When I reached the ripe old age of 12, my grandfather took me into the backyard to do some fly fishing. My initial reaction was, "Grandpa, you can't catch fish in the grass!" His response? "Until you learn how to catch fish in the backyard, you won't be able to catch them on the water." That was the first lesson of my weeklong introduction to fly fishing, which took place entirely on dry land. Sound silly? "If you can't cast properly in the backyard, you won't have a prayer when there are T-tops, a VHF radio antenna, and other anglers in your way," he said. These are the other lessons he taught me.
- PRACTICE BONDAGE. It may sound bizarre, but it'll teach you to cast like the masters. Wrap a belt around your body and casting arm, just above your waist. Cinch it so your elbow is secured against your body. Now start practicing. The belt will hold your upper arm in place, forcing you to make the rod an extension of your forearm.
- CONTROL FREAK. Line control can be more or less difficult depending on conditions and the platform you cast from. Cleats, rails, and other impediments will foul your line. So practice with a stripping basket, which you'll need anyway in this situation. Flats boats often have a flat, smooth casting deck; practice stripping onto the ground at your feet to master such an environment.
- LAWN JOCKEY. Find an area with at least 50 feet of clearance and practice casting on the grass. When you can get the line moving, put a Frisbee 20 feet away and cast at it. Hit 9 times out of 10? Great-move it 10 feet farther away. Put on your belt, then strip your line back in the ways outlined above.