When the first cast falls apart

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.”


Speaking of casting, here’s Davin, aka Windknot, aka Flatswalker, talking about another bit of casting that he diagnosed me with and that I tried to get right on my last couple days.


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  1. Dude, your cast is good. Very good. Smooth and clean, with no sign (at least to me) of rushing it. Maybe that’s because the fish were invisible and you could remain calm, but whatever the case I was definitely impressed. You deserved one of those follows to convert into an eat. Sometimes tarpon are just bastards, man!

  2. For the short shots you mention, have you tried the more aggressive front tapered 12wt lines that rio (the quickshooter) and monic (tarpon specific taper) have on the market?

    The latter is 100% clear, no color, so you can get by w/ an even shorter leader.


  3. @Jim, We were using a #12 tarpon taper line. Pretty aggressive anyway. Good thought, though!

  4. Thanks Man. I cast well with you on the boat. I did less well fishing with Dan and Bill the next day, that was really where things kind of faltered. It was a blip. My casting got better the day after in Flamingo.

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