Blackberry Farm

Friends of the Farm

Winter Time Casting and Coffee

It’s a hard sale.  Fly Fishing is not the first thing that pops in to most folks head on a January morning.  It is cold outside, normally somewhat dreary, and…well its cold outside. We are fortunate in the southeast that we have great fishing even through the winter.  For the angler who is willing some great fishing can be found.  The rivers run cold and clear in the winter and the fish still eat, in fact some of our better fish are caught in the crisp and cold winter months.  But for many it seems it is worth the wait for the warmer months.  However, there is still reason to keep from simply setting the rod tube in the in the corner or under the bed for the winter.  Much like a golfer at the driving range, practice does every angler good.

One of the more common phrases a guide hears when stepping out onto the water is “it may take me a minute to get my cast back, it’s been a while”.  It’s understandable; a fly cast can be something hard to keep on point if not practiced regularly.  A slow winter day provides great opportunity to simply step out of the door for a little cast work on the lawn.  Water is not necessarily needed to become a better fly fisherman.  Of course there are aspects of the sport that will only truly be learned while in pursuit of fish.  But a few of the more important ones require nothing more than a small, somewhat open, area to cast and a piece of yarn.

Before stepping outside to work on your cast, remember it is cold outside.  On the river you often do not have the luxury of a stream side coffee pot, here is another plus to lawn casting.  Pour a cup of coffee and step outside, rod in hand. There is a lot that can be worked on in the yard.

Mechanics, mechanics, mechanics.  The golfer goes to the driving range to practice.  Each club is used differently and the golfer uses time at the range to build that muscle memory before hitting the links.  And angler only uses one tool for the day, but the muscle memory is much the same.  If you have ever spent time on the water with a good guide, not only did they do their best to show you the river and fish, but probably also dropped subtle tips and tricks on casting.  The lawn is the place to practice these.  While in the yard, with no pressure and no fish to catch, practice the little things that equate to better casting.  Here are a few of the more common mechanics we correct is a casting lesson.

-     Start with the rod tip.  A good fly cast has the rod tip moving crisply to defined points.  We teach the one o’clock and ten o’clock positions for the right hander and eleven and two for the lefty (with the clock facing you and twelve o’clock straight up off of your shoulder).  Try not to ease into these motions but also not to power to them.  Rather move crisply with a defined start and stop.
-    Keep your elbow down.  Many anglers move their casting arm entirely too much.  One problem with this is that it often opens the area or casting window through which the rod is moving.  This often opens and anglers loop and makes for slower and off target casts.  For most trout casts, the elbow should remain near the angler’s side and should not move much and surely should not extend with each cast even for the final presentation cast.  Not to mention that is just easier to move less…
-    Timing is everything.  Knowing how a fly cast works makes practice much easier, but one of the most important aspects of the cast is the pause.  I also find that it is one than many struggle with the most, and it changes.  Inside 30 feet, which is most common trout casts, the pause is typically long enough to say a one syllable word after the rod tip has stopped. Again this changes with different lengths of line, the longer the line the longer the pause.  I like the one syllable word, it seems to fit most people’s cast, but again here in the south we are known for our slower southern drawl…

Winter time cast work can be as long or as short as you like, just few casts or several cups of coffee worth.    There are a lot of problems that can be cleaned up in the yard.  Practice only improves the angling experience when actually on the water.  It is always nice to be able to put the fly where it needs to be when you see that fish sipping flies off of the water’s surface just of the shoulder of the rock on the far side of the stream.  You know… the one that seems to only eat the specific bugs that float into that coffee cup sized little area where he is focused.  

Between casts take time to stay warm, take a sip of that coffee you grabbed as you walked out of the door.  When all of the warmth is gone from the cup you are not quite done.  Set the cup on the ground and take a few steps back.  Practice being able to put the fly where you want it…

Alex Quick, Fly Fishing Manager