We’re all missing our fishing right now, but what can we do to keep the fire burning and our skills sharp? Orvis fly fishing guide and Angling Trust ambassador Marina Gibson has some great ideas to improve your casting and keep that angling spark alive if you are a fly angler.
1. Casting accuracy practice
(preferably outdoors to avoid breakages!)
Here’s a neat set up for any garden or yard space. Nothing beats practise to improve your accuracy! This exercise is obviously aimed at fly casting, but other anglers could always set up their own targets with sinkers or lures.
- Place the targets in a range of distances and positions (straight ahead, left & right). If you don’t have outside space don’t worry I have some exercises coming up for you (see 2).
- Make sure that at least one foot is pointing at your target – footwork is important when you’re fishing.
- Try with an open and closed stance to see which one works for you.
- Also try a thumb and finger on top grip and see which one you prefer.
- Start with the piece of colourful yarn in your hand (a piece of wool is an ideal “fly” for practice purposes).
- During your false casts let line slip until you reach the target.
- Hover the piece of yarn over your target until you’re ready to deliver.
- It helps if your back cast is higher than usual and that you tilt your trajectory forwards so that your forward cast is lower than normal. This tactic also works when you’re fishing/ casting into a head wind.
Once you’ve practiced your casting, you might also want to enter the #orvishatsoffchallenge … Here’s my effort:
2. Learn 5 new casts or fishing techniques
(perfect for indoors!)
When it comes to refining or learning new techniques YouTube tutorials are quite often the best way to get the ball rolling without having to leave home.
For example, double hauling is an extremely useful technique:
A “Practicaster” (as it sounds, an indoor practise casting rod) is another great home tool for you and your kids. These come with a wool line, but you can also replace this with a flyline and practice just about anything without breaking your crockery!
If you don’t have a Practicaster, try using just the first two sections of your rod. You can also practice on your knees, giving you more space above for your loops, whilst pretending to stalk a trout from the bank. We’ve all done it… just draw the curtains, so the neighbours don’t think you’re mad!
Practicing your double haul:
The double haul cast (or DH for short) is about manipulating the line during the casting stroke to increase line speed. By doing this with two distinct pulls or “hauls” you can add distance and cast more efficient loops into the wind. It’s also very useful for anyone who casts bigger flies.
Mel Kreiger, a well known casting instructor, explains that the pulling on the line movement is a downup (all one word). The most important thing is to get your hands back together.
Here is an exercise you can do at home, indoors or outdoors: Set out some cones or markers in the shape of a triangle – stand at the point and use the other two for your casting arc, pull on the line ‘downup‘ and lay the line down on the floor.
This cast is so much easier to perfect with the rod held low, so you can effectively “freeze” the cast after each “downup” stroke or “haul”! Once you’re in a rhythm you can “climb the ladder” (i.e. raise your rod bit by bit) until you’re at your normal casting stroke angle. If you’re doing it indoors, concentrate on doing small hauls and just work on your timing.
3. Fill a fly box!
What better time to prepare a fresh set of flies for when the season opens again?
Here are just some of my upcoming fly tying aims, incorporating some of the flies I just wouldn’t be without: Klinkhammer, Elk Hair Caddis, Griffiths Gnat, Quill Body CDC, Partridge and Orange Spider, Snipe and Purple Spider, Pheasant tail, Hare’s Ear, Diawl Bach and Duracell.
If you’re new to fly tying (like me) I would recommend David Mcphail’s YouTube videos to help you along the way. https://www.youtube.com/user/DavieMcPhail
4. Practice your knots and learn new ones that are out of your comfort zone
One question that cropped up in one of my recent live question and answer sessions was a real eye-opener:
Q: ‘What is something that most people learn only after it’s too late?’
We all learn this from experience at some stage. Indeed, no matter how durable your hook or line, we are all only as strong as the knot we tied- and it’s likely to be the biggest fish of the day that finds any weakness!
Here are just a few types of fishing knot to get you started, ranging from beginner’s staples to more advanced fishing knots:
- Blood knot or half blood knot (to tie your fly to the end of your tippet)
- Perfection loop (to connect your leader to your flyline using a loop to loop), nail knot (to connect your flyline to your leader)
- Albright knot (joining two lines which differ in diameter, also tying backing to flyline when fishing lighter rods for smaller fish), tucked water knot (for droppers)
- Rapala knot (to give certain fly patterns more movement, particularly streamers and, for example, bonefish & permit flies)
- Bimini twist (to tie your backing to the flyline when fishing heavier rods for bigger fish).Again YouTube is often the place to be when you’re learning these new crafts, or get yourself a good quality fishing knot tying guidebook with clear illustrations.
5. Read a fishing book
This is one of the best and most relaxing ways to absorb knowledge and learn about a new or old skill. After all, flyfishing is never ending and we will never stop learning.
In this respect, fishing books are plentiful, so using this time to gain more wisdom will only make you more successful in future.
I’m currently reading The History of Flyfishing by Conrad Voss Bark and I’m LOVING it; highly recommended for anyone who is curious about flyfishing evolution.
Last but not least, we should also use these difficult times to rest and be kind to ourselves. If you’re feeling unmotivated, that’s ok too. Take one step at a time and do what you can. There’s no pressure, but I hope these five ideas will be helpful to those who are stuck for ideas. Stay safe and wishing you all tight lines when the time comes…
For more on Marina Gibson and her highly recommended fly fishing tuition, guiding services and more, check out: marinagibsonfishing.com