Written by: Pete Kutzer, Orvis Fly-Fishing Schools
Welcome to the next installment of “Home School with Pete Kutzer,” a series of how-to fly-fishing posts focused on helping us all become better casters while practicing proper social distancing: staying at (or very close to) home. Pete has given some at-home casting basics, a how-to for improving accuracy and a new look at roll casts. In celebration of the launch of Orvis Virtual Casting Instruction, we decided to get Pete together with the other Orvis instructors currently providing one-on-one online coaching in this brand-new experience. They’ll share some of their favorite tips and a little more about drives their love for fly fishing, and casting in particular.
The four instructors who have launched the Virtual Casting Lessons are all close friends. Truel Myers is Orvis’s chief fly-casting instructor and the guy who taught me how to cast many years ago. Kyle Leard is one of my best friends; he has been with Orvis Schools since 2003. We grew up and learned how to fly fish together, and we still get out on the water today. Hutch Hutchinson is a former Orvis dealer who is now on the Orvis Adventures team, and has won a Best of the West casting competition and has done quite a bit of one-on-one instruction through the years, as well.
These guys are some of the best casters, anglers, and teachers I have ever met. I can say confidently that the number of students this group of instructors has worked with is in the tens of thousands, and they have over 100 cumulative years of teaching under their belts. I feel honored to be a part of this group. They all have a friendly easy-going demeanor and have taught me a lot about teaching fly casting. I asked each of them several questions, so you can get a feeling for what they’re all about.
Why did you choose to go into fly-fishing instruction?
I have always loved fishing, especially fly fishing, and I thought it would be great to have a fishing related job, particularly one involving guiding and instruction. I grew up only 30 miles from the Orvis HQ, so I was familiar with the company and the schools. When an opportunity came up to work at the schools, I jumped at the chance and have been here since 2003.
What is your favorite style of fishing?
Dry flies for wild trout and saltwater.
What is the one tip, trick or analogy you use while instructing that seems to create the biggest “aha” moment for students?
I think this varies depending on the student. I am big on the student watching the back cast no matter their experience level.
I also really like Truel’s paint-brush analogy: Biggest tip for beginners is to make the rod stop abruptly on the back and forward casts. Don’t just stop; abruptly stop. The rod is not travelling at the same speed throughout the whole cast. You want to start smooth and slow, and then speed up to the stop. It’s like having a paint brush loaded with paint, and standing in a room with a wall ahead of you, a wall behind you, and a ceiling above you. Your goal is to fling paint on the front wall and the back wall but NOT the ceiling. You’d accomplish that with abrupt stops front and back, and a smooth, slower rate of speed in between.
You’re a staple at Orvis Fly-Fishing Schools, how long have you been with us?
I have been teaching Orvis Fly Fishing Schools for nearly 30 years.
You split your time between Vermont and Florida. Do you have favorite parts about fishing in both areas of the country?
Growing up in Florida, I was catching saltwater species on fly tackle way before I ever caught a trout–which is totally opposite of most fly fishers. When I’m in Florida, I enjoy the excitement and challenges of fishing the flats for bonefish, tarpon, permit and redfish. It’s a sight-casting game, and I love seeing the fish before making the cast. I also do a lot of bass fishing; I especially like seeing bass take a surface popper worked along a weed bed or lily pads. I enjoy trout fishing, too, which I do a lot of in Vermont. I really enjoy all the history and tradition associated with trout fishing and the challenges of fishing dry flies.
What is the number one differentiator in successful casting for saltwater flats fishing?
Once an angler has honed his or her casting stroke, the biggest challenges for an angler fishing the saltwater flats for the first time are: dealing with the elements (there is usually some wind); fly line management; and, most importantly, getting the fly to the fish as quick and accurately as possible. Fish on the flats are constantly on the move. Most new saltwater anglers make too many false casts, ruining their “shot.”
What is the most gratifying part of instruction for you?
Helping folks understand how the equipment can work for them. When students truly understand how the fly rod and fly line really work, then the sky and imagination are the only limitations of what can be done with their equipment. My most satisfying moments are when a student can self-diagnose and tell me what they could have done better or improved upon. That is a success for everyone!
You’re an Orvis Adventures team member based in the West, what’s your go-to fishing look like?
In my area of Western Colorado, I have access to six different species of trout, muskie, pike, whitefish, carp, and lake trout, as well as some smallmouth and largemouth bass. I live in one of the most prolific trout fishing areas in all of the Western states, with three Gold Medal trout streams within a 20-minute drive, including two freestone streams, a tailwater, and a healthy supply of high mountain lakes and ponds. We are fortunate to have excellent year-round fishing.
Trout fishing across the US (and abroad) can look pretty different. What is one big similarity about casting or presentation that a student should focus on that works across the board?
Accuracy is king! It doesn’t matter if you are fishing dry flies, nymphs, or streamers, or casting from shore, from a boat, on a river or on a lake. If you have the ability to place your fly where you would like it to go, you will greatly increase the opportunities for hooking up to your quarry.
Introducing Orvis Virtual Casting Instruction
Video analysis has been an integral part of the Orvis fly-fishing schools for a long time. Truel introduced me to it when I first started with the fly-fishing schools almost 20 years ago. It’s a valuable teaching tool and a cornerstone of our school experience. Most people have never seen themselves cast. The moment we show them their cast, they are blown away by how successfully it reinforces the instruction already given, and how much more they can learn overall. Hutch Hutchinson introduced me to the software to conduct video analysis on a phone or tablet quite, and we have been using it in person during our specialty schools. The ability to annotate a video and show it to a customer was often the highlight of a school.
It’s unfortunate that in these strange times we aren’t able to give our full school experience in person, but the feedback on these Virtual Casting Lessons has been overwhelmingly positive.
Our new Virtual Casting Lessons offer remote, one-on-one coaching focused on meeting your goals. It’s an opportunity for us to still connect with students while social distancing is in place. It’s an easy way to fine-tune your cast whenever you need to at home–whether you’re trying to get ready for an upcoming trip, work through a hitch that just popped up, or learn a new skill. Both the Standard Package and Premium Package include detailed video analysis and a written improvement plan from your Orvis Instructor. The Premium Package adds a live video chat with your instructor for a deeper dive into your cast. You can learn a little more about each of the instructors currently on the program, too: just check out the FAQ tab on the links above for their bios.