Practice how to make fly casting permanent in 2015

Finally, after all the festivities, the best present of all, a whole brand spanking shiny New Year to play with and a week of it has gone already.  Better get started on my first blog of 2015 but before I do I would like to wish those of you taking the time to read my weekly posts a Happy New Year and if this is your first visit here, well I hope that you are about to have the best fly fishing season of your life and that something you find on this blog may help in some small way.

It’s traditional to kick off with the usual round of resolutions and looking back over my last few years of January posts it is fairly evident that there were plenty of pledges and quite a bit of fantasising about fish such as Steelhead.  Alas I didn’t get that trip together, but it will happen one day and in 2014 the Redfish that I mentioned in this post did take place as can be seen here, here & here.

So this year my mission is to turn the blog into something a bit more informative and rather than beat about the bush, I am going to get started now, with casting.  Why fly casting and not fly tying or perhaps a book review at this time of year?  Well because armchair angling is fun, there is no doubt, but no amount of reading can ever replace practice, especially when it comes to casting a fly.

Several years ago I was teaching a couple of people involved professionally with coaching hockey and a motto, saying, call it what you will cropped up that I have never forgotten – Practice makes Permanent.  I did a bit of research online and from what I can see it was the late, great football manager Bobby Robson came up with the inspirational adage. Practice is famously associated with the word perfect but there is no perfect of course.  In terms of casting this would mean the same size loops every time, the exact amount of distance required every time, pinpoint accuracy every time and a millimetre perfect rod stroke every time amongst all the other things that take place during a cast.  It’s impossible to be a perfect caster; we can always improve something.

But with practice it is possible to become consistent and wind up with controlled muscle memory which becomes a permanent part of our casting.  The trouble is that there is permanent correct muscle memory and in far more cases permanent incorrect muscle memory, often referred to as a bad habit.

Take my client for the day on Wednesday.  Rob has received instruction from me in the past and taken his casting to a decent standard.  But now with a few years of fishing under his belt one of the main habits he had permanently engrained was lifting off the water far too quickly, a subject that I am going to blog about.  By the end of the session Rob had achieved significant progress towards breaking the habit and with practice I am confident that he will make permanent a consistent smooth lift off the water.

An angler practising their fly casting

A super smooth lift off the water – Practice makes Permanent (Photo by Nick Hart – Jan 2015)

Why had Robs casting slipped a bit?  By his own admission he hadn’t been practising outside the situation of fishing.  This may seem like an odd statement because after all we are always casting while fly fishing, so therefore is this not practice in its own right?  It definitely is, but what if our subconscious cast has some inherent flaw or flaws which I referred to above as a bad habit?  Our grey matter takes over, concocts something which will catch us a few fish and that becomes our permanent way of casting a fly and going fishing.

How about this for a 2015 resolution, practise casting away from the distraction of fish and don’t be afraid to experiment.  Book a lesson, read a book or watch a video for some ideas and then wrap up warm and have a practice session (or ten) in time for the new season.  Not sure where to start?  Check back here over the next few weeks or better still sign up below to get notifications  of a new post and I will help you to get started.

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