Tactics and Techniques

The Perfect Cast is Overrated

Blasphemy?  I embrace it. Of all the trout I have caught fly fishing, rarely was the sole source of hooking up an eye watering cast.  There is so much more to chase.

Stop Stressing the Cast

The emphasis placed on perfecting the fly cast is misplaced and mis-prioritized.  Recently, two events convinced me to address my thoughts on casting and fly fishing.  First, I heard a fly fisherman berating himself about how “ugly” his cast was.  He was joking, but his compatriots laughed along, as if they had reached some casting pinnacle, that lowly beginners are entrenched in.  Second, I had someone tell me that they would love to start fly fishing, but they did not think they could master the casting.  Given up before even getting started.  Enough is enough. 

Having the perfect cast just does not matter that much folks.  Let me tell you why:

  1. It is a myth.  You want to know what the perfect cast is?  The one that catches a fish.  If I can catch fish with my “ugly” cast and you catch them with your textbook, made for cinema cast, does anyone really care?  What if I start catching more fish than you with my ugly casts?  Better casting comes with time.  When does it have to be perfect?  Almost never. 
  2. Chasing the perfect cast is a distraction.  You only have so much time and energy to dedicate to fly fishing and casting is just one thing on a long list of skills that go into catching a trout on a fly rod.  Consideration must be given to the fly you choose, where you fish it, when to change flies, the depth you fish in the water column, the right seam you cast to, mending line, working the drift.  Then there is the setup.  Do you have the right leader, tippet, split shot, strike indicator?  How will the water clarity or cloud cover affect the fishing? How do you approach the river, read it, walk it?  The list goes on.  I am not opposed to learning to cast better, just at the expense of all the other important pursuits.
  3. People are picking up and putting flies down too much.  When you are false casting your fly is not fishing.  Give your fly a chance to fish.  Long ago I learned the 80% solution.  It applies to many things in life, and it definitely applies to fly fishing.  Work for the 80% solution and then act.  If you are always looking for the 100% cast, you will never be satisfied.

“But Jason — You just don’t get it.  I can’t explain it, but there is something magical and beautiful about the perfect cast to a wild rainbow trout, that rises in the sun to your delicate fly and gifts you with his natural — blah blah blah.”  I’m not buying it. 

I have never had a casting lesson, and I do not believe I have missed a ton of fish because my cast did not resemble something from A River Runs Through It.  Wrong fly?  Poor drift?  Bad hook set?  Sure.  But “ugly” cast?  Doubt it.

Start Your Cast

So, what are we to do?  If casting is important but not all important, then how shall we proceed? 

First, learn your basic cast and a roll cast.  These two tools are all you need to be successful on the river.  If you have a trip planned with a guide, they should be able to get you started, but an experienced friend might be a better resource.  If neither of these are options, try watching some YouTube videos.  If you need help, you can use these links to videos on casting.  Focus on the basics of the casting and the roll cast.  Remember, you need function, not fancy.   

Mad River Outfitters

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7jcgehADUUo The basic techniques of casting.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4rJqcM7MFdw Mad River Outfitters four part series on casting.


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oDJJ6W23gHw Basic fly casting.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=odp3-zMj9Dw&list=PLVhymbOZ-41mSd1eyI-fcxx_uTVd2BiiY Orvis eleven part series on casting.

Once you have an idea, go fishing and practice.  If you are a beginner fly fisherman, then you are a beginner caster.  That is okay. 

You do not have to conform.  Take your cast and make it your own.  Embrace it.   

If you end up with a guide down the road, it is worth asking some questions and learning.  Just ask for some pointers and move on.  Always learning is a good way to be in fly fishing.  But then just keep going to the river.  If you can get your fly where it needs to be, then that will work. 

Pick It Up.  Set It Down.

Worry less about how your cast looks and more about how the flies look to the fish.  Can you put the fly where it needs to be on top of and underneath the water?  That is good enough. 

A cast is just the mechanism.  It is 10 and 2.  10 and 2.  Pick it up.  Set it down.  You get better over time.  Cast YOUR cast and press on with life.  Wadeoutthere.


Jason Shemchuk

You Might Also Like...

No Comments

    Leave a Reply