How to excel at fly casting

How to excel at fly casting

Paul Arden | Thursday, 7 February 2019

It may come as a surprise to you, but I firmly believe that almost everyone can be a truly expert fly caster. There are exceptions to this I know, but these people really are extremely rare. All the very best casters in this world all have one thing in common; they all have practised their skills - and generally speaking, the better the caster is, the more he or she has practised.

There are lots of excuses not to practise. And it may very well be that you are quite content with whatever skill level you currently have. But there can no shadow of a doubt, that if you want to be better, then practising will make that happen. And that applies to absolutely everyone, no matter what their current skill level. 

Even, dare I say it, when it comes to distance casting! Yes, you will find some athletes at world championship level but you’ll mainly find a lot of very well-practised casters. Think about it for one second - is the world championships dominated by 25yr olds? Absolutely not, it’s dominated by the people who practise the most. 

It’s true, I think, that physical fitness and strength will never count against you. But you will find competitors of all ages, of all heights and of all strengths. And it’s never only the strongest, tallest, youngest men and women who win. While true talent may exist, at world championship level it’s still practise that gets you through to the finals. 

Of course not everyone is inspired enough to want to be the Word Champion! In fact not everyone likes competing - there are many people who are simply too competitive to compete. I say this because if you simply can’t stand losing then it’s usually better not compete in the first place! This is a shame because competition is not only fun, but it is the only way to reach your full potential. The best solution is to be happy for others when they win and to simply enjoy taking part. Life is more fun that way too! 

Competition alone won’t get you there however. You must dedicate yourself to practise. Naturally everyone has family, work and fishing commitments, all of which can - quite rightly - get in the way. But never think it’s because you lack the ability - because that’s a lie. 

And so if everyone has the ability to reach world championship level, the question then arises to what level of competence do you actually wish to reach? This only you can decide for yourself. Me personally I don’t need to be the finest fly caster that I can ever be. I would like to become the best fly fisherman that I can ever be - that’s different. 

My drive in fly casting is to reach and maintain a level of fly casting excellence where I can make extremely challenging shots, be able to fish an entire river effectively, and to find a level of efficiency,  where I can concentrate solely on the fishing, and never worry about the casting. 

Being able to take shots is, I believe, the highest casting skill level there is. It’s also the most rewarding. Taking shots while fly fishing, for me, is the pinnacle of our sport. 

If you want to improve your overall game, then have a look at our Essential Level Challenge and view the Sexyloops Fly Casting Manual to see what it’s all about. Using this exam as your syllabus, will undoubtedly raise your game. One or two hours per week will see a dramatic improvement in almost no time at all. 

(To put this in perspective, instructors may practise 7 or 8 hrs/week, while practising for their exams, and competition casters will often practise 2hrs per day before an event. These are the approximate practise times involved - although I know many people, myself included, who will double this.)

The secret to any amount of fly casting training is to realise that it’s fun! Watching a loop of line unroll is pretty damned hypnotic! Being able to shape that loop is an incredible feeling. This connection between the body, the fly rod the line is a feeling unto itself. 

I like the long carry - and the Speys of course, particularly when aerialised. But you can also find me enjoying presentation casts and accuracy. Those are our four disciples. Like everything else, I get obsessed by one for a while and then move on to another.

The great thing about competition - even just competing against yourself, is that you can measure your improvements. This is very inspiring. My other great passion is throwing the lumi-line around. Here in Malaysia, on dark jungle nights, I often give the elephants a luminous fly line show to remember. 

So it’s fun - it’s fun on my own, and it’s fun with friends too. If someone offers you a cast - always take it! Drop all your inhibitions and cast. Sexyloops Shootouts are like Fight Club: if this is your fist time then you must compete! The only ones who look silly are the ones who don’t get involved. 

After a while you will start to have some opinions. You won’t be trying to adapt tackle to your style or stroke, instead you’ll change technique according to tackle at hand. And only then will you know what you really like and to what purpose. 

There are many benefits. And best of all you’ll be outside casting instead of watching TV, sitting in the pub or spending hour after hour online. I never watch TV - I haven’t watched it in over two decades. I’d much rather watch a campfire. And look at me.

(That was a joke). 

So anyway I’m back in the jungle. Very tough fishing at the moment. Although I am starting to find some Snakehead babies. So hopefully soon I’ll have something to show for my efforts. James and Tracy are casting in a Cumbrian Hurricane this weekend which is why I’m covering for them today. 

Finally, I have ordered and paid for the Hot Torpedo competition shirts. I expect to pick these up in around 2 weeks and will post them out immediately.  It’s taken longer than expected and that’s because ordering 30 shirts all at once takes extraordinary organising skills!

As soon as these are out, we will start the new Hot Torpedo Owners competition. This time instead of sending many shirts out all at the end, I shall send out one shirt per month for the best entry. The competition shirt this year will be different - and will feature a picture of your choosing!

Ashly - last year’s winner - will be judge of who wins best entry each month. And then, as per last year, we will have a independent judging panel to decide who wins the new Hot Torpedo!

Phew. And you thought my life was easy! 

Summer bookings are starting to look busy, there are slots available particularly in May, June and July. If you are interested in the Snakehead and Gourami challenge (the most incredible fly fishing known to man) and in particular, are interested in combining a fly fishing trip with mastering some new fly casting prowess, then be sure to get in touch. I can’t guarantee that you’ll catch fish, although I’ll certainly do my best to show you how to catch them. What I can guarantee 110% is that you will transform your fly casting - wherever you are in the flycasting skills ladder, you will go up a notch or three. 5-7 days with me - and you should bloody well hope so!!

Hell you might even see some wildlife. 

Have a great weekend!


Links for this page (sorry I can’t add them direct because I’m floating around in the boat). 

The Fly Casting Essential Challenge; 

The Sexyloops Casting Manual; 

The Sexyloops Lumi-Line;