If you’re stuck at home, like a majority of fly fishermen across America right now, chances are you’re dying to fish (I know I am!) and with actual fishing out of the picture, the next best thing to do is practice your cast. Whether this is your first of 50th year fly fishing, we are all students of the sport, and more time with a fly rod in hand means the more comfortable you are and the better your cast is. I recently spoke with Joe Mahler (https://www.joemahler.com/home) about five “backyard tips” you can work on to help perfect your cast.
Mahler is a fly-casting instructor, with over a dozen years of experience teaching folks of all ages the art of casting a fly rod. He has given numerous seminars around the country and even has his own signature series of fly rods, the Lilly Pad and the Cypress from Reilly Rods. It’s safe to say he knows a few things about fly fishing.
1. Measure your Casts – Grab that tape measure out of the garage and stretch it out across the yard. Measuring your casts can help in situations where spot-on placement is essential, like when sightfishing for bonefish. “This isn’t about casting super distances, but rather knowing, by feeling the difference between a 40 and 50-foot cast. Stretching a tape measure will also let you know exactly how straight your casts are actually laying out,” said Mahler.
2. Practice Changing Directions – That pod of tarpon you just made the perfect cast to decides to make a hard cut away from the boat. You better be able to pick up that fly and change directions in a brisk manner! Mahler suggests placing two targets in the grass, approximately 20-feet apart. “Cast to the first target, then point your rod tip to the second. Now make a sharp backcast, and without false casting, cast to the second target. Moving the targets closer and farther apart will help develop maximum control.”
3. Focus on Targets – “The elements that make a cast accurate, also add to distance and improve line control in general.” Mahler likes to place three targets, preferably hula hoops, at 25, 30 and 40-feet to start. “As you improve, move the targets farther apart. An overhead cast will allow the caster to sight down the rod for a better result.”
4. Develop a Solid Roll Cast – Remember that belly crawling snook in that tight backcountry pocket that you just couldn’t reach? Having a good roll cast in your arsenal for situations like this can often change the outcome for the better. “It is the most overlooked and under-practiced cast of all,” said Mahler. “Start with the line in front and then slowly drag the line out to the side, until the fly/leader connection is directly to your side. Now slowly move the rod to the upright position and drive the line forward. Be sure to practice with various amounts of line.”
5. Practice in ALL Wind Conditions – As we all know too well, chances are the wind is going to be blowing 10-mph harder than they called for. And who knows what direction it’s coming from. Practice when it is the windiest, focusing on your loop control. “Tighten your loops when casting into the wind and open them up when it is at your back. For an on-shoulder side wind, try a cross-body approach,” said Mahler.
One bonus tip Joe suggested was to practice in 15 to 30-minute intervals and chart your progress as you go. You’d be surprised!