Merwin: You Can't Buy Cast Accuracy

Other things being equal, he or she who casts the most accurately will usually catch the most fish. That means dropping a bass lure within an inch of a shoreline stump, for example, instead of a foot away. Or it can mean placing your dry fly precisely in the feeding lane of a rising trout, which you might then catch, instead of hitting a current seam six inches away where drag will immediately occur.

I am asked often about accurate casting, and the inevitable answer frustrates many people. It's all in your head. There is no magic bullet. And you can't buy accuracy.

When I take complete novices out on bass or trout water, I can usually have them casting fairly accurately after about an hour of trial and error. I tell them over and over again about two particular things: consistency and concentration.

First, use the same casting stroke, cast after cast. This is true of spin, fly, and conventional gear. You don't necessarily need perfect form, although that helps, but you do need to be consistent. That consistency makes your casts predictable in a way that registers quickly between brain and muscle. Unpredictable--meaning erratic--casting is rarely accurate casting.

Next, look at where you want your lure or fly to land. And that means really look. Focus and concentrate on a particular point. Don't just toss your lure toward a bed of shoreline lily pads, for example. Pick a particular pad. Then pick the left front edge of that pad. Concentrate on that spot while you are casting. Your fly or lure won't perfectly hit that spot every time at first, but you'll be surprised at how quickly real accuracy can be attained.

Yes, there are times when you need to alter your casting stroke to compensate for a crosswind, say, or to get greater distance. And there are times when I'm casting dries to a rising trout when I'll make the first cast purposefully short to see how the leader and fly are behaving and to sort of get the range. As with all things fishing, in other words, there are exceptions.

But in general, you need to cast accurately to fish well. Consistency and concentration will get you there in surprisingly short order.