How To Become A Better Saltwater Flyfisherman

a loop like this makes for an accurate cast and perfect fly placement

a loop like this makes for an accurate cast and perfect fly placement

11 Drills To Make You A Better Saltwater Flyfisherman


Got a trip coming up?  Make sure that you take advantage of all opportunities that come your way by practicing before you even get on the plane.  

If you want to be ready to catch the fish of a lifetime, flyfishing is no different than hunting, pro football, tennis, or any other sport.  You wouldn’t think about going on an Elk hunt with a brand new rifle that was not sighted in would you?  Would a pro football team take the month before the Superbowl off…no way.  Would Roger Federer expect to win a tennis match without practice?  You get the point.

Flyfishing is exactly like all of these sports.  You can not expect to have any success without practice.  Practice is great and encouraged, but make the best use of your valuable time by using drills that are similar to actual fishing situations.  The Navy Seals say “Train like you fight”…that is what we are going to do.

Rather than going to the park and waving around 50 feet of line or spending endless hours trying to throw the whole line, try to incorporate these realistic drills into your practice sessions.

Drill 1- Practice with the rod that you are going to use for the situation and the type of fly that you are likely to use and over water,  if possible.

Drill 2- Practice the things that most people overlook like stripping the line off the reel and restripping it as quickly as possible.  (Restripping is the act of reversing the line so that the line on top of the pile goes out first.  When it comes off the reel, the line that will go out first is on the bottom of the pile...tangle city.  Reversing or restripping the line makes tangles less frequent) An angler should be completely ready to fish within 1 minute of the time he steps on the deck.

Drill 3- Try to cast from the ready position to 50-60 feet and practice throwing to a target.

Drill 4- When you have hit the target, strip in and get back into the ready position as quickly as possible. Pay close attention to where you are stripping the line. A hula-hoop placed behind you can simulate the cockpit of the boat.

Drill 5- Practice with 2 targets. Go from the ready position to a target placed at 11:00 and 50 feet. Deliver your cast and then pick up and go to a target at 9:00 and 70 feet with as few false casts as possible. Strip back in and get back into the ready position quickly. This is one of the most realistic practice situations. Visualize a fish swimming towards you and coming across the bow. Cast to it at 11:00. Imagine that your cast went unnoticed, pick up and cast farther at 9:00. If that doesn't do it, strip in and get ready for another shot.

Drill 6- Minimize false casts. Try to practice throwing as few false casts as possible. This will improve your speed and line shooting ability.

Drill 7- Practice throwing long casts, but practice throwing them from the ready position and not with the line extended in front of you. This will develop the skill that that you will actually use while fishing and you will also become very good at getting into the ready position quickly.

Drill 8- Practice throwing casts from 30-50 feet. Short casts are often tough for anglers who have only practiced throwing long. Realistically speaking, you will cast at this distance several times a day on a normal trip.

Drill 9- Maintain your lines in good condition or purchase a new line for your trip. Old lines become sticky and tangle frequently. Clean lines at least once a day.

Drill 10- Try to practice with the rod that you are likely to use. If you are getting ready for a tarpon trip, practice with an 11 or 12 weight if you can get your hands on one. If you don’t own one, try to borrow one from a friend or your local tackle shop. This is extremely important. There is a big difference between a 9 and an 11 and it is almost incomparable to a 4 or 5 weight. It will be useful to be ready and used to the bigger rod before you get on the boat.

Drill 11- Strengthen your arms and wrists. I have found that pretending that you are casting with a full wine bottle held by the neck or an axe handle will strengthen the muscles that you use for casting as much as anything. The more you strengthen the little muscles in your forearm and wrist, the more powerfully you will be able to cast.  Of course, doing other stuff like Squat cleans, pullups, rope climbs, deadlifts and back squats will also help your fly casting greatly, but that will have to wait for another post.

-Tom Rowland
Saltwater Experience

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