We all find hitches and glitches in our casts from time to time. Like the golfer who irons out swing flaws at the practice range, the angler can do himself or herself a huge favor by setting aside some time for practice. And I think the best casting practice happens on flat water. I don’t care if you go to a local lake, pond, or the neighbor’s swimming pool, casting over flat water gives you a really good opportunity to see exactly how your fly is landing. That splashdown is the first part of the presentation, and sometimes it matters as much as or more than how you get the fly there in the first place.
Flat water also allows you the opportunity to do this great practice exercise. Strip out about 20 feet of line, and with the rod horizontal, start flipping casts back and forth (in other words, you’re casting parallel to the ground). What you really want to do is get the feel for accelerating and stopping your rod — fling the line as if you are throwing a tomato off a stick. Flick little short casts, tossing the line over the tip of the rod with accelerations and stops. Do this correctly and you’ll see the perfect loops form as you flick back and forth. Do it wrong and you’ll see tailing or open loops. Once you get into a rhythm where you are flicking perfect, tight loops back and forth, go ahead and lift that cast up to the normal, vertical position. If things go wrong, drop it back down to horizontal and start over.
This exercise is the perfect way to “groove your swing” and build loops into muscle memory. Even if you’re feeling good about your cast, it’s a good way to warm up or tune up before some serious fishing.
The only thing I don’t like about practice casting on flat water is that, while it might replicate casting from the deck of a skiff or a drift boat, it doesn’t really simulate casting when you are knee-deep in a river. Sometimes that will goof with your casting plane. To get around that, spend a little time practicing casting into a garbage can (on grass, so as not to wreck your line), which has a target opening a few feet off the ground, rather than into a hula hoop flat on the ground.
Simple little practice tricks often make the biggest difference when it’s money time on the water.