Improve Your Catching!

June 10th, 2002

Target and Distance Casting Practice Seminar
Lesson Three
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!

LESSON THREE: The Dry-Fly Event

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 introduction, 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, but we're going to make casting practice "fun," to a point that many of us will actually look forward to it.

Last week (Lesson Two): We discussed the ground rules (where to practice), targets and tackle. Today, we're going to practice a wonderful event, Dry Fly, which is not only a springboard to successful trout fishing but very helpful in just about every type of fly fishing where casting accuracy is needed. Let's get going.

PLACING THE TARGETS: If you did your homework last week you have acquired some Hula Hoops or made six 30-inch targets from a brightly colored water hose and duct tape. We'll only need five targets for this event. You should place the nearest one at 20 to 25 feet from where you would like to do your casting (caster's box) and the longest at 45 to 50 feet. Important: Measure the distance to the far target (most of us tend to over-estimate distances). Place the other three targets randomly between the near and far targets, but not in a straight line. See Diagram.

THE EVENT: We'll assume that you have your tackle with the leader and practice fly (see Lesson Two) all set.

Hold the practice fly in the non-casting hand with no more than the leader plus two feet of line extending beyond rod tip.

Now start false casting so that the line, leader and fly are moving in the air, back and forth without intentionally striking the surface in front of you. While false casting, strip fly line from your reel and let it pass through the rod guides, until you think you have enough line out to hit the first target. If you feel that you have let out too much line to hit the target, strip some in while false casting. After adjustments are made, and your fly seems to hover above the target on your false cast, make the final forward cast (presentation) and allow the fly to settle on the target.

P-E-R-F-E-C-T! Congratulations! Well done.

Okay! So you missed the target. Don't despair; it's a learning process. You get a demerit for each foot, or fraction of a foot that the fly lands away from the target. All demerits are subtracted from a perfect score of 100 for your final score. Max demerits per ring is 10. More on scores later.

Now you are ready for the second target. Lift the fly off the ground or water and begin false casting again over the second target. Adjust your line by stripping out more line from the reel and letting it feed through the guides. If you let out too much line, strip some in. When you think the fly will land in the center of the target, make your forward cast (presentation) and drop the fly into the target. If you miss, you will have to add more demerits to your score.

Now proceed to the third target, fourth and fifth target. After you cast the fifth target, lift the line off the surface and continue to false cast and at the same time strip in line to shorten your cast for the closest target. Repeat the procedure (cast another round of five targets) so that you cast a total of ten times (twice at each target).

In actual tournaments there are other demerits: the most important one is that your fly doesn't strike the surface in front of you ("tick") while false casting. If it does, you get three demerits for each tick.

If you are using a very short or very light fly rod, you might have trouble reaching the long target (45 to 50 feet). Hitting the far target is not easy with any fly rod. If such is the case, bring in the long target five or more feet closer and adjust the others accordingly.

YOUR SCORE: Why bother to keep score? Because it measures your progress. Keep track of your scores in a little notebook and as you continue to practice you will notice improvement after several weeks.

What's a good score for fly fishers? Let me give you an arbitrary rating:

    Under 50: You need to learn or review fly-casting basics. Perhaps you haven't been fly casting for a long time? Brush up on your casting stroke and mechanics and try again.

    50 to 65: Hey it's a good start! You'll notice improvement very quickly as you continue to practice.

    66 to 75: You've got the basics down fairly well. Practice, practice practice.

    76 to 85: You're casting very well! Good mechanics. Good eye-and-hand coordination.

    86 to 95: I bet you're the best caster in your fishing group and catch a lot of trout. I thought so. Continue to practice so you can move up to the "super elite" class.

    96 to 100 (Super Elite Class): You should enter the ACA National Casting Tournament! You're among the top 1 percent of fly casters in the world! I need you to help me with my casting.

HOW DOES THIS DRY FLY EVENT HELP OUR FISHING? Obviously fly-casting accuracy is the most important goal. Wouldn't it be great if you could come close to your target area when fishing a stream, pond or lake? While accurate casting is an advantage for nearly every species that will take a fly, it's very important in most stream trout fishing. On some brown trout waters, it is essential! When you practice casting at the targets visualize a big trout underneath it. It helps to play mind games.

But there are other lessons to be learned from this event. The ability to strip and adjust line while false casting without ticking the surface is very important. Most inexperienced casters lengthen their line by casting on the water: they make a cast, lift up the line, and make another cast on the water, and they repeat this until they reach the target. Forget it! Most wary brown trout are long gone, especially if you "rip" the line from the surface instead of lifting it quietly with each "measuring" cast.

You will also learn to judge the distance of the fly as it swirls back and forth during false casting. This is vital when you are lengthening your line via false casting in order to reach a feeding trout.

You will find out the best way of letting out or taking in line is to run it under your index finger of your casting hand.

It's best to practice on water not only because you can see where the fly lands better, but because you want the fly to land softly on the water. In tournament competition, if your fly sinks on a cast you receive three demerits and you're not allowed to put a floatant on the fly.

Some experienced tournament fly casters put more power on the final forward cast but mentally aim it about a couple of feet above the target. This cushions the cast and allows the fly lands softly.

Brown trout in clear waters are very difficult to fool and require delicate, accurate presentations. This is where the Dry Fly Event comes in handy.

HOW TO MAKE THIS MORE FUN: First you want to keep track of your scores. By practicing often you will notice improvement on a continuing basis. Use my arbitrary scoring system above and move from one level to another. This will fuel your enthusiasm for more practice. The Dry Fly Event ensures that good fly-casting basics are used. Simply put, you're not going to score well if: (1) you have a poor back cast; (2) your rod tip travels in several planes; (3) your loop is too wide; or, any of the other gremlins your casting instructor or fly-casting book or video warned you about.

How about getting your fishing buddies involved? Or if you belong to a Trout Unlimited chapter or any other club where there are a few fly fishermen, why not hold a casting tournament? If you are a fly shop owner why not offer periodic casting tournaments with some nice prizes or awards for your customers or potential customers?

Why not teach your teenage daughter or son the fundamentals of casting and have some friendly family competition? What a perfect way to bond in a world that desperately needs family values.

That's it for this week. Now practice! ~ Jim C. Chapralis

Next Week: The Trout Fly Event (where you practice your roll-casting, wet fly along with the dry fly portion).

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 www.AnglingMatters.com

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