One of my favourite explanations of what accuracy means came from Jason Borger. He stated that are two components to accuracy – the distance from you to your target and then your right and left aim to ensure the cast goes straight there, it’s a bit like aligning cross roads. That’s what needs to happen but really it is the ‘target’ that is the crucial thing you must identify.
It’s common to spend day after day firing casts at rings which is wonderful for competition but once you’re fishing how often do you really send the fly to the actual fish that you see? Almost never! The game is usually to lead the fish by some margin whether in a river, a lake or in the sea. Paul’s snakehead may be an exception to this but for the most part the game is identifying a target and then purposely putting the fly somewhere else. So how do we build that skill?
The first step is exactly what I’ve just rubbished above. Get those rings out, pick a spot in the middle of them and learn how to get the fly in them! There are all kinds of tips out there (see the fly casting manual) for straight up ring work like aim a little higher than a normal delivery with a little more speed than normal so that the fly hovers for a split second on straightening. This lets you judge distance. Some people cast with the rod in front of their eyes to judge lateral aim. Some people recommend not hauling, others do. One key I find is to roll your final cast open with a wider arc and more follow through than normal to ensure the loop fully unrolls and straightens. There’s nothing more annoying than crashing the loop face into the water.
Once you can do this with some regularity then I’m sure you’ll have your eye in and it’s time to translate this into really useful fishing casts. In clear water if you try to hover your fly over the fish then it’s going to spook. A good tip is to cast to the side of the fish to measure your length and then put your final cast on the money. Additionally hovering a fly just plain doesn’t work with weighted flies – try side casting instead, that way you’re not going to tick the water when your cast straightens. John has some good advice for heavy gear in Tuesday's FP
In terms of leading fish what I’d start to do when you’re practicing is pick a point or put a ring down and pretend this is the fish. Now imagine which direction it’s swimming and practice getting your fly ahead of it in the fishing zone. This is the real skill. When you can hit this whenever you want on a consistent basis you’re ready to go anywhere in the world for any fish in the confidence that if you still can’t catch them you know it’s not your aim!
In terms of competition accuracy, I’m having to overcome my prejudices and recognise that sometimes you do just need to be brutal with it rather than delicately presenting the fly.
Happy New Year all!