I was recently fishing the flats of South Andros. Megan Nellen, an angler in our group, was relatively new to the sport, and she was asking all the right questions. We fished together for a day. As she took the bow of our boat, I noticed her ready position was suboptimal but still had a lot of positives. 

We were fishing from the Mars Bay lodge (https://www.androsbonefish.com/welcome.html).

Megan's ready position
Megan’s ready position

I gave her some pointers that seemed to work well for her.

Megan in a happy place
Megan in a happy place

This got me thinking – what is the ready position in essence? I like to deconstruct problems into their constituent parts, i.e. simplify them. After some rumination, I like to present this as ….

  1. The length of the fly line outside the tiptop needs to be enough to load the rod quickly, but not so much that it gets into the motor or poling staff or under the boat if dragged boat side. The iron rule is – if it can snag it will. The angler wants as much line out of the rod as safely possible, which reduces the time to the first delivery.
  2. The fly must be controlled by holding it by the bend of the hook (or by the leader just proximal to it).  
  3. The line must be controlled by the line hand.

Any method that satisfies these 3 points will work. The fly can of course be held by either hand.  There are several methods described on the web – I like some and others not so much.

The one that works best for me and is simplest, I think, is – about 15’ of the line outside tiptop – holding the fly by hook bend in rod hand (thumb – index) – line hand holds line ca 2’ from the stripping guide. Sweep the rod away from the fish and let go of the fly. For casts with fish inside 35,’ I have enough to get there without slipping or shooting line. Then if more line needs to be aerialized I can make one forward and one back cast slipping both ways and then shoot more line.

The line stacks. Between the rod hand and the reel, there needs to be a line in the cockpit that is stacked correctly – so the line close to the line hand is on top of the pile. 

Pull off the reel, the length of line that you can cast, and place it in the cockpit of the boat. The line you can’t cast only increases the risk of tangles, so it stays on the reel. Now the line stack has the line shooting first on the bottom, a surefire recipe for tangles and grief. Cast that line out and retrieve, now your line is stacked correctly and is ready.

In my professional life good instructional videos were priceless to me. However, I did not get much help from the videos before I had mastered the basics, and only then did I understand what was going on, and they became extremely valuable. So, I think complex motion is very hard to teach to beginners unless some basics are mastered first.

We all have seen on some thread or the other that some beginner queries. “How can I learn to fly cast?” The answers come thick and fast. “The xxx Fly shop has some awesome videos, and you will learn it in no time.” Or “Cedric at the Churchmouse will take you out into the street and sort you out in no time.” The sobering fact is still that most fly casters could improve a lot.

A quick Google search “fly casting videos yielded “about 40,400,000 results (0.55 seconds).” I haven’t watched all of them and I won’t. But I have watched a lot of them, probably way too many. The mere fact that there are so many leads me to conclude that most of them are bad. Why would we keep producing millions of these videos if there were some good ones out there to do the job? Whoa – I hear you scream – “are you saying that all instructional videos are useless?”  No, I am not saying that. I am only saying they are useless for beginning fly casters, who don’t have the basics down pat first. The speed at which everything moves during fly casting makes it very hard for a beginner to get what’s going on. For instance, in a slow cast, the rod tip can be traveling at 60’/sec (40 miles/hour). If a beginner watches a beautiful fly cast for the first time, he/she only pays attention to the loop, and “oh how pretty it is” is a common exclamation. Because of the speed at which it happens, it is hard to understand all the various steps that are needed to produce the pretty loop.

If the instructional videos worked for beginners, we should all be casting, and golfing, and …… (insert any sport you like) – like gods. However, sadly we don’t. I think the reason the videos don’t work for beginners is that they don’t understand what they are watching. In many videos, the teacher casts nicely but the verbal part doesn’t match the casting action leading to a Gordian knot of misunderstanding. There are standardized casting terms adopted by FFI


and it would be great if they were used correctly by everyone in the casting community especially those who are producing the teaching videos. Unfortunately, these simple terms are not used by all teachers.

I concede that a few of the videos are pretty good and some are excellent, but most are lacking. So, what are the odds of a beginner locating the useful ones in a pool of forty million videos! The odds are bad. So, the odds are, that the poor student is watching one of the majority of videos that are substandard, thus learning the wrong stuff! Even the videos with good content are usually bad because the “celebrity” presenter bloviates and hides the good stuff in a bunch of fluff words. There seems to be an inverse relationship between the quality of the video and its length. The same goes for the number of words used.

