Reviewed by David (and Aubrey) Shumway
Some of you may remember the post found in
early May of 2005 on the 'Things Wanted' board
titled, "Job opening, kinda". For those of you
that don't, let me refresh your memory. In the
post, J Castwell requested that those of us with
little or no fly casting experience, reply and
tell him why we should be selected to receive a
free book on casting. The catch being that if
you were selected for the project, you had to
follow the book's instructions, and then write
a review of the book and your experience. Aubrey
(my nine-year-old daughter) and I were selected
for the project, and what follows is our end of
I spoke with JC regarding the project before
receiving the book in the mail, and he was
about as closed lip as he could be. No
expectations, no deadlines. All he told me
was "have fun" and "do with it what you would
have done if your local fly shop gave it to you
for being a good customer." I was then left to
wait for the book, and ponder what I had gotten
Aubrey and I into.
Master the Cast, Fly-casting in Seven Lessons,
by George V. Roberts Jr., and published by Ragged
Mountain Press arrived a few days later. I
immediately scanned the table of contents,
read the Acknowledgements and Introduction.
In the Introduction the author has a sub-title
concerning equipment, and recommends that "you
use an 8 1/2- or 9-foot rod that is balanced
with a 5- or 6-weight floating weight-forward
or triangle taper fly line." He further states,
"The fly line should be rigged with a 9-foot
tapered monofilament leader, to the end of which
is tied a small tuft of fluorescent package yarn.
As you attempt the lawn-casting exercises in lesson
7, you may wish to use a bit heavier outfit, such
as an 8- or 9- weight rod, which will allow you
to handle a longer line a bit easier."
Upon reading this, my immediate thought was "Uh-oh".
I was not about to go out and purchase new equipment.
So all of our learning would have to take place
with the equipment Aubrey and I already had,
which is much lighter than that recommended by
the author. As a matter of reference for all
of you reading this, Aubrey has a 5'9" 4-weight
rod, with a 4-weight floating weight-forward fly
line. I have a 9'0" 3-weight rod, with a 3-weight
floating double taper fly line. Aubrey used a
leader that was about 7' in length, and I used
the recommended leader length of 9 feet. We both
had the recommended tuft of yarn. I don't know if
any of that really matters, but at least you can
decide for yourself if there were any handicaps
or advantages we had in learning due to our equipment.
The book is separated into two parts. As you can
probably guess they are: Part 1 and Part 2. Part
1 deals with the mechanics of casting and explains
what is supposed to happen in the casting stroke
and why. This section of the book provides
information on loading and unloading a rod, loop
formation, and types of loops. Arm mechanics are
covered, and the author provides information on a
proper grip and a proper closed-stance.
While the content of Part 1 is well above the
level of understanding for Aubrey, I had no
trouble in understanding the information presented
there, even if I didn't find the writing to be
particularly engaging. It's written in simple
terms, and provides enough information to keep
you somewhat interested. It is also brief enough
that you can get through it before uncontrollably
skipping ahead to Part 2, which is why you'd really
buy the book in the first place. For me, Part 1
held a pearl of wisdom that made reading it worthwhile:
"All good fly casts begin slowly." This may be
painfully obvious to some of you, but for me it was
like a revelation, and proved to be extremely valuable
in our learning process. You'll have to read the book
to fully understand the context and value of the
statement. But it may be the most important concept
I learned from the book to improve our casting.
Part 2 contains the seven lessons and an additional
"Advanced Lesson" on hauling. The seven lessons
presented in this section are titled: The Roll Cast;
The Pick-Up-and-Lay-Down Cast; False-Casting;
Shooting Line; Casting in All Planes; Drift and
Follow-Through; and Off Vertical Casting from the
The author has a small introductory paragraph to
Part 2, where-in he states, "In my ideal world,
every student would be required to master each
lesson completely before being allowed to move
on to the next, and would be able to cast a long
line without hauling before being allowed to haul.
But that is simply unrealistic."
Unrealistic or not, I wanted Aubrey and I to
try and adhere to that ideal as much as possible.
Then I realized that we have no one to tell us
whether any lesson is actually "mastered," and
that we are allowed to move on. So we simply
moved on when I felt like we could adequately
perform the required task, even though I highly
doubt you would have considered any of them
After reading the first lesson it became clear
to me that lawn casting wasn't going to cut it.
(The learning not the lawn.) So one bright
morning Aubrey and I walked to a community pond
about two blocks from our home, to see if George's
first lesson was worth anything. Before I go any
further, let me say, I have never executed a roll
cast, (which is Lesson 1) and prior to this Aubrey
had never been near water with a fly rod in her hand.
Part 2's narrative takes you step by step
through the motion and mechanics of each
lesson, and is probably about as clear as
any author could make it. Again it is
written in simple language, and the reader
is able to follow the process in a linear,
chronological order. In other words, the
reader is told, first you do this, then you
do this, and so on. Even Aubrey was able to
understand much of the narrative's directions.
But the addition of pictures and illustrations
provided necessary visual information for us
to truly understand what we were supposed to
be able to do, how to do it, and the expected
end result. We both found the pictures and
illustrations to be invaluable to our
understanding of the text.
