How to improve your clients casting November 2, 2016 – Posted in: Basics, Fly Casting

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How not to improve your clients casting….

I’m sure most of you have watched how the self-proclaimed best fishing guide in the world, Hank Patterson, improves his clients casting. “NO! You’re doing it wrong, do it right.  No, no, not like that, I said do it right!” Very funny, but not very effective. Unfortunately, some guides work with their clients not much more effectively.

So how do you improve your clients casting? I have to admit, it isn’t easy considering that you don’t have much time and your clients have plenty of distractions. However, there are some simple things you can do to effectively increase your clients casting skills. And you know, better casting typically means more fish and bigger tips!

There is one prerequisite….  If you don’t understand fly casting very well yourself you will have a tough time teaching it to others. If that’s the case, it’s time for you to do some learning. The Federation of Fly Fishers has a very good program that teaches and certifies fly casting instructors. Find one of those instructors and have him/her show you the ropes (www.fedflyfishers.org) You may want to consider becoming a certified instructor yourself.

If you are confident that you know what your client is doing wrong, here are some tips to get them back on track and effectively covering the water. 

  • If you can, take a break from fishing to work on casting problems away from the distractions of fish and water. This allows you to demonstrate what you want your client to do and to work with them hands-on. Often it is best to do this after an hour or two on the water, by that time they will realize that their casting is causing a problem and they will be more receptive to your help.
  • People learn physical skills like fly casting by seeing, hearing, feeling. They see a good demonstration, they hear the right words, or feel fly casting by casting with someone more experienced. If you want to teach someone to cast you, tell them what you want them to do, you show them how to do it by demonstrating, and sometimes you’ll put your hand on their rod and cast with them so they can feel what you want them to do. These are three great teaching techniques, IF they are done correctly.
  • In most cases you’ll be telling your clients how to cast better rather than showing them.  What words you use and how you use them is very important. Most clients don’t know much about fly casting and if you use casting jargon, they likely are not going to understand. If you say “you’re tying knots in your leader because you’re creeping”, but the angler doesn’t know what “creeping” is, you can’t expect them to fix the problem. Find ways to describe what you want them to do without any words they might misunderstand.
  • Ensure the words you use really explain what you want them to do. We often hear “you’re using your wrist”, or, “don’t use your wrist”.  We know what this is intended to mean, but your client may not. Much better wording would be “you’re bending your wrist too much”, every client will understand what that means. If you keep telling your client something but they don’t change what they are doing, that is a clear sign that they don’t understand. One last thing on wording, less is more. Most casting problems are easy to fix, if dealt with one at a time, clearly and concisely.
  • Demonstrations are most effective when they are exaggerated, done slowly, and accompanied by a few key words. Make sure the words mean what you want and are said at the correct time. If your client is casting with a very wide casting arc, show them what that looks like then make a few casts with the correct rod stop point. Make sure that the difference is very noticeable by casting slowly and exaggerating both the right and wrong. If you demonstrate at your normal, fast, fishing speed your client will NOT see what you are trying to show them.

Teaching anything effectively requires two key things, knowledge of the subject and good communication techniques. If you aren’t sure you understand fly casting and casting flaws well enough to improve your clients casting it might be time to get a little education yourself. If you follow the advice above about how to better communicate with your clients you should see both improved casting and catching!

Bruce Richards has taught fly fishing and casting for over 40 years through the IFFF Casting Instructor Certification Program and is considered by many to be one of the top instructors in the world. He retired from Scientific Anglers after 33 years as a line designer and developer and currently resides in Ennis, Montana where he teaches casting and hunts or fishes at every opportunity.