Where is the line?

Where is the line?

Gary Meyer | Tuesday, 10 July 2018

I don’t have much to report from South Florida. I have not been fishing since a tarpon trip to the Keys. Otherwise, my involvement with flyfishing has been limited to practicing my casting, evaluating some rods, and teaching.
It has been on the teaching front where I have been having the most fun.

One of the interesting things about teaching weekly beginner classes is that you constantly get to experiment with new ways to attempt to explain flycasting. My general program is broken into three parts: some verbal introductory explanation, followed by demonstrating a simple overhead cast, and then allowing the student some hands-on time until they have had enough. During that last part I interact individually with each student and try to iron out their particular difficulties.

The class only lasts a few hours, and every student comes with different angling histories and physical abilities. I feel good if I can see that each student had made some progress. Some do, some don’t, and some never will.

My goal is to make flycasting not seem so difficult and possibly bring some more folks over to the dark side. After doing this for years I have a pretty good idea what the students will most likely have trouble with, and of late my emphasis has been on the backcast. For most students, even those with some prior casting experience, or even previous lessons, I have found that getting them to the point of achieving even the smallest amount of backcast control yields the most progress to their overall cast. Almost everyone with at least a minimal amount of experience casting general equipment has made numerous, if not innumerable forward casts. And while their technique may not be correct for flycasting, it will only require a few tweaks. Few, if any, have any experience backwards casting, or the slightest clue as to how important it is in flycasting.

I use a few props to visually explain the cast and on the latest session I added a new one, or actually two. I picked up two small rocks of about the same size from the parking lot. I then asked one of the younger fellows to give me a hand. I asked him simply to throw one of the rocks quite far out into the field while all the other students watched. After that I asked him to do it again, although this time I asked that he throw the rock backwards over his shoulder. The reduced distance the second rock travelled was obvious to all.

I won’t bore y’all with the other fundamentals that I try to bring into the conversation, but trust me that I try to explain the importance of things like the pause, trajectory vs. gravity, and the need for translation and tracking. With each concept there is an associated dilemma of using overly simplistic explanations vs. being too technical. How is the best way to get this stuff across?

Now that brings me to a parallel question: where is the line between introductory casting techniques and advanced techniques? And which should be reserved for later? A commonly disputed example would be hauling. Some instructors are loath to even mention the haul to beginners, while others introduce it immediately as if it were primary.

Drift, slide, pull-back? I’m guessing most would say these techniques should be held onto for later. But what about trapping the rod butt against the forearm during the backcast? Is that an advanced technique reserved for distance competition? Or, is it something to introduce to any beginner that is physically outmatched by the equipment they are choosing to employ? Could it be illuminating to all beginner casters?

Down here an eight weight is generally considered to be the lightest choice. Yet, young boys and physically slight women are attending my classes in ever increasing numbers. It appears that asking them to trap the butt during the backcast is not all that strange for them since the whole thing is new anyhow. I can definitely report that the results are usually that they get to a better backcast quicker than most of the full-grown men who rely on the wrist.

I’m not looking for agreement; I am just stating an observation – an observation that was the result of an recent experiment. In flycasting little seems to be agreed upon. If simple definitions or the basic components of the cast cannot garner majority consent then how to teach or what to include is never going to be set in stone.


I’m just saying watch your student and share with them the tools they need to advance… and don’t be afraid to experiment.