Fly Fishing: You Can’t Catch The Fish If You Don’t Make A Cast

20 comments / Posted on / by


Fly fishing for bonefish on the flats in the Bahamas. Photo Louis Cahill

If you’ve spent any time fly fishing on the saltwater flats, you’ve surely been in situations where you’ve had a fish swimming away from you, and you didn’t make a cast because you thought it was a “lost cause”.

I know I’ve been there plenty of times. I’ve even had guides command me to stop casting at a fish scooting across the flats that was out of range. Are there times when it’s best to hold back and not make a cast to a fish? Yes, and an example would be when doing so might end up spooking other fish close by that you may soon have a much easier presentation at. That being said, I can assure you that in almost all other fly fishing situations, it’s total rubbish to not at least try to make a cast on a fish you’ve spotted, especially if it’s one of those days when you’re not getting a lot of shots anyway, which will happen to you sooner or later.

On plenty of occasions, personally as well for my buddies, nice bonefish, tarpon and redfish have been caught on these 1 in a 100, Hail Mary presentations. I remember one very respectable bonefish I caught in the Bahamas not too long ago, that was consistently moving away from me. No matter how fast and hard I tried to close the distance wading, it kept getting farther away. Finally, when it was way out there, well over 85 feet, I said the hell with it and made the farthest cast I could. My fly ended up dropping ten feet behind the fish, and the sound of the fly hitting the water, sparked the interest of the bonefish, and it made a complete u-turn and ate my fly. I would have never caught that seven pound bonefish if I would have listened to my partner and guide who said it was a lost cause. Granted, this isn’t usually how this fishing situation turns out, but it did make me think, how many damn fish I’ve missed out on catching because I didn’t say “Screw it” and make the cast.

Saltwater fly fishing is tough enough as it is, and anglers can’t afford to pass up any opportunities if they want to consistently catch fish on the water. Jus remember, no matter how low the percentage might be, every once in a while it will all pan out in your favor. Not stepping up to the challenge and making an attempt to cast, is very similar to the trout angler not setting the hook on a possible strike. After all, it doesn’t cost us a thing to set the hook, so why do we find ourselves in situations where we’re debating with ourselves on whether or not we should set the hook. I heard it all too often, “I don’t think that’s a fish, I’m pretty sure that’s bottom.” The fact is, it doesn’t matter if it’s bottom or a fish, just like it doesn’t matter if the fish eats your fly or not. We won’t find success unless we try to execute. I’m fixing to head to the Bahamas on our Gink & Gasoline hosted trip, and I can assure you I won’t be leaving anything on the table. If I can get my fly reasonably close to a bonefish, I’m going to make the cast. I don’t care how small the chance is that the line is going to get pulled tight. Let’s face it, many times it’s often the biggest fish spotted during the trip that end up being the ones swimming away from us. I’m going to do whatever it takes to end up shaking hands with those fish trying to slip out the back door. Furthermore, those rare catches will be the ones that will leave you with the true long lasting memories that you’ll take home from the trip. And they’ll also be the ones that you have a blast reminiscing over with your fish-bum buddies over some well deserved under the cabana. Yep, that’s how I’m going to fish when I hit the flats of the Bahamas in a couple weeks. Just remember you can’t be a winner if you’re afraid to get in on the game. Think about that next time you hit the water, regardless if it’s on the saltwater flats or somewhere in freshwater. If you have a shot at a good fish, make the cast.

Keep it Reel,

Come fish with us in the Bahamas!

Kent Klewein
Gink & Gasoline
Sign Up For Our Weekly Newsletter!

Follow Gink & Gasoline on Facebook:

20 thoughts on “Fly Fishing: You Can’t Catch The Fish If You Don’t Make A Cast

  1. So true! I have seen smallmouth on freshwater flats do complete 180s and zip in on a fly that was cast behind them as they swim away. I think it’s possible because of the positioning of a fish’s eyes on the sides of their head so they can actually see behind themselves somewhat. And it may depend on how aggressive the fish are that day or that particular fish. But like you said, you’ll never know unless you try.

    • Spencer,

      Good point about the aggressiveness of the fish. It’s so true. The happier and more active the fish are the more chance you’ll have them eat your fly even though they’re moving away. Great to hear from you.


      • Kent, I’d like to say thank you for writing great pieces and being a really cool dude for allowing other dudes (or ladies) like myself to interact with you and Louis. The interaction is key. When it comes down to it, I think we all just enjoy talking about fishing. The blogs are an outlet for some of us who cannot fish due to weather or other jobs or whatever. Thank you very much.

