Bird Casting for Accuracy (and fun!)by Captain Jim Barr on 07/16/14
Recently I was giving a fly casting lesson in a nearby park. We were practicing distance and accuracy drills using my traditional props of brightly colored hula hoops and soccer cones. Fun targets but static... not dynamic in any way, and incapable of providing feedback. Several blackbirds were nearby foraging in the grass for worms and bugs... hopping, pecking, chasing flying insects... you know the drill.
Hmmm I thought... moving targets that eat bugs... looks a lot like trout fishing to me, but absent issues such as drag, matching the hatch, tippet size, the list goes on.
If you practice casting in parks there are a myriad of targets from which to choose... trees, bushes, discarded coffee cups, dog doo (bad choice), but all of them are static in nature, and although they help improve your casting techniques, they aren't optimal because fish move and you really should be casting at moving objects to simulate the real world.
I've tried practice casting to moving targets in the past, children and dogs (using a harmless yarn fly with no hook), and although they are perfect in a number of ways, their parents, owners and animal rights groups provide feedback of course, but not the kind I'm looking for. But birds...!
So quite by accident I discovered that parks and birds provide the perfect, dynamic practice range and targets for improving my distance, accuracy, speed and presentation skills... combined with constant feedback.
Prior to arriving at the park I tie on a yellow yarn fly (minus the hook) to my leader, then microwave a bag of popcorn (birds prefer Orville Redenbacher Gourmet- the buttery kind.) Then upon entering the park I carefully approach a "bird-active" area and begin dropping the popcorn in small piles (I do save some for lunch by the way). In short order I have lots of moving targets at varying distances and directions. As each pile of corn is consumed, the birds become conditioned and aggressively fly to and run down my artificial fly. The bird approaches, bends down for the easy meal, you retrieve the fly or pick up and lay it down a few feet away... the bird continues the chase. Perfect!
Wanna get some real belly laughs and simultaneously practice your fly casting techniques?... try "bird casting", it's a hoot.