Category Archives: Fly casting

Lefty Revisited

Another seminar from Lefty Kreh. So simple. So effective. Easy to understand. Easy to execute.

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Line Maintenance

I don’t clean my line enough.  Check out this video from Lost Angler on YouTube. Very thorough. I feel lazy with the way I cleaned my line before. Time to be more diligent.

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A Little News

The print version of my book, On the Fly in the Bay, is now available on Amazon. Thanks to all of my fly-fishing friends for helping make this happen. … Already working a second edition — beach snook and baby tarpon.
That’s assuming I can actually find a few of the little guys 🙂

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Filed under Education, Fly casting, Fly fishing

Getting Ready for Tarpon and Snook

Summer is almost here and the arrival of Florida’s suffocating heat means one thing if you’re a dedicated sight-fisherman.


In a few weeks, many Florida flats will welcome the popular game fish.  And fly fishermen will be waiting. Some will struggle, muddling along with the hope that enough shots will yield a Kodak moment. Others — albeit a small fraction of the long rod elitists — will catch and land fish regularly.

The difference, quite often, comes down to casting. The better you can cast, the more fish you’ll catch. Period.

Below are a few tips to consider while preparing to dance with the Silver King.


Practice makes perfect.

Saltwater fly fishing is a skill, yet many anglers treat it as a hobby. They fish, but they don’t practice and if they practice, they don’t put in enough time to truly hone their craft.

“You have to practice,” Peter Kutzer, an Orvis casting instructor, said. “You don’t see golfers going out on courses without practicing and taking practice swings. They go to the driving range. They chip and putt to help with their short game. You have to practice your fly-casting game as well. Chasing tarpon is not a poor man’s sport. It’s tough. You’re going to be a lot more successful if you spend some time practicing.”


Lighter is Better.

And if you do practice, go with a lighter rod at first, which should help shake off the rust from a long winter layoff.

“I’d recommend they get some time under their belt and if saltwater fishing is what they really want to do, then get some time with a 7, 8 or 9 weight,” Kutzer said. “Start with one of those rods. They’re a little easier to handle. They can help you develop some of that muscle memory with something a little lighter. Some of those heavier rods can be tougher.”


It’s OK to Break Your Wrist

One of the first things we’re told as novice fly casters is to never, ever break our wrist. That’s fine if you want to chase bass and brim at your neighborhood pond. Tarpon on fly requires sharp loops to pierce those nasty headwinds and generate casts of 50 feet and longer.

“When you’re an experienced caster, you’re looking for ways to increase line speed,” Keys guide Bruce Chard said. “When you snap your wrist and allow for more application of power throughout the casting stroke, you’re going to increase line speed. But, you’re timing has to be impeccable, and you can’t have good timing if you’re not an experienced caster.  I’m not saying you can’t do it. It just makes it a little more challenging to form a nice tight loop.”

The bottom line: If you’re a beginner, don’t break your wrist. If you’re more advanced, check out Joan Wulff’s videos on the power snap, but the learning curve is anything but a snap, which is why a stiff wrist is better for the newcomer.

“It has everything to do with that,” Chard said. “Usually when you’re a beginner, you have too much movement. You’re moving your arm. You’re moving your shoulder and everything all over the place. And we (as instructors) need to get them to quit moving long enough to have a nice short stroke and feel the rod load, stopping abruptly while keeping that rod on a straight-line plane. That helps them form a nice, tight loop. Once they start forming nice, tight loops, then you can do whatever your want to increase line speed, and there’s a number of different things you can do and snapping the wrist is one of them.”


Different Strokes for Different Folks

There are, in general, two distinct approaches to fly casting. On one side of the spectrum, there’s Joan Wulff. At the other end is Lefty Kreh. Joan teaches a more vertical stroke that pulls the butt of the rod through the last part of the motion. Her motion is compact with a minimum of body movement.

Lefty uses a more horizontal approach to the stroke. He pushes butt of the rod towards the target and uses more of his body with an open stance.


Dave Chouinard shows his winning form at the 2013 Big Gun Shootout.

Many top distance casters — Paul Arden and Peter Hayes — are pullers. Many weekend anglers are pushers. Kutzer believes in both methods and says good casters can make either work and quite often they have to, depending on the conditions. Lefty’s low-elbow horizontal approach can work great on a flats boat elevated above the water. But use that while wading a thigh-deep flat and your back cast will smack the water. Vertical is the way to go.

“What a lot folks see is their accuracy gets better,” Kutzer said. “They’re pointing at their target; they’re more lined up. When you cast vertical, it’s a little easier to know if you’re going too far back. The downside, though, to being vertical is you’re going to be a little more susceptible to the wind.”

That’s when you have to flatten out your forward stroke. But executing a quality back cast is pivotal. A poor one often ensures a lack of accuracy or distance. Or both.

“One of the big hurdles people deal with is being aware of what their back cast is doing and being aware of their tracking,” Kutzer said. “Tracking is huge. If you want to make a long cast, the easiest way to do that is to have a good loop on your back cast and to do that you have to track well on you back cast. Loop way around to the side, twist your hand and you bring that rod out and around, it’s going to be really hard to get that line nice and tight and get some distance on your forward cast.”


Fundamentals Matter

We can debate Joan versus Lefty and their merits of both for years, but Kutzer, as instructor, has to simplify the physics of fly casting into palatable bits for his students. Maybe we should do the same.

“Three things,” Kutzer said. “You have to make a rod bend. You have to make it stop. Twice. And that’s not easy because in everything we do (in sports) we almost always follow through. The third thing is you have to keep everything in a straight line.”

Sounds simple, but it’s not. Time to go practice.


