Straight Talk about Casting

I was in a big name fly fishing company’s shop the other day and I noticed on the counter an expensive fly rod laying there surrounded by a few leaders and some fly line.  The customer making the purchase walked up and laid a very high end reel on the counter by the rod.  I couldn’t resist.

“You taking a trip somewhere?”


“Oh man, that’s great, I would love to make it to Belize some day.  This your first trip?”

“Yes, I’m very excited.  It’s gonna be great.” Then the customer started to turn around looking like he had forgotten something.  “Oh, I need a reel case I guess.”

The clerk piped up and said “No, there’s a case that comes with the reel.”

That last question told me that this was not just his first trip to Belize, this was obviously his first fly fishing trip or he would have known when you buy a $500 reel, you get a case.  Heck, when you buy a $50 reel you get a case.

I stood there wondering and pretty well knowing that this gentleman’s casting was probably not up to the task, but I am sure he will catch some fish.  As so many people I have seen return from a “fly fishing” trip show me their pics but admit that they used a spinning rod that the guide “just happened” to have in the boat “in case it’s windy.”

Please don’t consider what I am about to say as apostasy of the teachings of current and past fly casting teachers, instructors or their organizations. I adhere to all of what they teach and I read their books and watch their videos. I have Bill Gammel’s “Five Essentials” on my fingertips and I know just about every great caster’s name and what they’re famous for.  I owe a great deal to them.  I’ve learned a lot from them and I pay close attention to everything they say.  Though styles may differ I always see the basics in each and every good caster.  That said, I will say that the casting instruction is all geared largely to trout.

I have been dutifully learning as many casts as I can and I try to perfect them.  I’ve learned a lot about single hand spey casting, roll casting, dynamic roll casting, snake rolls etc etc.  Unfortunately very little of that will be applicable to my saltwater casting. Try roll casting, snake rolling, or dynamic roll casting in still water with giant, heavy flies.   I tease one of my guides about his popper he makes for Jack Crevalle by calling it “The Chicken”.   It’s big, white and has a lot feathers.  You won’t see anyone spey casting with that sucker.

For my upcoming trips I have been practicing what I WILL  be doing, using my stripping bucket and system,  distance casting, casting with big flies, picking up big poppers off the water, casting in the wind, quick casting, and tight line or Belgian casting to emulate quickly getting off second, third, and fourth shots at fast moving fish.

When I see an instructor at a show talk about saltwater they usually mention just two things, tight loops cutting through the wind and saltwater quick cast.  They might mention off-shoulder casting.  That’s about it.  NEVER have I seen a show instructor use a stripping bucket, so obviously no instruction there.  Line management might get a mention.  Almost always the “wet towel” gets a mention, insert audible groan here.

So let’s talk about that ubiquitous spinning rod. Recently I saw a commie rod in the background of a buddy’s fish pic. When I mentioned it, my buddy said “Yeah, the guide said he was bringing it for insurance”.   So, does the fact the guide brings it on the boat for “insurance”,  mean its the better tool, and fly fishing is just pretty or faddish?   No, let me bring up a few points here  In the hands of the right person a flyrod can:

  • Make a delicate presentation
  • Correct an inaccurate cast in a about a second.
  • Make multiple casts one after the other to running or spooked fish
  • Cast to a hole in vegetation without getting hung up

Yes, in the hands of an experienced caster the flyrod is the right tool.  And it generally takes some time invested to do well catching fish with a flyrod.   As a rule I don’t post pics of commie rod caught fish, though I am more than willing to hand out a “nice fish”.   I don’t hold a grudge, its just that I flyfish, I write about fly fishing, I don’t use anything but a flyrod.

If my guide has a spinning rod on the boat it will be to tease fish to the boat because he knows I won’t be using it, no matter how windy it is.


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