It is one of the most basic aspects of fishing — whether you are using a kid-sized Snoopy pole or a thousand-dollar Orvis outfit, you can’t catch fish without making a cast.
For fly anglers, casting is usually a top-of-mind exercise. The more complicated nature of fly-fishing necessitates it, whether you are roll casting to avoid foliage behind you or executing a complicated double-haul to launch a nearly weightless fly a long distance. When a dry fly hatch is on, the cast becomes even more paramount as anglers target specific, rising trout — and one false move can mean the difference between hooking a fish or scaring it off.
For traditional anglers, casting often becomes more of an autopilot endeavor — we reel, we cast and we repeat. Feeling comfortable with our gear is a good thing. But if casting has become a mindless exercise for you, it may be worth a second thought.
Consider: A main reason casting is so crucial to fly fishing is the visual nature of the sport. Fly anglers are either targeting fish they can see, or casting to a specific spot so that the fly drifts through a riffle, pool or current seam in just the right way.
So why can’t we apply that same logic to fishing with lures or bait? I do plenty of sight fishing with traditional gear, especially for bass in shallow water. Many times, you only get one chance to put your lure in the perfect spot. Cast right, and fish on. Cast wrong, and that fish is long gone.
Even if you aren’t sight fishing, casting accuracy can be vital. In a drift boat, you might only get one shot at hitting a prime spot as you float by. When pitching to bass in heavy cover, an accurate cast can mean the difference between hooking a big fish or losing your favorite lure in a tree. And since most fish like to hide in tight places, the closer you can cast to those spots, the better.
So how do you become a cast master? Like anything else, it requires practice. Whether you use a fly, spinning, spincast or baitcast reel, there are a couple of ways to hone your craft.
The first is obvious — go fishing. You don’t necessarily need to practice on the water (you went there to catch fish, after all), but live repetitions are the best kind of practical experience.
If you’re serious about mastering your cast, you can try practicing on dry land. Take your gear to your backyard and cast away. You’ll learn the nuances of your reel and become an expert in no time. You can even set up targets (hula-hoops, buckets or dead spots of grass work great). Don’t worry if your nosy neighbor gives you a funny look — just return the favor by showing him pictures of the massive bass you caught by landing your top-water frog in a six-inch gap in the lily pads.
Jordan Rodriguez has been fishing Idaho waters since he was a teen. Share your fish stories, adventures, tips and tricks at outdoors @idahostatesman.com.