Problem with practice vs. fishing

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I bought a Clearwater 9'/6wt recently in hopes of picking up fly fishing. I've watched countless YouTube videos and have been listening to the Orvis podcast in hopes of extracting useful information (currently, it's all Greek to me). I practiced in my backyard and tried to bring the things I learned in the videos to the practice. It seemed to be going well. By watching myself on video I think I corrected some casting mistakes.
And then I went fishing twice. For background, I only fish from the banks - usually about 1-3 feet above the water line and setback about 3 feet from the edge. These are South Jersey suburban waterways and lakes, and stepping in would be a muddy mess. My first problem comes with getting the fly in the water. Because the banks are so weedy the leader gets caught sometimes when I try half casting in. Next problem is with line management. When I do manage an okay cast the line on the ground gets caught in grass or small weeds. The last, and worst, problem is that my practice cast is no where to be seen. I think it must be the surface tension of the water, but I struggle to get a good back cast. It seems like the line doesn't want to lift off the water sometimes. Sometimes it gets to the point where I'm straightening my arm and reaching back, which is something I was working hard to eliminate in my practice.
Now, granted, I caught fish both times I fished (so at least one thing is going right). But I also lost 5 flies and did a ton if cursing. It was still worth it.
I'm wondering if anyone has any tips or experience with this gap between the practice field and the water. It feels like my backyard practicing is useless if casting on the water is going to be so different.
And yes, I know I should find a certified instructor. I'm going down the list of nearish instructors on FFI but so far I haven't even gotten a single response back. I'm not surprised given the current state of affairs.

Anyways, thanks for reading.
 
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Stripping basket for line management, you might be trying to lift too much line off the water. More north Jersey, but Andrew Moy at Tightlines Fly Shop gives casting lessons.
The videos I've watched all say to start the cast low, which would mean most of the line would be in the water. Is there an alternative?
 

flytie09

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We've all been there. Practice casting in the yard or even while wading in the river is way different than what you're describing from the bank and high weeds.

I am not good at describing casting motions and it's difficult to visualize I'm sure.....but in this scenario ....I make one back cast way up high at a steep incline and immediately shoot it out forward. This is called the Tower Cast. Back casting will simply be a recipe for disaster as you've experienced.


Another is the Bow and Arrow Cast. Not good for long distance...but effective in tight quarters.


The tried and true roll cast is your friend as well. No back casting at all required with this simple technique.

Give these three simple casts a try in the yard...they all should help you out.
 
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tcorfey

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Your casting platform is probably not the most desirable place to be and learn but it is what it is and congrats on catching some fish.

As for starting the cast there are some advanced techniques to do that but it's going to take some practice. Maybe the easiest involves hold the fly between two fingers in your non-rod hand then removing 10-15feet of line out the rod tip and start your casting stroke. Use barbless hooks because you are going to catch your fingers a few times for sure. You are also going to probably wrap your line around the rod a few times. Think of it as a Spey cast or roll cast from the grass just to be able to get your first cast started.

As for your line not coming off the water try retrieving with the tip of the rod pointed down towards the water with the tip almost touching the water, this will help you to remove most of the slack out of the line. With most of the slack out of the line perform at least one and maybe two quick strips and raise your rod into the backcast position just before the last strip completes. Because you had the line moving and the tip was close to the water removing dreaded slack it should be easier to get the line to lift off the water.

As Bones mentioned using a stripping basket or a large tub or bucket at your feet to contain the retrieved line this will aid in keeping your retrieved line out of the weeds at your feet alternatively as you strip line in you can place a loop of line on each of the fingers on your stripping hand the first loop on your smallest finger and the last loop on your middle finger. Each loop would be 4-6 feet of line. Warning: holding loops in your hand is a little trickier to master than using a basket or bucket.

Finally I agree that practice on the grass is much different than practice on the water however, it is still better than no practice.

Hope that helps... and welcome aboard let us know how you are doing!
 
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We've all been there. Practice casting in the yard or even while wading in the river is way different than what you're describing from the bank and high weeds.

I am not good at describing casting motions and it's difficult to visualize I'm sure.....but in this scenario ....I make one back cast way up high at a steep incline and immediately shoot it out forward. This is called the Tower Cast. Back casting will simply be a recipe for disaster as you've experienced.


Another is the Bow and Arrow Cast. Not good for long distance...but effective in tight quarters.


