Warning: This post is bad advice for beginners.
In the guiding business patience is a virtue. All guides have there own variety of “go to” phrases that flow out so naturally and often you don’t even notice them being said. Should of been here yesterday, never leave fish to find fish, A bad day's fishing is better than a good day at work. All of these can be heard echoing along every river system in North America daily.
However there is one phrase I am trying to put a stop to and that’s “fish every cast no matter how good or bad it was, steelhead don’t care if it was a pretty cast or not.” I feel the opposite. Just like Pavlovs dog I don’t think people who are interested in improving should get a taste of cheese for a poor cast and inevitably a poor presentation. This equals poor conditioning.
There are two simple reasons why poor casts actually do catch fish. A sloppy cast can pile up slack allowing the fly to dead drift and sink quite deep before swinging. Sometimes this extra depth is enough to entice a strike. The other factor is that no matter how bad a cast is, it still fishes properly the last 15% of the swing after it straightens, which is when most grabs are had.
With that said fishing a sloppy toss can do a lot worse than reward an angler for being lucky. The uncontrolled swing with a sink tip often ends in disaster as it mercilessly scours the rocks on the bottom of the river. If you snag on the bottom you could lose a fly, lose time re-rigging and disrupt any suspicious fish holding nearby. Its not worth the risk.
If you watch an experienced angler fishing to a very high level you will never see them fish a terrible cast. They will strip it in and relaunch. Great anglers are trying to accomplish something with each and every cast, particularly when the steelhead senses are tingling over great holding water. There is no time for a blown cast or an irresponsible swing at this point.
Consider a recast a punishment for blowing one, Strip it in and re-launch with purpose: guide speak be-damned!