“Tossing rocks” is a game I designed to aid in fly casting instruction. This game helps replicate the cast and teaches some of the cast’s fundamental principles before a student even picks up a fly rod.
First, collect some pieces of gravel and attach a target (paper plate) to a tree at shoulder level. Stand facing the target at a distance of about 6 feet with the target in line with the dominant hand’s shoulder. With the dominant hand, make a fist with the thumbnail facing upward. Hold a piece of gravel between the thumb and pointer (index) finger knuckle. Try tossing the rock at the target and stop the forward motion at the moment the rock is released. Have a second target set up about a foot higher than shoulder level. Try turning around backwards about 3 feetaway from the target. Toss a piece of gravel behind you at this target remembering to stop as soon as the rock is released. When playing this game inside, try replacing the rocks with pennies and attach the paper plate targets to a wall.
After playing the game for a while, you can demonstrate how it applies to fly casting.
First, it teaches a good grip of the fly rod with the thumb behind the cork toward the target. Show the student how the grip of the fly rod is the same as holding the rock during the game.
“Tossing rocks” also teaches acceleration through the casting stroke with an abrupt stop. Make a short overhead cast with the fly rod and show the student that the speed up and stop of fly rod is similar to the speed up and stop used to toss the rock.
Finally, the game teaches proper tracking during the casting stroke. Show how the motion of tossing the rock when applied to casting encourages a straight-line path of the rod tip and tight loops. Demonstrate how an inaccurate toss of the rock is the same as stopping the rod tip in a direction not toward the target (i.e. the fly line & fly travels in the direction the rod tip speeds up & stops).
Play this game for yourself or as a competition with friends. You’ll find that it enforces good mechanics the next time you pick up a fly rod.