I see it all the time. I mean being ill-prepared for your upcoming trip abroad, specially regarding the proper casting technique to match the challenge ahead. And I have been guilty of it more times than I would like to admit. Frustration —highly aggravated by a depleted bank account— awaits ahead.
So train your casting regularly, starting way before the trip of your dreams begins. Mine is less than a month away. To New Zealand. Probably one of the trips of my lifetime, so I am training as much as I can, not as much as I’d like though.
Anyway it is very true that casting is just one of the array of skills that a successful angler must posses. So, apart from the casting practice, I thought it was time to reread my own notes about some common mistakes and pitfalls, in order to keep them in my subconscious mind when on the water… then adding some more that have been coming to my head after the season was over. Here they are:
- Check your surroundings, specially up and behind you before starting to cast. Trees don’t need more decoration, they are beautiful as such.
- Oval casts are great for heavy nymphs… but also for casting any kind of fly in confined spaces. They help in keeping your fly box well stuffed: it is always better to snag a branch at head height than five meters above you.
- Take fly drag as a given, and act accordingly. Always.
- Having that point above in mind, don’t expect to fix with your line already on the water what you didn’t devise while it still was in the air.
- The ever shortening tippet: every change of fly changes the drifting characteristics of your leader. Take it into account as well when thinking of drag. And don’t be lazy.
- Learn to discern hidden drag. Many times the difference between a bad and a good drift is really minute.
- Change position, casting tactics or both before changing fly.
- When in doubt pull, it could be a fish, even The Fish. This is pretty evident with nymphs and streamers (I keep some painful memories of that), but even the disappearance of that dry fly, apparently sucked in by a small swirl, could be the telltale of a different story.
Maybe it is a problem of lack of recruitment, or that every new angler is focused from the start in fishing nymphs without a fly line -most probably both- but over here it is a fact that most of those interested in casting instruction have already been fly fishing for a number of years. They just hadn’t cared about polishing their casting skills. They are what we call “false beginners”.
It is known that deeply ingrained bad casting form is very hard to uproot. It is far easier to get quick, good results with those who start their fly fishing careers taking some casting classes.
Being a self-taught angler puts you in a similar scenario. I know it from experience. Seeing myself repeating the same frustrating mistakes over and over again forced a decision: I won’t forget about those bad habits as soon as I leave the water, only to face them again the next day; I will take my time remembering those bad moves, will reflect on them, and will start an unlearning program.
The season is over, so it looks like a good time to put down a list of those bad moves I have been guilty of perpetrating over the years. Some are already eradicated; others still bring swearing to my mouth from time to time.
- All anglers know that fish seem to have a strange predilection for the opposite bank… Just be aware that your own bank is the opposite one of someone else, and may hold as much fish as that in front. So do look purposefully before entering the water; a big wake running away will remind you of this if you don’t.
- Trout always look upstream, the problem is that upstream doesn’t always mean upriver. Analyze the current’s real direction before making your first cast.
- Cast to specific targets. Always. Even when just fishing the water.
- When your fly drifts over the target, study the curved configuration of the line on the water. That is the radiography of dragging disease.
- Think of fly drag before thinking of fly change.
- Always check every knot after changing a fly.
- Never lose sight of the drift of your fly. If you need to fix something in your tackle remove your fly from the water. Lack of focus equals missed fish. Maybe The Fish.
- If you are tired and feel unmotivated stop fishing. Take a break. A nap. Have a beer or two. Whatever. Lack of focus equals missed fish. Maybe The Fish.
- Slack line is a must for a drag-free drift, but make sure that it doesn’t compromise your ability to strike effectively.
- If you shift from a short rod to a long one, keep in mind that the same arm motion when striking will probably be too much for your thin tippet.
- If after days of fishing #22 emergers on a 7X tippet you change to a big streamer on a stout leader, remember that they invented the strip strike to put it to use. Unless you want to miss the trout of your lifetime, of course, (based on, very recent, actual events).
- When playing a fish stand with your feet touching each other. I managed to break the tip of a new rod when a trout changed its mind, deciding that running downstream through a perfect channel between my legs was much more relaxing than fighting the current.
- Last but not least: During a feeding frenzy… Don’t eat! 😃