Fishing | Trout Tips

Everyone needs a tune-up

John Juracek demonstrates proper casting techniques for the School of Trout in Island Park, Idaho.
Photo by Chris Hunt

Most of us who have fly fished for years–decades, even–are likely self-taught casters who have learned the craft over many moons of trial and error. Casting becomes an intuitive activity, with alterations done to meet certain requirements on the water. 

Over time, it becomes much easier to get that caddis fly to drift right under the overhanging willow, or to lift the backcast to avoid catching the giant spruce limb that hangs precariously overhead. These are the casts that we essentially teach ourselves. In other words, we’ve spent enough time removing flies from willows and spruce limbs to know what not to do the next time an obstacle presents itself. 

But, I would wager, the vast majority of long-time fly casters have never sprung for a formal lesson. 

And I’m convinced that’s a mistake. 

While trial and error will eventually get you where you need to be, shortening the learning curve is totally doable with some expert instruction. My friend John Juracek, a renowned casting instructor and fly-fishing photographer from West Yellowstone, Mont., proved it to me and a roomful of fly-fishing experts, media folks and School of Trout students this week in Island Park, Idaho.

To prove to the students that everyone–even those of us who might spend more than 100 days a year on the water with a fly rod in hand–can benefit from a lesson, John asked the “pros” in the room to pick up a practice rod and demonstrate our casts. 

It was, for folks like me, TROUT Magazine Editor Kirk Deeter, renowned photographer Tim Romano and Hatch Magazine Editor Chad Shmukler … humbling. 

But oh, so helpful. 

It was a bit awkward, having a fly-casting instructor critique my cast in front of a group of people, many of them strangers, but the logic was two-fold. First, it’s important for knowledge-hungry students to see that everyone can use a tune-up, and that even so-called experts have casting flaws that can be corrected. Second, it was genuinely helpful. In my case a slight elbow adjustment provided the help I needed to slightly open my loop and prevent the dreaded tailing loop (and the resulting wind knot that I’m prone to acquiring on the water). 

I watched as others who have fly fished for decades took John’s advice with aplomb, and I watched as the fly casts of seasoned anglers improved on the spot. 

The lesson, beyond the casting critique? There’s always room for some introspection when it comes to your cast, and it’s never a bad idea to try and get better.