Posts Tagged ‘Fly Casting’

The Casting Coach

February 15, 2012

The casting coach.

The casting coach:

I have been fishing for longer than I can remember and guiding for a good part of that time and the one thing that stands out is that many anglers simply don’t cast well enough. It is not the fly or the leader design that limits most anglers but simply their lack of ability to put the fly where then want it in the manner they would wish.

Now that is a contentious issue, you can tell a guy he has an ugly wife, is less than well-endowed in the wedding tackle department or that he looks pretty dumb in his golf pants and he probably won’t take offense, criticize his fly casting and you are on thin ice. As an aside it was pointed out to me once that the English language is the only place you can be on thin ice and end up in hot water, but I digress.

Not only does this casting problem translate into less enjoyment when fishing, and less fish caught for that matter, but it is also I suspect a secretly troublesome little niggle in the minds of many, and yet they are reluctant to admit it. Particularly for those of us sporting a “Y” chromosome, we are supposed to be naturally able to cast a fly aren’t we? I mean who needs to be taught that? There must be something to this, anyone who has bought a golf club has headed to the pro shop to book some tee off time with the instructor and yet anglers the world over spend hundreds of dollars on rods, trips to exotic locations and yes even on guides but they don’t want to get help with their casting. So they learn from Uncle Joe or their mate down at the pond, the errors compound and bad habits become ingrained. It is just silly.

Indeed some four years back I became so concerned about this issue that I published a book, “Learn to Fly-cast in a weekend” based on the work that myself and my good friend Gordon McKay did on improving our own casting. We spent days if not months, reviewing material from Joan Wulff, Lefty Kreh, Charles Ritz and a variety of others from around the world. We read the books, watched the videos and tried to come up with a solution. In the end we did, we practised and critiqued one another and our casting improved, improved beyond recognition actually.

Then we did something even more difficult, we decided to work out how best to teach someone else what we had learned. That isn’t quite so easy but over time a method was born which worked. It worked for us and it worked for our clients at a variety of casting clinics and fly fishing retreats. It worked for men and women young and old and it differed significantly from what most instructors suggest. It even worked for two clients well into their sixties who ended up after a few days throwing the entire 30 metres of fly line with a couple of strokes. Something that impressed them enough to want to purchase my fly rod and I had to point out that it wasn’t the rod, it was their new found technique that was doing the trick.

So what works? Well I can tell you what doesn’t work, even though I have seen these ideas suggested in numerous places by some very well known anglers.

The casting clock doesn't work, if it did there would be more good casters out there.

Holding a book under your arm doesn’t work; using more force doesn’t work, putting your left leg forward, strapping your wrist up with some infernal and overly expensive brace or casting like the hands of a clock doesn’t work.  What actually works is so remarkably simple that you wouldn’t credit it. That book sold out, despite the fact that the publishers never saw the need to make it widely available. Add to that the cost of transporting the tome about the world and the obvious lack of eco sensitivity in chopping down trees and jetting heavy books around the globe the printed version had its limitations. Plus of course there is the issue of being too embarrassed to go into your local fly shop and admit that you want some help with your casting.

Well now after four years and not inconsiderable effort the problem has been solved. “Learn to Fly-cast in a weekend” has been revised, re-edited and produced in eBook format so that it is available to everyone, around the world. It can be downloaded in a format to suit your PC, your ipad, or Kindle and it comes in the metaphorical electronic brown paper wrapper, nobody even needs to know that you got one (just remember to clear the history on your browser).. So for a nominal fee of less than the cost of a few flies you can improve your casting once and for all. The system works, if fact I am prepared to guarantee it. If you get a copy of this book, work through the exercises in it and it doesn’t significantly improve your casting I will refund you the purchase price. Not only that but you can go through the first 20% of the book without even having to buy it.

You can download the electronic version of “Learn to Fly-cast in a weekend” from Smashwords if you have the nerve to risk upsetting someone you can send them a copy as a gift from the same link.

Hopefully it will also soon be available from other electronic book stores such as Barnes and Noble as a Nook Book.  If you are secretly thinking that your local stream is too bushy, the fish are too far away or you are tired of undoing all of those tangles then do yourself a favour and check out this book. For the price of a few flies you can’t really go wrong.

