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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20 thoughts on “Limit False Casting to Improve Your Casting Stroke

  1. You’re 100% right on Kent. We all need to remember that “thang” on the end of our line will not catch fish while in the air, get it back on / in the water ASAP.

  2. Do your false casts increase when its windy? I have a hell of a time in the wind with accuracy and false cast seem help determine how much my fly is going to be effected by the wind. Just wonder if you had any tips for wind and effective casting. Thanks again.

  3. I tell buddies “While your flies are in the air, mine is on/in the water. Where do you think the fish are?” I only false cast off to the side to dry a fly. Once, twice,that’s it. Fish on!

  4. “I should have let that last cast go, one false cast earlier.” As a solidly “intermediate” angler I thought I was the only one who said that! Great tips as always.

  5. “I should have let that last cast go, one false cast earlier.” As a solidly “intermediate” angler I thought I was the only one who said that! Great tips as always.

    • Redux,

      OH NO, you are far from the only one that has said this statement to themselves on the water. Just about all of have. Glad the post hit home with you and I hope you continue to find ways to improve your fly fishing skills by tuning into Gink and Gasoline. Cheers


  6. Wow, I wondered if there was anyone else who thinks 99.9% of fly fishermen make too many false casts.

    I tell people when I help out with casting that false casts are good for only two reasons:
    1) extending line length
    2) changing direction

    Okay, if you’re fishing with a dry fly:
    3) drying the fly

    I generally make as few as possible. When fishing for a spot basically just one back cast and the delivery cast.

    Making too many false casts is also often the cause, rather than the result, of a bad back cast. If one back cast is good (line straightened out), you’re always ready ‘to pull the trigger’ (= make that delivery cast).

  7. I end-up false casting a lot more nowadays than I’d like — and it’s not for the joy of casting, it’s to dry off the sinking fly. Yeah, that’s right — today’s commercially tied (dry) flies are CRAP! They’re tied with inferior, lesser materials — and they don’t float like they’re supposed to. Many of today’s dry flies use synthetic elk and deer hair materials, which lack the hollow cores of natural elk and deer hair fibers. Which means, that after about the third or fourth drift, the fly is either sitting sub-surface or it’s sunk.

    Even with the use of Gink or other fly floatants, these synthetic fiber (dry) flies (e.g. Simulators, Elk Hair Caddis, Hoppers, Etc.) won’t float. So, to try to counter that — I find myself doing excessive false casts to try to dry the fly off.

    My fishing buddy uses Frog’s Fanny powder to wick the water out of his dry flies — but that is only a temporary fix, allowing 3 or 4 good casts / drifts until the fly begins to take on water again and sink.

    Aside from tying my own dries, what’s another cost effective alternative to get away from this problem?

    Any suggestions?


    South Jordan, UT

  8. A softer rod tip helps. Line speed depends on rod loading, and you really have to whip those super fast action rods to load them. With a softer tip, it’s easier to do a water haul, which eliminates a lot of false casting right there.

  9. Been fly fishing for about 3 years now. I have been told that I false cast too much. Is there a way to reduce the false casts, but still get more line out for distance?

    • You bet. The trick is to become more effective at shooting line. A good double haul helps as does shooting line on your backcast. More than likely you already have the skill but not the confidence. Trust the line to shoot and let her rip.

  10. Pingback: Become a Better Caster | MidCurrent

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