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Casting thoughts

These are a few of my attitudes on casting (actually, my only thoughts). I don't want to give you basic instruction on casting. I'm really not that good of a caster. I know some will say that just to show their modesty, but really, I'm only mediocre. There are many sites devoted to casting, some good, more that are bad, and some terrible--and many, many books, thousands of books spanning almost 400 years. For an excellent treatise on the sport and art of casting, look at the Fly Casting Forum.

Here are just a few things I've learned along the way, in case you're asking.

Stop fishing

Fishing is the worst time to practice your casting. The point I want to make is that you need to practice correctly and consistently.

By "correctly," I mean you need to practice like many sports suggest, frequently, but not too long. This last point is important. If you want to learn how to cast well, practice for only short periods, say a half hour. And only practice one or two things you want to work on. If you practice past the point when you start getting tired and bored, you are only training your brain bad habits. And we all know how tricky the brain is and how easily it gets deceived and coerced into bad patterns.

On Monday, say, work on a having a strong, straight wrist that doesn't bend too far toward your backcast, making sure your grip on the fly rod handle doesn't go past your ear, which would cause the fly line to drop down too far behind you. As you practice this, watch the fly line travel straight back behind you, and maybe up a little.

On Wednesday, work on your line hand, focusing on keeping the line taught and in control. Or maybe work on long distance casting. Or maybe work on perfecting your timing, matching the power of your stroke with the distance the stroke travels. Or maybe have some real fun and practice getting the highest backcast you can, maybe a cast nearly vertical behind you. It can be done. On occasion, I've been able to cast 30 feet of line with my back to the wall of my house. (And I've also had to to get the ladder out to retrieve a few flies from the shingles.) Or maybe have even more fun keeping circles and helixes of line in the air with 10 feet of line, 20 feet of line, 30 feet, until it all collapses around you. You can actually learn some good things about control this way. Or maybe work on your accuracy by casting to hoola hoops in the yard like the pros so that you can hit those difficult spots between the weeds on your favorite lake. On Friday . . . well, skip Friday, and just go fishing over the weekend.

You don't need to practice like this all the time. But if you do this for a month, say, your casting will remarkably improve.

Play in the wind

Strong winds will cause you to rethink everything, which will cause you to focus on basics even more carefully. Many flyfishers stay home when they know the winds will be strong.

But this is one of the best times to be out. True, it is harder to fish in a float tube in a strong wind, but you can anchor your tube, or cast from shore--an unfortunate lost art (See the next section). If you are fishing tight to shore in a river, use a held roll cast. I invented this cast, as well as a thousand other flyfishers. When the line is behind you in a normal roll cast, hold half of the loop back by reaching over with your non-casting hand. This will keep the loop in place just prior to the forward cast. The wind will play less with the line.

In stronger winds, my favorite trick is to position myself so that a modest length of line, say 20 feet, is being lofted and held in the air by the wind, like  a flag waving in front of you in the position of a back cast. Then cast the line sharply forward, and toward the surface of the water. A normal backcast isn't required since the wind is holding the line up for you. Make your loops a little tighter than usual to rifle the line into the wind a little better. You can afford to hit the water a little harder than usual, without creating a mild explosion on the water. Unlike a calm day, the fish won't be as startled by a hard cast.

Cast from shore

Casting from the shores of a lake or river will put to test the above two lessons you've learned. Primarily, it will test your ability to keep a firm wrist during the backcast so that you can keep the line very high behind you.

There are lots of bushes and hills behind you, so keep that cast high. With practice, you can cast with a 20 to 30-foot high behind you.

Casting from lake shores is a tremendous way to focus on fish. It is much like fishing a river, except generally in a lake, fish are cruising and moving in your direction, hopefully, so it is easier to spot them.

Stop casting

One final thought: stop casting and start fishing. You practice casting so you don't have to think too much about casting while you are fishing. Concentrating on the fishing is hard enough without worrying about whether your wrist is firm enough, or your back cast is high enough, or your shoulder is square enough, or your foot placement is right (which it never is anyway when you are fishing), or your face is staring at your wrist at the end of good backcast. In time, any corrections to your casting will happen automatically as the fishing happens.

--Toney J. Sisk

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