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The Myth of Bending the Wrist

Thou shall not bend the wrist. How many times have you heard that mantra when you watch a video or read about fly casting? I’ve heard that piece of advice and followed it intently from day one.

Until now.

The other day I was  watching Paul Arden of Sexy Loops and Master Casting Instructor Bill Higashi conduct a seminar. Both are outstanding distance casters. Both break their wrist. That led to a review Joan Wulff’s instructional videos on the power snap. She breaks her wrist and this wisp of a woman can throw a fly more than 100 feet. Further intrigued, I found Bruce Chard’s video on the wrist snap for line speed. Essentially, it’s Joan’s version of the power snap on steroids.

I certainly don’t have all the answers on fly casting. But my feeling is that the wrist snap on the  back-cast and forward cast creates line speed. Can you cast without a wrist snap? Sure–but snap your wrist at the right time,  the loops tighten and the line speed sizzles. Break your wrist throughout the stroke and the loops widen. Timing is key. Perhaps that’s why many instructors teach their students not to break the wrist. Initially, it makes sense, but eventually one has to take the next step and advance.

On freshwater, it’s not as big a deal, because line speed and distance are not as essential;  in the salt and the wind, they are. The wrist snap, in my book, sharpens the stops at each end of the cast. Improve this and everything else should come together in concert.

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Dealing with the wind II

I hate casting in the wind. It’s hard to see the fish; it’s even harder to make quality presentations. Unfortunately, wind is  a fact of life when it comes to fly fishing the Florida flats.

You can fish when it’s flat, but chances are you won’t get out much, if at all. So I’ve decided to deal with the wind — head on. One can dodge the issue by simply making a backcast into the wind and letting that extra bit of breeze do your dirty work, but sometimes, depending on the tide and position of the sun,  that’s simply not possible.

The key, I’ve found, is line speed. I, put simply, didn’t have enough of it. The reason: I wasn’t investing enough juice in my backcast, which Dayle Mazzarella pointed out to me recently. To create more line speed and cast farther, you have to be able to carry more line on the backcast. That means you have to throw the line with a bit of force, so that it will straighten  properly and load the rod. I took it for granted. Don’t. Mel Krieger and Gink and Gasoline have a couple videos on this. Remember, snap that tip!


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Tailing Loops

I confess. I’ve endured more than my share of tailing loops. Give me a headwind and it’s not long before I’m trying to unravel the dreaded wind knots that can destroy a leader and slow down a good day of fishing. It took me a while to figure out why. I thought it was an issue of power, of not stopping the rod, of twisting my hand on the backcast.

It was none of the above. It was the classic straight line rod path, which I seemed to follow until the very end, when I suddenly, for some inexplicable reason, pulled the rod handle down. Why I did this,  I don’t know.  Maybe I was trying to aim at the water? Below is a video from Lefty Kreh showing exactly what I was doing. It was a hard habit to break.

The Redington form game rod helped me fix this issue. It’s a mini practice rod, so if you don’t keep the rod path straight, you will throw a tailing loop. With a regular length rod, you have more margin for error. With this rod, you don’t. Pull down the handle and you’re headed for a tailing loop. It’s a great teaching tool.


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Big Gun Shootout

A leftover photo from last month’s Big Gun Shootout at Picnic Island Park in Tampa. Below is the winning team Chris Homer, Greg Peterson and Dave Chouinard. Chouinard took top individual honors, edging out Homer.

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Filed under Fly casting, Uncategorized

Cathy Beck’s Double Haul

Was out working on my double haul today. I tend to haul through the stroke and too early. Here’s a video that shows how to get the timing down pat. I tend to overpower the rod while hauling too quickly. If I delay the haul and slow down the rod hand, longer casts require much less effort. The haul hand has to be sharp with good timing and performed near the END of the back cast and forward cast. Makes a big difference if you can get it right. I’ll keep trying.

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Staying on a Straight Line

I know I’ve written about Lefty and his casting style before. But this was too good to pass up. I went to a casting clinic in April (see previous post). The instructor was Dayle Mazzarella, who had set up casting lanes with rope along the ground. We were supposed to use the straight line of the rope/lane as a guideline to follow with the rod tip. The point was to maintain a perfectly straight line with the tip during your casting stroke. This is s a huge deal. The straighter the rod path, the more efficient your loops are. Efficiency leads to ease.

This is easier said than done. The problem is, as I’ve discovered, is that most people have no tip awareness. Why? Because the rod tip is usually above them, out of sight and out mind. Most of the focus is on the butt of the rod. Nothing wrong with that.
But the key is to focus on the tip to get that straight path. The way to do this is take anything in your yard that forms a straight line, edge of a driveway, hedges, strip of grass, etc. Cast a bit sidearm or three quarters and follow the tip as it goes along whatever edge you’ve chosen. If you have trouble following the edge, that probably means your stroke is too long. What that happens, the tip usually dips and follows a curve. The line will then curve and that’s when your loops start to widen.
Once you master this, find two objects that form a gap. Then cast between that gap. I’ve got a row of bushes and a Magnolia tree. The goal is to keep the fly line in that gap. To do that, you have to maintain a straight line with the rod tip. If your stroke is too long, you’ll throw a curve in the line and not be able to stay in the lane/gap.  That’s what I did for a LONG time before I did this drill. Then I shortened my stroke and the loops narrowed. Big difference in my casting stroke, particularly in the wind. I’m a lot shorter, quicker and more efficient. Worked for me. I think it will for you, too.
Back to the Lefty vid. Lefty doesn’t use the tip to measure the rod path. He uses the butt to explain the elbow on the shelf. Different approach. Same goal. The key is to find ways to practice a straight path. Both can work wonders.

Staying on a straight line

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