Improve Your Catching!

July 1st, 2002

Target and Distance Casting Practice Seminar
Lesson Six
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 SIX: The Angler's Distance Fly Event

To review: Okay, we've practiced casting to targets, and hopefully we've had a chance to make some accurate casts to fish, too. Good! Now we're going to advance to the distance events. While accurate casting is the more important factor in fishing success, we've all experienced times when we needed to cast an extra ten feet or more to reach a feeding trout, a tailing bonefish or a bass tearing up a school of fleeing minnows. Putting extra muscle into the cast isn't going to do it, if the timing is missing.

A lot of anglers can cast 45 to 50 feet without employing the single - or double-haul casting technique. If you want to make longer casts or if you want to make 50 - to 70-foot casts with less effort and more grace you must learn to double haul.

This week we're going to analyze and practice the Angler's Distance Fly Event. You may want to take an advance casting course-one that heavily concentrates on the double haul and is taught by an experienced double-haul instructor-or you may want to study books and videos by Joan Wulff, Mel Krieger, Lefty Kreh and others. I have found that James Castwell's double-haul animations are also a fantastic learning tool. For distance casting, study J.C.'s excellent mechanics and delivery. While everyone eventually develops his own stroke, the basic principles are similar. Narrow loop, line speed, timing and trajectory.

As I've explained previously, this is not a how-to-cast seminar; instead, it is a symposium that hopefully will to get you to practice more and to make practicing fun to a point where you look forward to it.

THE TACKLE: If you're fishing a brushy stream or a small river you're not going to need very long casts and a No. 3 to 5 fly rod is fine. But if you are going to fish a big steelhead or salmon river, or bonefish flats, or chuck a fly at a tarpon some distance away, you will be using a heavier rod. This event is designed for heavier tackle. Also the accompanying suggested equipment conforms closely to the American Casting Association (ACA) tournament rules, and I know that some of you will enjoy these events and eventually will compete in tournaments. Bear in mind, you can use just about any equipment except the most delicate, light fly rod for this event, but again I suggest you try to come close to the following gear:

The Rod: A 9-ft., graphite calibrated for a No. 10 shooting head is ideal.

The Reel: A single-action fly reel that has sufficient capacity.

The Line: This gets a little tricky. You want a shooting head (No. 10) between 28 and 31 feet in length that weighs no more than 310 grains.

The Running Line: Use a monofilament that's .015" in diameter or thicker.

The Leader: Nine to 12 ft. leader tied from hard or stiff mono that tapers from .026" to about .014."

The Fly: Attach a brightly colored No. 10 or 12 fly (but be sure to remove the barb and point for practice) or simply tie on a small piece of yarn.

Chris Korich displays perfect casting technique, timing and coordination at a national distance fly casting championship. In actual fishing, the casting motion is of course less vigorous, but the technique and timing is the same.


This event is best practiced on land. It's easier to pick up the line off the grass and you can easily measure your casts. Today, most distance casting tournaments are held on athletic fields.

TARGETS: None. This is a distance event. You need to make a distance measuring device of sorts, unless you happen to own a 150-ft tape. Here's an easy way to do it. Take an old fishing reel with at least 150 feet of 15 - or 20-pound monofilament. Carefully measure out 75 feet, tie in a piece of colored yarn with a loop knot at that spot. Then measure out another 25 feet (the 100-foot mark) and put a different color yarn. Do this again at 125 feet. If you feel very confident and are a very skilled caster, tie one on at 150 feet! Good for you!

Before you begin to practice your distance for measurement, stretch out the measuring line and place visible markers at each increment (75, 100, 125 or more feet). A marker can be just about anything that's visible: colored cloth, sticks into the ground, or even your hula-hoop targets that you've used for accuracy.

You need one more thing: A simple scorecard. Record your longest casts every time you practice so that you can gauge your day-to-day improvement. Before casting distance, limber up a bit with a few short and easy casts or do some stretching exercises.

HOW TO CAST THE ANGLER'S DISTANCE FLY EVENT: Nothing complicated here. Step right up ladies and gentlemen and let 'er rip!!!

Okay, okay. So you got the line tangled around your neck, and you tried to put too much oomph into your cast. Let's back off a bit. Let's take it e-a-s-y.

Long Line DH

First, you need to know the double haul. You must understand the principle of the double haul in order to attain distance. And you must practice it. You can practice the double-haul casting motion even without a rod or reel and expert casters often recommend it. Kids practice "air guitar," right? Here's what I suggest. Above you see James Castwell executing the double haul for distance. While watching him on the computer imitate the hand and arm motion. That's it. Nice going. And remember his Keepyst Thynne Backcast Upeth. Aren't these computers wonderful? (Hint: Don't practice "air casting" in a supermarket, or during intermission at a concert, or while listening to a less-than-inspiring sermon. Not everyone understands the double-haul motion or what it's for. If you insist on practicing the motion in public, take along the butt section of an old fly rod. People will then know that you're a fisherman and not pay any further attention to you.)

