Here at Freestone we want you to have the whole experience. From getting your box and your swag to understanding and learning more about this great sport. We're going to start a weekly blog post and go over everything from knots to rods, fishing techniques to handling practice and we might even dive into the most important aspect of all fueling yourself when on the water.
Now since this is the first post I'm going to keep it simple. I assume if you're reading this you've got the basics: rod, reel, fly line and a subscription to our box (nothing wrong with a shameless plug every now and then!). Maybe even a little know-how on how to use the stuff and that's where we're going to start this post with the most important aspect of fly-fishing: PRACTICE!
There's just no other way around it. To get the most out of sport you need to practice. Now to be honest, when I first started out I had someone tell me the same thing and I laughed at them. It sounds silly and I fumbled my way through a spring doing nothing but trolling around an urban lake in my hand-me-down belly boat. If that's all you want to do then by all means enjoy. But even then these little tricks will help you. It wasn't until I started trying to cast out of that leaky belly boat that I found the wisdom in those words. It sounds like work, not fun at all, but I can attest not only does it make you better it gives you an excuse to be outside with a fly rod.
So here's my favorite practices:
1) Lawn Casting
Ah yes, there is nothing like lawn casting. Find a big empty park. Throw your rod together, rig up with a leader and attach a piece of wool to the end of it (if you use a fly there's more chance of hooking yourself or the stray cat that's bound to come out and take a look). Make sure you have ample room and just start casting! It's nice to lay out some sticks or whatever else is available at evenly spaced intervals to be able to quickly judge distance. This is a great way to just spend an hour outside. Even if your an accomplished caster, if your serious this is the way to keep those skills sharp. For even better results ask a friend to record you and as Buck Owens sang act naturally. This will give you an even better insight into your form and technique.
Since we're at the park and have been casting for a bit. All nicely warmed up with perfect techniques and perfect loops... Now another one of my favorite practices is to set out some targets. If you're prepared bring different sized items my personal favorite is coffee can lids as I seem to have plenty of then at home and they make it quite challenging. Set them up at various distances both from yourself and each other. Cast away! Try and land your wool on each target. I find even a little competition makes me want to work harder. So since your recording buddy is there make up a points system for each target and see who can get the most points in 5 casts.
3) On the water
This final practice may seem like a surprise to some but honestly might teach you more about fishing in general than any lawn practice can. I like to go out to local streams and rivers and bring nothing but a rod and my wool ended leader. Trust me it pains me sometimes but leaving the flies and other equipment at the truck means I'm not distracted. This is practice time not fishing time. Get yourself set up and spend the first little while reading the water. Looking for insects (we're not fishing but this is great knowledge gathering tip and I suggest you do this whenever you're near a body of water). Looking above you for any hidden tree snags. Looking behind at that blackberry bush that just looks like a fly eater. Once you've taken your time just start casting at likely spots you think fish might be lying. This is a great way to learn how currents affect fly lines and flies and a great way to learn to mend to get that perfect drift. Without the anticipation and anxieties of actually fishing you can solely focus on casting and improve your odds of catching later on. Pro tip: Always carry your favorite dry fly on your Freestone hat. You wouldn't go to the river without it on...
Those are just some easy quick, cheap ways to make you a better angler that I've used and still do. Just remember you're never too good not to practice.