Limit False Casting to Improve Your Casting Stroke

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Rob Parkins is a master at getting his fly to his target with minimal false casts. Photo Louis Cahill

When we first start out fly fishing and we’re still learning the mechanics of the casting stroke, it’s very common for many of us to make excessive false casts in between our presentations.

For some of us, excessive false casting is an excuse to impart quality control during our fly casting, for others, we justify it for the simple fact that we just love casting a fly rod. Whatever the reasons may be for excessive false casting, it needs to be kept in check, if anglers wants to fly fish at their best. If you’re currently in the beginner or intermediate skill level range, one of the best ways to take your fly fishing to the next level, is to make yourself minimize your false casting on the water.

I can remember like it was yesterday, when I finally made the decision to cut the number of my own false casts in half. There I was, twelve years old, wet wading for shoalies and sunfish on my home waters, ready to stray from what had grown to feel comfortable to me. At first, I hated the change. It made the majority of my presentations feel rushed, but eventually, I noticed my casting started to improve significantly. I found by not giving myself the luxury of extra false casts, it forced me to pay closer attention to my casting technique, and all aspects of my fly casting improved. I found that false casting less, I no longer found myself saying, “I should have let that last cast go, one false cast earlier”. Tangles became less frequent, I spooked less fish, and I seemed to get the fly to my target quicker. Remember, if you’re false casting twenty times, in between presentations, it’s only a matter of time until you’ll lose your focus and technique. And when that happens, you’ll usually end up with a poor presentation. From a beginners stand point, extra false casting can at times seem necessary, but from a veterans point of view, it’s inefficient and a waste of time.

4 Ways Too Much False Casting Hurts Anglers

1. It Increases Fatigue

The more we cast, the more worn out we get during the day. Angler fatigue directly effects our fly fishing performance on the water. If you’re going to add extra false casts prior to your presentation, make sure it’s called for. That way you’ll have enough gas left in the tank to finish the day off strong.

2. Demands Extra Focus from the Angler

Every time you make a cast, your brain has to focus on each element of the casting stroke. Have you ever noticed that the amount of tangles you get on the water increases as the day goes on, particularly during the last couple hours of the day? This doesn’t happen all of the time, but I’ve noticed as mental fatigue sets in and focus becomes harder to maintain, anglers make much more mistakes on the water. If you learn to cut out extra false casting when it’s not needed, you’ll be able to maintain sharp focus for longer periods on the water.

3. Extra False Casting Requires More Time to Present Your Fly

Sometimes we have all the time in the world to present our fly to fish, and a few extra false casts is not a problem. Unfortunately, we don’t always have unlimited time to make our presentations when we’re fly fishing. For example, quite often when we’re floating down a river in a drift boat, we may only have 2 or 3 seconds to present our fly. In this fly fishing situation, there’s no time for extra false casting in between our presentations. To be effective, anglers need to be able to present flies accurately without the need for extra false casts.

4. Increase the Risk of Spooking Fish

If you reguarly fly fish, you’ve probably been in a situation where too much false casting put down or spooked the fish you were trying to catch. When fishing conditions have fish on high alert, anglers can really increase they’re success if they minimize their false casting.

Today’s fly fishing tip about limiting your false casting is a simple and effective way to help you improve your casting efficiency, cut down on the down time of untangling knots, and increase your catches. It’s the little things that make a huge difference for the fly anglers moving up in the ranks. Try it out next time you’re on the water and you’ve had some time to warm up. Force yourself to decrease the number of false casts it takes you to make a good presentation. At first you’ll likely only be able to eliminate one or two false casts. However, with some practice, you’ll be able to cut them in half. Lastly, pay attention to where the fly you’re casting is pausing in between your forward cast and backcast. If you’re getting the proper distance to your target after a few false casts, there’s no need for you to make more false casts if you’ve already got sufficient line out and the fly is on target. Just present your fly and see what happens.

Keep it Reel,

Kent Klewein
Gink & Gasoline
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17 thoughts on “Limit False Casting to Improve Your Casting Stroke

  1. Again, fly fishing parallels golf. Excessive practice swings only leads to lost focus on the shot. Limit yourself to two swings then put that solid stroke to use. You can always tell who the duffer is by the amount of practice swings. Great advice G&G!

  2. Don’t forget how this can pay dividends off of the boat too… A lot of first-timers fishing off the raft get frustrated and overwhelmed when they’re missing pockets of water because they can’t get line in the water fast enough. Sometimes you have a good rower to backrow for you to give you more time, sometimes you don’t… If you can get precise with those casts and quick, you can almost double the amount of productive casts off the boat and thus hook more fish.

  3. totally agree. When I started focusing on this I did a heck of a lot more actual fishing. I think it is a particularly bad habit fishing big streamers. I had some friends that hated fishing streamers because it was “too much work”. I took a friend out streamer fishing, had him use his 7 wt instead of his 5, showed him a few things like re-presenting flies without ever casting (using mends and the current to put the fly upstream of the target, or jamming the rod tip into the water and literally dragging a fly across the stream at the bottom of a swing or dead drift), and he was amazed at how much more enjoyable it was. If you cant deliever a streamer with a roll cast setup and two back casts, either A) you need a bigger rod, or B) you aren’t casting from the correct position relative to your target.

  4. I do a 3 count and shoot my line.
    I don’t cast like a man , but its there.
    Hopefully I’m getting this right !

  5. Think about all the fish you’ve caught after “made a bad cast but fished it out anyway”. That happens all the time. Extra false casts are a waste of time and effort. Keep the fly wet!

  6. You might also ask the question: “why do you make false casts?…”.
    The answer divides the novices and the excellent casters/fishermen.

    And there are excellent casters as well as excellent wannabe casters.
    The last group want to show their ability to cast a tight loop while the first casts as efficiently possible.

    • Since I started using 2-3 flies I’ve learned the hard way not to false cast. Typically, my fly-line is in perfect position for one cast after a Leisenring lift – unless, of couse, I have the misfortune of having a fish on!

  7. Completely agree with this advice. I made it a point a few years ago to limit any false casts to no more than two. I noticed that if I cannot correct any mistakes in the first false cast with the second one, I must have started the process with either bad mechanics or was not in the proper position to make the cast to begin with. This forced me to focus the first cast in the right position, not wasting time and energy, as stated in the article. By no means am I a “professional”, but this mindset has made great improvements in my abilities.

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  9. This is very helpful for rookies like me. Thank you so much. I also think that the rod I’m using might be the problem. Any tips to what rod type to use for any fish to catch?

  10. I have a question, do any of you fish in a river without a basket? I do and I find I need to have multiple false casts to feed line that has drifted down current/stream during presentation/stripping. I use a Sage SMB rod with 350gr line so its somewhat heavy, I find that I need 4-5 false casts to feed that line, I also wade mostly near waist deep waters so its a challenge. A blog post on that would be helpful.

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