Jul 13

How far do you need to cast to catch bonefish

It is a question a lot of people have when they head out to pursue bonefish for the first (or second or fifth) time. The outside-looking-in impression would have you believe bonefish require coffee-cup accuracy at 80 feet.

They don’t… usually. The ones that do aren’t going to get caught by mortals, so don’t worry about those.

Deneki had a great post with rigorously invented numbers to convey how far you really need to be able to cast. Their take, which I whole-heatedly agree with, is 30-50 feet.

That's me, working the Mojo

That’s me, working the Mojo

Casting distance breakdown from my own limited experience

  • Shots at 10′ I’ve never made. The fish is just too close and they see you and they aren’t fans. While wading I’ve run (almost literally) into fish at 10′ and those, for me, have been 100% unsuccessful.
  • Shots at 20′, I’ve certainly caught a few at 20′. They might see you, they might not, but it needs to happen soon or they are going to be at the boat or at your feet and you won’t have any room to strip. I’ve heard lots of stories about fish caught with the leader stripped in, but that isn’t the norm. That’s why those stories stand out.
  • Shots at 30′, yeah… that’s pretty common and that’s a good shot.
  • Shots at 40′, probably the most common distance I’ve heard called out.
  • Shots at 50′, I’ve had them, I’ve made them, but they are less common.
  • Shots at 60′, I’ve had those and I’ve made them, but it starts to get to the point, for me, where my casting can, on occasion, let me down.
  • Shots at 70′, maybe I’ve had 70′ shots called out, but not many and I can’t really remember being asked to cast at or over 70′ more than a couple of times. When you start casting at 70′ you have a lot of line out and that means you are starting to be removed for what’s happening on the other end. It’s harder to feel the take and it’s easier to be in the wrong spot, for the fish to change directions or the current to take the fly away from the fish. Distance multiplies all the things that can go wrong.
  • Shots at 80′, very rare and even less often successful.

The wind is not your friend

While you don’t usually have to cast 70′ for a bonefish, what you do have to deal with is the wind. The wind will mess you up and destroy your confidence, leaving you a sobbing, quivering puddle on the deck. Wind is an A-hole. If you can cast 40′ to that rising trout it does not mean you can get the bonefish fly to the fish in a 20 mph wind. You need to get your double haul down and once you do, you are well armed… otherwise, you are always going to be under-gunned.

Me, casting, before I even did it very well.

Me, casting, before I even did it very well.

There is wind in the tropics. Sometimes there is a LOT of it. Your pants and shirt will flap like a flag in the wind. Your line will get swept off the deck. Your floppy hat will flop in your face. Wind is the game changer and the thing that causes people to lose their minds.

Learn to double haul. Also, learn to double haul.

No Casterbating

The other thing you need to be able to do is get it to 40′ or 50′ in one or two false casts. No “casterbating,” which is what some guides call the need to carry the line in the air for way, way, way too long. I’ve done it. It’s a bad idea. One. Two. Shoot. Get it there, get it there fast and get to fishing. No “shadow casting” on the flats (or on rivers, that’s a movie device, not a fishing technique).

Go forth and cast like a boss (at ranges of 30-50′, in the wind).

Cuba Bjorn Casting


Mar 13

A word on casting… but not from me

I was watching a video of a guy fishing in Cuba. Love Cuba. Beautiful place and the fishing? Please.

However, hated the guy’s casting. It was painful. Jerky. The opposite of smooth. I was almost offended.

You ever had a Bahamain guide borrow your rod and cast, effortlessly, the whole damn line? Yeah… I have. Humbling.

Here is a Caribbean guide with some pointers (and yes, that is Davin, from Flatswalker).


Dec 12

Rajeff, casting, wind, Andros

Yeah… likely worth a watch. Tim Rajeff on casting in the wind in South Andros.

