Wednesday Workshop: How to get better at fishing, without fishing

Wednesday Workshop: How to get better at fishing, without fishing

Wednesday Workshop: How to get better at fishing, without fishing

We have lots of questions like “How can I get better at fishing?” Our answer is always watch more YouTube vids at work   Fish more.

But if you cannot spend the amount of days that it truly takes to get to the next level of fishing, of fly fishing, then you better focus on one thing/skill that you can improve without actually getting your fly wet.

And that is simply, casting.

You can practice casting in your yard, in a park, on a local pond, even in NYC’s Central Park. There is a place for you if you so desire.

The problem is that many do not desire to get better. And I’m OK with that. Although, when you turn to me in the boat, on the shoreline, upon failing at that 30′ dry fly cast…I have no time for you.

You have the tools to get better. And it does not require rising fish to become more accurate at a paltry 30′ man.

Having the rod in your hand for lengths of time, while not fishing, is damn important to catching more rising trout.

You can cure the ubiquitous rod tip drop, line speed issues, and certainly the accuracy problems at home. You do not have to be on the water for any of the above, and certainly the accuracy portion.

Many anglers look at me in the boat and state they are “practicing” when frothing about near rising trout. Bad idea. When you come to the river, and definitely this river, you have arrived at the show. At the event. You don’t see Tom Brady practicing his throw before the game? Nope. He is warming up. All of the practice, has been done off the field.

Having difficulty with a 30′ Accurate Cast is analogous to missing the Point After in the NFL.

The league average is 93.6% according to this Forbes article. 

So there you have it. Just like the goal posts in football, the fish we are generally casting at are stationary. In one place. Commonly they do not move an inch out fo their lane while feeding on a dead spinners post fall. Thankfully most are better at putting a golf ball into yet another stationary location. Many of us are not that proficient to placing a fly anywhere near the rising trout.

Most anglers are not good at 30′. Which is a very common, easy, and achievable distance.

So, how do we get better? Put that fly rod in your hand at least once a week. Or at least once before you come to a world class fishery during dry fly season expecting to dominate, or even put yourself on the field. If you cannot make that 30′ cast into a hula-hoop 93% of the time, you have not practiced enough. Ideally you can toss it into the size of your waistline. Again, achievable without too much work.

I, Squeeky, consider the 30′ cast to be quite easy…and ACHIEVABLE. And I can bet that Scumliner feels the same way. In fact, I believe that the majority of fly rod anglers are comfortable with that statement. Most, if not all, anglers fishing the Mo would state that they are confident in their 30′ skill set.

In the parking lot. 

On the water, in the moment, inside the dry fly trout lab…the wheels commonly fall off. The chip shot of 30′ should be something you can do in your sleep. And certainly when you can see the fish rising, see the bugs floating on the surface, see the rise form, and measure the distance with your well planned approach. Nothing in that equation is hidden! Nothing. You can see, see all of the components!

There are no excuses that work with me, and again I’m speaking for John here, in this situation. If you cannot do that in the moment, it is on you.

Not the fly, not the guide, not your brother-in-law at the oars. No excuses.

It means you are not ready for the situation. And, if you have ten minutes a week, and I would argue you do…you should nail this 93.6% of the time.

Generally fellers who tell me on the car ride to the boat ramp how many Permit they’ve caught in the Keys cannot do this very simple, and achievable, thing.

Cast a fly accurately at 30 feet.

30′ is not a lot of line. It is three rod lengths. I bet most could toss the rod almost that distance. And when you are armed with a tool that is designed for just that task, it is not a difficult ask. Include a fly line coupled with the fly pole too, to cast 30 feet…not too hard.

But, it is difficult for many dry fly anglers.

Understand me? This is a skill you need to possess when fishing. Anywhere. Not just on the Missouri River play field. Get comfortable with that distance. Practice. And practice further to? 40′ and beyond. Why not. Get good at 20′ as well. Spend 10 minutes a week on your fly cast.

10 minutes a week will increase your hooking rates exponentially

And many will tell you that. Not just central Montana fly fishing bloggers.

Get a casting instructor. Or not. Integrate precision casts into your repertoire. Spend time with your fly rod in non-pressure situations. Become one with it. Cast in the wind. With side wind. With head wind. With tail winds. With-out wind!

