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Surface and casting lesson with DerekD


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"A for effort and a learning exercise with a raider tutor!"

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Hi Raiders,

This isn't really a report, but a couple of fish were inadvertently caught so I'll put it here.

Even though I've been fishing for quite a while, I'd been thinking of contacting @DerekD for some lessons on casting, surface lures and vibes/blades. He must have read my mind because a message from him in my inbox popped up yesterday afternoon asking if we wanted to have a fish together. Even though I keep very anti-social morning hours, Derek was most obliging and arranged to meet me early on Five Dock Bay for a couple of hours before I had to attend to family duties. The plan was to work on my casting, show me a thing or two with plastics and work on surface retrieves for a few different lures. Fantastic. Exactly what I wanted.

We met up and first things first, Derek asked me to cast out my Sugapen and give him a walk the dog retrieve. First cast resulted in the leader knot catching on the guides of my Bream Raider. I commented to Derek that this has been happening a lot on this rod (even with FGs and slim beauties), but I was otherwise very happy with it. His advice was that we needed to shorten the leader so that it didn't need to go through the guides, or at least too many of them. I kind of knew that was the answer, so off came more half the leader and we were able to continue. Problem solved, although it was very strange for me, casting with so much leader off the end of the rod tip.

I was glad that Derek was happy with my walk the dog retrieve with the Sugarpen. I guess all those sessions chasing whiting - where I walked lures on the surface till my arms fell off - had paid off.

It quickly became evident that I needed to work on my casting. For the bulk of my fishing career, casting was just a necessary evil and never warranted a moment's thought. As most of my fishing has been on open water, with food sources for fish close to shore, accuracy and distance never really mattered. However, in recent months I've been more adventurous with my spots and have found locations where a bit more distance and accuracy were required. I struggle to cast straight and far, and Derek picked up on this immediately.

The trip immediately morphed into a casting lesson that shared more in common with a tennis lesson than a fishing trip. We worked through the relevant technique cues (most of which are in Derek's article which I will link in later). The biggest tips were that the wrist action is akin to striking with a hammer, taking the back cast slowly and trying to ensure a stable lure + straight trajectory and WATCHING THE ROD TIP. With over three decades of self-taught bad habits to overcome, I struggled with all of these. When I got the 'hammer' right, I failed to watch the rod tip, when I got the straight trajectory right, I'd miss the hammer (and still forgot to watch the rod tip). I have to admit that coupled with the long dropper from the rod tip, all of this just felt plain weird and over the couple of hours I spent with Derek, I really struggled to put it all together.

Every few casts, Derek would change my lure and I was taken through how to work a Sugapen, a bent minnow, a popper and a splash prawn. Thankfully the retrieves were all derivatives of the walk the dog and I was able to get them down pat quickly. They key difference with bream vs whiting was the use of pauses, particularly when a fish displays interest. Derek gave me a great demo as he enticed and landed a little tailor in front of me. I was also interested to learn that a bent minnow is actually a kind of sub-surface lure that mimics a dying baitfish. I was grateful to learn these, as Derek's approval of my technique greatly increased my confidence with surface lures.

Eventually Derek decided that I really needed to double down on my casting and tied on a micro jig so that I could see the effect (good or bad) of my technique. With this lure on, it was immediately obvious when I was doing the right thing; it would fly for miles in the air whenever I got things right. Different targets were given by Derek for me to aim towards and I reached them with varying success. At this stage I was still struggling to put it all together. On a couple of casts, I hooked fish and on one cast, I landed a little tailor. This was very surprising because I was trying to rip the jig back in as quickly as I could so that I could do another cast. I guess when tailor really want a lure, they're going to get it!

Towards the end of the session, Derek showed me a trick to limit my back cast when there are a lot of people around. The trick was to move your back cast to become partly vertical by dropping the rod tip. For some reason, it was with this exercise that it all came together and I was able to put out three good casts - forehand and backhand - in a row. The 'hammer' just clicked for me at that point, and even though I still had a lot of work to do, I had something that I could take with me on my future fishing sessions.

