Fly Casting is yours letting you down?

Improving your casting could be the best preparation you can make.

Improving your casting could be the best preparation you can make.

You have sorted out your gear so what about your casting?

Ok let’s be honest, this post is unashamedly self promoting, but there is a good message in here none the less and well worth consideration, you would do yourself more good to take some instruction or have some casting practice than with almost any other preparation for the coming season.

The number one reason why most fly anglers fail.

I have guided clients from all over the world on our streams and I have taught dozens of local anglers the subtleties of approaching these catch and release waters and the NUMBER ONE reason that most anglers fail to get the results they should is because they simply don’t cast well enough.

When all is said and done most of us spend far too much time worrying about flies and leaders and all manner of gizmos without actually being able to use all that technology to good effect.

The expensive rod, the micrometer tuned degressive leader and the host of fly patterns all fail to work if the fly is  not presented properly and in the right place, and that means that YOU have to cast them. You aren’t out there with anyone else and don’t go blaming the wind or the trees or whatever, fly fishing is a sport where there is nowhere to hide, you are solely responsible and it amazes me how few anglers take their casting abilities, or too often lack of them, seriously.

The typical client.

Take for instance a typical client, he is a great guy and super company on the river, he has travelled extensively and can regale one with wondrous stories of his fishing exploits. In fact I like this guy, and he really makes a super companion and client on the streams. However whilst he has fished for Taimen in Mongolia, Bonefish in the Seychelles, cast for Ponoi Peninsula Salmon, New Zealand Browns and Hutchen in Slovenia. Whilst he may have spent enough dollars to be able to pad a mattress on exotic location travel, guides and helicopters in all manner of places he can’t cast a fly well enough to hit a barn door from the inside? So what’s the problem here?

#1: You cannot learn to fly cast whilst fishing. (no more than you could learn to drive on a freeway).

Firstly you can’t learn to cast from your guide and I don’t teach casting when I am guiding, there is too much other stuff going on to get it right and you really need to practice, in fact you want to practice until it is right, then you will never have to think about it again. So all the expensive guided trips aren’t going to help you that much.

#2: You shouldn’t be reluctant to ask for help and get it right.

Secondly, for some odd reason, fly anglers seem reluctant to get help. Golfers automatically go to the pro, squash players, tennis stars etc all get coached by others to help them, but fly anglers seem to think that there is something demeaning in asking for assistance with the most basic of all functions, casting a fly or they simply think that they are good enough that they couldn’t do better. So they fiddle about on the lawn or the stream, they get taught bad habits by their buddies or they convince themselves that this is as good as it gets and carry on at the skill level that they have acquired. Perhaps part of this is simply because being a mostly solitary sport they aren’t aware of what is possible and don’t have a comparison.

#3 Not all the people who are prepared to teach you to cast are actually capable of doing so.

Thirdly, and this could be seen as somewhat contentious I admit, a lot of people who are teaching casting out there really aren’t that good at it, the teaching that is not necessarily the casting. One thing I dislike more than any other is the reliance on the “casting clock” system, which is almost diametrically opposed to what actually happens in a good fly cast, and a method of instruction that is so ingrained that few fly anglers have managed to completely avoid its pernicious acceptance. I have reviewed most of the casting  videos, DVD’s and books  that have ever been produced and there are few I would recommend. Perhaps the most honest approaches would have to be the thoughts of Charles Ritz on high line speed casting and the instruction of  Lefty Kreh, many others don’t cut the mustard as far as I am concerned. In fact based on what I see on the river every day, there is something drastically wrong with casting instruction because the efficacy of most of the anglers one sees just isn’t up there. If most owners of motor vehicles drove as poorly as most owners of fly rods cast, then the carnage on our highways would be considerably worse than it already is. In fact overpopulation and global warming could take a turn for the better.

So to start with here are a couple of tips or suggestions that may help you.

You shouldn’t judge your casting by the distance that you obtain but by the narrowness of the loop you can create. Narrow loops begat high line speed and high line speed gives you accuracy, control and in the end, if required, distance, not the other way around.

