October 1st fly fishing opening looms and the fly boxes are full. A new Airflo SuperFlo Ridge 2.0 Tactical line has been spooled and the Simms Freestone Sling Pack is as organised as it will be for the next several months. I’m sure yours is similar but I’m betting there is one vital difference which will show come October 1st, I’ve been casting.
I’m fortunate enough to fish right throughout the winter most days and so throwing loops is never not second nature to me. However I still find it important to pull away from the water and run through the occasional short session on the grass to maintain consistency and iron out any kinks away from the distraction of the water, and fish.
These may simply be 15 minute sessions snatched between dinner and the dishes, once or twice a week.
With four weeks to go, I’m sure you can spend one hour out of the six hundred and fiftyish, spread across the next month to get your fly rod in your hand, get out to a lawn, park or grassy roadside berm and pick up your game. Opening day you, will thank today’s you for it.
Here’s as simple as a 15 minute practise session can be...
1) MINIMAL POWER FALSE CASTING (5 mins)
A very handy drill to begin any session with which helps you clean up your loop size and shape, and minimise the power used to turn them over. It’s also a great way to get the feel of a new rod / line combo, or reacquaint with your old mate in the garage.
Rod hand only. Simply stand sideways so you can watch both your backcast, and forward cast without twisting at the shoulder, feet comfortably apart.
Now with a short, short, short line, maybe only five or six feet outside the tip flip the rod tip back, and forth in your hand using minimal power, minimal effort and minimal movement of your hand, arm and body. You want your line and leader to only barely pass the rod tip. Watch those tight, U shaped loops smoothly roll from the rod tip and turn over back, and forth. Don’t use too much power now, you want those loops clean, and tight. Now reduce the power even further until the line nearly collides with the rod tip. Perfect. Now crispen up your stop on both the back, and forward casts and watch those loops clean up.
Get comfortable with throwing consistently sized and shaped loops back and forth at this distance then add two or three feet of line and begin again. You’ll need to widen your arc a little and adjust your power application but keep it effortless, and keep it smooth.
Repeat until you’re rolling clean, tight loops off your rod tip at a fishing distance. Go back to this drill, even on the river whenever your casting goes out the window.
2) PICK UP AND LAY DOWN (5 mins)
Without false casting simply walk around the lawn picking up, and casting at various targets without false casting. These could be a leaf, a fence post or a simple blade of grass. Simply pick it up, switch direction and put it back down.
Focus on using a set length of line and maintaining minimal power, accuracy, sufficient line speed and consistent loop size and shape. Focus on your tracking and trajectory on both the back and forward cast to ensure accuracy.
Once you’ve done a lap and are happy with the consistency, add some line and do it all over again with a wider casting arc, longer stroke length and adjusted trajectory again with a set length of line.
Maybe strip line in between casts, pick up, and shoot to your target again without false casting.
Quickfire change of direction casts are something many struggle with so why not make them second nature in relaxed surrounds before hitting the stream?
3) PRESENTATION, THEN PLAYTIME (5 mins +)
Now spend five minutes or more playing with your roll cast, reach mend or any other technique you’ve been struggling with or wish to improve on. Try adding or shortening line, introducing a haul or working on your windy day, off shoulder accuracy. Remember, less is more so focus on using the least amount of effort possible to lay out those loops.
Practise with the leaders and weight you expect to use on opening day. It’s of minimal use spending all winter practising with 9’ of nylon and a tiny bit of fluff when you’re likely to be using big iron maidens on 15’ leaders come opening. Simulate the weight by pinching split shot above a knot at the end of your tipper, cut the bend off a suitable fly, or tie on a paperclip and slip on beads as appropriate.
Remember the first lockdown? We used that time to create a series of casting tips for you that will come in handy right about now.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Chris Dore is a battle tested fly fishing guide with over 15 years of professional guiding experience, battling the demanding, ever changing conditions that our New Zealand rivers throw at us.
In 2006 Chris became one of the first New Zealanders to successfully pass the internationally recognised Federation of Fly Fishers Certified Casting Instructors examination and has since taught many thousands of anglers to up their skillset.
For more in person and on river fly fishing advice and up-skilling why not book Chris for a day or three?