Many ask this question of all fly fishing full-timers/industry folks. “How can I get better without wasting my life away living on the river.” It is pretty simple. Spend time getting better while not on the water.

You, as an angler, bring high expectations when coming to the Mo. When fishing it I too have high expectations for you. Along with those expectations I assume you are comfortable with a 30′ fly cast that lands within a hula-hoop sized area. Most cannot pull that off.

It has nothing to do with time in front of rising trout. Not one iota. Not for a minute do I believe that you caught 17 permit last year if you cannot cast a fly line 30′ accurately. Nope.

Bro’. It should transfer. And the “I cast better with a 9 weight in my hand” is not believable either.

Just like cramming for that stats class you failed (me too) in college, the professor/your buddy/your fiancé/your guide/your brother-in-law, and more importantly the trout, will know you are fibbing.

This whole thing is on you, the angler. This is not something that anybody other than you has control over. You are charged with this duty.

Spend quality time with your 5 weight this off-season. Get good at casting accurately. 10 minutes a week is the correct amount of time. Or 10 minutes twice a week. What does not work is one hour the Tuesday before you come to Montana. Or during the first 27 fish you anchor up on. Your fishing buddy does not like it when you struggle either. Just means he spends more time in the back of the boat hoping that 1 of 20 casts gets near the rapidly rising trout. The hungry one.

Kick the Extra Point man. It’s right in front of you. Thrity freaking feet. Holy Cow. Didn’t you practice, off the field.

It’d be cooler if you did.

How to get better without time on the water? Easy answer. Spend time casting. At home. In the park. With friends. I love to stand around wit a couple fishing friends casting. Passing the rod back and forth trying different things. Teaching specialty casts. Learning cool line speed techniques. Talking. Sharing ideas. Casting.

That is the blog for today. Hope you make the right decisions here. Not asking for a lot. Ten minutes away from this computer will do me good too. I’m headed out right now in the snow to do some snow covered fundamentals practice casting. Just for a few minutes. Familiarity with a fly rod is a skill set that will go away from you. Quickly.

Think of your 3rd consecutive day on the water. You commonly are quite good. Confident. Learning. In a good place. Feeling great. Executing well. Catching fish. This year allow that feeling to inflate you day 1!

You hold the keys to this vehicle. You do. Get out there and do it.


Check out the video below. Missed Point After Kick in the NFL. Just like missing a chip shot at a voraciously rising Mo River trout!

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8 Comments. Leave new

  • Thanks for the read, made me think.

    I need to apologize to John, Lindsey, Eric and Ed; mostly to Ed.

    Next year I WILL hit the target 93.6% of the time, or maybe 94% and try to stay above the league average.

  • FlyFinaticLou
    December 4, 2019 5:02 pm

    How many of “us” (fly fishers) don’t live relatively close to a body of water? Don’t need be a MO; a small local river or stream or pond or lake. You never catch me tossing any $90+ fly line on any ground. If I have to “detail” why, should be common sense! How many truly feel comfortable going to the “local park,” assuming not many have a yard big enough to do the job, and toss your new or even gently used fly line onto “god knows what,” laying on it? Lucky for me, not having a lawn of my own, to be ~1/4 mile from the Little Spokane River, where I do most of my “prep work” for the coming years endeavors or brush up during “The Season of the Bite”! Full disclosure, I don’t enjoy, all the much, practicing for the sake of. Seeing as how I don’t need to Account Myself to anyone, once the Season begins I’m willing to take my chances On the Water, away from the fishy waters, and get my bearings with the rod in hand. Just how I go about it . . . not being judgmental toward anyone or any practice regimen. If it suits YOU then go and enjoy “the go” !

    • Many have practice lines Lou. And those who practice Shine on the water.