The tried and true roll cast is your friend as well. No back casting at all required with this simple technique.

Give these three simple casts a try in the yard...they all should help you out.
Thanks so much for the videos. I will throw these methods into my practice regimen. I think a big part of my problem is I'm having trouble generating enough speed and fluidity on my backcast from the water as it seems like the flyline is sticking. When practicing in grass, it's all very fluid. And I've tried the roll cast with mixed results. Mostly, bringing the rod back will catch the line in the short weeds in front of me, which in turn destroys the whole cast.
 

silver creek

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......

And then I went fishing twice. For background, I only fish from the banks - usually about 1-3 feet above the water line and setback about 3 feet from the edge. These are South Jersey suburban waterways and lakes, and stepping in would be a muddy mess. My first problem comes with getting the fly in the water. Because the banks are so weedy the leader gets caught sometimes when I try half casting in. Next problem is with line management. When I do manage an okay cast the line on the ground gets caught in grass or small weeds. The last, and worst, problem is that my practice cast is no where to be seen. I think it must be the surface tension of the water, but I struggle to get a good back cast. It seems like the line doesn't want to lift off the water sometimes. Sometimes it gets to the point where I'm straightening my arm and reaching back, which is something I was working hard to eliminate in my practice.
Now, granted, I caught fish both times I fished (so at least one thing is going right). But I also lost 5 flies and did a ton if cursing. It was still worth it.
I'm wondering if anyone has any tips or experience with this gap between the practice field and the water. It feels like my backyard practicing is useless if casting on the water is going to be so different.
And yes, I know I should find a certified instructor. I'm going down the list of nearish instructors on FFI but so far I haven't even gotten a single response back. I'm not surprised given the current state of affairs.

Anyways, thanks for reading.
I suspect you have not learned to roll cast since you did all your practicing on land.

Find a place like a beach and practice roll casts. The do the roll cast pick up to get the line off the water and then go into your backcast.


Once you get good at the roll cast, you can fish by just using the roll cast without using the standard backcast and forward cast.


The videos I've watched all say to start the cast low, which would mean most of the line would be in the water. Is there an alternative?
One of Lefty Kreh's principles of fly casting is that the cast cannot start until the end of the line starts moving or in the case of fishing, until the fly starts moving. That is the reason that the videos say to start the cast with a low rod tip that points down toward the water.

If you raise the rod to reposition it and then start the cast with the rod horizontal at hip level, you have moved the fly on the water toward you and "wasted" the rod tip travel from water level to hip that could have gone into the cast. That is why you start a fly cast with the rod tip low.

If you already have your line out, with the roll cast pickup you don't need to start with a low rod.

We've all been there. Practice casting in the yard or even while wading in the river is way different than what you're describing from the bank and high weeds.

I am not good at describing casting motions and it's difficult to visualize I'm sure.....but in this scenario ....I make one back cast way up high at a steep incline and immediately shoot it out forward. Back casting will simply be a recipe for disaster as you've experienced.

I'll dig around to see if I can find a youtube video describing the technique. But like I said......we all know your frustration with this and can sympathize that it's indeed not easy to pull off.
That is called the steeple cast.


Finally another way to pick up fly line is the "C" pickup as described in Gary Borger's Blog.

 
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I suspect you have not learned to roll cast since you did all your practicing on land.

Find a place like a beach and practice roll casts. The do the roll cast pick up to get the line off the water and then go into your backcast.


Once you get good at the roll cast, you can fish by just using the roll cast without using the standard backcast and forward cast.




One of Lefty Kreh's principles of fly casting is that the cast cannot start until the end of the line starts moving or in the case of fishing, until the fly starts moving. That is the reason that the videos say to start the cast with a low rod tip that points down toward the water.

If you raise the rod to reposition it and then start the cast with the rod horizontal at hip level, you have moved the fly on the water toward you and "wasted" the rod tip travel from water level to hip that could have gone into the cast. That is why you start a fly cast with the rod tip low.

If you already have your line out, with the roll cast pickup you don't need to start with a low rod.



That is called the steeple cast.


Finally another way to pick up fly line is the "C" pickup as described in Gary Borger's Blog.

