If I had to pick a least-favorite month for fishing, September would certainly be in the running. This is hurricane season and the height of the dog days of summer. There are a few highlights depending on where you are fishing, but there isn’t much to excite the local angler.
That, thankfully, won’t last long as we can look forward to early fall as a time when Spanish mackerel, little tunny and other pelagic species will be targeting schools of bait along the coast. One of the few bright spots was redfish that formed big spawning schools in area bays in August and September, but I haven’t seen that in many years.
I like to use the days I can’t or don’t want to be on the water to get ready for the fall action to come. That can mean getting the boat ready, checking tackle, tying flies and working on your casting skills so you’ll be ready when the action gets hot. Whether you’re a beginning fly fisher or are a proficient caster, it’s important to be aware of what are commonly known as the essentials of fly casting.
Fly casting differs from spin or bait casting where the weight of the lure or bait loads the rod. The rod then transfers the stored energy of the rod to the lure or bait which carries it to the target. In fly casting, the weight of the line loads the rod, and the line takes the leader and flies to the target.
The basic casting stroke consists of the rod being held in the hand at the base of the fingers with the thumb on top of the cork. The stroke is a combination of moves of the wrist, the forearm and the upper arm. In the ready position with the thumb on the cork, the wrist is straight and the butt of the rod is at a 45-degree angle to the forearm. The wrist travels from this straight position to a 45-degree down angle, then returns to a straight position. The forearm and the upper arm complete the motion.
There are five basic movements that make up what we refer to as the essentials:
1. There must be a pause at the end of each casting stroke, which varies in duration with the amount of line beyond the rod tip. This allows the line to straighten for the next cast.
2. Slack line should be kept to an absolute minimum in the casting stroke. Slack line prevents the rod from loading and applying the proper power to the cast. The most common mistake that creates slack line happens when the rod is started too high, forming a belly in the line between the rod tip and the water. To prevent this, start your cast with the rod tip pointing at the water.
3. In order to form the most efficient, least air resistant loops and to direct the energy of the cast toward the target, the rod tip must move in a straight line.
4. The length of the casting stroke must vary with the amount of line past the rod tip. If you are making a short cast there is only a small amount of line needed (which only weighs a small amount). As the length of line increases, the stroke must be increased to load the rod.
5. Power must be applied in the proper amount at the proper place in the stroke. In general, the power is applied slowly at first, gradually increasing to a peak at the end of the stroke. There should be a crisp stop at the end of the stroke, forcing the rod to come out of its bend. This is commonly referred to as the speed-up and stop.
One of the best ways for you to master fly casting is to practice on a regular basis. Create a practice schedule that you can stick to. Start by practicing three times a week for 10 minutes. Any additional time will, of course, be a bonus, but the importance of a regular practice schedule cannot be overstated. There are lots of resources on the internet that can help you perfect your cast, but make sure you pick the right source. I suggest the instructional series on YouTube from Orvis and Rio and well-known casters like Lefty Kreh and Joan Wulff.
While there is a ton of content online, there is no substitute for local knowledge. Fly anglers on Anna Maria have a great resource in AMI Outfitters on Pine Avenue. It has a selection of rods and reels for the beginner or the advanced caster and can provide invaluable knowledge on local flies, what is biting and local guides.
We have some great fishing right around the corner. Now is the time to get ready so you can be able to take advantage of the opportunity!