I helped a fly fishing beginner with his casting this week. He is athletic and definitely the “outdoorsy” type. But he made some fly casting mistakes that beginners tend to make. When I pointed them out, my friend quickly fixed these mistakes — although it took a bit of practice.
Here are 3 fly casting mistakes beginners make and how to fix them.
1. Exerting too much effort
My friend used his whole body to make his cast. His arm swiveled on his shoulder as he waved his rod back and forth in long arcs. Watching him made me tired.
I worked him on casting by simply flicking his wrist. He was surprised how far the line shot forward with minimal effort. I pointed out that wrist-flicking causes the rod to do the work of loading and then shooting the line. Later I let him move his arm a bit in his casting motion. But I insisted on crisp, definitive wrist-flicks. I said, “Do that, and the rod will do the rest.”
2. Rushing the forward cast
I also heard the “snap of the whip” on a couple of my friend’s forward casts. I knew immediately that the line on the back cast did not have time to unfurl. I confirmed this by watching him. He allowed the line on his forward cast to unfurl, but after each back cast, he began his forward cast too quickly.
First, I stood beside him and called out: “Snap, wait, snap, wait, snap, wait (etc.).” I told him to snap his wrist forward, wait on my command, snap his wrist backward, wait on my command, then snap his wrist forward. He discovered that as soon as he snapped his backcast (on my “snap”), he snapped his forward cast on my command to “wait.” It took a few tries, but he finally got into the right rhythm.
I even told him the story about Norman Maclean’s father teaching his sons to cast with a metronome.
Second, I told him to turn his body and watch his back cast unfurl before making a forward cast. He had no trouble on the timing of his back cast because he could easily see his forward cast unfurl. Turning to watch the back cast seems obvious, but it does not occur to a lot of new beginning fly casters.
Of course, I warned him not to make too many false casts when fly fishing. I told him that our practice sessions intended to give him a feel for casting. But false casting (and lots of it) in one’s back yard or city park is the only way to get comfortable with it.
3. Bringing the rod back too far on a back cast
I noticed another problem.
My friend’s back casts were landing on the surface—grass, in this case. As I watched him cast, I instantly solved the problem. He brought his rod back almost parallel to the ground. If you prefer to visualize the hands of a clock, his back cast brought his rod back to 3 o’clock.
I told him to use his wrist-snaps so that his front cast stopped between 10:00 and 11:00 and his back cast stopped between 1:00 and 2:00. The combination of the wrist-snap and visualizing a clock face seemed to help. Before long, the line on both his back casts and forward casts were unfurling without dropping to the ground.
Sure, there is more to learn when it comes to casting. But these three problems need fixing first. Once a beginner overcomes them, he or she will be well on the way to effective fly casting — and catching fish!