Anyone marginally interested in the casting world tends to regard fly casting and distance casting as synonyms. It is the same in fly fishing shows: anglers trying bunches of new rod models with their eyes fixed in the far end of the casting pond; it doesn’t make any difference if they are holding a 9’#9 devised for bonefish in the flats or a 8’6″#4 destined to spring creek finesse. I can’t blame them, in the end most of the visual material available on the net is about putting a fluff as far as possible.
What I did never get is why devoted casters and instructors (specially if they are river trout anglers) promote that very same connection.
I can’t think of a more harmful approach for the development of fly casting, at least in Spain. The river “trouter” doesn’t see distance casting as a problem solver for everyday issues presenting a fly, and though I agree that being proficient at long distances makes controlling the line at medium range much easier, that is a relationship that isn’t at all evident to fly fishers.
As you may suppose by now I am not a distance caster; take it as a mild way of saying that I am crap at putting a fly really far away. In my view two fundamental elements pave the way to becoming a distance expert: a single family house and a big garden outside; I lack both of them. The possibility of keeping a rigged rod behind the door at all times helps a lot. Practice makes perfect and for getting your fly thirty plus meters away you need a lot of it!
I have my training lawn at 35 minutes from home, which means more than an hour just to get there and back; add some substantial time for the actual practice and the result is that my opportunities for training aren’t many. But even having a practice field close to my house I doubt I’d be much better in the distance game. No that I wouldn’t be very happy reaching astronomical distances, but spare time is limited and I prefer to spend it improving drag-free drift techniques, which, when looking for real proficiency, are as time consuming as distance itself but much more in tune with the kind of fishing I practice the most.
Have I missed being a good distance caster when fishing? Of course I have! Baltic pike and Patagonia sea-run brown trout come to mind. But I have lost count of how many times I have missed the ability of getting a perfect drift of my fly in the maze of micro-currents of my favorite fishing venues.
Around a year ago I was mentoring a candidate for the IFFF CCI title. After months of in-depth looking at the theoretical test it came the day to check for weaknesses in the practical part. The first tasks on loop control were good. Then I asked for the Reach Cast (or a Reach Mend by the current IFFF standards). He barely moved the rod tip sideways as without any purpose, resulting in a very poor line configuration on the ground, try after try.
“You have to make each cast with authority not only for the examiners to see but when fishing as well” I said.
Then an idea started turning around inside my head.
“Do you know what the practical uses for the Reach are? I asked.
“Practical uses? I thought it was an exercise, something for the examiner to check if you have a good control of the line!” He replied.
Amazing! I can’t think of a single day on the river not sending dozens of Reachs out there, and there I was with a would-be casting instructor who didn’t have a clue about one of the most practical fishing casts available!
Of course he was very good at sending the fly thirty plus meters away.
In my opinion this shows that we, casting instructors, are approaching things in a wrong way. For instance, the invention of “trick casts” intended just for showing off doesn’t exactly help in reconciling -in the eyes of the fishing community- casting with fishing as the two sides of the same coin they actually are.
So here we go with some dry fly downstream drag-free presentations by master angler Zeljko Prpic: