Published Sep 23. 2016 - 6 years ago
Updated or edited Sep 15. 2018

Book review: Fly-casting Finesse

A Complete Guide to Improving All Aspects of Your Casting

I'm not a big fan of learning to cast from a book, but there's little doubt that this book can actually make you a better fly caster. And it features a remote controlled dry training shark!

John L. Field
Skyhorse Publishing
Publishing year: 
Reviewed by: 

Author John Field dropped me an email and asked whether I would like to review his new book. That gesture alone brought him closer to a good review. We rarely get offered review copies anymore, so the fact that someone wants us to read their book, quite naturally leaves a good impression and opens the first door.
The book arrived shortly after, and I did as I always do: unwrapped it and leafed quickly through it, sampling some pages, looking at some photos, assessing the layout and style.
That left an impression of a well written, richly illustrated and nicely laid out book.
But it was when I saw the picture of the remote controlled “dry training shark” I knew I would really like this book.

As I have said before: I'm not a big adversary of learning to cast from a book. People are much better instructors and the risk of not getting it at all when you start out is big.
But once you master the basics and maybe want to learn more, a book might actually be a good way to go. You now know the terms, you can rig a rod, you can lay out some line, but finding someone who can bring you to the next level might not be easy. Also a book doesn't require casting space or a large lawn, it doesn't cost tuition, it doesn't require travel. It can be studied indoors under calm and dry conditions whenever it suits you.
The subtitle of the book is “A Complete Guide to Improving All Aspects of Your Casting”, and I ask you to notice the word “improving”. This isn't a beginners book. The aim is to help you improve your current casting technique, and teach you better ergonomics, better precision, better distance.

A remote controlled shark
Remote controlled shark
John L. Field

The absolute first part of the book talks directly to my scientific brain. It deals with the straightforward, but often forgotten, aspect of “measuring” your skills and your improvement. And measuring here isn't just distance, which is easy enough to assess, but also more subtle aspects of your casting like loop shape, presentation, body movement and so on. Using observers, video and other methods to actually verify that you have become a better caster.
And it covers the aspect of practice, which is also often forgotten. If you want to be a really good musician, talent and lots of live gigs isn't going to make you the best. Practice is. Same thing with fly casting: fishing often and much is fine, but for real improvement, you need to dry practice. Simply repeat, repeat and repeat the things you are trying to learn, without the disturbing elements of fish and nature.
As many other casting books this one also explains the mechanics of the cast. If you're a beginner, that's probably not what you want up front, but as a seasoned or at least practiced caster, that's where you should start. A little theory to get the terms and concepts straight, so that you know what the rest is about. Field applies this to the ergonomics of the cast, going into grips, stances, body movements and so on. As that section of the book progresses, you get into different specifics of the casts: roll casting, hauling, which then progresses into the actual casts.

So you sit through quite a lot of theory and principles before getting to the down and dirty, which is exactly what you should do if you are a caster like most of us: able to get the fly out there, but sometimes falling short – literally when it comes to distance – but also with regards to precision, fighting the wind, casting in close quarters etc.
It's not necessarily an easy journey, but it's absolutely worth it.
The book is for all casters and covers precisely casting a midge on a narrow stream as well as hauling half a chicken at a marlin using a 13 or 14 weight rod. It does go into tackle and fly lines too, and also introduces you to the world of organized casting like clubs and associations, and I'm sure a lot of people who are engaged in that part of fly fishing will find this book heaven sent.
Field's writing is precise and to the point, the book is very well illustrated with both drawings and photos. There isn't much anecdotal material, but a lot of “name dropping” in the good way. The author has been very active in the casting community and in casting clubs, and loyally references all the advice and the remarks he has picked up during his casting and fishing sessions with the Wullfs, the Kriegers, Hills, Krehs, Rajeffs and many, many more - both famous and lesser known casters.

a lot of people who are engaged in that part of fly fishing will find this book heaven sent

It all comes together to one of the best casting books I have read, perfectly suited for casters just like myself who have been casting for a decade or two, have things basically under control, but will say things like “nah, I don't need more distance... I can reach the fish that I need to reach...”.
You know what? Unless you're a champion or master caster, you do need more distance... or precision... or one of the many other aspects of casting this book will teach you.


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