Why Does Aiming at Targets Improve Your Fly Casting?
When Chris Korich asked me what my goal was for casting a number of years ago, I naively told him that I want to be able to cast to the other side of the small pond (~93 feet). His reply? Start aiming at the three nearest hoops (the blue, yellow and red).
In retrospect, it was like a scene from the original Karate Kid (1984): Daniel-san didn’t understand why he was tasked to paint the fence or wax the car to learn karate, but Miyagi-sensei had a plan. In the same way, I was bewildered by Chris’ reply. Why do I need to cast at three targets ranging from 10 feet to 20 feet, when I want to cast 95 feet?
When you aim for a given target at a manageable distance, you need to control three other critical elements in your fly casting: trajectory, loop size and power. Let’s discuss each component.
When you aim while fly casting, you are working on three critical elements: trajectory, loop size, and power.
The trajectory is important because if it is too high, the line will straighten out high above your practice surface, and as the fly flutters towards the ground or the water, the wind will blow it away from the target. If your trajectory is too low, the fly will be driven into the ground or the water, short of the target.
A tight loop will also make delivering the fly to its destination much easier than a wide loop for several reasons. It is more aerodynamic than a wide loop, and consequently, it will cut through the air more efficiently. It is also better than a wide loop in crosswinds. For loops formed with the same amount of energy, a tighter loop will reach its destination more quickly than a wider loop. As a result, the tighter loop will not be blown off course as much as a wider loop since the tighter loop spends less time in the air.
Power is the last crucial consideration. If you cast with too much power using a tight loop (assuming that you don’t have a super long leader/tippet), the fly will snap back towards the caster before landing on the surface. It’s the result of too much energy stretching the line and then the line contracting – like a rubber band. You want just enough power to straighten the leader without stretching the line significantly.
If you start aiming at targets, you will be working on these three elements – whether you know it or not. When you aim at targets, however, people will accuse you of tournament casting. Many argue that tournament casting is nothing like casting for fish. Nothing.
I used to be one of these misguided critics. But, I now realize that controlling the trajectory, loop size and power, allow me to present delicate flies to the most wary fish in a shallow pool. I will also be able to slap the water by the bank with a juicy hopper pattern.
It doesn’t matter if you are aiming at a target or if you are trying to catch a fish. Fundamentally, fly casting is fly casting. So, start aiming at the three nearest targets, Daniel-san. Your casting will improve. I am living proof.