Improve Your Catching!

June 3rd, 2002

Target and Distance Casting Practice Seminar
Lesson Two
Conducted By Jim C. Chapralis

In order to enjoy better fishing results, it is necessary for most anglers to practice casting on a continuing basis. Admittedly, practice is b-o-r-i-n-g, so it's my job to make casting practice so much fun that you'll almost like it as much as fishing! And down the road you might even want to enter a casting tournament! And Win!


To review: To succeed in fly fishing, we need to become good casters primarily in terms of accuracy, but also, under certain circumstances, in distance. In our introductory remarks last week, we mentioned that most of us learn the fundamentals of casting through books or videos, casting schools, or, perhaps, from a veteran fly-casting friend. But between fishing trips, these lessons are lost, so it is necessary to practice our casting periodically. We agreed that usually practice isn't fun. Well, if you bear with me, we're going to make casting practice "fun," to a point that many of you will actually look forward to it.

We'll get to the juicy stuff - the casting practice fun things - next week, but we need to go over some "ground rules" and set up some targets. If you haven't read the first installment, please read it now. To succeed, you must understand and accept the premise: good casting is fun in itself, but also produces better fishing results.

Snook are very difficult to fool. They "chill out" next to mangroves and often won't hit a fly or popper unless it's within inches of the mangrove. This is where your casting practice will give you an advantage.

WHERE DO WE PRACTICE? That's the advantage of "tournament" or "practice" casting. We can do it anywhere. If you have a back yard, say about 80 to 100 feet of cleared space, you can do it there. Or maybe at a nearby park. Or at a football or a soccer field. Better yet, perhaps there's a pond or you have a swimming pool, because it's best to cast on water. If you live in the northern climes, a gymnasium is a wonderful place in the wintertime to sharpen your casting skills while waiting for spring.

All you need is some open area, where you can set up some targets from 20 to 50 feet for most practice games. Remember, you're going to need almost the same amount of room behind you for the back casts. I prefer an open park or athletic field, because in addition to the ample room, there is usually a breeze, and one of the facts of angling life is that there is usually some wind on the waters which can effect your casting. I sometimes practice in my back yard, which is not very big, but mostly I go to a park for the serious sessions, including distance. If I have more time, I drive to our casting club in Chicago's famous Lincoln Park.

WHAT KIND OF TACKLE? You can use nearly any fly-fishing gear you have. Assuming that most of you are trout fishers, an 8-ft. for a No. 5 or 6 line is fine but an 8-1/2 ft. fly rod is better for some events we're going to practice. If you're a bass-bug fly rodder, you're probably using a 8-1/2 or 9-foot fly rod, that takes an 8 or 9 weight line.

Whenever you practice your casting, tie on a piece of wool or a fly (be sure to remove the barb and point to avoid an accident). Best bet: Tie some flies like this sample. It's easier to see this pattern and it's the one used in the casting tournaments.

I'm going to assume that your fly reel is spooled with the right weight line for the rod you're using. Tie on a 7-1/2 ft. tapered leader, perhaps tapered down to 2X or 3X for initial practice sessions for the trout fishing events (you'll need a heavier leader for Bass Bug practice event which we'll describe in a later session). Now comes an important part. Whenever you are practicing casting, always, repeat always; tie on a fly or a piece of wool. (Of course, you must remove the point and barb if you are using a fly, just in case you make a bad cast). Many anglers practice without a fly or piece of wool. This is wrong because a fly is to a line and leader what a tail is to a kite. It stabilizes the cast. Without it, your leader swishes back and forth and you change your casting stroke to accommodate this. A piece of wool yarn, about the size of a No. 10 fly (bright orange or yellow so that you can see it) is ideal. Another thing: In practice or actual fishing always wear eyeglasses (sun glasses or plain). Make that a "must" rule whenever you are fishing or practicing. More than one person has lost his vision because he was fly fishing without glasses.

THE TARGETS: When we were kids first we wanted to learn how to throw a ball, rock, stick or snowball, and after we acquired the throwing motion, we wanted to hit a target. We threw at objects. A garbage can. A tree. Whatever. And, boy, did we feel good when we hit our target! Right?

The same applies with casting. After we develop a casting stroke, and are comfortable with it, we need targets. Brightly colored Hula Hoops make wonderful targets on the ground. I bought six for $14.87 (and I think that the price even included an ice cream bar).

If you can't find Hula Hoops you can make your own targets from a variety of materials. An old brightly-colored rubber hose is ideal. What you want to do is make six hoops that are about 30 inches in diameter. Use duct tape to secure the ends together. Actually you need only five for most games but six for the Bass Bug Event. If you are going to cast on water, you need some small weights and string to anchor the targets, and some pieces of wood or cork or other buoyant material to keep them afloat. The "close" target will be about 20 to 25 feet away and the long target will be 45 to 50 feet out.

Get those targets ready because next session we start with one of the most important games.

Stay tuned every week. ~ Jim C. Chapralis

Next session: The Dry Fly Event.

About Jim:

Jim Chapralis is a world traveler, a pioneer in the international fishing travel business, and author, most recently of Fishing Passion, reviewed in our Book Review section. He is an avid angler - and caster. Currently involved with the 94th Annual National Casting Tournament July 29 to August 3, 2002. You can reach Jim via his website

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