The difference between fair or good trout anglers and the great ones is that the great ones have an established “confidence range” they fish within most of the time. They have a casting range that they absolutely, positively know they can drop the fly on the snoz of the trout. Wind, weather, currents… none of that matters.

It’s just like the basketball player who knows he or she can make that 8-foot jumper almost every time, even with a hand in his or her face. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar made a living with his “sky hook.” Or the ethical bowhunters who practice to the point where they know exactly what their lethal range is.

As for me, I can put my flies right in the bucket at least 75 percent of the time within X distance. I’m not making casts and hoping for the best. I can actually make good things happen.

The first and most important step to improve your fly game is to establish your range — I don’t care if it’s 50 feet or only 10. Once you have that down, you can do other things like wading quietly into position to cast within that zone. You want to fish from a place where you believe you can make things happen with one cast, rather than from places where you are hoping for things to happen with a dozen casts.

Think about this the next time you’re fishing. Be honest with yourself and set a realistic range. It will increase naturally over time and with practice. And if you are able to lengthen your confidence range by a mere five feet over the course of fishing this summer, you will have made a substantial improvement in your game.

This will pay dividends that are far more lasting and rewarding than spending the season making “wish casts.” That’s not to say you shouldn’t press your limits and uncork a few “what the heck” bombs now and then. You should. But when you’re really focused on catching, the key to great casting has nothing to do with fancy loops or the ability to toss the impressive “Hail Mary.”