Happy casting.

Giving casting the finger.

April 13, 2011

The advantages of being a higher primate.

I have at different times spent good amounts of time investigating fly casting, reading up on who says what, watching videos and DVDs, changing my own casting style, coaching others and finally even written a book about how to do it. I suppose if that doesn’t make me an expert it certainly does suggest that I have strong opinions about it. Mind you a friend of mine once commented that “opinions are like arseholes everybody has got one” and I suppose that is as true for me as anyone else.

You can read more on my thoughts on casting on this link, just click the image.

Still it has come to pass of late that a number of anglers, some of whom I have coached or taught (you can read indoctrinated into my own narrow field of thought if you wish), have been inundated with advice to change things around. Not so much the stroke or the tempo or such but the grip on the rod.

When I teach fly casting I generally make no mention of anatomical parts, the elbow, wrist, left knee and such really make very little difference and teaching with reference to them simply results in confusion as far as I am concerned. So no, what you do with your left shoulder is really of very little interest to me, and in my opinion not a whole lot of import to you or your casting either. The only things that I feel are critical are your stance and your grip on the rod.

The stance is pretty simple, if you want to keep your shoulder out of the way of the rod and allow yourself freedom to cast properly, rather like a cricketer “giving himself room” it behooves you to stand slightly skew to your target, feet comfortably apart such that you are well balanced, the casting shoulder slightly behind you.

The grip, and I am totally convinced of this, should be with your thumb opposite the reel. I would say on top but of course your could be casting at any angle, horizontally for that matter but you really do want your thumb in a position so as to push the rod when making the forward snap. Sure it isn’t there during the backcast, which is probably why so many people find the back cast more tricky, but that is where your thumb should be.

Now there seems to be a move afoot to suggest that one should cast, and particularly cast light tackle with your forefinger in this position, numerous times I have heard this mentioned, something that I can comfortably handle, but of late some of my clients, protégés or whoever have reported back to me that they are under constant pressure to change. I don’t mind change, change is good, one should keep an open mind but in this instance there is never that all important caveat as to why. Why change? What benefit are you going to get and the answer in my opinion is NONE.

Sometimes called "The Continental Grip", this doesn't assist your casting stroke or accuracy in my opinion.

Oh you get better accuracy they are told, but why should you? There is never any accompanying logic to explain why this would be more accurate and I am pretty darned sure that it isn’t, it is just an affectation that is spreading like a virus within fly fishing circles.

Having your thumb opposite the reel when casting will give your more control, less stress and better accuracy.

So here are my thoughts and perhaps some experiments for you to do to see if the thumb opposite the reel rule works for you.

Number One:

Firstly type out an announcement that you are going to change your casting style to using your finger instead of your thumb. Once typed neatly, head for the office notice board, select a nice new sharp drawing pin, (if I said Thumb-tack I would be giving the game away already), and then pin the notice to the board. Sure you used your forefinger didn’t you? Oh you didn’t, no you didn’t because you already know that your thumb is a heap stronger than your finger when it comes to pushing things, like fly rods for example. In fact your body has already stored muscle memory to help you push things with your thumb so you don’t need to learn something new. Plus you will have noticed that accuracy wasn’t too much of a problem, I mean you didn’t miss the pin did you?

Number Two:

OK never mind that, you are determined, your guide has told you this is better, you will get more accuracy and accuracy is important right? So try this: Go out in the garden with a friend and point out five different plants or trees to them such that they can identify exactly which ones your are interested in. Chances are that (if you are right handed), you pointed to each tree with the palm of your hand to the left, your forefinger indicating the tree and your thumb on the top. It is a natural action for most people, you point with your finger on its side, not with your hand palm down. Oddly enough most people count objects with their palm down and their index finger horizontal but of course we are interested in accuracy of direction here, not basic maths.

