June 10, 2016
Better yet, don't.
Recently, an expert from a national outdoors company came to Tampa to teach fly casting. He used a video camera on a tripod to show casters their mistakes. The novelty was showing casters their errors, hoping they'd be motivated and capable of correcting them.
It ain't true! Old men look in the mirror and still wear shorts. The camera shows too much of you, and it takes away some of the fun. “Do I look that bad?”
The idea is to embarrass you into working your butt off to learn to cast. To attend the video class, attendees were expected to bring a bright fly line, so it would show up better—a hideous new line you won't use again…$40-$90. Class fee: $35.
Haven't you gotten plenty of advice already about your cast from friends? You've watched Lefty's videos, and can “see” your mistakes. Any pro who's seen you cast a few times spotted what's wrong, yet you persist in your “style.” As a friend of mine says, you're “obliverous” to correct technique.
Other fly fishermen cling to the idea that fly fishing is supposed to be fun, refusing to attend casting seminars or take lessons. In golf they are called “high handicappers.” Very poor casters often have a self-image that tells them they're pretty darned good. With no need to post scores in a clubhouse, it's no wonder.
A graduate of the video school—and countless other casting clinics— joined me at a park to try out a few fly lines on different rods. First, we looked at his casting video on his iPhone, which showed him “breaking his wrist” on both his back and forward casts. That's a major no-no that takes all the power out of the cast.
“There,” he said. “See, I'm breaking my wrist.”
Well, no sh- -! I've fished with him for years and watched him breaking his wrist on every cast.
Like a walking promo for his video lesson, he enthused, “Here goes!” and leaned into his best cast. Sixty feet, not bad. The problem was his back cast. He was breaking his wrist—his rod nearly parallel with the ground—which made his fly hit the ground behind him. No big deal…he just broke his wrist again and propelled the fly forward, up off the grass.
Hint: Start over with a shorter line if you can't keep the fly in the air.
How would it have looked on video? Terrible, but he was fine with it.
The good news is that my friend has fun and catches lots of fish—trout and ladyfish mostly—from his boat, which positions him three feet up, where his back cast is less likely to hit the water.
So, forget about a professional video. It's like looking in the mirrors at your first Zumba class. It'll take time. You've gotta practice 'til your arm falls off. For a while you'll look like a rooster flying.
Or join a fly fishing club, where any number of members who cast poorly will offer to help you. They haven't seen themselves on video, or they would quit “teaching.” Beware the helper. Ask who's the best club caster. Instruction is usually free for new members.
Distance is the surest way to measure your progress. Walk off a known distance on a grassy spot, mark it with an object, and see if you can reach it with a cast. Note: As a beginner, if you find yourself casting into the wind while you practice, put the rod away and go home and lie down. You are not smart enough to fly cast.
Eventually, if you practice, you'll learn the “double-haul,” which is an amazing technique that introduces the art of distance casting, out beyond 60 feet. It's what your cast has been missing, and it's a lifetime of fun. FS
First published Florida Sportsman December 2015