Oct 12

Muscle Memory

Many, many moons ago I was a guide for a single season up in Northern California at Clearwater House on Hat Creek (now Clearwater Lodge on the Pit River). As part of that experience there were fly fishing schools we put on occasionally and I clearly recall the then owner, Dick Galland, talking about casting and muscle memory. He said it take 60 hours of doing something before it is firmly established in your muscle memory at which point the action becomes second nature, easier. Another figure you may have heard is that it takes 10,000 hours of doing something to become expert at it.

I don’t stand a chance of being expert by that yardstick. “Good…” now “good” seems a decent target to hit.

The trick is that muscle memory does not judge if you are casting well or poorly, so just as muscle memory can help you cast with more ease, it may not actually improve your cast, ya know, unless you are casting correctly.

When you repeat mistakes again and again, you build a muscle memory with those mistakes. That makes those mistakes even harder to overcome later.

There is a flow, a feel to the saltwater cast, the double haul, that looks effortless if the rod is in the right hands. We’ve all see those casters who have an ease and grace to their cast. They spend a tenth the amount of energy and get twice the results. They’ve been doing that for a long time, their bodies do it automatically. The action has been cached in the very fiber of their beings, recalled without thought.

If you only cast when you have a fish in front of you, the odds of you ever achieving proficiency are almost nil. To be able to pull out the big cast when you need it I would wager the angler who has to actually think about the cast is the one who will fail more times than not. It is the angler who can tap into the body’s internal memory banks, who can automate the cast based on hundreds and thousands of such casts in the past who will hit the target, and by hitting the target will get the grab, feel the tug, hear the reel scream, cradle the hefty fish and watch it disappear back into watery oblivion.

So, go practice. Practice without fish in front of you. Get to a casting pond or an empty field. Cast and cast and cast and try to have those casts be as well constructed as possible. Get an instructor. Get a friend who casts better than you do. Record your casting and play it back and see what you actually look like. Correct, amend, improve. Cast in the wind. Cast over your off shoulder. Lay out your back cast. Cast and cast some more.

The guide will say Bonefish, 70′, 1:00 and you will spring into action without thinking and everything will lay out perfectly because you’ve done this a thousand times before.

Me, casting.




Jun 12

Capt. Clint Kemp casting

Here’s a little video that features Capt. Clint Kemp from Black Fly doing some casting.

He’s pretty good at this stuff.

Notice how high his hand is when he starts his haul.  That’s important.  The further up you start the haul, the more haul there is. I had that tip down in Cuba… I think from John Hudgens. It works.



May 12

Rajeff on casting down at Andros South

Yes… Tim Rajeff talking about casting in the wind and the various situations you face out there. Some good advice in this Deneki bit.

Check it out.

In saltwater you need to deal with 4 distinct wind situations – in your face, at your back, from the left and from the right – and Tim takes us through some quick pointers on how to deal with each of those situations.  Have a look!

Rajeff, a man who knows casting

Mar 12

Tory does some casting

Pointed out by Davin at Flatswalker… Knowledge.

Of course, Tory is a guide at Andros South. I know that beach. The Slack Tide bar is about 40 feet to the right of the camera. Love that place.

Mar 12

Flatswalker does the Double Haul

Davin over at Flatswalker not only has a pretty fantastic blog (one of my consistent favorites), but he also has some knowledge to drop.

Pretty cool.

Mar 12

Haul your butt over to Deneki

I saw this post about helping your double haul and thought “Yeah, people should probably see this.”

So… I’m sharing it with you good people.

Tim Rajeff giving double haul tips. Get ye to Deneki to check it out.

Aug 11

Backhanded Cast

I saw this post over at Deneki about backhanded casting.  I agree.  It is a great skill to have. I wouldn’t have gotten my Grand Slam in Belize if I didn’t have a backhanded cast.

One thing I noticed in South Andros was that my backhand cast is actually better looking than my forward cast.  The loop is tighter and seems to lay out flatter.  I don’t really know why, but my backhand cast is a thing of real beauty.  I’ve been trying to figure out why and trying to make my forward cast more like it, but I haven’t cracked that code just yet.

Anyone have that answer?