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Casting Tip of the Month

courtesy Atlanta Fly Fishing School

Question: My fishing partners always out-fish me. We fish the same stretches of water with the same flies and they consistently catch more fish. Any suggestions to help?


There can be any number of factors giving your friends an edge. Perhaps they are more adept at seeing the “take” or have gained quicker reflexes in setting the hook. One big reason for greater success is reading the water for likely places fish will be feeding, and then having the ability to softly present a fly ACCURATLY on the FIRST cast. A fish’s life hangs in balance between the energy it expends swimming against the current and the amount of energy it receives from eating. The very best feeding lies exist where the fish can shelter itself from the current and let the river deliver the food. Likely places are current “seams” where fast and slow water meet. Behind a rock in the void of the current or in front of a rock where hydraulic pressure builds up. Often a fish will not move more than a few inches from the shelter of their feeding lane to take your fly. If your fly is landing within a few feet of where you are aiming instead of a few inches of the target, you are missing the opportunity to catch more fish. Moreover, casting repeatedly to the same spot, splashing down a fly, and dragging tippet and leader over a fish in an attempt to get a cast placed correctly can spook a fish causing it to temporarily break from feeding. To learn to cast accurately you should practice your casting toward targets, and do so regularly, until you are satisfied with your accuracy at all distances. Keep a fly rod lined up and handy for a few minutes of lawn practice. Five minutes of practicing casting per day is far better than an hour or two once a week. Use a piece of yarn for a fly or cut an old fly at the bend in the hook to remove the point. Place targets at 20, 30, and 40 feet and attempt to drop your fly on them with the FIRST CAST. Alternate casts to at least three different targets and rearrange targets frequently to avoid becoming accustom to a specific location or distance.

Accurate casting has only two dimensions: distance and windage. One way to present a fly at an accurate distance is to adjust line length while false casting before presenting the fly. Because false casting over a fish can spook it, try false casing several feet to the side of your target to gain correct distance then place your final cast at the target. The goal is to be able to cast any distance without excessive false casting. This takes practice, but is just like playing catch; soon you will know how much effort to put into a cast to get a desired distance. Also a cast that appears to be going too long can be slowed down or stopped with the line hand so it is better to error on the long side than to under power a cast. Windage is your deviation to the right or left of your target. While wind can affect a presentation, most casters who practice with targets are surprised to find their casts landing consistently off to one side, or their leader and tippet lays out with a curve in it. Correction for this is to move the rod tip in a straight-line path toward the target on the forward cast. The fly line and fly will always follow the path of the rod tip during the speed up and stop at the end of the forward cast.

Try these accuracy casting exercises the next time you want to go fishing but don’t have the time to get to your favorite spot. While it’s not nearly as fun as “real” fishing it has the benefit of improving your casting and has been known to give temporary symptomatic relief to mild cases of cabin fever.

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