Fish Every Cast!

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Photo by Louis Cahill

Photo by Louis Cahill

By Justin Pickett

From the great casts and the perfect drifts, to the ugly presentations and the drowned dry flies, if those flies hit the water, let ‘em drift!

Just about every day that I spend on the water with a client, I’ll find myself, at some point, explaining to them the reasons why I want them to fish each and every cast to the very end.

Flies only catch fish when they are on, or in, the water. Well, at least 99.999999% of the time anyway. All too often I see clients and friends lay their flies on the water, only to immediately rip them off the surface in order to make another presentation. If it’s a buddy of mine, I’ll often give ‘em some grief for it. However, more times than not, it’s a client, which brings me to a stopping point in order to educate them on why I don’t want them doing this.

For one, the act of landing flies on the water, whether it be a single dry or a gaggle of nymphs, and then ripping them off the water makes quite a commotion. The noises, ripples, and splashes that occur from essentially ripping a clothesline from the surface will no doubt either spook the trout you are fishing to, or at least alert them that the day’s contestants have arrived to play the game. If the flies hit the water, leave ‘em! Wait for them to drift out of the run, or at least well downstream of the fish, before picking them up to regroup.

Secondly, take your time and regroup. Yanking your flies from the water only to cast again without changing anything isn’t likely to make the next presentation any more successful. If you land your flies in a less than desirable location, let them drift out before taking them off the water and then take the time to makes adjustments before making your next presentation. Not taking the time to make adjustments only sets you up to likely making another undesirable cast. Move your feet, rotate your shoulders, check your distance. DO SOMETHING! Remember the definition of insanity? Take your time and maximize your chances to succeed.

The third thing that I emphasize to my clients is the “you never know” factor that is always hanging around. Just because you think you’ve made a crappy cast doesn’t mean it will have crappy results. The trout you’re fishing to don’t know that you made lackluster cast, and that presentation may even drift over trout that you didn’t even know were there. Like I said, your flies aren’t going to catch fish if they’re not on the water, so let ‘em drift! I can remember one particular occurrence where I was fishing to a nice rainbow that was taking caddis from the surface. I set up for my presentation with my elk hair caddis and on my forward stroke I caught a leaf on an overhanging limb behind me. The cast strayed wide right about ten or twelve feet away from the rainbow I had intended on feeding. Instead of immediately taking my fly from the water, I left it and let it drift out. About halfway through that drift, I saw a big brown nose seemingly come out of nowhere and inhale my EHC right in front of me. It was so close to me that I could see this gal’s tonsils as she came at me and chomped on my fly. It was incredibly unexpected, and a direct product of letting my drift play out rather than taking my fly off the water.

Making awful casts is just part of the game. We all do it, but sometimes those “awful” casts can produce some amazing results. Even if you’re certain that a presentation is a dud, often, it is best to let it go in order to save you some grief. Let each drift play out and view each cast as a learning experience. Use them to make adjustments for the next presentation and you’ll be more successful on the water.

Justin Pickett
Gink & Gasoline
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12 thoughts on “Fish Every Cast!

  1. This is one of those life lessons that we tend to forget. I don’t think I’ve ever heard someone actually give this advice. Stuff like this is why I love this site!

    • You do your thing Rick! To me (when it comes to that opinion) there’s only two kinds of fish. Fish that I’ve caught and fish that I haven’t caught. It can be hard to label accident vs purposeful, but I don’t get too hung up on that. But if that’s your thing then do it to it dude.

    • LOL! See, that’s what I mean. It becomes such a form of warped discipline sometimes. I fish to enjoy myself. Thanks for making me laugh at the same time.

  2. No accidental fish? Pshaw. I only care to catch intelligent fish, ones that I can enjoy an interesting conversation with while releasing them. Snark

  3. Because so much is made of the correct fly cast, it’s what most people do. They aren’t fishing or enjoying their time on the water. They are practicing all the things they have read for the last two weeks on how to fly cast, what they are doing wrong, and how to fix it. I watched a guy opening day in Pa on the Lehigh River. Finally I said to him, stop worrying so much about your casting. They aren’t going to bite on the back cast no matter how perfect. One of the issues I think about fly fishing is too many people don’t enjoy it for what it is. It becomes a lesson in discipline to them. Just like the movie “A river runs through it” they believe it has to be a discipline. No it doesn’t. Many a bad cast catches a big fish. I watched this guy on utube catch a 30 inch brown on the Madison with some of the ugliest casting I ever seen, but he beats me!

  4. I got same advice from a great guide years ago. He said “let a bad cast go bad, and you might be suprized at the result” . I have been many times . I gave the same advice to a beginner guest on my boat recently. He too was pleasantly rewarded. Many anglers ( me included) get hung up on the perfect presentation, when quite often it really doesn’t matter… Especially with nymphing. Great advice!

  5. This is phenomenal advice. Thank you for sharing 🙂 I am a far from perfect angler, having been out of the game for … a couple of decades >.>
    Now that I have found myself back on the river and loving every second, I find that just as back then, I have a lot to relearn… This is certainly one of those lessons which I may have, or perhaps more likely, may have never learned!
    Cheers and good fishing!

  6. Good call Justin. Right up there with “stop flinging your line around in the air and get it into the dang water!” Unless of course you need to dry the fly. I’ve caught plenty of fish on stupid casts, and since I’m far from perfect, that’s a good thing!

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