Fifty Tips Tips/Tactics

Fifty Fly Fishing Tips: #27– The First Cast Curse

January 28, 2018

How many times have you waded into position, settled your boots into the shifting gravel bed, taken a deep breath, and caught a trout on the first cast?

If you’ve fished for many seasons at all, you surely have a bunch of stories like this: where the first cast produced a fish, and then . . . not much else happened.

It’s the first cast curse. Superstitions abound in our sport of uncertainty and chance, and among the Troutbitten guys, catching a trout on the first cast is never a good thing.

“Ohhh . . . no!” Now you’re screwed.”

Maybe it’s not the first cast, but somewhere in the first handful of casts, or just the first spot. Whatever the case, anglers often encounter success right away, and then we can’t duplicate it moving forward.

Again, in a sport shrouded by uncertainty and knotted up with puzzling on-the-water events, I hesitate to draw conclusions about much of anything. But I do have a theory for the first cast curse.

When we’re doing the first of anything, we choose the most favorable setup. When walking to the river in dry boots, we certainly enter the water at a good spot, right? We don’t pick garbage water. We’re fishermen. We scan the river, pick out a juicy place where fish live, and start there.

And if I relocate, if I hike a few hundred yards upstream, I repeat the same process; I pick a wonderful place to start all over again. Likewise, when I change rigs (if I swap out for dry flies, for example) I have some time to look at the water as I rig up.  And whether consciously or not, I surely choose a prime place to lay my dry fly on the water for the first time.

Changes are a reset. The next trip, a new day, the evening shift, another stream — they’re all a chance for us to reset. And when we reset, we naturally pick an auspicious starting point for the first cast.

I think this is what accounts for the first cast curse. Or more to the point, the curse comes if we fail to see the water with the same discerning eyes moving forward. When we’ve fished out the first pocket, or the first tailout, and it’s time to move on, we may not see the water with such newness, with such focused perception. We just wade upstream and keep fishing. We might get trapped in a nearsighted rhythm, blinded by our own failure to actively approach each piece of water with fresh eyes.

The first cast is blessed. It has all the forethought, all the planning and patience behind a fly line, carrying the fly to its divine target.

But the second cast? The second spot? Usually?  Not so much.

Just something to think about.

Fish hard, friends.

Enjoy the day
Domenick Swentosky


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Dom, I think you have made a good point regarding the care taken with the first cast. I would add that I am convinced that the first trout caught disturbs the environment of that carefully chosen spot and can alert the other trout using nearby water. This is especially true for clear,”skinny” or flat water. Changing flies and resting the pool after a “lucky” first cast, is good advise, especially for risers.

Domenick Swentosky

Hi. I'm a father of two young boys, a husband, author, fly fishing guide and a musician. I fish for wild brown trout in the cool limestone waters of Central Pennsylvania year round. This is my home, and I love it. Friends. Family. And the river.

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