Casting on a Panhandle flat.

The videos I have found to be good to great are found on FFI’s website.


They are short to the point and have been very carefully scripted.

And Paul Arden has several videos on his website suitable for beginners to advanced casters.


I have learned a lot from Paul’s videos but only after I got the basics in place. I am not saying that these two sites are the only good ones. However, they are the best I have come across for beginners.

Even the good ones aren’t all that helpful, mostly because they can offer no feedback to the unfortunate beginning learner. The learner watches the video then goes out to try out what she’s/he’s “learned”. The student thinks she’s/he’s doing what has been learnt but isn’t and doesn’t know it, so ends up no better and more frustrated.

So, what can be done? The obvious step is to turn the process on its head i.e., film the beginners and then have the instructors point out all the things that need to be addressed.

Casting on a Panhandle flat.

I found two certified casting instructors that provide this service. Captain Chris Myers of www.orlandoflycasting.com


and George Roberts of www.masterthecast.com

The very best way to learn the basics is to get solid instructions from some certified casting instructor. However, anglers will rather spend their money on gear they don’t know how to use properly. One of my blogs delves into the GAS syndrome (gear acquisition syndrome),


You can’t buy a cast

but the fact remains that you can’t buy a cast, so you don’t, but you should buy solid instructions.

The answer to the question posed – Are videos useless for beginning fly casters? – is yes.

Research seems to agree.


Casting Clinic February 2018

My local fly club is called FFNWF (Fly Fishers of North West Florida). Now that is a mouth-full without vowels but still not quite Hebrew. We just love our abbreviations here, but I can tell you that it takes a while to understand them. Especially if English (American?) is your third language. Some abbreviations are simple and ubiquitous like the OMG! exclamation that is now being used even in Icelandic parlance. What the heck does POS mean? Or NYOB – PAWS and on and on. So, here’s my advice to the natives – go easy on those abbreviations when talking to a non-native. But I digress.

Casting Clinic February 2018

Casting Clinic February 2018

When I first saw the term “Casting Clinic” in our monthly newsletter I was not sure what it referred to. Casting could refer to fly casting, but it could also mean shaping a plaster of Paris cast. The clinic part implies some medical endeavor in my understanding. But what I discovered, was that it means club members get together and wave their rods. The idea is that we supposedly teach each other, especially those who are starting out. Then we can show off a bit by banging out long casts with sharp pointy loops (Yup – guilty as charged). As I have been sucked closer and closer to the black hole of teaching fly casting, I realize that this way of preaching probably is not a very effective way of converting beginners to intermediate casters or intermediate casters to good ones (to become a great caster you need private lessons!).

Casting Clinic February 2018

Casting Clinic February 2018

So, this year we are running an experiment. I plan to introduce one special fly casting drill/exercise every clinic during the year. The February clinic was devoted to the pick-up and lay down cast. We had a good turnout – around 20 casters with several new faces, which was heartening. When we commenced I got up on my soap box and explained the basics of the cast to the group. Then we divided the group into subgroups of two, with one experienced caster in each, and set off to practice. I was a libero (soccer speak – for a player who is undisciplined, so he gets to roam around) and went from group to group running my mouth and praising technique or correcting small errors, etc. We focused on just this cast for half an hour, until it became apparent that the group was starting to lose focus. Then we reassembled in the larger group and went through the components of the cast. I was rather pleased with this first lesson and I hope that the next clinic will have a good turnout of students, especially new ones. These clinics are open for all comers.

Casting Clinic February 2018

Casting Clinic February 2018

The pickup and lay down cast

This is a basic fishing cast, and we will break it down into its components.

Its purpose is to unstick the fly from the water surface (the lift part) and cast the fly out again (the subsequent parts). We start casts by lifting the rod tip until the casting hand is at breast height. We do not rip the fly line from the water surface since that will scare the fish. When we lift the rod tip you will notice on the water that the fly line clears the surface and runs away from you to the leader. That is when you commence the casting stroke. Pay attention! If you wait too long the fly line will sag again to the surface. The idea is to have just the leader in the surface.

We start with fly line (30´ – 35´) and leader (7,5´) straight. There should be no slack in the line.