      • Honestly? That never occurred to me, nor did you mention that in the post ! I suppose, but do these same folks have “The Lawn” too? Or, are they having to take a “short” drive to a park, or . . . ? So, if that’s the case, unless they live in a desert, why not just go to that pond or . . . ?
        Next time I’m ready to buy a new fly line I may consider keeping the old one, assuming I also have a spare “old” reel . . . (just a tiny bit of sarcastic humor) but technically to be accurate, wouldn’t the New Line have to be the SAME as the Practice Line ? Not gonna use a Bank Robber WF as practice for the new HH tech. Dry Line ! I know I’m being what I’m always being . . . Thorough in my analysis . . . I’m a “nit-picker” by genetic code I suppose ! Can’t remember a time when I didn’t always Question the Teachers or anyone else IF I thought the talking points were, oh shall I say . . . not quite up to snuff ? ALL YOUR points were Logical, but you didn’t get into the sorts of “minute” things I’ve presented here for your consideration, as well. As much as the Fly Fishing Industry seems to cater to the “well-to-do” clientele, the smaller up and coming Companies are trying to keep it in balance, so folks like, say me, who save our dollars for the Rainy Day Adventure, can afford to do it. I’ve been a little blessed & a little cursed in my life . . . and still managed to save a reasonable nest egg. I’m getting off point. Point is I hope you see MY point too ! ps; I hope those that have those practice lines don’t “shine” too much . . . gonna scare those fish off down river . . . where I’ll be waiting to ambush them ! (insert smilie face)

        • Oh I’m listening Lou. It’s not complicated. An old fly line will help you on the water. You don’t have to have a real basketball and a real hoop to bet better at basketball. Just shooting, bouncing, handling, a ball and tossing it at a spot…will help you be a better basketball player. All fundamentals here Lou. More time with rod in hand…bottom line. Perfect practice makes perfect. How about stickball for the baseball players out there. Not a baseball bat, not a baseball. We know what happens when those guys get to the major leagues. They put the bat on the ball. So, you can get better without casting the identical line you will be fishing. More time with rod in hand.

          And that is my take on the minute things.

          • FlyFInaticLou
            December 5, 2019 6:28 pm

            Love the Stickball analogy . . . played a ton of that during Summer recesses against the School wall (vertical home plate) growing up . . . then went on to play “real” high school baseball & Jr. College as well ! I get you “now” to a certain degree, but you’ll still never find me on dry ground with a fly rod in motion . I have NO qualms with anyone who does that . . . just that I see it as counter intuitive ! But to your Fundamentals thought, I do remember the 1st time I reintroduces myself to the “sport,” the fly shop owner (Groton, CT. 1989) put a Sage RPL 5wt rigged up and we tossed & & reacquainted my brain to the fly rod stroke verses the 5 iron stroke that had taken over my interests till that moment ! Kinda like, for me at least, once you learned to ride a bicycle you never forget the ‘Fundamentals” . . . it “just sort of “happens”! Don’t have to think much on it, BUT, to your point, gotta “practice” to improve on the Outcome (hitting your intended target) . . . wether it be a 3 foot circle around the hole or a 3 foot hula-hoop on the “grass” ! I think we can leave it there, no sense beating the bush when all the birds left after the 1st swing . Great Chatting with you Mark, thanks for replying, I truly have a tiny bit more insight into how your brain works & I like what I see, your a Good Man Charlie Brown . (smilie face)

  • Thank you Sensei. Love these workshop posts, please continue.

  • Agree 100% that practice using an old line and reel on grass and/or local water really improves fishing for those of us not lucky enough to be able to fish every day. There are a couple of points I’m not sure I agree with you, though. I do lots of saltwater fishing, and for me casting 30′ with a 4 or 5 weight rod on the Mo is not so easy if you’re using the recommended 15 foot leader with a long 5x tippet. That means that you’re trying to turn over the 15 foot leader with 15-17 feet of fly line. That’s tough for some of us. Much easier to cast 60-80 feet using a 9-12 weight rod (and I use a 12 foot leader for both tarpon and permit) than to turn over a 15 foot long 5x leader with 15 feet of fly line. Much easier for me to cast a 5 weight 40-60 feet so there’s enough fly line can turn over the long leader. Finally, the power you use for an 11 or 12 weight rod to make the typical 60-80 foot cast to tarpon is obviously too much for a 4 or 5 weight, and when I shift to the smaller rod I often overpower it. So, from experience someone coming to the Mo after a salt water trip is going to need some time to adjust their stroke. We’re not all lucky like you where you are literally always on the water and can make that adjustment immediately upon transitioning from a tarpon to a trout rod. But I’ve watched you cast on some of your videos, and you’re an awesome caster. Understand how you get frustrated.

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