Back to casting. You will note that the shooting head must be beyond the rod tip (known as "overhang") during your false casts, and this takes a little experimentation. If you have about a foot of line beyond your extreme pull on the double haul, that's a good starting point. You may have to let out a little line or take some in. It takes adjustment and competent casters may disagree as to the exact amount of overhang.

You will find that the narrow loop, timing, trajectory and equipment determine the distances, but wind conditions are also very important. Even a light breeze can alter your distance positively or negatively.

Unless you are a very experienced caster take your time and don't try to throw the cast into the next zip code. Work on timing, on comfort and not hitting yourself on the cast. Work on preventing tailing leaders.

I don't know why it is, my friends, but it seems that an angler may spend hours developing a golf swing or putting, or working on an explosive serve on the tennis court, or shooting clay targets, but, for some incomprehensible reason, many feel that casting shouldn't require much practice and should almost be a birthright! Not so. Casting requires as much practice as learning to hit a baseball, playing the piano or any number of thousands of activities. The more you practice intelligently, the better you become. Oh, you'll have your good days, and the bad ones, too, but practice develops consistently.

So you practice and practice, and maybe you've become a little discouraged at times, but you listen to what I've preached ad naseum and practice some more. Keep it up. One day, soon, you're going to get off that cast that just sails and sails, and goes so far that it will give you such a high, that you will always remember that cast. That is, until you make a better, longer cast.

Keep track of your scores and you'll notice the improvement. Your improvement will fuel the desire. After you warm up, don't make more than five minutes of uninterrupted distance casting as it is very tiring on certain muscles and you will slip into bad casting habits. Suggested schedule: Five minutes of vigorous distance casting, relax for ten, than another five minutes of practice, then go home and drink a glass of orange juice and tie flies or whatever.

What is great about this casting game is that you can practice it just about anywhere and at any age unless you are physically challenged in later life. There are guys in their high 70s and maybe lower 80s who can cast further than some of the experts half their age and twice as strong. Why is that? Because they understand the principles of the casting and timing and continue to practice.

WHAT ABOUT DISTANCES: Again this is subjective, but here are some benchmarks:

    60-70 feet or less: Good going. It's a start.

    70 to 90 feet: Consider yourself a fairly good caster (you are throwing a heavy shooting head which, for some people, is harder to cast than a lighter outfit with a standard fly line).

    90 to 110 feet: You've learned the double haul well and with more practice can develop into a very good distance caster.

    110 to 125 feet: Superb. With a few tips (which we'll provide in a future article) you could move up into the next bracket.

    125 or 140 feet: See what I mean about getting a high when you uncork a long cast! Great isn't it? You bet.

    140 or more feet: Okay, okay you're a tournament caster and you came to these pages accidentally. If you aren't a tournament caster, you're one heckuva good caster and definitely ACA National Casting Championship material!

Stu Apte (on left) has never competed in a National Casting Tournament but is a very strong distance caster who delivers a tarpon fly quickly and accurately. He obviously uses the double-haul technique.

WHAT DISTANCES DO THE "BIG BOYS" CAST IN THIS EVENT? Steve Rajeff (in my opinion, the world's best all-round caster ever), cast 183 feet in the 2000 National tournament; Tom Gong, a senior caster (over 60 years old) cast 163 feet while Alice Gillibert threw a fly 134 feet to win the Ladies Division.

What's amazing about these scores is that the average fisherman has no idea of how far he is casting. Unless they actually measure the distance with a tape, most anglers greatly overestimate the casting distance beyond 80 feet. Secondly, the distances are determined where the fly lands and not how much line goes through the guides. Often a caster can get 150 feet of line (head and shooting line) beyond the rod tip, but the end of fly line and the long leader do not straighten out and may fall back 20 feet or more. Result? Perhaps a 130-foot cast.

HOW DOES THIS EVENT RELATE TO FISHING: Easy. Any time a longer than normal cast is necessary. In addition to the above-mentioned steelhead, salmon, bonefish and tarpon fishing, this event teaches us how to apply line speed, develop the double haul and timing so necessary to deliver bulkier fly patterns, bass bugs and other air-resistant lures to farther destinations. Furthermore, it's fun. When that line goes and goes and goes, and you've just made the longest cast of your life, you are awe struck. That is, until the next week or the following month. . .when you make an even longer cast.

NEXT WEEK: We look at the Single-Hand Fly Casting Event--where some of the fellas cast a fly more than 200 feet! Hey, we're talking more than two-thirds of a football field. Stay tuned.

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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