Cast With A Purpose!

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Photo by Louis Cahill

Photo by Louis Cahill

By Justin Pickett

Arguably, the most important aspect of fly fishing is the cast itself.

If you can’t deliver the fly properly, the chances of you hooking up spirals down the toilet. Before taking a client onto the water, my first questions have to do with their fly fishing experience and their casting ability. Ask any saltwater guide what is the most important thing to do before stepping on the bow of their boat and they will tell you, “practice your casting”. So you step out on your front lawn, or maybe head out to a dock at a local lake or pond. You strip off some line and you make some casts, but are you really getting anything out of just making some casts for fifteen minutes? Well, yes and no.
In order to make yourself a better caster and, in turn, be a more successful angler on the water, you must practice with a PURPOSE. Whether you want to practice your distance, accuracy, or casting into the wind, get the most out of your time. 
First off, always tie on a piece of yarn at the end of your leader. I use bright pink egg yarn. This will allow you to see what’s happening at the end of your leader. How the fly is landing and where. It really doesn’t do you a whole lot of good to just cast a bare leader. 
Set up targets,
or use trees, plants, pets, children, trolls, etc., as points of aim. Set them up at different distances so you get used to how far 30-40-50-60-70ft looks, how much line needs to be stripped from the reel, and the timing and technique involved in casting those distances. My Labrador loves chasing my fly line around the yard and that gives me a great opportunity to use her as a moving target. When it comes to saltwater fishing, you’re almost never casting at a fixed target. Instead, you’re often leading a fish or a school of fish with your fly. If you don’t have a kid or a pet, use a jogger as they run by! Their facial expressions are usually worth a pretty good laugh.
Find some wind!
Don’t go out a cast on dead calm days. You’ll inevitably end up on the water with 25mph crosswinds that will ruin your day on the water if you’re not prepared for it. If you notice that it’s really windy outside, get your butt up and toss the fly rod around. See what the wind does to your cast and find out what you need to do to present your fly to a target. 
Work on your line speed.
Speed equals distance, and that means perfecting your double haul. There are numerous drills and techniques that you can practice. Find one that works for you and ingrain it into your casting stroke. Even mess around with your grip. You’d be surprised how your grip can affect the amount of power that can be applied to your casting stroke.
Don’t be a one-trick pony!
Don’t be a vanilla fly caster. What I mean is don’t just have one type of cast. If you ever have, or ever plan on, fishing for Southern Appalachian Brook Trout, then you’ll undoubtedly need a bow-and-arrow cast at some point during your excursion. There are tons of different casts an angler can use to be successful in various situations. The back cast, pile cast, bow-and-arrow, roll cast, and reach cast are just a few that I use often. Look ‘em up and practice them and use them on the water. You just might figure out a technique that will get your fly into water that others just can’t, which might reward you with an awesome catch. 
Try to put some effort and some thought into your practice time with your fly rod. Don’t just stand in your yard, waving a stick around in the air while your neighbors walk by asking “you catch anything yet?” (If I only had a dollar for every time…) Practice purposeful casting. Have a goal in mind. Shoot that yarn right into your neighbor’s pie hole next time he has something stupid to say. Eventually, the distances and casts will become more natural, and you can focus more on the actual fishing instead of worrying if your casting abilities are up to the task.
Now Get Out There!


Justin Pickett
Gink & Gasoline
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6 thoughts on “Cast With A Purpose!

  1. Thanks for the pointers. I’d add that a good cast with yarn can go all to hell when you tie on a weighted pattern, so in addition to the yarn on the tip, it’s good to use an actual fly that represents what you will be throwing, with the hook cut off at the bend.


  2. Good practical advice!

    “you catch anything yet?” (If I only had a dollar for every time…)

    Response “You should have seen the one that just got away” 🙂

  3. Great advice, Justin. Can I add one more thought? Don’t consider yourself “ready” until you can put the fly on your target with the very first cast. It certainly helps when you cast four, five or six times at that leaf on the lawn, and maybe even hit it three or four times. Makes you feel good and you look around to see if anyone else saw. But what was the result of the first cast at that leaf? Remember that you often only get one chance. Drift boats move out of range, spooky trout won’t tolerate multiple line slaps (and the biggest fish are always the spookiest), tarpon swimming at the boat (or away from it) are often only in the sweet spot in time for one cast, etc. So practice with the goal of hitting your target with your first cast. And change targets frequently so you have to make adjustments.

  4. Pingback: Tippets: SmithFly Kickstarter, Practice with a Purpose | MidCurrent

  5. Hey justin, I want to add one more thing. In fly fishing, you cast the line and the lure (or fly) follows, allowing you to fish with floating dry flies that are nearly weightless. Your first objectives in fly casting should be to learn to bend the rod (called loading the rod), and stroking the rod correctly. The overhead cast is the most straightforward and commonly used cast in fly fishing. The overhead cast is the first choice of cast in waters where there is adequate room for false casting. The roll cast is the second most basic and useful cast, used when there is not room behind the fisher for a backcast. A fly cast should be symmetrical. Your back cast is just as important as your forward cast, if not more so. You should be able to see a trout behind you and drop that back cast in the same way you would a cast to your front. I frequently see beginners who do not give their back cast enough credit or time.

  6. Try an be “a Tom Brady” with your casting. It is not always going to go as planned but greatness comes with what you can do when a cast starts going wrong and make something of it to stay fishing.

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