If you want to spend your hard earned money floating the South Holston River with me or any other guide, one thing that could make that trip SO much more successful is 30 minutes a week of practice!
One sport I like to compare fly fishing to is golf. A lot of our clients and customers play golf. They know how hard it is to learn and how much time and practice it takes to get better. When you play a round of golf, every shot is carefully thought out. How hard do you need to hit the ball? Is there any wind to worry about? Are there any obstructions between you and the hole? What club should you use? Etc. The same should be done for every single cast while fly fishing. Every shot in golf is a little different, and the same is true for every cast in fly fishing. You should take a little time to think about every cast you make. Where do you want to put your fly? Are there any obstructions in front (and especially behind) of you? Do you need to make any adjustments? When you take a split second to look around and think about what you want to do, you will become a much more successful angler. I see too many people cast without purpose. If you want to catch fish and become a better angler, take a split second to think about what you are wanting to accomplish with your cast.
Whether you play golf, tennis, badminton or play a musical instrument, you won't get any better unless you practice. The same is true for fly fishing. Just like golf, and many other sports, fly fishing requires muscle memory, correct tempo and knowing your equipment. The only way to get better is practice, practice, practice. Even if I am out fishing everyday in a week, I still spend a couple days casting in my yard. I might cast for 5 min or 30 min, but it helps me get more comfortable with my ability and my gear. That way I know I'm ready when I'm on the water. Try placing objects at different distances in your yard and casting at them. Soon you will know exactly how much line you need out for a 20' cast or a 50' cast and you will be much more comfortable at recognizing distances...It will pay dividends when you are out fishing. If you want to perfect a reach cast or bow and arrow cast, do it at home and not when you have one shot to get it right when you're on the water. If you want to have a successful day on the water, you need to be confident in your ability and your gear. The only way to gain that confidence, is with practice.
Here are a few of the most common mistakes that are easily corrected with a little practice:
Watch your cast! One of the biggest mistakes people make in their cast, is going too far with the rod tip on their back cast. If you tell them to stop their back cast (rod tip) at 2 o'clock, they'll take it to 3-4 o'clock. If you get in the habit of watching ALL of your cast (forward and back), you will know exactly when to stop the cast. In this digital age, one valuable resource to help you get better is your cell phone. Video yourself casting! You video everything else, why not your casting?
Watch for slack in your line! The one thing you do not want in fly fishing, 95% of the time, is slack in your line. Whether you are casting, mending or just drifting your line on the water, keep the slack to a minimum. There are times when you want slack in your line, but just make sure you know how to manage that slack. If you take a little time every week, you will be able to get a feel for your equipment. You will be able to feel when you are loading and when you are not loading your rod. If you are not loading your rod properly, you are most likely introducing slack to your cast.
Patience! I see way too many fly fishermen rushing their cast! Again, watch your cast. Make sure you see the line starting to 'unfold' in your back cast before bringing it forward. Too often, people start their forward cast before the back cast has started to unfold. Bringing the line forward too soon, again, introduces slack into the line, creating a 'tailing loop,' and then the line usually ends up tangled or in a mess on the water...and not in a nice straight line.
You won't learn how to play the guitar, playing it half a dozen times a year. So why do you think that logic will work in fly fishing. I fish with a lot of people that think fly fishing in exotic places makes them a better fisherman. It doesn't. It just means they spend a lot of money on trips that could turn out a lot better if they spent 30 minutes a week casting in their back yard! Practice, people!