Pantomime Your Way to a Good Fly Cast

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.

Doc Frangos
FFI Master Certified Fly-Casting Instructor

Seek Qualified Fly Casting Instruction

The fastest and most efficient way to learn a new sport such as fly casting is with the guidance of an experienced instructor. Ideally this experience includes understanding the various modalities of teaching and recognizing what methods work best for the student. For example, one student learns best through visualization, while another is an auditory learner. Other methods might include an instructor using a hands-on approach holding the fly rod with the student and mimicking a cast, or teaching through pantomime.

No doubt there are fly casters who improve through self-discovery but most only succeed in reinforcing bad techniques. In my experience the intermediate caster is often the most difficult to teach because the bad habits are ingrained with “muscle memory”. I prefer a beginner anytime.

While fly fishing guides do a commendable job putting anglers on fish, most lack a basic teachable knowledge of casting fundamentals. An ability to cast and guide does not always translate into an ability to teach. I tend to look at fly fishing guides and fly casting instructors as two different professions. Not competitors but experts that should complement each other with the shared goal of setting the stage for a more enjoyable fly fishing experience with their clients.

Personally I hope more fly fishing guides and others in the fly fishing industry become more interested in teaching the proper fundamentals and essentials of fly casting. Positive signs in this direction are becoming more common. I am aware of some fly shops in my area of Idaho and Montana requiring FFI (Fly Fishers International) casting certification for their guides.

I would encourage fly casters of all levels to seek out qualified instruction to improve their casting. The Fly Fishers International website provides a list of qualified instructors throughout the USA and worldwide who have undergone extensive training in teaching fly casting techniques.

Doc Frangos
FFI Master Certified Casting Instructor

The Value of a Casting Partner

Nothing works better in your casting than having two sets of eyes that are watching your casting.  Having a casting partner for the last 9 years has been invaluable.  Working out problems and continue to improve my casting.  It is impossible to view your casting from all angles and with a casting partner you are able to evaluate all aspects of your cast.   Whereas when you are casting by yourself you are generally only looking at one parameter such as tracking, loop formation, translation, rod stoppage.  With a partner you have the luxury of someone that can walk from side to side and back to front and can critique you on the spot instead of trying to remember individually what you did wrong and what you did right.  Combine this with videoing a casting partner is a huge asset while the video is recording.  Your partner can help direct the casting session while it’s being videoed.

In addition to the physical aspects of having someone observe your casting and comment on it, your casting partner also serves as someone that you can have extended dialogues about fly fishing all elements.  It’s nice to be able to bounce questions off someone on a regular basis and discuss and dissect fly fishing.

Your casting partner does not need to be a certified instructor, just someone who is willing to work with you on a regular basis and someone who can be honest about your casting.

I would encourage anyone who is interested in improving their casting to hook up with someone on a regular basis.

Feeling Squashed?

By Thomas R. Dempsey, M.D. CCI

Feeling squashed? Going stir crazy? You can make good use of this Q time with many activities that will improve your fishing success. One: read some fishing journals and books that have been sitting on your shelf for weeks or probably years. If you are studying for your certification exam, this is a great time to knock off some literature. Look on the internet for some casting instruction videos on you tube. There is some great stuff there. Type up Mid Currents and Sexy Loops, look at Gordy Hills archives on, tons of info. How about some casting practice? Fifteen minutes a day will probably take you to the next level. Better yet take some lessons, outside, and easy to social distance. Get busy and tie flies. If you don’t know how, Gulf Coast Fly Fishing School can start you off right after you take a lesson from one of their certified casting instructors. Follow up on the internet where you can learn a zillion ways to tie a Clouser Minnow. Next, go thru and organize your tackle, separate out the flies, weigh and label lines, grease that reel, clean lines and replace backings, tie leaders, man, let your mind go wild. It will pay off next time you take a trip. Now you are really ready to go fishing. Finally, go fish. The water was never closed. Most ramps never closed. Everybody has a boat or a friend with one. Nothing wrong with walking the beach or shore fishing in a pond. Bottom line and take home, there are many activities in fishing during Corona times.

Night Fishing Improves Your Casting

By Thomas R. Dempsey, M.D. CCI

When someone is really interested in becoming a better caster, I often times suggest they do a night fishing trip around the piers that have lights. How can this experience actually improve your casting skills? Well, let’s look at what it takes to be a good “night light pier fisherman”

  1. Loop control. Since you obviously can’t watch your loops and especially your back cast, you have to “feel” the rod load, the loop unrolls, basically you have to “feel” the cast.
  2. Timing. This takes some work that you have hopefully already done in your practice sessions before you get on board the boat. A good way to practice this on dry land is to work on your tension cast and your false cast, blind. Cover your eyes if you think you are going to fudge or close them while you are casting and wait until the line is laid out on your presentation cast before opening your eyes. If the line and leader is lying straight on the ground, you have successfully mastered the art of the “feeling” the cast. The line doesn’t lie.
  3. Accuracy. This is another aspect of night fishing that that will help in your day light fishing. At night you have to be able to judge the amount of line you are carrying in your cast in order to hit the target. This is another one of those ‘feel” it deals. Again, your practice sessions on land can prepare you to judge the amount of line in your cast. I know if I strip off 12 to 13 pulls on my line, I have about 45 feet from me to my fly. Try this and measure how many pulls it takes to get out 45 feet. Why 45 feet, that’s a good starting distance from your boat to the pier lights. People, this is basically sight casting to the area under the lights that more times than not have fish flashing baits and crisscrossing over the underwater green lights.
  4. Speed. Not how fast you are casting, but how quick can you hit the target on the bow of a moving boat, throw in some current, dash of bumps from a passing boat and a little wind. Again, you can practice your salt water quick cast on land. Look up salt water quick cast on you-tube. It will serve you well for night fishing.
  5. Line Management. Fly line as the ability to tangle on anything on board. At night it’s worse. Like on land strip out only the estimated amount you will need. Keep checking on the line at your feet. Trolling motors love to eat fly line. 

These are some tips to help you become a better caster while you are experiencing the thrill of “Fishing the Lights.”

Thomas R. Dempsey, certified casting instructor Mobile, Alabama.