Pro Tip: The ONE Thing You Can Do to Become a Better Fly Fisherman in the New Year

Written by: Kip Vieth, Wildwood Float Trips


You don’t have to cast as well as the late, great instructor Bill Cairns. . . but it sure wouldn’t hurt.

A year has ended and a new one begins. Like most people, I look back and reflect on what the previous year has taught me or what insights I might have gleaned from all my time guiding. I am always wondering how to do it better or give my clients a more rewarding experience. Recently, the tables were turned on me a bit. One of my longtime clients asked what they could do to make the coming season more productive and enjoyable.

We’ve all read the articles and stories on how to improve your fishing, and perhaps they all seem to really be saying the same things rehashed in a different way. I was looking at some past publications and thinking about the question posed to me. One thing jumped out at me. The answer wasn’t learn to mend, fly selection, knots, or even equipment that could improve your fishing this year. Even though all those things certainly can make you a better angler. It really comes down to one thing that everyone, no matter what their skill level, can improve on. It’s very simple: Learn to Cast Better!

You have probably heard it a hundred times: “They can’t eat it if they can’t see it.” Being able to get the fly in front of the fish is step one. If you’re not getting the job done, then your fishing is really going to suffer. Every year I see it over and over. I guide out of a driftboat 99.9% of the time, and a boat is only as good as its worst caster. If I have to get the boat positioned so that the client has to be right on top of the fish, then it is going to cost the boat a lot of fish throughout the day. In the heat of the summer, when the water is clear and the fish get spooky, it is imperative that an angler can cast away from the boat. Even smallmouths can get jumpy and the fishing can get more technical than most anglers would think. Being able to cast can be the difference between a good or bad day.

Yes, there are many other things that can make or break your day on the water, but if you really step back and think about it, the cast is the most important factor in your success. Even if you have fly-fished for decades, there is still a cast to learn or perfect. That is what makes this sport so special. There is always something to learn or improve on. Heck, I fish very little these days just because I’m guiding so much. (Be careful of what you wish for!) My casting has suffered, and I sometime feel embarrassed when fishing with other accomplished casters.

I have no one to blame but myself. I could certainly use the practice and perhaps a lesson or two. Even the greatest golfers in the world have swing coaches. A lesson in anything is never a bad thing. There are also a ton of videos that are available to watch and learn from. Orvis fly casting instructor Peter Kutzer has a number of them, and they are outstanding. (See the full list below.)

Do yourself a favor this year and commit to becoming a better caster. It will make the sport more enjoyable, you’ll most likely catch more fish, and it will keep you engaged in a sport where you never stop learning.

Kip Vieth owns Wildwood Float Trips, in Monticello, Minnesota. Check out his excellent “10 Tips for Catching a Musky on a Fly.”

Peter Kutzer’s casting lessons

Ask a Fly-Fishing Instructor I: Casting Heavy Flies in the Wind

Ask a Fly-Fishing Instructor II: Roll-Casting for Accuracy & Distance

Ask a Fly-Fishing Instructor III: Casting in the Wind

Ask a Fly-Fishing Instructor IV: Casting Accuracy

Ask a Fly-Fishing Instructor V: The Curve Cast

Ask a Fly-Fishing Instructor VI: Casting Angles

Ask a Fly-Fishing Instructor VII: How to Double Haul

Ask a Fly-Fishing Instructor VIII: Fixing Tailing Loops

Ask a Fly-Fishing Instructor IX: How to Make Delicate Presentations

Ask a Fly-Fishing Instructor X: The Steeple Cast

Ask a Fly-Fishing Instructor XI: How to Avoid Hitting Your Rod with Your Fly

Ask a Fly-Fishing Instructor XII: Don’t be a Creep

Ask a Fly-Fishing Instructor XIII: Parachute and Pile Casts

Ask a Fly-Fishing Instructor XIV: How to Make a Reach Cast

Ask a Fly-Fishing Instructor XV: How to Make a Tuck Cast

Ask a Fly-Fishing Instructor XVI: How to Make an Aerial Mend

Ask a Fly-Fishing Instructor XVII: How to Make Roll and Switch Casts with a Two-Handed Rod

Ask a Fly-Fishing Instructor XVIII: The Basic Cast

Ask a Fly-Fishing Instructor XIX: The Bow & Arrow Cast

Ask a Fly-Fishing Instructor XX: The “Ready Position” and Fishing from a Boat

Ask a Fly-Fishing Instructor XXI: The Basic Back Cast

Ask a Fly-Fishing Instructor XXII: How to Add Distance to Your Cast

Ask a Fly-Fishing Instructor XXIII: How to Rig Your Rod to Move to a New Fishing Spot

Ask a Fly-Fishing Instructor XXIX: How to Make a Single-Hand Snake Roll Cast

Ask a Fly-Fishing Instructor XXX: How to Cast in Heavy Wind

Video Tuesday Tip: How to Make a Backcast Presentation

Video Pro Tip: How to Get a Good Turnover at the End of the Cast

Tuesday Video Tip: How to Make a Belgian (Oval) Cast

Video Pro Tips: How to Teach Yourself to Double Haul

Video Pro Tips: How to Make a Circle-Spey Cast

Video Tuesday Tip: How to Make a Double Spey Cast with a Single- or Two-Handed Rod

Video Tuesday Tip: How to Teach Kids to Fly Cast

6 thoughts on “Pro Tip: The ONE Thing You Can Do to Become a Better Fly Fisherman in the New Year”

  1. This is excellent advice! I believe that one of the reasons that fly fishing is so satisfying is that it can be at times a very physical pursuit. Casting is exactly that. Physical movement. It is a very pleasing thing to do whether the cast be a 60 footer or a simple 20 foot flip upstream. I love to cast. Many of them aren’t pretty, but when I see a good loop I know I am doing something right. It just makes me want to keep at it. Cheers!

  2. Thank you for the reminder, needless to say that is one of my new year resolutions is to practice my casting as often as I can. And I agree it is the no.#1 skill a fly-fisherman needs on the water.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *