By Spencer Durrant
What’s the number-one thing you can work on to become a more successful fly angler?
Your fly casting. Specifically, how accurately you can place flies on the water.
All the best anglers have one thing in common – they’re able to quickly and efficiently get their flies in front of fish. They spend less time false casting, and more time with their flies in the water. They’re able to get their flies to drift right where they need to, on the first or second cast.
Achieving that level of proficiency as a fly caster isn’t impossible. It just takes some extra practice. And if you don’t have the time to practice on the water, don’t worry. You can effectively practice your fly casting while at home, too.
So, let’s take a few minutes to go into detail on how you can improve your fly casting by becoming more accurate.
Watch the Tip
By far, the most important thing you can do to improve your accuracy while fly casting is to watch where the tip of your rod goes.
On your back cast, the rod tip shouldn’t dip too far. The number-one problem I see when guiding, or teaching people to fish, is that they let their rod tip travel too far back on the back cast.
We’ve all heard the adage to keep the rod at “10 and 2” on an imaginary clock face. The only problem with that is if you stop your rod at 2 – where it should stop on the front cast – the rod tip is still traveling. Depending on how hard you’re casting, the rod tip might not stop until 3, or between 3 and 4.
Instead, focus on trying to get the rod tip to stop at 2 on the front cast. Conversely, stop the tip at 10 on your back cast. This will probably condense your casting motion, but that’s really what you want. Except in rare circumstances, you don’t need to move your fly rod very much to create tight, fast loops of fly line.
How to Practice
Strip out enough line for a 20-foot cast. As you cast, watch your rod and purposefully stop it so that the rod tip stops at 10 and 2. Once you have a feel for when to stop the rod during a 20-foot cast, move on to 30, then 40, feet. You can practice this both on the water, or on the lawn at home.
Keep it Straight
Another common problem that causes accuracy errors is whether your fly rod travels in a straight line during your cast.
The rod tip should move in a straight line between the front and back cast. Often, though, anglers tend to move the rod tip in an oval. This side-to-side movement decreases accuracy considerably. Now, some side-to-side movement is normal, and that’s why you’ll see some fly rod manufacturers boast about eliminating “oscillation” or increasing the “torsional stability” of their blanks. If a rod is built to reduce its side-to-side movements during the casting process, it will inherently be more accurate than other rods.
Regardless of your rod’s inherent accuracy, most of it still depends on your ability to keep the tip traveling in a straight line throughout the cast.
How to Practice
Instead of casting overhead, move your rod so you’re casting more to the side. This makes it easier to watch where your rod tip is going during the cast. As you cast, watch the tip to see if it’s moving in a straight line, or more of an oval. If it moves in an oval shape, try to reduce that movement. Once you feel what a correct cast feels like, move back to casting overhead. Watch the tip to ensure it’s still moving in a straight line.
Picking your Spots
You’ve probably seen this done in YouTube videos, but that’s because it’s actually an effective way to improve your accuracy with a fly rod. Set up some sort of target zone where you can aim your casts. Hoops are most often used, but you can use anything if you don’t have a bunch of extra hoops on hand. Make sure to set these up at realistic fishing distances.
Then, practice casting until you can consistently land your fly in those hoops. Since everyone casts just a bit differently – and so does every fly rod – there are no hard-and-fast rules for how this should look. What you’re trying to achieve, though, is a casting method that consistently allows you to put flies where you want them. By stopping your rod at the correct time on the front and back cast, and ensuring the rod tip travels in a straight line, you’ll probably find you’re able to be more accurate in your casting.
If you’re not able to get on the water often, try practicing your casting regularly if you have the space. Even just a few minutes every week can make a huge difference when it comes time to land a precise cast the next time you’re fishing.
Do you have some favorite casting tips that helped you learn? Share them in the comments below.