising trout, and, more times than not, will blame the fly or drag for their lack of success. To be successful, fly fishers must be able to cast accurately in a stiff wind, during low light and at dark. Do you think you can do that?
For example, imagine a nice brown rising six inches off a downed tree limb: Are you able to repeatedly place your fly a foot above that riser without putting it down or hooking the limb? Can you do that at dusk? Would you be able to do that if it’s windy and you find it necessary to use a very light tippet, say 7X? These are the kinds of questions fly fishers need to ask themselves when they have difficulty rising steadily feeding trout.
That is why, once I evaluate an angler’s casting and point out his or her mistakes, I encourage as much practice as possible. Fly fishers that are willing to practice may use a lawn, pond, or a local stream. Practicing casting is one of the easiest things to do in fly fishing and, over time, will pay handsome dividends. Practicing on moving water will have obvious benefits. A good time to practice on a river is when there is no feeding activity, the caster is not fishing and there are no other fishermen about to interfere. If practicing on a pond or lawn, casters can place a target about 30 feet away and try to hit it, keeping in mind that casting at a stationary target is not the same as casting to a rising trout in flowing water.
If you’re able to record your casting, reviewing the video will be extremely valuable in highlighting mistakes and areas in need of improvement. It is also a good idea to obtain a video that demonstrates fly casting by an excellent caster and observe their technique. Joan Wulff and John Juracek are excellent.
Learning to cast properly and accurately will enhance your fishing, make you a better fly fisher and increase your success in rising and landing trout.