The Pick-up and Lay Down Cast

  1. Rod´s tip down and lift gently to shoulder level (peel)
  2. now we flick the line over the rod tip upwards and backwards (pluck)
  3. and pause for the line to straighten (pause)
  4. now we flick the rod forward (pat) and stop the hand at 10 o’clock. The line and leader straighten, and we let them gravitate/float down to the surface and let the rod tip follow.

Cynthia rollcasting

Last weekend I was invited to the Magnolia Fly Fishers in Jackson Mississippi. The idea was that I should give a short presentation on salt water casting, since the Magnolias are headed to the salt in April. Then we would practice the various casting scenarios. Head wind, tail wind and cross wind. I have been working with Cynthia Low their president towards certification with the IFFF, hence the invite.


If you check their website you will find this teaser.

Black Tie, Fish Fry and Fly Tie at First Baptist Church in Byram

Ok, it’s not really a black tie event, but it needed a name so I named it my favorite name.  I keep hoping someone will show up in a tux!   Cynthia, La Presidenta of our club, has invited IFFF certified casting instructor Jonas Magnusson to come to First Baptist Church of Byram on SATURDAY March 18.

  • Jonas will also be providing for “fee” lessons, $50 per hour club special.  This webmaster has signed up for one hour.  I think he may be available on Friday for this as well as some Saturday.  Call Cynthia to book your appointment.
  • Jonas is from iceland and is an expert in spey and switch rods and I think we may get a chance to cast one or at least get a demonstration.
  • Jonas has a website if you would like more information, Every Jonas has a Whale .
  • I love to hear him talk, sounds like the Swedish chef on the muppets to me!”

Who wrote this beauty? This blog practically writes itself. I am not Swedish but my paternal grandmother was, and I speak that lingo, so what the heck.

I started late Friday with Cynthia on roll casts, and we had a nice little pond to practice on. She has put in the hours, and she is nearly where she need to be (see pics).

Cynthia forming loops

Cynthia forming loops

Cynthia is getting there

Cynthia is getting there

Then on Saturday – I give Cynthia the podium;

Jonas says he’ll travel anywhere in the world to teach…even Mississippi USA.  Yes, we have fly fishers.  Yes, we fish all species and for a short 4 hour drive we have access to some of the best fishing in the world, the Gulf of Mexico.  

Imagine a small town church tucked away in  the wilds of rural Mississippi, light breeze, cloudy sky, and a deep fryer of oil warming for our fried catfish lunch that awaits us after the sessions with Jonas.  Club members give fishing reports, present future outing details;  the meeting a bit sluggish then “UP! Let’s go cast” like a sergeant barking orders wakes the crowd.  Every man and two women head for the field, rods in hand.

We line up like soldiers.  Southern accent communicating with Scandinavian accent; everyone listening intently to every word and instruction.  Jonas moves person to person with a tip here and an instruction there.  Next are group commands.  Once again we line up.  Now let’s cast to the wind.  Wind changes, another command, and we line up again.  Lunch!  That fried catfish is calling.  We take a break.  Jonas eats like a bird, said one.  That’s why he has his figure and we have our figure; we like fried catfish, slaw, hush puppies, turnip greens with fatback, ketchup.  Onward!

Jonas continues with his individual students who booked an hour.  Club members being club members, the one on one became one and a gallery.  The afternoon whiled away as student, teacher, gallery became one unit.  Each member helping the other as knowledge and understanding grew. Prodding, poking, laughter, and challenge punctuated the afternoon.  Success!  We had worked off those fried catfish calories.  

We had a fun day and Jonas’ personality added to it.  Great sense of humor, said some.  He knows what he’s doing, from others.  Mr. C, who just turned 90 said, “Cynthia, I learned something  today.  I learned I don’t know how to cast.”  Our long distance caster and salt fisher said, He identified a tracking error in my back cast I don’t think I could have ever figured out by myself. That and he showed me what he called his no-stop cast which is how Paul Arden generates his wind punching V-loop. I think I can start busting the 100 foot mark regularly now.”

Jonas survived Mississippi and made it back to Florida. He’ll go anywhere to share his passion and love of the sport.  Every club should have an event that includes a certified instructor.  It’s worth every penny and the benefits last a lifetime.  If you’re not in a club, consider joining.  It’s an enriching, encouraging, supportive experience.  

