Casting lessons build confidence quickly
It’s no surprise that saltwater fishing is productive and abundant on Long Island, since it is surrounded by salt water. What may be unexpected is that, despite our suburban surroundings, there are opportunities for freshwater fishing here as well. Most people would probably reach for a spinning rod, since they can be inexpensive and easy to use. Fly fishing, to the lay person, seems fiddly and expensive. However, the meditative and relaxing practice of fly fishing is both affordable and accessible, and few could guide you better than Paul McCain at River Bay Outfitters of Baldwin, NY.
“People have a misconception about fly fishing when they think expensive, and too they think it’s difficult. And it’s not expensive, not any more than any other fishing, right? And it’s not difficult. It’s different. Once you get the basic mechanics down, you’ll find that it’s just incredibly enjoyable, in my opinion.” McCain said.
Fly fishing is different from other types of fishing because it’s the weight of the line that carries the fly out to the target spot. In spin and bait fishing, the weight of the lure or an added sinker provides casting distance.
Some flies imitate an insect, others a small fish or crustacean, and some attract fish without resembling anything. Flies range in size from a fraction of an inch to more than a foot long, but most are between a half inch to 2 inches. Flies are made by tying hair, fur, feathers, or other materials, both natural and synthetic, onto a hook.
McCain conducts several classes, lessons, and guided trips throughout the year. For one-on-one casting lessons, McCain sets up a set of exercises in the grass at Baldwin Park, just down the road from his fly fishing shop. The first is a length of bright twine where the participant practices keeping the line in the air, moving it forwards and backwards smoothly without tangling it. There are cones to show the range that the rod should move, and the end of the line has a small piece of brightly colored marabou attached to make it visible. The back-and-forth motion of keeping the line in the air should be smooth and balanced. The next step is transferring this side-to-side motion into a backward-forward motion that loads the rod with energy and then releases the energy to propel the line (and your fly) forward.
McCain puts it this way: “So basically this, it’s not muscle. This is all about the casting the line. The flies are weightless. So you have the end of the line is tapered. You can feel how this line is split here and it gets thicker, thicker, thicker. This is what is transferring the energy. It’s all about timing. You want this rod to load it and release.”
In other words, you are using your arm to load the rod with potential energy in the first part of your cast, then releasing it as kinetic energy to move the line in the second part. The timing of the motion is critical to get a cast that lands straight out and not in a tangled heap. McCain is not above tying your wrist to the rod if it will help your form.
Next is a test of placement; three hoops are set up on the ground, each one measured to be 15 feet apart. The goal is to land the marabou in each hoop. It isn’t difficult to imagine a fish at those distances and needing to place your fly at just those spots. Timing and patience are key here as well, but nothing helps so much as practice. Be prepared to try, and try, and keep trying.
Finally, there is a hoop suspended from a frame and a line on the ground about thirty feet apart. With your feet on the line, the goal is to put the marabou exactly where you want it, this time through the hoop. By this time the “feel” has developed; rather than a series of separate steps, the cast seems more like one continuous movement. The hands are working in tandem rather than each performing their part. Here also, be prepared to make a number of attempts. Just reaching the hoop feels like an accomplishment.
River Bay Outfitters is located at 980 Church St, Baldwin, NY. The store is open Wednesday through Saturday 10-5 and Sunday 11-4.