Thanks so much. I'll watch those videos and start throwing those principals into my daily practice. I've had mixed success with the roll cast, but for the most part I get hung up on weeds in front of me. I think I get too jerky and make random pauses. Almost like I'm not committing to the movement.
 

philly

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If you're in South Jersey, once things get back to near normal. Check out the Orvis shop in Marlton. My club's done some fly tying classes there and a couple of times they were offering free casting lessons to beginners. The club I belong to, South Jersey Coastal Fly Anglers, meets in OC and once DST kicks in they offer casting instruction before the meeting at the Bayside Center. It's not just salt water fly fishing, a lot of the members fish warm water and for trout. Right now we're meeting on Zoom who knows when we'll be able to meeting in person again. Another option would be Trout Unlimited. Surprisingly there is a South Jersey chapter but I don't know where they meet. They may offer casting lessons.
As far as fishing from the bank, I do lot of that. A lot of times I fish in the area of the boat ramp on lakes. The lakes I have fished in South Jersey have had sandy bottoms, though one has patches of mud that make wading interesting. If there are weeds on the bank, lake or stream, I just tramp down the weeds in the area where the line is going to fall when I strip it in. It doesn't totally prevent my line from catching on weeds but it makes life easier. I'm more concerned about what's behind me that I might catch on the back cast. As far as line on the water, I usually I have about 5 feet of the fly line out of the tip before I pick it and start casting again. The roll cast is one smooth motion. I don't use it much on lakes, but the creek I fish here in Philly has a lot of trees hanging over it, so I had to learn how to do it.
 

trout trekker

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Hey everybody I just invented "Foot Cords", they go into the eyelets of your shoes and allow you to tension the width of your shoe so it stays on your foot while walking.

Wouldn't it be great if someday fly fishers would all learn the same language. Steeple Cast / Tower Cast.
 

redietz

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Another option would be Trout Unlimited. Surprisingly there is a South Jersey chapter but I don't know where they meet.
It's Ray Neirle Chapter. They used to meet at the Square Circle Sportsman club in Gibbsboro, but according to their website (South Jersey TU), this year they were planning on meeting at either the Cherry Hill Library or the Double Nickel Brewery in Pennsauken. They may not be meeting at all at the moment due to the pandemic.

I grew up in suburban South Jersey, and there are a surprising number of places where you can wade out just a bit (like old cranberry bogs that have been converted to recreational lakes) and get a better angle at fishing them.

(Man, I wish there had been an Orvis shop in Marlton back in the day -- I lived in Medford for 33 years.)
 
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Your casting platform is probably not the most desirable place to be and learn but it is what it is and congrats on catching some fish.

As for starting the cast there are some advanced techniques to do that but it's going to take some practice. Maybe the easiest involves hold the fly between two fingers in your non-rod hand then removing 10-15feet of line out the rod tip and start your casting stroke. Use barbless hooks because you are going to catch your fingers a few times for sure. You are also going to probably wrap your line around the rod a few times. Think of it as a Spey cast or roll cast from the grass just to be able to get your first cast started.

As for your line not coming off the water try retrieving with the tip of the rod pointed down towards the water with the tip almost touching the water, this will help you to remove most of the slack out of the line. With most of the slack out of the line perform at least one and maybe two quick strips and raise your rod into the backcast position just before the last strip completes. Because you had the line moving and the tip was close to the water removing dreaded slack it should be easier to get the line to lift off the water.

As Bones mentioned using a stripping basket or a large tub or bucket at your feet to contain the retrieved line this will aid in keeping your retrieved line out of the weeds at your feet alternatively as you strip line in you can place a loop of line on each of the fingers on your stripping hand the first loop on your smallest finger and the last loop on your middle finger. Each loop would be 4-6 feet of line. Warning: holding loops in your hand is a little trickier to master than using a basket or bucket.

Finally I agree that practice on the grass is much different than practice on the water however, it is still better than no practice.

Hope that helps... and welcome aboard let us know how you are doing!
This helped tremendously. I started paying more attention to how much slack line I had in front of the rod and keeping it low - and lo and behold my casts have been much cleaner. Doesn't solve all my issues, but it's definitely a start. Thanks!
 
