One key to a proficient and effective sports motion is repetition through pantomime. Whether shooting a basketball free-throw or casting a fly line the participant improves his or her skills by repeating the same motions over and over. Of course, these motions must also include good technique.
An effective way to improve a fly cast is to simplify and uncomplicate the casting motion. Break the movement down to its most basic form. This begins the process of “muscle memory”.
The term muscle memory is actually a misnomer. In fact, muscle does not retain memory. One scientific studied failed to show any difference in biopsies from “trained” and “untrained” muscle. Actually, we are building neural pathways in the brain that function instinctively. One author describes these functions as a “mental shortcut”.
When teaching the fly cast, I begin with the basic fundamentals without the fly rod in hand. At the Gulf Coast Fly Fishing School our instruction starts with a paint brush dipped in water. Using the wet paintbrush we mimic or pantomime the fly rod movement, and the principles of the fly cast including smooth acceleration, moving the brush back and forward in a straight line, and an effective stop at the end of this back/forward motion. Water droplets flying off the end of the moving brush give a good visualization of the paintbrush path. This will set the stage for a similar motion with a fly rod.
Once the paintbrush casting motion is mastered, we progress to a tubular swimming “noodle”. From there the final stage will be pantomiming the casting motion using a fly rod without line.
Even now as an experienced fly caster I may visualize and pantomime a new or modified casting motion using only my arm and hand. Often, I will use a mirror to aid my learning.
Pantomime is an overlooked but very effective method of teaching and self-improvement.
FFI Master Certified Fly-Casting Instructor