Unlike many other fishing disciplines, fly fishing is more akin to an athletic sport which requires practice and dedication to become proficient. The fly cast is by far the most challenging and often most rewarding aspect of fly fishing.
Volumes have been written about the technical nature of casting, but little is ever mentioned about the benefits of becoming an ambidextrous caster. Despite the lack of attention, the ability to cast with either hand opens up a multitude of opportunities to catch more fish.
As a fishing guide, I must always be aware of which hand my fly angler uses to cast. Wind often dictates how I approach the boat to a piece of structure to best set up the angler for the cast. There are many times where a spot cannot be fished effectively due to the relationship of wind direction and the angler’s dominant casting hand. Outside of my home waters of the Chesapeake, the ability to cast with either hand has many other benefits both in salt and freshwater scenarios.
Becoming an ambidextrous caster pays huge dividends while wading a bonefish flat. The best wading technique is to approach a flat with the sun at your back to allow for sighting fish and to have the wind blowing at a slight angle behind and away from your body to keep the fly from hitting you. Unfortunately, mother nature does not always provide this perfect scenario and the fly must be presented with the wind blowing onto your casting shoulder. Of course, you could try to make a backhand presentation with your dominant hand but it will never be as fast, accurate or effective as the ability to wade a flat with the rod in your non-dominant hand.
Being restricted to one hand for casting limits your success in freshwater scenarios, as well. The tight quarters of a wooded Appalachian stream or the fast water of a large western river present opportunities to the ambidextrous caster that are otherwise a hindrance to someone restricted to casting with just their dominant hand. Learn to cast with your non-dominant hand and you’ll never be on the “wrong side” side of the river. There are ways to present the fly with the dominate hand like an off-shoulder cast; but again, there are limits to distance, accuracy and presentation compared to the ability to deliver the fly with your non-dominant hand.
Now, I’m not saying that learning to cast with your non-dominant hand is easy — hence the title “Ambitious Ambidextrous Angler.” However, the dividends are great and will put you in an elite class of fly anglers that can present the fly in all scenarios without limits. I love the fact that fly casting can never be perfected but always improved upon. It is the challenge that I find intriguing and the only way to get better is with a rod in the non-dominant hand!