Today's Sportsman: Fly casting clinic

Jeannie Fyer looks on as her 12-year old daughter, Jocelyn, gets expert instruction from FFI certified fly casting instructor Bill Ruland at the recent Potomac Valley Fly Fishers casting clinic.

The Potomac Valley Fly Fishers held their annual casting clinic at Middletown Community Park on Sept. 8. The event was the first in-person meeting hosted by PVFF since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic last spring. Approximately two dozen members and participants were in attendance.

The event featured certified fly casting instructors Bill Ruland and Bob Davis, who have successfully completed the Fly Fishers International training program. Ruland is also a fly casting instructor who teaches a fly fishing course at Shepherd University. Antietam Fly Anglers provided the fly rods used for instruction but many of the participants brought their own gear.

The outdoor event was held under social-distancing guidelines with all participants wearing face masks. Changes to the standard fly casting instruction program had to be implemented due to social-distancing guidelines.

“Normally we set up stations where two people are assigned at each station … one watches the other cast in order to observe and understand what good or not-so-good casting looks like,” Ruland said. Participants were spaced apart and instruction adjusted to a one-on-one ratio.

Ruland commented that he finds it easier to teach a female to cast than a male.

“The guys I have taught tend to want to muscle the rod. That is the wrong thing to do. Women rarely have that problem. The power is in the rod itself and does not require great strength to activate,” Ruland said. “Women typically pay better attention than men.”

Is it easier to teach a beginner or an experienced fly caster?

“It depends, Ruland said. “I have more difficulty with self-taught fly casters, they are the hardest to untrain because they may have had negative training.”

PVFF had several experienced fly casters on hand to assist in addition to the certified instructors. Dave Fulton was one such member who was working with the beginning fly casters.

“Not everybody casts a fly rod the same way,” Fulton said. “The plane I cast on changes depending on the cast I want to make. I keep the rod vertical while standing with my right foot forward and keeping the rod close and tight to my body for shorter casts, but when I want a longer cast, I change my stance slightly to get more distance.”

The purpose of the casting clinic is to simply introduce the participants to fly casting.

Twelve-year-old Jocelyn Fryer was enjoying the evening with her mother, Jeannie, and grandparents Don and Puichi Lee. Jocelyn is a member of BSA Troop 1191 in Mount Airy. She is working on earning the fly fishing merit badge and hopes to complete all the requirements this fall to earn the badge.

Everybody was engaged, and even fly fishing veterans like Don Fine felt it was worthwhile.

“I just like to be part of it, and I can always use a little help,” said Fine.

Fine is a past president of PVFF who leads the virtual fly tying session each month for PVFF. The sessions are done remotely using Zoom and are well attended.

“We send all registered participants the materials needed prior to the meeting. It is a good perk for PVFF members,” he said.

Andy Mekelberg is the current PVFF president. He was at the event selling raffle tickets for the virtual PVFF banquet to be held on Oct. 24. The raffle items include fly fishing gear, artwork, guided fishing trips and a kayak.

Mekelberg was pleased with the turnout of the casting clinic as well as the progress of the club despite the adjustments to the monthly meetings that have gone online with the pandemic restrictions for public gatherings.

“It’s been exciting to see the great participation by our members in this unique time,” he said. “Our distance meetings and activities have kept everyone engaged, including fly fishing outings. The participation is much greater than I hoped or expected. … Still, I am looking forward towards the time we can regularly get-together in person again.”

For PVFF membership information, log onto

Contact Dan Neuland at

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