Author: Tucker Ladd
Here in Colorado we have a ton of fly fishing enthusiasts, and each and every one of them has a favorite stream or spot on the river that provides both the serenity and thought of fly fishing, as well as the thrill of a good catch. But that’s most often on a stream with the current heading in one direction, or on a plains or mountain lake where the only real waves are made by pesky motor boat operators.
For surf fishing, you have to travel to the ocean – the Northeast, the Southeast and Florida, the Gulf Coast, stretches both north and south on the West Coast, or you could go to any number of exotic locations throughout Central and South America, Asia, Australia, Africa, Europe – well, there’s plenty of ocean and beaches throughout the world, that’s for sure. What ties them altogether is the fact that there are plenty of fish in the sea.
Fishing from the beach or jetty into the surf is a time-honored tradition, practiced for centuries by peoples throughout the world lucky enough to live in close proximity to a beach. The reason is simple: small food fish, insects and flies, crustaceans and all kinds of other things that bigger game fish like to prey upon like to hang along the coast and in the shallows. You have your tides, tide pools, surf troughs, rip currents and other anomalies of ocean movement that trap and guide the food sources, and the game fish know this and follow along for the easy meals. You also get migrations and hatchings, in specific places and at certain times of the year - these events too draw the species that anglers most cherish. Fly fishing in the surf offers its own unique challenges – and the usual heightened experience and sense of adventure and accomplishment.
When I was told that I was going to be coming along to the Annual Trouts Redfish retreat to Port Sulphur, Louisiana, I was in complete disbelief and as excited as a giddy schoolgirl! For weeks prior to our trip I watched every Redfishing video I could find, and studied proper flats boat etiquette to try and prepare myself for what would be an “epic fishing trip!” After many sleepless nights and days spent daydreaming of Bull Reds, the time had come to head to NOLA.
I had bought myself a copy of the latest Drake Magazine thinking it would keep me occupied for the two and a half hour plane ride, but when your sitting between your two managers that are drinking Wild Turkey on the rocks, who needs literature anyway. We did however practice our blood knots, swapped some flies and fishing stories, and when we stammered out of the plane we were all greeted by the smell and humidity of New Orleans that stuck to you like a wet sock. As we headed south on Highway 23, and listened to our shuttle Driver John’s horror stories about what life was like during and after Hurricane Katrina. After an hour shuttle ride and a brief stop at Brothers gas station for fried chicken and libations, we arrived at the amazing Woodlawn Plantation in West Point a la Hache, LA. The house is indescribably beautiful and that is probably why it has graced the label of Southern Comfort since 1934.
Every beginning fly fisher thinks that the experienced angler is an expert who never misses a beat. Meanwhile, every experienced angler knows all too well that there are good days and bad days. Casting a fly rod is a lot like playing golf: practice and more practice will hone the skill and make it more possible to replicate the proper movements time and again. Even a Phil Mickelson or a Lefty Krey, on his best day, shanks one into the trees. But they keep on practicing.
The object of mastering the cast in fly fishing, like the art of mastering the game of golf, isn’t to be perfect 100% of the time, but rather to minimize the flaws and mistakes. Once the participant figures out what works, how to control the club or the rod in various conditions and situations, the trick then becomes building a sort of muscle memory that will repeat the proper form over and over again without the mind interjecting too much. It’s the old adage: practice, practice, practice.
The truth is that fly casting can’t be taught in a blog post. Some of the basics can be addressed, and some food for thought can be brought to bear, but eventually the prospective fly fisher will have to put a rod in hand and give it a whirl. While most experts in the fly casting game have different points of view on how to approach the subject, to a person they agree on one point: hands-on experience and training under the guidance of an experienced teacher/instructor is invaluable. And, by the way, this is true for the beginner or the veteran (indeed, the highest ranked professional golfers probably have more professional instruction each week than most amateurs have all year).
The first tip on fly casting, especially for the beginner, is to find an instructor, take a class, or get an experienced friend to show you the way. The best place to learn the basics of the fly cast is on the river, of course, since it will present you with real-world conditions. However, casting ponds can be good instructional places, as can open space like a park. Just be sure to watch for people and obstructions, especially power lines and small children.
What follows are some of the tips and ideas we have gleaned from the world of fly fishing as it related to learning how to cast.