As my leave pass was about to expire, it was time to thank Derek and head for home. Derek gave me his standard disclaimer that he would not be responsible for any further tackle purchases that might arise of his session. I told him that I was already very capable in a tackle-purchasing capacity and that his influence would have limited effect. However, I will not confirm nor deny whether several new lures were purchased this afternoon :) 

During this session, the gauntlet was also thrown down, challenging Derek to catch a surface bream in my local waters at Meadowbank. I don't seem to catch a lot of bream on lures in the area, even though I can get them on bait (and on lures in other areas). He has gladly accepted and we will arrange a session in the near future. Hopefully I will be able to demonstrate significantly improved casting.

So between now and then, I will be aiming to cast further and straighter, with the goal of being able to reach the falling tide eddy at the railway bridge with a twisty or a blade. Bonus marks if I manage to catch some of the marauding chopper tailor that have been busting up in the area of late.

Here ends my account (for now) of lessons with DerekD. From this session I have learned that fishing with a companion who can offer constructive feedback is absolutely invaluable. Derek's lessons are not just for novice anglers, they are also for people like me who have been fishing pretty much their whole lives and have plateaued in their performance.

A huge thanks to @DerekD for his patience and careful tuition. Unfortunately for him, he'll stuck teaching me for a while yet :D. I'll try and make it fun!

For those who haven't read his article on casting, you can find it here:


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Little Flatty

A very entertaining and well written post that you have also supported the tackle industry as a result of Derek’s excellent tuition!

good luck with the new knowledge and toys and we will look forward to your future top water reports!

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I have read all the above posts and have to comment. 

Derek is the only angler that I have met who critically analyses things in an (engineering) mechanical way. Have any of us had tuition, from the onset, in this fashion? Think back to how you started fishing...who taught you to cast, how long did it take? I think most of us understand that the right rod, line, reel make a big difference when it comes to distance and accuracy of casting. But do we know why?

Fair to say that for many applications, most of us fumble our way through, and are satisfied with what we are achieving. However there are times where it's essential to do better.


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5 hours ago, HawkesburyParadise said:

Thanks for correcting my technique. I'll keep at it!

Sorry for all the questions :)

Hi HP,

Pleasure to meet you last night.

Most of us fumble along to work out casting or we get passed down habits which are not optimal. There is a lot of information to pick up so it will so it will take a while but the more you work at it the quicker the growth.

I was glad to see you asking questions as it means you are switched on and learning so please keep them coming.



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6 hours ago, Mike Sydney said:

That’s awesome Mike. I want in on that  Meadowbank session by the way!

Being the selfless bloke @DerekD is, would you believe he was at it again in the evening tutoring myself and @HawkesburyParadise  ? 

Here’s an action shot of master and pupil this evening at Lilyfield. 

You're on @Mike Sydney.

Derek did tell me he was meeting you and someone else in the later in the day. Little did I know it was @HawkesburyParadise.

5 hours ago, HawkesburyParadise said:

Thank you @DerekD. You're wisdom in fishing is too damn high. 

Thanks for correcting my technique. I'll keep at it!

Sorry for all the questions :)

Thanks for taking me out and the pic @Mike Sydney

Well done @HawkesburyParadise, you've just cut a decade of poor casting out of your fishing career. I hope @DerekD gave you his disclaimer, because I am suspecting more outfits and lures are on the cards further along. There's no helping @Mike Sydney and I; we are already too far gone! 🤣

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Great report thanks for sharing some great info and tuition. Its so true about bad casting habits forming. Myself and 3 others went out with a pro guide once and he immediately picked apart our casting techniques, although in my case he couldnt fault the end result as far as accuracy was concerned. By the end of the trip though the other 3 improved out of sight. As mentioned lure retrieve technique is another learning curve thought i knew it all. The other boys outfished me after sorting their casting out and working the lures as instructed which i thought was to fast despite being novice lure fisherman. The big lesson i learned was to pay attention to those in the know such as Derek D and the fishing guide it wasnt until i relented and followed the advice offered that i started to pick up a few fish.

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On 1/3/2022 at 8:08 PM, Little_Flatty said:

This isn't really a report, but a couple of fish were inadvertently caught so I'll put it here.

Really annoying when this happens. There I am trying to give a lesson on casting and working the lures and we keep getting interrupted by fish hitting them....

Seriously, some days it is not worth getting out of bed. That morning wasn't one of those.


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