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Trouts Journal

Can You Improve Your Cast? Ask the Magic 8 Ball

Ivan Orsic / Mar 4, 2013

I’ve had my share of blown saltwater shots. Some of the experiences are burned in my brain with more clarity than the fish that actually came to hand. The memories still sting:

- Standing in water almost to my chest in Ascension Bay and trying to cast to a 25 lb permit within 60 ft… and failing miserably

- Trying to punch a cast into a 20 mph headwind to reach a 6 lb bonefish tailing at the mouth of a creek in the Bahamas... and falling short

- Falling apart in front of a half a dozen tarpon cruising a flat north of Ambergris Caye in Belize

These are the thoughts that drove me to a quiet park in the middle of a cold February day. As much as I want to think of myself as a well-seasoned and well-traveled angler, these past experiences force me to be completely honest with myself.

My cast can use some work.

There. I said it.

And now that I’m looking down the barrel of another trip to a salt water environment, it is time for me to invest some time and effort that is hopefully going to pay off. In a few days I’ll be leaving for the island of Guanaja Honduras, a fishery I’ve never visited before. The way I look at it, if I’m going to invest the time and money in gear, equipment, clothing, and travel expense, I might as well make an equal investment in time and preparation in the one thing that will stand between me and bonefish, permit, tarpon and snook – the distance and accuracy of my cast.

Well, and let’s not forget about a little luck.

As humbling as it is to admit I need a casting lesson, I’m willing to do it if it means making a shot – or inversely, not completely blowing a shot. Been there. Done it. I know what that feels like. Not to say that a tailing loop, collapsed cast or errant fly to the back of my head is not not going to happen again – because it will. I’ll just feel better about going down to Honduras knowing that I made an effort to minimize catastrophe.

So my game plan was a simple one. Head out with a professional, let him know that he can be brutally honest with critique and feedback, test out a few different rods, and hopefully walk away with some bad habits corrected.

Dave Lovell is a Federation of Fly Fishers Certified Casting Instructor and is the Head Guide at Trout's Guide Service. He spends time off the water helping our customers improve and perfect their casting abilities. I’ve also watched him cast an entire fly line and 10 or 15 feet of backing – this is an equivalent of a country mile. Dave watched my casting and then broke things down for me as I casted different 8 and 9 weight rods including the Sage Response and a Ross RX. Here are the five things I learned in 60 minutes:

1) Slow everything down – both on my forward and my back cast

2) Mind my back cast and let the rod load – this entailed opening my stance a bit, turning my head and physically watching my back cast

3) Stop my back cast earlier and resist the urge to overcast and dip my rod tip behind me (this was causing tailing loops when I was trying to shoot a lot of line)

4) Stop false casting so much – I worked on picking my line up with one back cast and firing at a target (if necessary, take one false cast and then take your shot)

5) Work on casts in the 60-80 ft range – this is where I will be seeing most of my fish. It might feel great to launch 100+ foot casts but the reality of a flats situation on foot without a guide means that most likely I’ll be taking shots at fish that are closer in proximity. When practicing casting, try to duplicate real fishing situations

"3-2-1... ignition. We have lift off." - mission control as Dave Lovell launches a 100 ft+ cast

"Here's the thing Will," said Dave after we wrapped up the casting clinic. “Practice with a purpose. If you can get out two or three times a week and work on these things, it will go a long ways towards improving your casting once you get down on the water –when things really matter.”

So what does the future hold? I might as well ask the Magic 8 ball.

Am I going to be entering and winning any casting competitions soon? “Don't count on it.”

Do I feel a bit more confident in my ability to deliver a presentation at the heat of the moment when it really matters? “Cannot predict now.”

Do I have a better understanding of some of my bad habits and how to make corrections if things start falling apart on the water? “Yes – definitely.”

Is a casting lesson a good investment before you take a trip to uncharted frontiers? “Without a doubt.”

If you are interested in getting a lesson and tuning up your fly cast before your next outing, give the shop a call at 877.464.0034.

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