        • Spencer,

          Thank you for being a part of the conversation. Quite honestly, the single most rewarding thing for me with Gink & Gasoline, is the wonderful community of friends I’ve made through comments from my posts. I start the conversation and our readers finish it with their two cents. I love that and it makes the post more valuable to the fly angler that’s wanting to learn and get better. Far too many fly fishing websites are full of haters and egotistical dirtbags that get off telling everyone, “I’m right and your wrong”. For the most part, the G&G community is a bunch of classy and friendly fly anglers all working together so that we can find ways to enjoy ourselves more on the water. That’s priceless, rare and I’m honored to be a part of all of this. Thanks for your continued support and loyal readership.


  2. You guys have really been bringing the A game the last few posts. That fly tying one yesterday was awesome, The big nasty streamer post and now this one.

    I’ve seen people not even attempt to cast or swing a streamer into structure out of fear of getting hung up, having to break off, and putting the fish down. I’m no guide, but have exposed most of my friends to big stupid looking streamers, or I have been the one that taught them to fly fish. I always tell them to cast into, or swing really close to the nastiest looking wood pile you see. Either you get hung up, break off, and you put the fish down, in which case who cares theres a half dozen more of that fly in the box and we can hit that pile again in a few hours, or you get a magical swing, hook up and a 24+ inch brown tries to rip the rod out of your hands for a while.

    Same thing with bass on lakes.
    “No no no, cast IN TO that wood pile, like bounce the fly off it”.
    “I’m gonna snag”
    “Who cares!”

    Sure, 9 times out of 10 we are never going to see that fly again and you probably arent going to move a pig, but who cares.

    • Chris,

      It’s GREAT to hear you think we’ve been bringing our A-Game my friend. That’s music to our ears. Thanks for all your input on the last couple posts and also for supporting the site. Cheers


  3. You make a great point Kent. It’s a proven fact that you can’t catch a fish if you’re fly isn’t in the water! Who cares if there is only a small chance that fish will turn on your fly…. there’s still a chance. I’ve seen bones, reds, bass, trout, etc, turn on flies presented several feet away, either due to a poor cast, or from making a long shot at a moving fish. You never know how it will work out until you make that cast, but like you said, it’s definitely worth a shot. My biggest bone came from making a long, quartering shot at four bonefish moving away from us from left to right. My guide encouraged me to make a long, leading cast and it worked out in our favor. As soon as my fly hit the water they turned back, and after I made my first strip they were on it. On the next strip I hooked up.
    And yes, hook sets are FREE! I’ve set the hook on “the bottom” plenty of times to find that indeed it was not the bottom!

    • Justin,

      Thanks for chiming in. Its really cool when other G&G followers tell how they’ve had the same experiences on the water and then add their two cents to further add value to the post. Much appreciated.


  4. Kent,

    True post. I have plenty of examples in years of fly fishing.

    I had the same experience as you at Sandy Point Abaco: Hail Mary to bonefish headed away from me. Fly landed about 6-8 feet to the right of the fish, which made a right turn on the plop and inhaled the fly. Guide was shocked and made me show him my tie for that fly so he could tie them. I think it had more to do with the sound and settling of the fly than the pattern.

    Just last night fishing for snook on dock lights below Tampa, our boat drifted closer than we wanted; but instead of cranking the engine and moving on, I tried one short cast to the periphery of the light and a fish we did not see came out of the shadows to take the fly. We got a fish we would have missed just by trying a less than ideal cast. Truly a Hail Mary paying off.

    • John,

      Persistence was one of the first key successful factors I learned as a kid with fishing. Without it many opportunities for catching will be eliminated. Thanks for commenting.


  5. This is good stuff man. Take the shot and if you hook the fish then you’re going to feel like a super hero and if you don’t who cares you just got to work on your distance casting! The only way you can guarantee to not catch that fish is by not taking the shot. Great blog Kent!

  6. Good post. I missed a chance at a BIG tarpon at about 70 feet a couple of years ago, because my partner already had one on, and I didn’t take the shot. It would have been a great double header for us, but I didn’t want to interfere with his fish. Lesson learned, and I won’t make that mistake again.

    • Thatcher,

      A double with Tarpon would surely be amazing to witness. That said I think I would have held off as well since normal etiquette is to let your partner land his fish before you wet a line. Of course that all depends on the agreement with your fishing partner. I could see two hardcore fisherman wanting nothing more than trying to get a double with tarpon. It sounds super challenging but fun as hell.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

Captcha loading...