Updated: Jan 17
Of course every fly angler wants that beautiful "River Runs Through It" cast. The long, smooth release of the fly rod into the waters above an amazing stream in Montana. Of course that is the goal, and usually takes years of practice to achieve. Bad habits are a lot easier to develop over short periods of time, and not everyone gets to fish often enough to stay consistent.
Setting side time to fly fish, much less just cast is hard, I get it. But I'd argue that spending a little time to practice casting will do a lot more to maximize your opportunities when fishing. Presentation is everything, and the smaller streams of the area can make that very challenging. Getting the fly on the water correctly is only half the battle when surrounded by rhododendrons and laurel bushes. Here in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia we go from tiny mountain streams to larger rivers and all kinds of casts are required. It makes you quickly aware that you aren't on the wide open streams of Montana. Being creative with your casts and understanding different angles and techniques will get you in better positions to catch more fish. Below are a few ways that you can practice in just 10-15 minutes without being on the stream:
1) Get a beach towel and fold it in half or a hula hoop. Start at 20 feet away and try to land the end of your fly line on it. Once you get that well start turning your wrist out to see what other angles you can consistently accomplish. Casting over you opposite shoulder is always good to practice as well. You will eventually be able to cast in a 180 degree range. Go for accuracy before adding distance.
2) Try the same casting while kneeling or crouching. You can give yourself targets under trees or next to bushes. Put yourself underneath a tree. Move the hula hoop or towels and see how hard you can make it on yourself. Once you realize how you can load the rod in smaller places you'll get caught up a lot less when on the stream.
3) If you have a pool or a pond nearby really try to establish a good, solid roll cast. The best thing about this cast is the line never comes off the water behind you so there is no chance to get stuck in trees or bushes if you do it properly. This cast is really important for fishing tight cover and small streams. Again, try crouching or kneeling to simulate stream conditions. The most important thing about this cast is to completely stop the rod tip before rolling it forward.
Distance is not what you should be going for at first. Double hauling, bow and arrow casts, loading roll casts are all things you can build on when you have a good, solid casting stroke down. You have your best chance of catching that fish on the first few casts so its more important that you have the accuracy and right approach. If you are struggling many local fly shops offer casting lessons and they can usually get you back on the right path quickly.