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“Ron, I’m no expert but if you want me to, I think I can help you with your cast.” he said.
He put it as politely as anyone could have. It was the first day I had met the man face to face and he has become one of my finest friends.
Everybody calls him Dan, so I do too.
I first met Dan on a fly fishing website where folks would post fishing reports and share tips and techniques. We wrote back and forth several times and eventually planned a day’s fishing together.
We met on the banks of the Caney Fork river, strung up our rods and waded into the river to a spot he knew well. He’d been catching lots of rainbow and brown trout in the area and said it should be a good day. I was pumped. I was also a little nervous. It was my first time fly fishing.
Fast-forward about 2 hours into the morning. I watched him catch and release at least a half dozen fish as I struggled to get my fly in front of a feeding trout. I’d whip my rod back and forth a few times and let my fly splash down. Usually way too short of the target. Usually with a big splash that would spook any trout within 20 yards.
It was often in a tangled mess, more often amidst a tangled mess of expletives mumbled barely under my breath. I was standing waist deep in a river of frustration and he could tell it was getting to me. He let me struggle a while trying to figure it out on my own then offered his assistance in a quiet, unassuming way that belies his skill and expertise.
Timing, Rhythm, and Grace
Dan explained how casting a fly isn’t really about casting the fly at all. It’s about casting the fly line. It’s about timing, rhythm and grace.
It was so different than the fishing I was accustomed to with a big baitcasting tackle. With that stuff, the bait or lure is the heaviest part of the rig and that weight is used to load the rod and make the cast with a quick flip of the wrist and arm. This fly casting business is completely different.
Tips For Your First Time Casting
Think of your rod as a bow, as in a bow and arrow kind of bow. When you draw the bowstring toward you, the bow bends, or loads. That bent bow is loaded energy just waiting for release. When you release the bowstring, the bow transfers that energy to the string and the string propels the arrow. That’s kind of like fly casting.
You have to learn how to let the weight of the fly line load the rod, so the rod can release the energy to the line and the line will send your fly to the target. This is something you just can’t learn to do from a book or any website just by reading. You are going to have to get your hands on a rod and reel and just go do it.
Here’s where I’d stress to you the importance of taking a fly casting class from your local fly shop. Nearly all of them offer classes and will provide the rods. I stress it now because it would have really shortened my learning curve. You know what they say about hindsight.
More Tips From A Pro
Anyway, Dan showed me how the weight of the line loaded the rod as I would lift the line from the water in front of me at the start of my backcast. Then he showed me how at the end of my backcast, if I would wait for the line to get behind me, it would load the rod the other direction. Then, and only then, could I begin the forecast.
The rod was loaded with energy, I accelerate the rod forward and stop it at about the 10:00 o’clock position. The line would straighten out in front of me and gently fall to the water in a nice, straight lay. It’s pretty when it happens like it should. And I started catching fish.
The day was a great success for me. I learned some basic fly casting, caught a few fish and made a lifelong friend. That last part is just one of the perks to getting involved in fly fishing. Spending time with friends in beautiful places.
For More Information
If you want to read more about fly casting I’d suggest you google the name Lefty Kreh. He’s a world class fly fisherman (in the Fishing Hall of Fame!) and a heck of a casting instructor. He writes about it better than I could ever hope to transfer my thoughts into the written word.
I’m also going to suggest you SIGN UP for a casting lesson at your local fly shop. It will be fun and it will get you started off on the right foot so you aren’t standing waist deep in a river of frustration your first time out.
Sharp hooks and tight lines,
I'm a fly fishing guide in Montana. One of my greatest pleasures in life is introducing people to fly fishing — watching them catch their first fish on a fly, and watching them 'get it' when it all comes together. I love sharing what I've learned in an easy-to-understand manner.