03/25/11
Insects and other foods the trout may be eating:
1.    Blue-winged Olives
2  .  Sculpin, baitfish and small crayfish (Imitate with streamers)
3.    Little Brown Stoneflies
4.    Quill Gordons
5.    Blue Quills
6.    Little Black Caddis

The Basics of Fly Fishing Series - Casting
I could probably write a hundred pages about the mechanics of casting a fly but it
would be of little, if any, benefit for those who have never attempted to cast a fly
rod. When it comes to casting a fly, there's no shortage of information available.
There are enough books and videos that have been written and produced on fly
casting to fill the walls of any book store. I'm not saying the books or videos are of
little benefit to the beginner. I am saying that neither a book or a video will do
anyone much good unless they actually practice casting.

You won't find many, if any, books about how to cast a casting rod and reel, or an
open-faced spinning outfit for that matter. In recent years, casting reels (baitcasting
reels) have become much easier to cast without the age old problem of backlashing
the line. It's still a problem for many even though they are much easier to cast.
Spinning reels with light line still tend to get coils of line all tangled and wrapped
around the bail and spool. I guess most everyone that learned to cast either a  
casting reel or spinning reel learned on their own, over time by simply doing it. You
can learn to cast a fly rod the same way or by simply doing it. Of course, it helps to
get some fundamental things down right to begin with. Doing so will prevent you
from having to learn to correct things in the future.

In so far as casting a fly in the Smokies is concerned, I will go as far as saying that
learning to cast a fly well enough to obtain the needed distance in the Smokies isn't
any more difficult than learning to cast a conventional casting outfit from scratch. I
can get enough distance for most situations you will encounter in the small streams
of the Smokies throwing a coil of fly line with my arm, without the aid of a fly rod.
Fifteen or twenty feet is all the distance you need in most situations. It would be rare
you would need to cast over thirty feet.

It takes a little time and practice to learn to place your fly, leader and fly line on the
water quietly. What takes a little more time and practice is learning to make what I
call "crooked cast". I'll explain that latter. Being able to place your fly accurately,
especially with the crooked cast that are very beneficial, is more difficult than
anything. Accuracy is not always extremely important, but it can be very important at
times, depending on the circumstances. Becoming accurate with your cast is also
just a matter of practice. When I say "practice", it's best if you practice when your
not actually fishing but your also practicing each time you go fishing.

Anyone can always become better with practice. The more you fish with the fly rod,
the better you will become at casting but sometimes, this type of statement can be
misleading. Although you can always fine tune your casting, you should be able to
learn enough to make the cast you need to be successful at catching plenty of trout
in the Smokies within a short time or in as little as two or three days of fishing. Some
anglers want to over emphasise the importance of casting. There's some anglers I
have met that can cast a hundred feet that still haven't learned to cast accurately
and more particularly, make the crooked cast needed to properly present the fly in
many cases. That's fine for a fly shop lawn or a fly show casting pool, but not worth
much when it comes to catching trout.

There's some that stress the "beauty" of the cast. Don't get me wrong. Well made
cast are pleasing to watch, but personally I don't give a hoot how pretty my cast is if
it lands the fly in the place and manner I want it presented. You shouldn't worry
about what others think of your casting ability. It's far more impressive to be hooking
and landing trout than making "beautiful, graceful" cast.

I'll put it this way. In order to make a long cast, you need to straighten out the fly line
and leader. When you straighten the fly line and leader out and your fly lands in the
type of currents typical of the streams in the Smokies, your fly instantly begins to
drag. It's impossible to cast across currents of different speeds and directions and
get a drag free drift. I realize this may be getting a little ahead for some of you but I
think I can explain that quickly. When your fly skids across the water like it has a
miniature outboard motor attached to it, your are not getting a drag free drift. When
a real bug, such as a mayfly, is drifting on the surface of the water, it doesn't skid
across the water at a different speed than the current. It certainly doesn't skid in a
different direction from the current. It drifts at the same speed and in the same
direction as the current. When wild trout see something different from this, or
different from what they see all the time, instead of eating your fly, it usually spooks
them. You cannot make long cast and straighten your fly line and leader out across  
rough, pocket water with different current speeds and directions and expect to get a
drag free drift. We'll get into this in detail later. For now, all I'm saying is long cast in
the small streams of the Smokies are basically not good.

There's far, far too much emphasis placed on making long cast. Making a long cast
in most situations is a dumb thing to do for several other reasons. One basic reason
is the longer the cast, the less accurate it is. The farther you are from a fish, the
more difficult it is to get a good hook set is another reason. I could go on with more
reasons.

This just isn't true of fly fishing the small streams of the Smokies. It's true anywhere,
fishing for most any species, and even including saltwater fly fishing. The single
biggest mistake I see anglers make casting to saltwater fish is attempting to cast too
far. The best noted saltwater fly anglers in the World will all tell you that it isn't
necessary to make a long cast to catch most saltwater fish. It certainly isn't
necessary in order to catch trout in the Smokies.

The point of this is you shouldn't begin to learn to cast by over focusing on
distance. Start by leaning to make well executed, shorter cast. Once you get some
very basic movements and the timing down on short cast of twenty feet or less, the
distance you need to cast for other situations will come automatically and become
easy to obtain. Getting distance is a matter of form and timing, not strength. In fact,
most of the time the more effort you make to try to cast a long way, the more difficult
it is to achieve the needed distance.

When you can learn to consistently hit a target fifteen feet away with your fly (with
the barb cut off) the size of a coffee cup, try to do the same thing at twenty feet.
When you can do that consistently and on the first attempt, you are off to an
excellent start. I know plenty of guys that can't do that, yet they can cast eighty feet
without any problem. You'll be better off than they are, even if you've never made a
fifty foot cast.

There's a little more to casting than this, but we will get into that tomorrow.


2011 James Marsh