No, you don’t need a $590 fly rod to learn to cast and if this is the first time you’ve picked up a fly rod in anger, it’s more of a liability than a help.
Resign yourself to your fate, as finding a live human will teach you to cast much quicker than any series of books. Yoda couldn’t describe the Force, how do you expect some knotheaded fly author to teach you the feel for a cast, when he’s using silly metaphors involving clocks and tack hammers?
All talented fly fishermen are perenially late – and don’t own a tack hammer for fear the wife will make them use it. Suddenly they know how to read a clock face and can shingle a roof? I don’t think so.
What you want to do is find a nice sub-$100 flyrod and flail away in contentment. Let skills develop before you plunk down any significant rod coin, there are too many items you need to complete your outfit – so don’t bankrupt your budget on your initial tackle.
My first rod was a Fenwick Feralite fiberglas, in those days they were sub-$50 and were a fine rod. The Fenwick company is still churning out good, serviceable tackle in graphite, and as testimony to the quality, many of their glass rods are available at flea markets, Ebay, and rod collector web sites. Their graphite line goes by the Fenwick Eagle brand, and retail for about $100 after tax.
A beginner is best served by learning from someone else. The combination of watching someone cast, and being watched, will speed the instruction process tenfold. If you are really lucky you’ll get some mean old guy that scares hell out of you, so rather than asking why – you just do it.
The best place to learn is your local fly fishing club, there are usually an abundance of opinionated old guys lusting after a captive audience, as a recruitment tool they’ll put on a casting clinic free to all comers. On occasion they may even provide some tackle for those that lack their own rod , typically you’ll have to bring your own. Second choice is a fly shop, the instruction will be good – but their agenda is to get you near a rod product, often they’ll teach using the $600 tackle, making you assume you need that to be successful.
It may behoove you to ask your local shop if they have any old fly lines they’ve replaced for customers purchasing new ones. Most of us don’t have water nearby, so a lawn or concrete driveway can be pressed into service. The old throw-away line you can flog to death with no repercussion, but don’t use a new fly line on concrete, it will tear it up quickly.
Fly casting is like Kung-fu, there are many different masters, many different schools, and all of them are right. The two most prevalent are the Shaolin Flailing Palm, which emphasizes an open arm and shoulder moving in any direction, and the Prana-Bindu Frozen-Wrist school – which relies on the elbow tucked in closely to the side, an immobilized wrist, and movement of the shoulder. Like Kung-fu, many casting videos use subtitles, or should …
Casting style does not matter, whomever your instructor is will dictate what school you belong to, all will turn out servicable casters and imbue you with predator instincts.
Allow yourself time to mature as a caster, as in any memory motion sport; tennis, golf, etc., it will take much repetition before the muscle memory is second nature. Go fishing almost immediately, so you can see how much time is lost untangling knots and losing flies to shrubbery, water, your nose, and all other inanimate objects. This will do more to enforce the lessons of discipline than any amount of cajoling your instructor gives you.
If you’re in the midst of a steep learning curve, the fancy tackle will be lost on you. It’s no different than when your brother in law shows up and helps himself to a waterglass of your best scotch, whether it was aged 12 or 20 years is completely lost on him. Give yourself time to mature as both a caster and angler, then move to some of the higher end tackle, but only when your skills have surpassed the cheap rod, not before.
Fishing is a kid with a pork rind and a cane pole, keep it that way as long as possible. You can practice purism later when you have the wallet and the silver sideburns to back your play.