Among fly fishing’s many ironies winter, the time many would want to fly fish least is probably the best time to improve your casting. After all the temptation to actually find some water is somewhat diminished.
And the worst time to improve your overall technique is any time you have a real fly or some fish involved. The best fishing casts are a (deliberately) screwed up basic cast. What we are talking about here is improving your basic cast and here are our tips to spend (some) of this winter productively with a rod in your hand.
WHY DO I NEED TO CAST BETTER?
You will read a lot of commentary about people talking about never needing to cast more than 30′ to catch a trout. Which is all well and good under perfect conditions. What about bigger flies, wind, rain and the vagaries of nature which come along to try us. Better casters keep fishing in the wind, they can cast bigger flies, put hoppers back under the trees, and tangle way less. And once and for all its not a question of distance OR accuracy. The best distance casters I know are the most accurate. Period.
Yeh, if its cold and windy. But honestly Ive been snowed on and freezing in Yellowstone in June. Fishing was awesome. If you have been dreaming of that mega fly fishing trip for years a little weather isn’t going to hold you back. And a little weather shouldn’t stop your preparation.
Rug up. You are only going to be out there 30 to 45 minutes, say 3 to 4 times a week. Longer and you risk developing bad habits as you fatigue, due to practising solid form. Sure your neighbors are going to poke fun. Tell them you are casting for grass carp or rock bass. Don’t invite them to go fishing when the weather warms.
TAKE A TARGET
Always practice to a target, and not something the diameter of a hula hoop, take a paper plate instead: stake it to the ground. Now you are on some real world practice.
Next up forget about false casting 7 or 8 times in a row, its about as realistic as hula hoop targets. Concentrate on a more realistic approach. Put the target about 40 to 50 of your maximum distance. Pick up a short length of line, smoothly false cast twice and hit the target. Watch your loop, don’t rush the line forward and no tailing loops. Once you are grooved, and can repeat with no mistakes walk the target out 5′ further and repeat.
The most important thing there is loop control, not the target. The accuracy will come. Smooth tempo and loop control. For all of us there is a point at which the line we can get in the air overtakes our loop control and everything starts to look ragged. Back off a little and get consistent and you will find that point moving further away over time. Practice grasshopper.
MIX IT UP
Yep that will bore you to tears If its the only exercise you do all winter. So introduce some entertainment. I always try to have the last 5 to 10 minutes going for max distance. Controlling all that line in the air takes some getting used to. Don’t be afraid to watch your back cast. Let the rod load and try not to muscle it.
But there are other games too:
Play with your loop size, and stroke length of your cast; Sidearm casts to slide under a target; Practice your reach casts for hopper season; See how little energy it takes to cast a given distance. Cast left handed, back hand. Try roll casts, or single spey
BRING A FRIEND OR A CAMERA
Watching casting flaws, and we all have something, and seeing their effect on a cast is a great way to learn more about the intricacies of the cast. Bring a buddy and watch each other, should provide more entertainment than alone.
Go one better yet and record yourselves casting and picking it apart. There are a bunch of good websites out there. One would be called YouTube. But to narrow your search some, hunt for Sexyloops and the entertaining and informative Paul Arden, which has done more than most to improve fly casting and instruction globally. I also like some of Carl McNeil’s videos, Simon Gawesworth at Rio has some great ones and more. If you want a personal session give the fly shop a call and we can line you up with one of our expert instructors according to your needs.
And just like that it will be spring, and caddis and a sparkling new fly cast to go and annoy some big brown trout. Now its time to fish