This article highlights what I consider the most valuable part of a casting lesson—teaching a student to recognize the cause of casting problems, and the corrections necessary to fix them.

Helping Lisa

Lisa cannot cast a straight line. By that I mean she cannot coerce her line, leader, and especially not her tippet and fly to straighten out as she makes a cast. Most of her casts end with the leader collapsing into a pile just beyond the tip of the fly line. In this, she is not alone. Anglers who can cast a straight line, on demand and in the presence of wind, are few and far between. Yet this is a basic skill. It’s what we should all be taught when we first start in the sport. Our journey to competence would be so much easier then, so much more informed. And while real world fishing may seldom require a straight cast, the ability to make one is the cornerstone of all good flycasting.

Lisa cannot cast a straight line. She apologizes for this, sensing, I think, that after years of fishing it’s something she ought to be able to do. I assure her that this problem is not unique to her, and that we’re going to rectify it in the hour we’ll spend together. Lisa’s casting stroke is in need of fundamental adjustment, and so we spend a good bit of time making changes to the path that her hand and arm travel along. I explain what each change is intended to accomplish, the effect it will have on her line and leader. As she incorporates each adjustment, her casts immediately improve. For perhaps the first time since picking up a fly rod she casts a perfectly straight line—intentionally. Her loops tighten up, become more powerful, angle low to the ground. She’s delighted, excited. So am I.

Not every cast she makes is a good one. Not even close. Realizing that it’s now being asked to make real, permanent change, Lisa’s body digs in, fights back. Her muscles are not much interested in being retrained; they like the status quo, could care less about learning anew. And they certainly don’t give a damn about helping her improve as an angler. But what Lisa’s muscles don’t realize—not yet—is that there’s no going back. Her mind has already glimpsed what’s possible. She’s made casts she never thought she could. She’s felt the pleasure that comes from putting a fly right where it’s aimed. Perhaps most important of all, Lisa has learned to recognize problems as soon as they occur, and learned the corrections necessary to fix them. Cause and effect have become clear.

When our time is up, Lisa has made 367 casts (I know this because I’ve counted them with a clicker). I hope she makes a lot more. Hundreds upon hundreds more. But that’s up to her. She knows what she needs to do, how to do it, and how to fix it when things go awry. She knows how much fun flycasting can be. Lisa has put a lot of work into this lesson; I appreciate that and thank her for her efforts. And as with all the students I teach, I’ll be pulling for her. Hard.

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