Improve Your Catching!

July 15th, 2002

School's Out, But Keep Practicing!r
Lesson Eight
Conducted By Jim C. Chapralis

During the past two months, I've conducted a weekly casting practice seminar here on FlyAnglersOnLine.com. I've tried to convey the importance of accuracy and distance casting as it relates to fishing success and the necessity for practicing on a continuing basis. I hope I've made casting practice more fun by introducing some of the American Casting Association (ACA) events.

For almost five decades I was able to make a living via my love for fishing, which included a guiding gig but mostly arranging international fishing trips for many anglers. I was fortunate (because of my work) to be able to fish in 40 countries, so I've had the opportunity to observe people fishing in various circumstances.

One thing became evident. Except for trolling or still fishing, the people who were skilled casters invariably caught the vast majority of fish. Homer Circle once remarked that 10 percent of the fishermen catch 90 percent of the fish. I think this is very true, especially in fly fishing.

As I've mentioned, you can buy the very best tackle and reserve a prime fishing location, but if you can't make the cast, well, your fishing results will suffer.

I hope that my series of articles will inspire you to practice on a continuing basis. Don't get discouraged. You'll have some good days, a few great days, but some poor casting days, too.

Two days ago I was practicing the Single-handed Distance Fly Event for the upcoming ACA National Casting Championship, and I was amazed with some of my casts. The line traveled in a hurry with just the right trajectory and unfolded a long distance away. I'd love to be able to make those casts in the Nationals. I felt good about my casting and my confidence soared.

Yesterday, under more favorable weather conditions, I went back to the practice field with expectations of making even longer casts. The first cast flew out with such authority that it not only took ample yards of running line through the guides, but yanked angrily at my reel for more, as if to say, "Hey, today's the day, give me more line."

Then everything went downhill. I don't know why. My casts were pitiful. Short. Crummy. Pathetic.

I looked at the rod. Perhaps I had missed one of the guides in stringing up my fly line through them? Nope. Maybe my leader was knotted up or was coiled. It was fine. I made a few more casts. They were terrible. They not only didn't go far, but I hit the rod tip or myself with the line often, and sometimes the cast looked like it was going well but would abruptly stop as though it hit an invisible wall. Well, this got me mad. I put more and more oomph and muscle into the casts, but that didn't help. The results were even worse. I stopped for a while. I imitated (or tried to!) Steve Rajeff, and then Johnny Dieckman (a great caster in decades past who used a different casting style) and anyone else I could think of. No go.

My casts were so bad, that I wondered if the rod tip was fractured, even though I was using a high quality rod that was only a few months old. Nope. It was fine.

I began to panic. The Nationals are only a few weeks away, and my casts were becoming worse and worse. I was puzzled, frustrated, dejected, baffled, stymied, depressed and defeated. I reeled in and went home.

Several conclusions:

    1. Bad days happen. It matters not whether you're casting at targets, on a lawn for distance, on a stream for trout or a flats for bonefish. It's no different then when a baseball batting champ suddenly goes into such a terrible slump that his Aunt Minnie could probably strike him out even if she pitched underhanded.

    2. As I've mentioned, distance casting--especially with heavy equipment--should be confined to five minutes at a time; otherwise, bad form will happen; bad form practiced becomes bad habits. I was stubborn and continued casting for almost any hour. Result? I may have even sprained my hand and tomorrow I go on an important trout fishing trip.

    3. Anger will not get the rod/line/leader/fly to behave properly. Timing and execution of casting basics will.

    4. Hopefully the next time I practice the casting stroke, double haul and everything else will be fine. I mention this, because some of you may experience similar problems from time to time. Hey, take it easy. Relax! It will get better.

I hope that some of you may find casting practice so interesting that you may want to compete in tournament casting. While I love to fish, I don't have the opportunity to fish as much as I used to, so casting practice for personal enjoyment or for competition in future tournaments is not only fun but it keeps me active and hones my skills for when I can go fishing.

The other day I met a fishing acquaintance who is going to Patagonia next winter to fish for trout. He is not a good caster. He has trouble casting more than 35 feet, but worse is his lack of accuracy.

I suggested that he join our casting club.

"Oh, no," he said emphatically, "I'm not interested in competition! I'm not interested in tournaments. I don't like competition."

I was about to explain to him that joining a casting club doesn't mean he has to compete. He could practice on his own. Pretend the 30-inch floating targets are the trout's window of vision.

But before I could tell him that, he interrupted.

"I've got a golfing date and I'm late," he said. "I gotta win some money back from my golfing partners." So much for his non-competing spirit.

I hope that various fishing clubs become active in casting to a point where they not only offer casting practice but also fun tournaments on a regular basis. Just look at the FAOL Fish-Ins and you'll see that everyone is having a great time casting.

I have a feeling that casting will become important in the future. It needs exposure. I'm grateful to FAOL for the wonderful opportunity it gave me to present this series. It's a start.

Maybe one day, one of the sports television executives will wake up and say: "Hey, there are more than 40 million fishermen in this country. Most of them cast. Why not develop casting competition for television? Certainly, this could be as interesting as some of the events we're doing."

And how about casting in the Olympics? Hey, I've got nothing against curling, but, gee whiz there are thousands of anglers for every curler, and no one is going to tell me that watching these guys sweep ice is more fun than watching the casters.

Maybe the light will go on.

Maybe.

Have a good summer, and remember casting practice makes fishing sense. ~ Jim C. Chapralis

About Jim:

Jim Chapralis is a world traveler, a pioneer in the international fishing travel business, and author, most recently of Fishing Passion, reviewed in our Book Review section. He is an avid angler - and caster. Currently involved with the 94th Annual National Casting Tournament July 29 to August 3, 2002. You can reach Jim via his website www.AnglingMatters.com

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