On our first lesson, I wanted to see if Aubrey
could accomplish the task before us, solely on
the instruction contained in the book and not
by mimicking me. My plan was to provide her
with the information I had learned from the book,
and then let her execute it. So when we got to
the pond, my rod wasn't even lined up. Aubrey
listened to the information I gave her, (much of
which I read right out of the book) asked a few
clarifying questions, peeked at a picture or two,
and then gave it a try. It wasn't perfect. In
fact, it wasn't even a cast. But after a small
change here and a correction there...well, my rod
couldn't get lined up quick enough. I had to see
if I could do it too. We spent about half an hour
or so then, and at least that much time each of the
next few days practicing our newfound roll casting
skill. If we spent more time than that in a single
session, we seemed to digress, especially Aubrey.
Her arm muscles just wouldn't last any longer. We
found that repeated short practice sessions were
much more productive than longer ones, both for her
and I. They were also more fun. In our down time,
I read the next lesson with great excitement and
anticipation for what was still to come.
Each successive lesson in the book builds to one
extent or another on the preceding one, with the
author pointing out that the first two lessons
are the most important. He claims that "Anyone
who has truly mastered the roll cast and the
pick-up-and-lay-down cast can do virtually anything
with a fly rod." So that is really what Aubrey and
I set out to do, and we came back to these two
lessons repeatedly. I don't know about being
able to "do virtually anything with a fly rod,"
but they certainly provided a foundation for all
of the other skills we learned.
The book is written and edited well, simple to
follow, and has enough pictures and illustrations
to clarify things that are easier seen than told.
Each lesson is thorough enough to not leave the
reader wondering, but brief enough to allow the
reader to get out and apply what's been read,
without losing interest in reading more or getting
confused. The skills taught have a logical
progression, and the reader can easily gauge
their progress as they move through the book.
The book is short enough to read in a single
night or two. But like the author, I would
recommend reading a lesson at a time, and really
applying it before moving on to the next one.
In our experience, review, especially of the
first two lessons, was time well spent.
A glossary is included that explains the terms
that appear as boldface text in the narrative,
and it provides the page numbers for the first
full description of the term in the text. This
is extremely helpful to anyone just learning the
lingo, and provides a clear way of identifying
important terms to remember. A table for
troubleshooting common casting problems is also
included just prior to the index, and would be
of value to even experienced fly-fishers. This
table provides columns for the problem, cause(s)
and solution for many casting errors, and includes
the page numbers for the text dealing with the
solution. There is also a list of recommended
books and videos.
One other thing I noticed while reading the book
is, while the author is quick to use a term or
illustration coined by someone else (e.g. Joan
Wulff's "power snap") he is also quick to give
credit to the source of the term or illustration.
Personally I found this refreshing. Often an
author portrays that they "wrote the book" on
the subject, and are simply unwilling to share
the spotlight with others. Such is not the case
here, and the reader is never under the impression
that the author thinks more highly of himself than
So what didn't I like about the book? Really
nothing. I would have preferred color pictures,
instead of black and white, and some of the
pictures would have benefited from being larger.
The writing isn't particularly engaging, so it
really isn't a book that you won't be able to
put down once you begin reading it. But then
again, given the nature of the book and my
preceding comments, it really should be put
down. If for no other reason than to go and
try what you just read. So really, these are
very minor complaints, if you could even call
Did we master the cast in seven lessons? Not
yet. But I do believe that we are on our way.
Aubrey and I can now roll cast accurately with
up to 30 feet of fly-line on a consistent basis.
We can pick-up-and-lay-down-cast, false cast,
and cast in all planes. We can easily shoot 5-10
feet of line with 20 feet already in the air, and
we can add some extra distance with our drift and
follow through technique or by casting off vertical
using an open stance. A cast of 40 feet or less,
measured from our standing position to the tuft
of yarn can be consistently and accurately delivered.
These are the skills that both of us can do
effectively, efficiently, and consistently.
There are also a few skills that one of us may
be more proficient in than the other. I'm not
going to tell you which skills those are, or who
is the more proficient. Call it a family secret.
Some of our skills are already performed without
mental effort on our part, while others still
require some recall of the "steps" provided in
the book. But give us some time...and remember,
nine-year-old Aubrey is doing all of this using
a rod less than 6 feet in length, and she started
casting less than a month ago.
Like all book reviews, the question comes down
to should you buy the book or not? Obviously,
the book is designed for the beginning fly caster.
If you fit into this category, forget trying to
figure it out on your own and just go buy the book.
You won't be sorry. Those of you that know many
of the skills, but can't efficiently execute them
on a consistent basis, I'd recommend you do the
same. For all the rest of you, the book is probably
not going to teach you anything new, but could
certainly help you teach others, and may provide
some insight for your own improvement. Being a
beginner, I'm probably not the one to ascertain
the true value of this book to someone that has
mastered the cast. I also don't have a library
of books on fly-casting, so I can't compare this
book with others that deal with the same subject
But to all of you reading this, regardless of
your current casting ability, I have a warning.
Because of this book, and with a little practice,
there is a little nine-year-old girl that may
just show you how it's done.
Oh, and one other thing. Thanks for the book JC! ~ DS
Master the CastPrevious Reviews
Fly Casting in Seven Lessons
George V. Roberts Jr.
Ragged Mountain Press
Black and white illustrations and photos