What’s the first thing most people do when they test out a new 8, 9 or 10wt saltwater fly rod?
Strip out about 40ft of line, and shoot it.
Then they peel off another 20ft, and shoot that.
…and if they succeeded…
They strip out another 20ft, and shoot it.
…and if they managed that…
Strip out that final 20ft until they see the “magic mark of manliness”...the backing knot.
And they make that final cast, carrying way too much line in the air, ugly loops, hauling like crazy, and they shoot it all. And if all is right in the world, they watch every bit of that running line come off the ground, fly through the guides and out the tip of the rod.
“Wow!” “This thing’s a cannon!”
They are stoked because they just threw 100ft of line. The end of the line may not have gone 100ft, but they got it all out the rod tip, and that’s what matters.
Sold! I’ll take it!
100ft casts sell rods.
And maybe it’s not a 100ft cast, maybe it’s 70ft, or 80ft. Either way, it’s often those “long casts” that everyone is impressed with. The ones that give a rod the seal of approval.
I love ‘em too. But I don’t know the last time I caught a fish at 100ft, or 90ft, or even 80ft. I have caught fish at those distances, but it’s so far and few between that I don’t even remember them. It was probably a long bomb shot to a blitzing school of albies, or blind casting for bluefish, but it certainly wasn’t sight casting to a single fish.
I’ve said a hundred times to clients, that 70% of the fish on my boat are hooked between 20-50ft away. And of the remaining 30%, more fish are caught at less than 20ft, than are caught at more than 50ft. And of the few that are hooked at more than 50ft, most were caught blind casting.
30ft casts catch fish.
That’s because the average angler can cast pretty accurately at 30ft. Most can cast relatively accurately at 40ft. A lot less can cast accurately at over 50ft. And only the best casters, can hit a hula hoop with any consistency at 80ft.
On top of that, fly lines stretch, so the further away that fish is, the harder it is to set a hook on him. If that fish is 70ft away, you could strip strike 2ft with your hand, and the fly might only move 2 inches. Most saltwater fish have a tough mouth, and it can be very hard to hook them from a long distance.
It’s honestly easier to move a poling skiff closer to the fish and give an accurate cast, than it is to bomb the cast from outside of your range of accuracy.
What’s my point in all this? Maybe we should be focusing more on how rods cast at the distances we actually have success at. If most of your fish are hooked at 20-30ft, find a rod (and line combo) that loads well and delivers at those distances. Hook most of your fish at 40-60ft? Find a setup that works best at those distances.
I’m guilty of wanting a cannon for most of my saltwater situations too. But it only makes sense to use it, if that rod will also load quickly and present well at the distances you fish most often.
And it goes the same for practicing. Spend the majority of your time practicing at the distances you expect to cast to fish at. Going somewhere new? Call your guide or the local fly shop and ask them what distances you should expect to cast to fish at. I’d definitely recommend practicing at longer and shorter distances too, but focus most of your energy on what you’ll actually be doing on the water.
100ft casts get the nod of approval from your fishing buddies, but 30ft casts put fish in the boat.