Competition Fly Casting

Competition Fly Casting

Paul Arden | Wednesday, 28 October 2020

A fill-in from me today; Bernd may be going into another total lockdown in Germany next week and is trying to organise some business for this week. So if you want to fish with one of the best anglers and instructors I know, and if it possible for you to get to see him, then be sure to get in touch.

Bernd’s contact is


Anyway to better things - Competitive Fly Casting!


If you had asked me 25 years ago when I first became a fly fishing instructor, would I be interested in a casting competition, I would have said you were mad!


So I have an interesting story. Just over 20 years ago I gave a lesson to a competition caster in the UK - Jon Allen. The deal was that if I didn’t teach him anything he wouldn’t pay. He paid which was very kind of him because I doubt I taught him much, particularly when at the end of the lesson he put the fly considerably past my attempts using his original stroke.


So I invited him back the following week -  without charge, just that we would cast together and learn together. All week I practised his stroke! And some of those early attempts at trout distance you’ll find around Sexyloops.


Back then there really wasn’t much of a competition scene with trout tackle. The UK had the occasional shop and fair competitions that, while taken seriously by Jon and a few others, were not joined by the “professionals” who in many cases weren’t even allowed to enter.


In the USA there was a similar competition called the Best of the West that standardised with the SA Mastery Expert Distance 5WT line - the “MED”. Now just having become interested in seeing how far I could make it go, and finding a bunch of guys in the US doing the same thing, suddenly it all became very interesting for me and many others on Sexyloops. I cast with (and filmed for Sexyloops) Jim Gunderson, Lance Egan, Ryan Barnes, Ian Walker, Steve Rajeff, Rick Hartman and others. The “Big Hitters” series.


Rick had an 'interesting' stroke which I didn’t want to learn at first but after he refined it, I simply had no choice. And very pleased I am I did too!


Over this time we started Sexyloops “Shootouts” which was basically friends, people I met while teaching, front page writers and Jon and I casting in my garden. It was a real solid learning time but also we had to figure it out. It was fascinating.  Of course you still have to figure it out, even nowadays, it’s just that no one had and Rick was out in front! We started having Sexyloops Board members’ meets and we would always have a Shootout - they were serious - yes - but always fun!! Serious fun!


We also started attending the British Fly Casting Club end of year meet and I would always coincide a Sexyloops Gathering weekend to fit. That way we could all go together, notwithstanding some serious hangovers!


Twelve years ago, the Norwegian Casting Association had the brilliant initiative to create and host a world championships with fly fishing tackle (as opposed to the really heavy Comp Gear that was basically lead core shooting heads cast by guys, some of whom didn’t even fish). Norway already had a casting scene for years and so everything just came together and the World Championships was born.


I would say this: Practise took me to a certain level. Particularly when first becoming a qualified instructor with STANIC and then APGAI. It certainly raised my game. Attending fishing shows and being a casting demonstrator lifted it again, no question. I had to work hard on my casting. But the biggest leap for me, was competition casting.


Suddenly it stopped being “style” and became “technique”. The tape measure and the rings don’t lie. It’s not about just being “good enough”. It’s about constantly trying to improve yourself to get the very maximum out of your technique and your gear. I wouldn’t be half the caster I am today without competition.


It really is a totally different level. MCI with the IFF is a cast to 85’ with the fluff. In Competition you hold more than that in the air and throw to 130’+. That’s a totally different world. It’s the step beyond a step beyond.


I’ve never really been very competitive in fly fishing or casting. I’m here to have fun. And I always have a lot of fun at these competitions!! After all, many of the other competitors are actually my best friends in life. The great thing is that it’s attracted like-minded anglers. There are guides, instructors, very serious fly fishermen. And no egos.


It’s one of those things that I feel extremely privileged to take part in and it in no small way makes my life far more colourful. If you want to be the best fly caster you ever can be, then compete. I’m sure like me, you’ll find it opens up possibilities in fly fishing that you never even dreamed of. “Fishing casting” becomes a walk in the park and if allows you to concentrate on the other things... like fish!