Number Three:

Still not convinced? Try this experiment: Start with your casting hand palm down, point your index finger and starting at waist height slowly draw an imaginary smooth vertical line up to shoulder level in the air.
Then holding your hand as though you were about to shake someone else’s, point your thumb and draw a vertical line slowly from waist level to shoulder level in the same manner. Almost everyone finds that it is far more natural to draw a straight line with one’s thumb. Your wrist, shoulder and elbow combine to make drawing a straight line in such a manner rather simple, it requires little muscle control whereas in the first experiment there is a lot of muscular control required and it is a battle to keep the line straight.

For me those little experiments are proof enough that accurate and sharp casting requires that you push your rod with your thumb. On top of that just try casting anything more than a five weight rod and thirty metres of line with your finger; you are probably going to end up in plaster for a month. I am not suggesting that there are not a few Houdini types out there with index finger arthritis who can’t chuck a line with their finger opposite the reel, I am just saying that I have NEVER met anyone who casts really well like this.

One of the great advantages of being a higher primate is that when our maker was dishing out the bits,  we got opposable thumbs, it is a rarity in the animal world and I figure that so long as we were so blessed by God or evolution we might as well use the darned things for the purpose they were intended, which is quite obviously for casting fly rods. 🙂

For the record:

This grip is worse than useless, you have no control at all.

Disclaimer: From time to time adverts appear associated with this blog. The writers have no control over them nor receive any financial remuneration from their presence. This may not mean that they are not useful to you, however it doesn’t imply that we recommend or offer any endorsement for the products or services offered.

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Focus on Education

October 21, 2009
This post sponsored by Inkwazi Fly Fishing Safaris

This post sponsored by Inkwazi Fly Fishing Safaris

Focus on learning

This week seems to have something of a “back to school” theme, firstly I was invited to provide some casting tuition to learners from Tafelberg High School in Seapoint. These are a keen group of young anglers who have started a fly fishing club, and they invited me to provide them with some assistance on a glorious day on the beach front in Seapoint. We got a few odd looks from the array of dog walkers, pram pushers and designer jogging crowd but in the limited time available the learners seemed to pick up some of the basics and hopefully will be better prepared for their next outing on real water..

Learners from Tafelberg High School get some casting instruction from SAs "Master Caster" Tim Rolston

Learners from Tafelberg High School get some casting instruction from SAs "Master Caster" Tim Rolston

They also received a copy of “learn to flycast in a weekend” for their school library, and I suspect that after the tuition session that book is likely to be booked off the shelves for the foreseeable future, I only hope that they take out the odd copy of “mastering mathematics” as well, I wouldn’t like to be personally responsible for their academic downfall, or for that matter to simply provide a convenient excuse for it either.

Bell’s Fly Fishing Festival Cape Town.

Then this weekend The Cape Piscatorial Society in conjunction with Bell’s Scotch Whisky are hosting the “Bell’s Fly Fishing festival”. Although these events occur all over South Africa, the Cape Based event is unique in that there is no competitive portion.

Various expert anglers, guides and local sages on things piscatorial give up their time to assist and guide relative newcomers to the sport. With on stream practical tuition, guiding and advice. Whilst there are prizes to be had, they are all selected on a lucky draw basis.

The event is fished on the various trout waters of the Limietberg Reserve, managed by Cape Nature Conservation. The waters all operate on a strict no kill, catch and release only , barbless hooks only regimen of controls and are looked after in conjunction with CNC by the Cape Piscatorial Society.

The rivers have come down in levels after late rains that adversely affected the National Championships which were held on the same waters last week and the fishing and weather is set to be awesome. On the national front, the WP A team took the national title, M.C Coetzer finishing in first place. WP B team got the bronze and Gauteng took second place with their top angler Gary Glen-Young taking silver in the individual competition. WP’s Korrie Broos taking bronze .

International Day of Climate Action.


I figure that if you are interested in fishing you are more than likely interested in our climate as well, so you may like to be reminded that Saturday 24th October is “International Day of Climate Action” the goal being to draw attention to the 350 parts per million Carbon Dioxide levels in our atmosphere as a sustainable target based on the most recent scientific findings. If you are interested to learn more or find an action day event near you, or even to organize your own you can find out all you need to know from

Fly Casting is yours letting you down?

July 28, 2009
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..