Casterbating – v – casting a fly line repetitively without shooting the line or adding much/any distance to the cast.
You see the fish, on your own, or with a guide, and you start casting… and you keep casting… you need a little more distance and you are letting out a foot at a time… the line is in the air and things start coming a little undone as the amount of line gets longer and longer… and then it all falls apart. You dump a bunch of unorganized line on the water. You can almost hear the fish scream as they run away. If you are fishing with a guide, you can definitely hear the guide screaming.
Many threats to bonefish come from above. So, in addition to just not really adding much to the actual cast, casterbating runs a good chance of just spooking the fish due to the arial movement.
Maybe you’ve fished with that guy. Maybe you are that guy. Condolences either way. We’ve all been there.
Casterbating is a saltwater sin, punished by the fishing gods with no delay.
How do you know if you are casterbating? Did you do more than three false casts? Yes? Then you are casterbating.
Maybe some day they’ll come up with a patch or some gum to help break you of this habit, but in the meantime, there are a few tips I have to keep you from casterbating, at least in public, in front of the fish.
Starting point – How much line do you have out to begin with? If you don’t have enough line out, you wont’ be able to load the rod. It is pretty hard to load the rod with 5 feet of fly line out. You’ll usually need 15′-20′ feet of line out the tip of your fly rod in order for there to be enough fly line to properly load the rod on your first false cast.
3 and let fly – By the time you get to your third false cast, you should be shooting your line. Past that number and you hit the point of diminishing returns. It is harder to manage line in the air. The more line you have in the air, in your cast, the harder it is to maintain and control. If you have a good loop going and are properly loading the rod, by the time you get to your third cast you have everything you need to shoot the line.
Don’t let go of the line. It may seem like a good idea to let go of the line with your line-hand when you shoot the line. That is not correct. Keep the line in your hand as you are shooting the line. If you keep the line in your hand you’ll be ready for action when the fly hits the water, instead of grasping (and missing) the line and trying to get everything under control. There are those times when a fish eats AS SOON AS THE FLY lands. Bonefish do this sometimes, as do tarpon. If you have the line in your hand, you are ready for business. This last tip isn’t really a casterbating tip, but it’s a pretty good one anyway.
If you can get away with two false casts, that’s better than three. Four casts is one too many and five is straight out.
You don’t need all those extra casts. They just put a greater chance for user error into the whole enterprise. They may spook the fish. You are unlikely to get a better cast on your 8th false cast than on your third. If you are casting, your fly is not in the water and you are not fishing. So… knock it off with the casterbating.
Southern Florida has a lot to offer, even to the business traveler on foot. Here’s what I learned about fishing for Peacocks around Ft. Lauderdale and Miami from just 4 short sessions.
When you get to the pond/lake/canal you will see fish boiling out in the middle of wherever you are. Don’t cast at those. That’s not what you are looking for. Most (?) of those are not your targets. It seems VERY intuitive to cast at the boils, but they are false flags.
The peacocks are along the shores. Don’t cast 90 degrees from the shoreline. Cast along the shoreline. Most of these places have drop-offs and shelves. That’s where the fish are.
The strip that worked for me was a fast, fleeing baitfish type strip that slowed or even stopped at the shore-side of the drop-off.
Fly selection is weighted, lead eye, baitfish type pattern. I had both clouser style and double bunny type flies work.
Sometimes, you don’t even need to cast. You can, in essence, dab for peacocks and chiclids. If you spot them, you can just annoy them with your fly until they eat. I caught fish both doing that and casting like I suggest in #2.
Now, this is from just a few days and not that many fish. So, there may be exceptions to this and some of it may be flat-out wrong, but this was my experience and I bet this would work for you.
This post from G&G went up yesterday. Of course, it is a pretty good read and makes the old brain juices start to flow a bit.
I have to say, several of these situations for me have been big zeros in terms of success.
I know, theoretically, that traveling fish or fish who are running can be caught. I have yet to count myself among the people who have caught fish with that mindset.
I used to bomb out hero casts trying to entice those fish, but I don’t do that anymore. For me, I’d prefer to stir things up less. Maybe that long bomb spooks some other fish I haven’t seen yet. Maybe that fish making a B-Line will settle down if I don’t mess with it. Maybe these are theories I hold because I haven’t gotten those fish to eat yet?
I just need to see it happen with my own eyes before I really can take it to heart.
How about you? You find success in those situations?
On this FL tarpon trip every shot gained in magnitude and importance because there were so few of them. So, each flub was a massive failure, bringing down the skies and ripping out a bit of my soul (to be dramatic about it).
One of the problems I had was on that first cast to really close in fish. Conditions meant we didn’t see fish from too far away. Often we’d see the fish 30 feet away, maybe 20, sometimes 10. Always they were coming at us, closing the distance fast. Trying to get a cast at a 100 pound fish 20 feet away is harder than it sounds on the face of it. The rod is 9 feet. The leaders were were fishing were between 10-13 feet. That means your cast, if you can call it that, was basically the length of the rod and the leader.
Ever try to load a 12 weight with no fly line out? Or even just a couple feet? It doesn’t work so well. You can’t load the rod and you can’t make the cast. On the first cast, everything would fall apart and then… oh calamity.
Trying to correct from a bad cast, that hurry, that rush… nothing goes right when you find yourself in that mode of “trying-to-recover.”
In retrospect, I should have shortened the leader so I could have more line out, so I could have loaded the rod for the super-close-in shots we were getting. A 13′ leader is a clear-day luxury we didn’t have, but tried to insinuate into the situation. It was the wrong call.
The second lesson, which will be learned and re-learned a hundred times over an angler’s life is simple… when it feels like you need to speed up, that’s exactly when you need to slow down. Take out the panic and get methodical with it. Think mechanics, not fish, and concentrate on the movements of your hand, your arm, the rod, the line, and not the movement in the water of that shot evaporating in front of you. If you don’t get it right, it doesn’t really matter if you had a shot or not and you won’t get it right if you panic.
I heard or saw this in some military show or movie… the infantryman’s proverb of, “Slow is smooth, smooth is fast.”
There is a new-to-me on-line fly fishing magazine called Tail that I got turned onto to see an article by Michael Larkin (yeah, he’s a Ph.D.). The article is all about bringing statistics to break down the elements that influence if you are going to catch a bonefish or not.
Fishing is good.
It is an interesting read, looking at data from Keys fishing tournaments over a number of years. This may, or may not apply to your average day on the water, but it does provide some food for thought.
What are the elements that matter the most? Experience of your guide? Your own experience? Wind? Cloud cover? Moon phase? It all gets put into the mix.
Check it out.(I think you have to register to see it, but you can do so for free)
Before you take that trip of a lifetime… spend some time getting your cast straight. Pity to go allllll that way and then have the wind kill your trip. There is wind. Almost always and even if there isn’t wind, there will be and it will blow so hard and you’ll think “I can’t cast in this!” and you’ll be right if you don’t work on it. Maybe you can lay out some line when throwing that caddis out on the lake or that 30′ cast on the big river, but the flats are not like that. The wind is sometimes unrelenting and sometimes right in your face as the fish are coming at you.
The wind can be your friend. The chop makes the fish feel a bit more comfortable. It can mask your movements and your noise. A windless day is tough, sometimes tougher than a really windy day.
Wind is a reality. Learn to cast in the wind. It is a skill you can pick up and you can remove that from the list of limiting factors.