Casting short lines can be as or more demanding than long ones and on the streams that we fish accuracy and efficiency of delivery of the fly weigh far more heavily on the angler than bunging your pattern into the middle distance.

You should, on a stream, be able to present your fly with no more than a single false cast, more and you are both wasting fishing time and potentially spooking fish as well.

Accuracy isn’t really quite the “land the fly in a tea cup” that one reads about in the books, even if you are hot you aren’t going to do that all the time, but the ability to get the fly into the feeding lane of a targeted fish is pretty important and on small streams that still means that you may only have inches to play with.

Fishing short with light lines can benefit from “Double Haul” technique just as much as when fishing heavier gear at a distance. All accomplished fly anglers should be able to do this and as a word of warning, you can’t, and shouldn’t, try to learn to double haul until your basic cast is near perfect..

So is your casting up to scratch?

If any of the following regularly happen to you then sorry, but your casting isn’t up to scratch:

  • You get a lot of wind knots in your leader or worse still your fly line..
  • You have to pack it in when there is a moderate breeze.. (fly fishing is rarely as easy or as good in a howling gale, but you should be able to at least cast the fly in conditions other than flat calm).
  • You regularly catch the bushes behind you.
  • You regularly spook fish by casting on top of them
  • You can’t manage to fish with a leader longer than nine feet in length.
  • You get tired from casting a trout rod for a day.
  • You spend most of your time on stream undoing tangles.
  • It takes you half a dozen attempts to put the fly over the fish and often by then it is spooked.

If you have or do experience these things then fine, admit it and get some instruction, this isn’t meant to spoil your day, it is meant to point out what really should be obvious. The better you can cast the better and more enjoyable your fishing is likely to be so why not make a decision now that this year you are going to get it right and be able to enjoy future exertions more fully.

The anglers prayer:

Lord, grant that I may catch a fish so big that even I,

When speaking of it afterwards, may have no need to lie.

The guides prayer

Lord please send me one good client, no matter that he lie.
Who when called upon to do so, at least can cast his fly.

Ok here is the self promotion. You can of course obtain lessons and books, videos and DVDs from any source. Some are worthwhile and as said I would personally recommend those by Lefty Kreh, and the writings of Charles Ritz, although I am not sure you could actually call the later instruction. You will find a selection of casting instruction books available from netbooks. For a selection of books available on line on the subject click here.


If you would like to follow some simple, on the lawn exercises that WILL help you get better and allow you to once and for all get that poor casting monkey off you back then do consider getting a copy of my book “Learn to Fly Cast in a Weekend” . You can obtain it from a variety of on line book stores, as well as high street shops. It is currently listed with Angler’s Book Supply in the US and you can even get a copy direct from me. To be honest the economics of the project are not of issue here. The publishers have done a typically poor job of promoting it and it irks me to see so many people out there not casting well, not enjoying their fishing as much as they would like and not knowing what to do about it when a solution is in fact at hand.

Get some insight for Free

In fact you will be able to download a free copy of parts of the book from just so that you can decide if you think that it is worth it.. I can’t really say fairer than that.. but I will, I will say that if you get a copy of the book from me, you follow the instructions in it and you don’t see a noticeable improvement then you can return the book to me and I will give you your money back.

So stop hiding from the truth, the season is coming and you can make a choice now to enjoy it more than in the past or not. I promise you that the effort will be well worth it.

Coming soon on this blog: fly patterns for Western Cape Streams..

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4 Responses to “Fly Casting is yours letting you down?”

  1. Fed Poggenpoel Says:

    You’ve touched on one of my problems (casting). The other is lack of patience. Maybe I should retire to get that one right.

  2. Andrew Hepburn Says:

    So glad to have a few minutes to read through your commets on casting, boy are you on the button. Oh, and thanks for the weekly inspiration you post through the C.P.S. newsletter.
    Be happy on the streams,

    • paracaddis Says:

      Thanks for the comments Andrew, hope you are well. I do sincerely trust that all this stuff is of value to someone, it is put out there in the hope that it is of benefit so very nice always to receive a positive feedback. Regards Tim

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