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If you're in South Jersey, once things get back to near normal. Check out the Orvis shop in Marlton. My club's done some fly tying classes there and a couple of times they were offering free casting lessons to beginners. The club I belong to, South Jersey Coastal Fly Anglers, meets in OC and once DST kicks in they offer casting instruction before the meeting at the Bayside Center. It's not just salt water fly fishing, a lot of the members fish warm water and for trout. Right now we're meeting on Zoom who knows when we'll be able to meeting in person again. Another option would be Trout Unlimited. Surprisingly there is a South Jersey chapter but I don't know where they meet. They may offer casting lessons.
As far as fishing from the bank, I do lot of that. A lot of times I fish in the area of the boat ramp on lakes. The lakes I have fished in South Jersey have had sandy bottoms, though one has patches of mud that make wading interesting. If there are weeds on the bank, lake or stream, I just tramp down the weeds in the area where the line is going to fall when I strip it in. It doesn't totally prevent my line from catching on weeds but it makes life easier. I'm more concerned about what's behind me that I might catch on the back cast. As far as line on the water, I usually I have about 5 feet of the fly line out of the tip before I pick it and start casting again. The roll cast is one smooth motion. I don't use it much on lakes, but the creek I fish here in Philly has a lot of trees hanging over it, so I had to learn how to do it.
I actually bought my setup at that Orvis shop. The guys were helpful, but it sounds like they're suspending any classes / gatherings until next year. On a side note, what's DST?
 
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It's Ray Neirle Chapter. They used to meet at the Square Circle Sportsman club in Gibbsboro, but according to their website (South Jersey TU), this year they were planning on meeting at either the Cherry Hill Library or the Double Nickel Brewery in Pennsauken. They may not be meeting at all at the moment due to the pandemic.

I grew up in suburban South Jersey, and there are a surprising number of places where you can wade out just a bit (like old cranberry bogs that have been converted to recreational lakes) and get a better angle at fishing them.

(Man, I wish there had been an Orvis shop in Marlton back in the day -- I lived in Medford for 33 years.)
Any suggestions as far as bodies of water where I might be able to wet wade out a little bit? Right now I'm fishing from the banks on Newton Lake and the Cooper River tributaries. I also sometimes go over to Gloucester Pond (more like a puddle) as they stock trout there, but I think it's probably too hot for trout and the turtles seem pretty aggressive there (people must feed them from the banks).
 

trev

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tips or experience with this gap between the practice field and the water
Set up your practice area to be more like field conditions, ex: stand in the flower garden or hedge to represent the shore growth, lay a bicycle flat on the ground three feet or so in front of you to represent the water edge growth and scum, lay a hula hoop on the ground at 25' to be the target and set a 5 gallon bucket in front of it 3-4' towards you, now you practice, your rod is 9' and your arm adds another foot or three that should let you reach beyond the bicycle and raise above the hedge, a curve cast or something will let you cast around the bucket. When you get that down rearrange the obstacles and shorten or lengthen the casts. Hanging loops of line on your stripping hand will come in handy so practice that, learn to hang them so that they will shoot from your open hand.
Practicing on open ground only helps if you are fishing from a pier.
~95% of my trout fishing is from the bank or with a high bank at my back no more than 3-4' feet away, the roll cast is my go to, but it is often done across my body place the line, and then cast toward the target. Aim the roll cast high off the water and you can cast over weeds and other obstacles, to practice roll cast at home- cut the grass, then water it heavily and cast on the wet grass; it won't quite the same as casting on water but it can let you get some practice in.
 

LOC

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Just a tip for lawn practicing if you are in your own yard and have a hose handy.
Try practicing your roll casts on wet grass instead of dry.
It will give you a more realistic line tension as if you were roll casting on water.
 
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Just a tip for lawn practicing if you are in your own yard and have a hose handy.
Try practicing your roll casts on wet grass instead of dry.
It will give you a more realistic line tension as if you were roll casting on water.
Thanks for the tip. I will give it a try.

One more question regarding practicing in the backyard. My yard is only about 80 feet deep and I've found I will sometimes smack the house on my backcast. What are the odds I damage my fly line doing this?
 

LOC

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The odds are fair to good that some damage may occur. Lots of variables to consider but it does not take much to damage the fly line coating smacking a hard or abrasive edge. I put a nicked in my scandi line recently when the D-loop caught on a boulder behind me.
For a little piece of mind the strength of the fly line is found in the core so a nick in the coating does not mean it's going to break off your next fish.

Practice casting in your yard is really a time to hone good technique and you don't need to make a long cast to work on it.
I would measure out the exact amount needed to make a cast without hitting the homestead.
If you cannot consistently make a good fly cast at 35' there is really no reason IMO to practice at 40 plus.
 
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