PS  We don’t always eat fried catfish.  There are wonderful chefs in the area.

Crazy Cat Oysters

Crazy Cat Fried Oysters

Glen Davis gave me his stripping basket that looks very promising. You wear it on your left hip and strip into it. Will get back with you on that one when tried.


Glen also wrote about my teaching.


Well there it is and I thank the Magnolia Fly Fishers for inviting me, and I surely learned a lot more from them. The best way to learn something is to teach it.

Jonas casting

A fly fishing set up is costly. Let’s look at the ingredients. The fly itself isn’t so expensive, especially if you tie one yourself. Let’s say that it costs 5$ a nice round number. Now we need a leader and we peg it at 5$. On to the fly line itself, and we can easily fork out somewhere from 50-100$ for a quality fly line. The line is connected to the reel through to the so-called backing, and we spend 5-10$ on that. Now for the reel. They come in a lot of different prizes depending on quality, brake power and size. The cheapest reels that are useable retail around 100$, and then the coveted quality and bragging rights reels will take you to 1000$. Let’s put a 200$ reel on our outfit. Then there is the rod itself. I like to organize them into 3 levels of cost. Entry level rods cost up to 200$. Mid-level 200-500$ and then the top-level rods retailing for 500$ and more. By and large the expensive rods will prove to be the best in the long run, but there are some exceptions. This will give me an estimate of (5$ fly + 5$ leader + 50$ backing + 100$ reel + 200$ rod = 360$ low estimate to 5+5+50+500+500 = 1160 high estimate). Most fly fishermen have several rods let’s say three to multiply whatever cost there is in your setup. These are just some numbers, but we can safely agree that the total cost for a fly fishing setup for the individual angler will be in the thousands.

A quiver of rods

A quiver of rods

Now fly leaders and fly lines will wear out and we replace those as we go along. The rod craze is there too. The industry wants you to buy the latest model and by reading the ads you become certain that this one will cure all your casting ailments, right? Then there are the reels. Large arbor – sealed drag and what not, but you got to have it.

Sample of reels

Sample of reels

Now there is the cost of the fishing license. Fortunately, this is not costly as a rule but if you want to fish some private waters or hire a guide, it is going to cost. I am in contact with some guides here in Florida and they all agree. Most of their clients, despite labeling themselves as fly casters, will have significant problems casting in the salt. Think about it – travel to Florida – hotel – food – guide – plus your equipment and the fly does not get out there.

Stephen and Baz

Stephen and Baz

Most people cannot cast the fly. There are several reasons for this but it does not alter the fact that most people are terrible casters. On small streams, it does not matter much you bungle it out somehow, and the current will straighten your line and you are in business. With any kind of wind, it will become a total disaster. Here in the salt on the Gulf shores this becomes painfully evident. There are many fly fishermen that have been fishing for years in rivers and lakes but will realize that when fishing the salt, they just cannot do it.

Leaders and tippet

Leaders and tippet

However, the biggest reason for this is that people do not seek lessons. I know for instance that just three lessons can help an average caster to become a very good caster. The essentials are going to be the same for a very long time, so good help can last you for life. When you look at the cost of the outfit fly anglers flesh out, it is hard to presume it is because of the cost, but people still do not seek proper instructions. There are of course some great casters that have figured it out on their own. Most casters have had some help from friends and fly fishing clubs including me. This type of learning is however fragmented and haphazard and is not based on a platform of knowledge.

Backing for fly line

Backing for fly line

There is a program run by IFFF whereby budding teachers are taught a certain system of basics. They are then tested and vetted by IFFF. This way of organizing is proven, and ensures that the licensed casting instructors have a common basis, and this basis is proven as a sensible platform to teach fly casting.


When I started studying in this program (and I was a decent caster at the outset) I had no clue about the 5 essentials. I had inferred something like that during my trial and error stage that became needlessly long. However, when presented with the curriculum of the IFFF program, I made a quantum leap in understanding, and my cast was seriously improved. It took a master caster a day’s work with me to get me to the next level. On basis of that teaching I have been improving my cast little by little. The students that I am now teaching seem to make speedier progress and I find it easier to teach them and diagnose their ailments.

The other important item you cannot buy is a knot.

The practice field

In Iceland, I just fly-fished rivers and lakes. I did not fly fish in the salt there and I doubt that it will ever become a big sport. The North Atlantic is just so cold, and the waves are unforgiving.

