• Leigh Dowell

Should you have lessons or not?

As with all things in life there are varied opinions on everything. Depending what you want to get out of your casting/fishing probably determine where you sit on this question.

Personally, I took a grass casting lesson to get started in fly fishing. A few weeks later I took another lesson on a river to put my new skills to the test under guidance. I then went off and practiced until I had the basic techniques ingrained. I have not stopped getting lessons and learning since and would happily pay for guidance tomorrow from good casting or fishing instructors.

If I had a dollar for every time I spoke to people to find out they tried fly fishing many years earlier and have an old rod in the shed that doesn’t get used anymore, I would be a wealthy man. So you ask them why the rod is no longer used. The answer is usually “it’s not for me, it’s too much hard work”. If fly casting is hard work you are most definitely doing something wrong. If these people had a lesson or two they would probably still be enjoying this great art of catching fish today. I recommend you see an instructor prior to purchasing any gear. This way you try before you buy. A good instructor can help match a rod and line set up to your style and for your specific target species. You don’t need to spend your entire last pay packet on your first set up.

The other thing I see a lot is the older self-taught fly fisher who struggles to get a cast out and making hard work of it, they have usually taught themselves a few bad habits and by doing it for so long have ingrained them. It is hard to change muscle memory and the older you are the harder it is. But, an old dog can be trained. It’s never too late to learn.

I think getting lessons early on to eliminate any bad habits is a way of prolonging your fishing life. If we learn the most efficient way to cast and use our muscles correctly, we can fish much later into our years. Learning correct techniques will reduce the possible injuries brought on from poor casting mechanics.

Another comment I hear often is “I might not be the best caster but I catch fish”. There are two things we require to become a good fly fisher. Fishing skills like, reading the water and knowing what the fish are eating, the second is being able to present the fly to the fish or casting skills. Having both these skills is always better than having only one. Which skill is more important is a good discussion to have. In my opinion have casting lessons initially then you can practice the learnt skills at home on the grass and improve quickly prior to hitting the water. When you get on the water to fish, that is the time to improve your fishing skills. With time you will learn to read where the fish are and if you have the required skills to present your fly you are in the game. If you improve your casting skills I will guarantee you will catch more fish.

I have been on the water with very good fishermen, who have come to a section of water or fishing situation that they pass by because they can’t cast into that spot or they can’t cast that far. I have also seen the wind prevent them from making the cast as they only have one method or style of casting. Why limit yourself and limit your chances of catching a fish of a life time? The more tricks or casts you have if your armoury the better equipped you are for the battle.

At the end of the day it’s your choice. Are you satisfied or do you want to improve your skills? If you decide you want to improve then start looking for the best casting instructor you can find. Maybe that’s why you are here on my website.

The FFI have been working hard for many years trying to build a common language and casting tuition program so you can go to any FFI certified instructor around the world and be taught in a way you will understand. In 1992 the casting instructors certification programme (CICP) was developed to enhance the overall level of instruction in fly casting. You can be confident that FFI instructors have all gone through the level you are currently at; dealt with the same problems and faults you have in your cast. All FFI instructors have been trained and tested to ensure they have a very high knowledge in casting, fishing and teaching skills. This is an international level examination. It is not handed out lightly; it is earned with hard work and dedication to learning.

You can search your area with the link below and find the closest FFI instructor to the level you require. FFI have three certification CI (certified casting Instructor) MCI (master casting instructor) and THCI (two handed casting instructor).


A good instructor will give you the tools and knowledge required to catch those fish. What you do with them is up to you.

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