My favorite type of fishing is fly fishing, though I honestly love it all. A lot of what dictates your favorite type of fishing has to do with where you grew up, and who taught you how to fish. I grew up in fly fishing hotbeds like Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Colorado, and most of my friends and family are fly anglers. To be honest, if I saw a fish swimming 50 feet away from me, to this day I’d actually feel more comfortable making the cast with a fly rod than with a baitcaster or spinning rod… quirky, I know.
But I also know a lot of folks who have told me that they want to fly fish, but they are intimidated by what seems to be a very steep learning curve. And the steepest part of that learning curve is becoming comfortable with the cast. Here are five things to remember that will make casting a fly rod easier than it looks.
1.) The better “angler” you are, the less of a “caster” you have to be. This is especially true when you fish for trout. Learning to put yourself in a spot to make a short accurate cast is ultimately more valuable than teaching yourself how to make long hero casts. So don’t put pressure on yourself to cast far.
2.) Keep your thumb in your peripheral vision. The most common mistake novice fly casters make is going back too far on the backcast. If you can see your thumb out of the corner of your eye, you’re avoiding that problem.
3.) Remember to stop the fly rod. The cast looks like a fluid, graceful motion when done right, but it’s really all about accelerating the rod, then stopping it, as if you’re flinging a tomato off the end of a stick.
4.) Start from the ground up. On a grass lawn, strip about 20 or 30 feet of fly line out the end of your rod tip. Now start the back and forth casting motion. The right timing and tempo will naturally come to you as you try to lift that line off the ground and form loops in the air. If you go straight overhead, you will frustrate yourself.
5.) Casting has nothing to do with power. It is all about timing and tempo, like a golf swing. The harder you punch a cast, the more problems you create. Start short, and always keep the casting stroke even and easy. We’ll worry about distance later.
Eventually your cast will become second nature, like dribbling a basketball. Your body is doing one thing, but your mind is focusing on the larger game. But it all starts with keeping things simple, and reinforcing good habits through practice.
Kirk Deeter is an editor-at-large with Field & Stream magazine, and the editor-in-chief of Angling Trade. He is the co-author of four books, most recently the Little Red Book of Fly Fishing.