Skjálfandaflói við Náttfarvík (DF)

I moved to Corpus Christi in Texas in 2007. There are few rivers there with the type of fishing with which I was comfortable. I passionately hate fishing in discolored water. That lead me to fish the Corpus Christy Bay and the area southeast of Shamrock Island and it took me a long time to figure the salt out. There were not at that time many fly casters there. I teamed up with a local guide Steven Utley and he taught me the area and I helped him with the casting. I mostly fished from a sit-on-top kayak and cast sitting down which takes some time getting used to. The area southeast of Shamrock Island was perfect for kayak fishing and I loved floating around the area taking in nature and fishing. There is a channel there from the Bay into the Gulf with a breakwater structure on each side from which I fished and there I got connected to my first Spanish Mackerel and have come to love fishing for them. I did not try my luck in the Gulf itself while living there.


Osprey Corpus Christi Bay (DF)

Steven Utley

Steven Utley casting from a kayak

IN 2009 we relocated to Gulf Breeze Florida (south of Pensacola). There I have been fishing with my friend Basil Yelverton a local guide and from that experience (plus Texas) we put together an iBook (see Books page). Fishing the salt is very hard because everything is moving. The boat is rocking the fish are busy going every which way and then there is the blessed wind. Experienced fly casters from freshwater scenarios are known to have a meltdown when they realize that they cannot cast at all in these conditions. At any rate, it became painfully apparent to me that I had to up my game to be able consistently to cast from a boat in the wind and all that.

So I did just that, pouring over YouTube and websites – basically self-taught. Cast until my arm was falling out of its socket and then cast some more. There are some very good casters here but most local casters have difficulties in the salt. The usual resultant reflex is to tie “the top-secret classified nuclear fly” that is going to save them. It does not matter which fly you have if you cannot get it out to the customers. I hope we will slowly change the emphasis on the casting. Others and I have been busy teaching casting at so-called monthly clinics for the Club members.

Oleta Webb

Oleta Webb casting a switch rod


My friend Baz noticed that I was becoming a better caster so he suggested that I do the CCI with the FFI. “What is that”?  I had no clue. I researched this a bit and since I am retired this could be a good niche for me. I have been teaching my whole life (coaching sports – teaching med. students – teaching residents, etc.) so this would be somewhat in my comfort zone. 

Santa Rosa Island

Baz with redfish

I decided to go for it and became a member of Fly Fishers International (FFI). Contacted their office and was guided to a certain MC (master caster) Leslie Holmes as a possible mentor in February ’16. We spoke on the phone and were instantly on insulting terms and he took me on. He sent me a ton of stuff and more practice ensued. Then we had a weekend session in Boca Grande in April. Well, that was quite the eye-opener for me. I could cast some he gave me that but my faults were many and varied and mercilessly pointed out and corrected.  After that, I returned to the Panhandle with more practice and we scheduled a tune-up and a practice session in late August. The goal was to become a certified fly casting instructor (CCI).

The practice field

The practice field for my ICC

Three days before going again to Boca Grande Leslie calls me and asks “are you ready”? Sure I am ready my arm is falling out of the socket but I am ready. Leslie arranges to have me tested Sunday 8/28 and off I go. We had a dress rehearsal on Saturday where I suddenly got ripped a new one. My problem was/is overthinking and being a bit of a nerd I was too verbose. When I understood what was expected I reworked my answers to the various tasks on the test and made them ready. It must be handed to Les that after he had deconstructed me he built me right back up. Sunday morning I meet Captain Pete Greenan and Captain Rex Gudgel my examinators. They quickly settled all jitters and I passed the test. I have been involved with teaching and testing In Iceland Sweden Scotland and once in Africa and I can tell you that Pete and Rex were very competent and the whole process well thought out and solid (mainly because I passed). Leslie’s teaching was spot on, and I plan to work with him again.

Pete Jonas Rex

After having passed the CCI test

I have certainly made some colostomies in my time but not with the finesse and elegance that Les does it. But Les my patients were always under anesthesia.

Leslie Holmes

Leslie Holmes during lunch break Boca Grande

Well there it is.

(DF) Drífa Freysdóttir picture

Baz’s website


Pete’s website


Rex’s website


Leslis’s Website


Local fly clubs website


Fly Fishers International