Recently, I witnessed some truly atrocious fly casting.
No offense, but it was awful. Splashing on the forward cast, snapping on the back cast, whipping the water into a froth awful.
It wasn’t just one guy, or even two buddies out having fun on the trout steam. It was angler after angler. Maybe I fish remote streams enough that I’m not seeing the state of casting in the fly fishing world. What I experienced was eye-opening and shocking. And it isn’t the first time I’ve been shocked by what I’ve seen on the river.
Without being too obvious, I tried to watch as much as possible. What was going on? Could it have been some “fly fishing for beginners” outing that I was witnessing? Was I just being judgmental?
At the end of the day, I realized it was a group of unaffiliated anglers from a wide range of locations fishing with generally high-quality gear. They were just really bad at fly casting… and they weren’t catching fish. Was there a correlation? Probably.
I’m no Lee Wulff, but I feel like I can get line and fly from point A to point B with relative proficiency. Although I have done a lot of self-teaching, I have also taken the time to learn from others. Hands on, casting not fishing, fly casting instruction. I am hardly perfect, and I could certainly be criticized for a number of flaws in my cast.
I’d gladly receive that criticism (on a good day… if I’m catching fish).
So, well aware that by your standard of measure, it will be measured to you I am voicing my concern:
What is going on? $300 for waders, $200 for a reel, $35 for a Patagonia hat, and $600 for a fly rod. Somewhere along the line, a few bucks or an hour of time to improve the most important element of the pursuit should seem reasonable. Orvis 101 classes, Trout Unlimited chapter programs, and YouTube tutorials aren’t luxuries of the fly fishing upper-crust.
Perhaps it is the lack of the competitive element that has kept the driving-range mentality out of most fly fishers’ angling worldview. Whereas even golf course duffers will shell out $20 on a bucket of balls to tweak their stroke, casual fly fishers often just want to fish. Thankfully, what happens above the water is sometimes altogether inconsequential in the trout’s perspective of the fly. Realistically, however, the two are almost always intertwined.
Better casting will always result in more fish. There is probably somewhere on the graph where skills like presentation and reading the water overtake the advantage gained from laser-precision and competition-distance, but that all happens to the right of what I’m talking about. Efficiency of fly delivery directly translates into effectiveness of fly delivery.
Is someone you know in need of some casting pointers? If you can have that conversation, do it with the grace and tact required. Offer to take a class together. Set up some targets in your yard. Unless they ask, don’t try to fix them on the water.
Do you need to improve your casting? Take the opportunity to just cast. Fishing is fun. But it will be more fun once you get your loops tight and your leader falling gently. There is no shame or condemnation in getting some advice or coaching.
Fly fishing is about so much more than catching fish. If casting is a pragmatic burden, in my opinion you’re doing it wrong. The experience of a good cast can and should be rewarding and fun – regardless of what the trout thinks of it.