Young or Old, Athlete or Not, You can Learn to Fly Fish


It is gratifying to see that a lot of people who master fly fishing simply don’t want to do anything else, regardless if there are more productive ways to catch fish or not.

Some may even become esoteric snobs about it, calling it an “art.”

From a pragmatic point of view, it is nothing more than an acquired skill that centers on “false casting.” The associated fly tying comes closer to being an “art,” but fly casting is simply a series of developed motor skills. Literally, anyone can learn to do it, and I’m not just saying that. I proved it years ago when I taught fly casting to hundreds of different people.

I will admit that learning the timing and motion that keeps a fly line flowing gracefully through the air and following the path of the rod tip backward and forward is a little more difficult than other casting. And, I will also reveal that the easiest to teach and quickest to learn were the people who had never fished. The hardest to teach were those with considerable experience with other types of fishing; they had developed casting habits that were hard to break.

But I don’t think learning to false cast a fly line is any more difficult than learning to ride a bicycle. In fact, I can remember struggling with that old two-wheeler more than I did with a fly line. Like riding a bike, once you finally catch the rhythm and balance and the timing of it, something clicks in the motor centers of your brain. The rhythm and balance becomes ingrained and you never forget how to do it.

There is a lot more to fly fishing than just learning how to cast, but all of the finer points of this pastime are built upon the foundation of false casting. And it isn’t a lot of work if you know how to do it. Once you do, the rod does most of the work. It is, in fact, a lot less work than “walking the dog” or constantly casting and retrieving a big crankbait.

The reason I’m telling you this is to encourage you to try it, to share this special sport. Fly casting is not difficult; it’s just different. It is something, at first, that is opposite of our acquired motor skills.

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The thing I repeated most to my students was, “Watch your back-cast. If you take care of your back-cast, it will take care of your forward cast.”

Nearly everything we learn to do, from throwing a ball to grabbing a fork, develops our forward motor skills, right out in front of us where we can see what’s happening. But the physics of fly casting demands that what happens on the back-cast is going to pretty much determine what happens on the forward cast.

If you are interested, my best advice would be to enroll in a class, join a fly fishing club or find an accomplished caster to help you learn. If that’s not possible, then while you’re casting, without moving your feet, pivot your body and turn your head to watch your back-cast.

Dry fly fishermen know that most of the time they could catch more trout with something that sinks, but they mostly enjoy the extra false casting, the smooth poetic movement of the supple line flowing back and forth with a tight loop and then the gentle delivery of line, leader and fly, landing daintily in unison. False casting, when done properly, is an experience no other form of fishing can match.

Dry fly fishing is also full of visual delights. I especially like skittering King’s River Caddis, Humpies, and various hopper patterns because they often induce splashy rises, and even sometimes the trout leap all the way out of the water and pounce on my fly on the way down—that, my friends, is movable outdoor “art” at its finest.

     Ron Kruger has been communicating the outdoor experience for over four decades. He has worked as a full-time guide for trout on the North Fork, for crappies and bass on Kentucky Lake and for smallmouths on the Current River. He has served as editor of three outdoor magazines, and owns a patent on a fly/lure called the Desperate Diver.