The Beach, the Freezer, and the Lawn
The tug is the drug, and I go to the water every time I can to get my fix. But that isn’t as much as I would like. Plus fishing isn’t all about catching fish. So, when a fishing trip isn’t possible, I tie on a yarn fly and head to the casting lawn. Like the Karate Kid on his beach or Rocky in his freezer, you will earn benefits by turning an area of grass into your fly casting practice ground.
Time on the lawn, as little as twenty minutes once or twice a week, will improve your basic casting skills, then when you get back to the water you will find yourself reaching more fish with less fatigue.
Motivated by this success, you might study the fly cast in more depth, identifying parts of the skill and improving your performance. In his informative book The L.L. Bean Fly-Casting Handbook, Macauley Lord shows a number of practice activities to help anglers from beginners learning to cast tight loops with 35 feet of line to serious trout anglers casting across multiple currents. Later in your angling life, when you have taken casting lessons from a professional or gotten some tips from a guide, time on the practice lawn will help you ingrain advanced skills. When you set aside time to practice advanced skills, you will save fishing time otherwise spent climbing the learning curve. But as Lord, an emeritus member of the International Federation of Fly Fishers Casting Board of Governors, relates, casting skills are secondary to other improvements.
The first thing to improve will be your health. If you are anything like me, escaping the pull of the television-lit-couch is not easy. While I usually feel that a sitcom is a part of my life wasted, the knowledge that time on the casting lawn will leave me better off is motivation to get up and go cast. And I come in with an exercised body and a relaxed mind. In Handbook, Lord tells a touching story about Jay Gammel, an expert angler and mentor to casting instructors who took joy in casting for practice through his entire life.
While you are on the lawn, focusing on the athletic motions of the fly cast, you may also find an escape from life draining concerns. The concentration on technique and timing has a distracting effect which allows the caster to leave stress behind. Lord uses the phrase “casting as day dreaming” to describe “the powerful mental release of just casting.”
One last point which I enjoy making to fly casting students is that while you are on the lawn, you are a promoter of fly fishing and all its benefits. As there is probably a scene in your angling life where you stopped to watch a fly caster draw the line backward and forward against a blue sky, your time on the lawn will surely bring people into the sport too.
Find your training ground come nearby getaway, and enjoy your practice time.