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The Dry-Fly EventThe Dry-Fly EventWhy we need to practiceGround rules and targetsThe Dry-Fly EventThe Trout-Fly EventThe Bass Bug EventThe Angler's Distance Fly EventThe Single-Handed Distance Fly Casting EventWhy we need to practiceGround rules and targetsThe Dry-Fly eventThe Trout-Fly EventThe Bass Bug EventThe Angler's Distance Fly Event

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LESSON ONE: Why we need to practice

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Except in still fishing, jigging or trolling, casting skill is the most important determining factor in fishing success. This is especially true in fly fishing.

You can obtain the best fly-fishing gear money can buy, reserve prime time at a famous trout river, but if you are a poor caster, your results will suffer.

Suppose you're on a Montana blue-ribbon trout stream and your guide points out a big brown. You know, the kind that has spots almost as large as a dime?

Even the guide is excited as he whispers his strategy: "Ya gotta put that fly about five feet above him, in his feeding lane. Don't cast over him 'cuz he'll spook. If you cast too far ahead of him, you'll have drag. He's a big fella, I'll tell ya. And don't slap the fly down hard."

Geez! So there you are. Waist deep in the river. The big trout is sipping flies methodically. Slurp. Pause. Slurp. Pause. Pause. Slurp!

You paid $590 for that graphite rod, the one that's shaking in your trembling hand, two hundred bucks for the fly reel, and hundreds of dollars for lines, flies, waders and other incidentals. And, of course, there are lodge expenses, the airline tickets, and the guide. A small fortune.

Your guide is watching you closely as you lengthen your cast. The moment of truth.

You.

The fish.

The quivering rod.

The trout.

The big trout. Perhaps a "lifetime trout."

Can you make that cast? Will your cast land too short? Will you dump that leader like a batch of cooked spaghetti on the trout's head?

Maybe you'll make that perfect cast, and the fish will rise to the fly. Maybe.

Perhaps you're in the Keys and your guide spots a tarpon about 80 feet away. The wind is blowing the wrong way (it always is, at critical times). You will need to double haul, and maybe with only one false cast make a 70- to 80-foot cast. Not easy.

Will you be able to make that cast?

Or let's magically place you on a pristine bonefish flat in the Bahamas. Zoom! You're there! Perfect conditions. You've spotted a big bone tailing, but no matter how much ooomph you put into the cast you're 10-15 feet short. You move up closer. And closer. Your cast is still short. But the fish is still tailing. Just a little closer. And the fish spooks!

Or you're on a bass lake. A largemouth just fed voraciously under that overhanging oak. It must have captured a frog, out for a little afternoon swim, or something that fell from the tree. Big fish, too. You need to get that bass bug just under those branches, and if you do, you know you'll be rewarded with a vicious strike.

Can you make that cast? Or will you hang up?

This is not going to be a how-to-cast department. Thankfully, there are lots of great books on casting. By Joan Wulff, Lefty Kreh, Mel Krieger and Jason Borger just to name a few. Video tapes, too.

There are hundreds--perhaps thousands-of fly-casting schools across the country. Tackle manufacturers, fly shops and qualified individuals regularly conduct these schools.

A lot of people go to these casting seminars, and most learn to cast well enough to catch some fish, and a few attentive students master the casting technique quickly.

But most of us, put away that fly rod until the next fishing trip, which may be months away, and learned lessons, casting stroke, timing and narrow loops dissolve into a hazy memory. "Geez, did Bob tell me to stop the rod here or there? Thumb on top of the grip. Right? Do I cast with my wrist?" Forgotten lessons.

The answer is practice. This holds true for some veteran fly fishermen, most intermediate anglers and all novice fly casters.

Practice. Practice. Practice.

It's natural that after you've learned to cast you want to go fishing. You don't want to practice. Practice is boring, you say. It's like having to practice music scales when instead you want to play Bach or Beethoven. Or Brubeck or Basie.

My job here is to make "practice casting" so interesting that you'll want to practice often. Whenever you have some spare time.

Okay, down the line, I'm talking about tournament casting. Hey, hold on . . . don't click me off. You don't have to compete in tournaments (although some of you may want to later on when those competitive juices start flowing). I'm talking about making casting practice so much fun, so challenging, that you not only develop good casting skill (so that next time you can make that cast to that brown on the Montana stream, or reach that tarpon on the flats), but actually look forward to your next session with enthusiasm.

What is great, is that you can do your target and distance casting practice almost anywhere, and it will only cost you a few dollars total. Every time you stop to sock a bucket of golf balls it costs money. Every time you shoot clay targets it costs money. Right? Not so in casting. In addition to your tackle that you already own, the practice casting materials will cost you $14.87. Less if you want to make them yourself.

Remember. Much of the fun of fly fishing for trout is the actual fly casting. I once computed that our small fishing club made 187 casts per person for each trout he rose (most of our fishing is "blind"). Doesn't it make sense then that you should enjoy your fly casting while fishing to a point where it is almost a reward in itself? The more you become skilled at fly casting, the more you're going to enjoy fly fishing. And catch more fish.

Next Lesson: Ground rules and targets.

Stay tuned!- Jim C. Chapralis

Note: We'll start out with fly fishing accuracy and distance practice sessions and later we'll add plug casting and spinning.

Please also note that a variation of these practice lessons by Jim C. Chapralis first appeared on www.flyanglersonline.com (a fantastic fly fishing site, by the way).

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