saltwater fly fishing magazineSight fishing in saltwater is difficult, especially on the fly.  By the time you see a fish you are against the clock. It is rare to get numerous shots at a fish so you must make the first one count. There are many common mistakes that arecan happen with this scenario. We want to help but we also wanted to keep it simple so below you will find three tips that outline how to avoid these mistakes and an alternative for what to do instead. The trick is remembering them when the heat is on.

There is so much that goes into casting a fly rod, from how you grip the rod, to the timing of your haul. This blog is breaking down casting and focusing on one aspect of a cast. Similar to our last blog, How to Grip a Fly Rod.

1) Limit yourself to no more than three back casts.

Don’t waste time showing of your beautiful cast, just deliver the fly. Depending on what line you are throwing, the shooting head will be the first 30-50 feet of your fly line. The further the shooting head gets away the easier it is to lose line speed. Once you lose line speed you can pretty much kiss your cast goodbye. Ideally by your third back cast you will be to the end of your shooting head, or a few feet past it, and you can deliver your final cast. If done right, you will be able to throw the line further on the third forward cast than on the fourth or fifth. This is because once there is too much line out, the line will slow down.  This loss of line speed will not allow the line to shoot. The other reason to limit your back cast is because of time. You only have about 30 seconds in most cases to present your fly.  Fish are so unpredictable, so it would be optimal to present your fly to the fish before it leaves the flat.

GT (giant trevally)2) Haul! Right off the bat

So you are sitting on the bow of the boat, not much is happening and someone yells TARPON. You start waving your rod around in a frenzy trying to get your cast started with probably very little success. If you have never made this mistake I admire you, because we have done this. To prevent a situation like this keep around 9 feet ( the length of a typical fly rod) or more of your fly line out. This allows you to keep your fly wet and ready and your shooting head locked and loaded.  It might also be a good idea to hold your fly with your index finger and thumb by the hook (“Keys style”) so your line can yank it out of your hand and minimize noise and potential for tangle.

When you hear someone say “fish” you now have an adequate amount of line out to start your three casts. Think of your cast as a power bank. The more energy that you put into your cast on the first haul, the more energy you will have on the final one. So haul like your life depends on it right away without forgetting your form and technique. Generating line speed will pay off a few seconds later.

tarpon on the fly - fly fishing for tarpon3) Last minute prep

Your final back cast can be more important than the final forward one. Hauling the fly line loads the rod and generates speed for the next cast. So give everything you’ve got into the second to last cast. This will load the rod and allow it to shoot line forward towards the fish. As well as your haul, allow for a fair amount of line to shoot behind you to help load the rod. The fly will then rocket forward faster than any 10 second car in the Fast and the Furious.


As you have probably heard a million times, casting is all in the prep work. Practice time in the driveway means more fish landed, well at least jumped in the future. When you are practicing, practice these techniques without forgetting the basics, grip, body posture, your elbow, etc. Hold your fly line and pretend you see a fish. My dog will often chase and bite yarn on the end of a fly line, so I will practice by throwing a ball of yarn at him (no hook obviously). Three back casts, putting maximum effort into the first and last back cast. Then retrieving the fly, trying to get my dog to follow it. I think Vince Lombardi said this, but practice does not make perfect, perfect practice makes perfect.

Tight lines ya’ll