September 23rd, 2022
Recently I had the opportunity to participate in a little casting skills challenge hosted by Jesse Brown’s Outdoors and RIO Products with Simon Gawesworth. Various tasks were arranged in a course, and you went from one task to the next in a mini circuit. Scores were tabulated, prizes given, and I wasn’t too shabby. The winner was butter smooth.
It was all in fun and designed to teach some fundamentals along the way. Although I really feel I could have performed better on all the tasks. On the ride home, I wondered what I could have done to improve, and aside from a few little technique details, my lack of planning was what struck me most. I walked up to each task, absorbed the directions, and started firing away. Being near first “through the chute” on two of the tasks, some obvious improvements came to mind when watching others perform the same tasks.
How does this story relate to fishing or casting specifically? The error was blundering up to the task and popping off some casts, which many of us do regularly. In most fishing or casting situations the goal is to hit the target or catch the fish. Sometimes we get so wrapped up in the end goal, we forget to plan our approach. I was guilty of this on the casting field and can remember times on the trout stream where I was just casting away.
You need to plan your approach to the task at hand or suffer the consequences. On the practice field, it can be obvious when you don’t have a plan. For example, if you are casting to targets at 50’ and don’t plan an adjustment for the wind, you are off target, or worse you get fly line to the back of your head. Think through what’s happening around you, and what modifications will make the best cast possible. It’s not just technique, it’s identifying challenges and planning your approach to them.
On stream it can be a little more subtle. As the day wears on, you may find yourself randomly casting to fishy looking spots with little success. That’s a sign you aren’t planning. Stop, and think about what you are doing. Slow down. Eat a sandwich, take a break.
Now re-focus on what’s in front of you. What might the fish be eating? Do I see fish feeding? Where would the fish be? Where does my fly need to be for the fish to eat it? Where does my line and leader need to go so the fly is drifting appropriately at the spot the fish want it? How do I manufacture a cast to get the fly to that position? Where do I need to be to enable that cast and what casting impediments do I need to counter? Answer those questions and you have a plan. Execute that plan, and your fishing will improve.
Planning takes vigilance, but the more you practice planning, the more it becomes second nature. Execution goes from chuck-and-chance to a Chess match. You’ll be more aware of your surroundings and generally be more successful.
As a leader in RRTU and a member of Fly Fishers International, Brian believes fishing is a gateway to conservation and knows that