Here’s my favorite casting lesson; some of you have heard me explain it before. It’s worth repeating, because if you get this one dialed in, you will definitely up your game. I promise.

Forty Feet in Four Seconds…

Different folks have invented casting “competitions” over the years to rate fly fishers. Let’s get this straight: Casting competitions rate casters, and not anglers. I don’t care what anyone says, being able to cast a fly line 115 feet is entertaining, but it is not practically important, especially not in trout fishing. And throwing flies into a hula hoop is good target practice, but it’s a far cry from the real deal.

My friend Travis Holeman, who fishes the professional redfish tour (but is, at heart, a fly junkie of the highest order) summed up the difference between a “real-life” caster and a “for show” caster this way: “The real angler can cast under pressure, like a good quarterback can throw passes despite a blitz. Give me 40 feet, on target, in four seconds, and you’ll catch more fish than anyone.”

In an open space, set out five numbered targets (plastic plates, rocks, whatever). Your buddy calls a number at random, and you have four seconds and one cast to put a fly you’re holding in your hand within two feet of that target. Not fast enough, no good. Not close enough, no good. Switch spots/roles until you’re both casting on the money. Work on that little exercise long enough, and when Mr. Brown Trout pokes his head up in the river, you’ll be comfortable with what you have to do. Your cast doesn’t have to be long. Too much time is spent (and people are ultimately intimidated) focusing too much on long, sexy loops. As a priority, your cast it has to be on target, and on time … at 40 feet or less… that’s what makes a good caster and a successful angler.