Many experienced anglers think that practicing fly casting is only necessary for beginning fly fishermen. I hear my clients say it all the time, “I already know how to cast”. The fact is that everyone from the never ever fisherman to the Scott Rods Pro Staffer needs to practice casting frequently in order to hit small targets and handle the fly rod more effectively.
Each spring, the rivers and streams in western Colorado swell with snowmelt and mud. This is a great time for me to take a few hours a week to work on my casting technique on the soccer fields at Nottingham park in Avon. I urge all of my customers to do the same thing before that big fishing trip to Vail. It is always better to work out a few casting kinks on a soccer field than the front of a raft during a blizzard caddis hatch on the Eagle at 1400 cfs.
Probably the hardest part in all of this is the simple act of making yourself do it. It is a little awkward and if you are in a public place you will almost always be subject of spectators or the butt of a few jokes. Expect to hear comments like “Catch anything?” or “Fishing for soccer balls?” or my favorite, “Hey man, the fish are in the water!”. Don’t let it bother you. Just joke along and keep practicing.
Once you have the time and a place to practice your casting, you need some kind of method to keep you focused on what you need to improve on. If accuracy is a problem, place targets on the grass at different distances and focus on hitting them on the first shot with as few false casts as possible. If you struggle casting that big foam Chernobyl Hopper into the wind, practice on a windy day and learn how to generate line speed and throw a tight loop to fight through it. Always practice with a full leader and fly. I like to use an old elk hair caddis or PMX with the hook cut off.
The next tip I have for casting practice is a big one. Casting a fly rod is a fine motor skill that improves by developing muscle memory. One of the biggest detriments to developing muscle memory is trying to learn two different things too closely to each other. For example, if you spend 30 minutes working on distance casting and double hauling, and then switch to short accuracy casting immediately after, your double haul will not have had the time to “soak in”. To make a long story short, don’t try to do too much. Learn one thing at a time and wait a day before working on the next step.
Finally, if you are not sure what you need to work on or how to work on it, you need a teacher. There are a lot of casting instruction resources out there, and having the right one can make all the difference. Books and DVDs can be helpful, but they are hard to take with you to the field. If you really want hands on expert advice stop by Vail Valley Anglers here in Edwards for a casting clinic with one of the experts in the fly shop.
Andy “Otter” Smith, Guide and Content Writer