Fly fishing, like any sport in life, requires a lot of practice to become good at. There are so many elements to learn from the right rod to use, how to rig up your gear, to reading water, and picking the right fly. A lot of this you have to learn on the water but fly casting, you can practice at home, can’t you?
I don’t know many a yard or garden with 90 feet of space in either direction and the weather doesn’t always play ball either, so it begs the question, should you get a practice rod? I mean, how often do you practice your golf stroke? Maybe casting practise should match.
Quick side note, we recommend the best fly rods here if you’re looking to compare them to your existing rod.
What is a Practice Rod?
Practice rods are pretty much a basic fly rod, just in a smaller light toy form. They are usually around 5ft in length or smaller in the case of a micro practice rod and are designed to make casting practice accessible.
They have a cork handle or foam grip, eyes to the rod tip, and come with a special fly line, rope, or yarn so you and your friends can get to honing your casting technique when you’re off the water.
Is using a practice rod the same as using a fly rod?
Practice rods imitate the mechanics of a fly rod almost exactly, so that time spent using practice rods helps your technique out on the water when you fish with a real fly rod.
They are not anything like a proper fly rod though and are not made for casting a large distance with or catching fish with, so don’t of chasing trout with one. But, they will aid your casting mechanics, accuracy, and add real value to your casting skill.
Where can you use a practice rod?
A practice and a micro practice rod are so small that you can use them indoors, in your backyard, pretty much anywhere.
You could definitely be sitting on your couch in your living room practicing casting with one, honing in your accuracy to hit the TV, or teasing the cat and getting into some trouble with your friends.
I’m sure you’ll agree, that it’s often the weather or lack of space that stops you from practicing casting, and yes, maybe you’ll drive to the park down the road to practice, but how often does that actually happen? I’ve done it like twice in my whole fly casting career of 30 years.
How cool would it be if you could just stay indoors and enjoy some fly casting practice from the comfort of your own home, whatever the weather? Well, with practice rods, you can.
Do you tie a fly on the end?
Yes, but it’s not a weighted fly or a fly at all, a bit of yarn or fluff will do the trick. By adding this to the end, you can really hone in your accuracy to within inches.
Do practice rods actually help with fly casting?
Yes, definitely. As I mentioned above, they are not made for distance casting, and of course, you’re not going to catch a trout with one, but they are made to emulate a real fly rod and if you practice casting with one, you’re going to see the benefits.
When you practice casting with a practice rod, you can work on the rhythm required in your cast to keep a loop up in the air, and you’ll slowly tighten those loops, you can practice fly casting backhand, even a double haul with an extension kit.
Because they are so tiny, you might think they are a tad flimsy and toy-like but you’re actually very connected to the feeling of the line, rod, and cast while you’re practicing. This allows you to experiment to see what casts you can come up with and see their effect immediately.
They are often used as a tool when teaching fly fishing, as the caster doesn’t have so much length to deal with and it’s easier on their arm, plus you don’t need much indoor or outdoor space to use one.
I’m sure you’ll agree that the first time anyone put a fly line and rod in your hand, it immediately felt like a phantom limb you had no control over, and these are a great tool to get around that and get people confident with fly fishing for the start.
What are the best casting skills to practice?
This comes down to your skill levels, but my advice to address the things you don’t try on the water or know you need to get better at. One thing all the guys I know need to always improve on, including myself, is accuracy.
Another great thing to try is changing the direction of your cast mid-air, so go from casting at 1 o’clock to having to drop it at say 9 o’clock. This will help a bunch with loop control and keeping momentum in your fly line.
One other thing I love to do is to practice a real guided fishing situation with my fishing buddies who apply a load of pressure. I’m not talking about trout, I’m talking about 8 buddies shouting at you about where a permit is, what direction to cast in, with 6 different targets to hit.
Yes, we fail most of the time, but it’s a great tool for learning to keep your cool in the moment, as how many times will you ever get to cast at a permit or GT in your life? And I’m sure you’ll agree that the last thing any fly fisherman want’s is to bottle it and choke when it happens plus it’s way too much fun.
See also our How To Cast A Fly Rod post here, for a more in-depth guide on accurate fly rod castings.
Who makes casting rods and are they affordable?
Yes, they are far less expensive than normal rods and you can find one for less than $50. Brands like Echo, Orvis, Redington, and Wulff all make them and you can buy them on Amazon if you search too.
The Orvis Practicaster is just 36 inches long and comes with green yarn and an orange fly. It’s so small, you can use it in any space and it comes with hook and loop fish targets too, so you can actually cast to catch some lounge fish.
The MPR is a two-piece mini rod that comes with a colorful rope to cast with. It’s an awesome tool to practice fishing with and you can even buy a haul and Spey adapter kit for it, to practice multiple styles of casting.
Royal Wulff Fly O
The Fly O is 3 feet long and comes with 15 feet of fluorescent yarn. The yarn is orange for visibility and acts just like a line. The rod and yarn require the same timing and strength to cast with as a normal rod and line and are the perfect tool to improve your fishing with.
Redington Form Game Rod
The Form Game is a two-piece 5 ft graphite pole and it looks just like a real fly rod. It comes with a cork handle, oversized snake guides, and a custom RIO line for its weight to ensure it’s as close to the real thing as possible. This is all rolled up in a neat little carry case along with some games you can play with it too.
So, should you get a practice rod?
Well, I’m sure you’ll agree that it can’t hurt, can it? They are a load of fun, super affordable, you can use them anywhere, and if you get one and use it your casting will improve. It’s a win, win, win, and another win!
They are also great to have around the house if you want to get your friends, kids, or partner into casting as well. I usually use them to tease the pets with, to be honest, or annoy my siblings/partner when trying to watch a movie.
Thanks for reading my article, I hope you enjoyed it and found it useful. Hopefully, you have decided to add a practice rod to your life, but if not, at least you know why not now. Enjoy your time on the water, and tight lines as always.