Have you ever hit the water after a considerable amount of time off it, only to find that your casts have lost some accuracy and your mind draws a blank when it comes to tying a knot? It happens to the best of us sometimes, but it doesn’t have to. Practicing off the water during your spare time will help keep techniques and skills at the forefront of your mind so you won’t miss a step when the time comes. Here are some tips on how to do this.

Flipping and pitching rely heavily on accuracy to pinpoint those small holes among lily pads and grass. I’ve seen several anglers scare off fish due to inaccurate casts to these holes, however. To ensure you don’t let your own flipping and pitching become rusty, I suggest practicing in the backyard when you have some down time. You can use anything from paper plates to pool rings as targets, and lay them out throughout your yard. For a more ideal practice, stand on the edge of a deck or even a chair to simulate the elevation of being in a boat. Then, either with egg sinkers (be careful with these) or practice plugs, practice flipping to the targets for a little while. Do this now and then when you have spare time and you’ll notice a consistency in your accuracy when you’re on the water.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had a brain fart while tying a knot I haven’t tied in a while. This simply comes from too much time in between trips to the lake. However, lately I’ve been keeping old shoe laces and lengths of thin cord around to practice knots with, and if you want to keep up your knot tying muscle memory, as well as your manual dexterity, then I suggest doing the same. By continually tying the knots you use most often, you’ll notice that you won’t need to think as much about tying them when you’re actually on the water, so take some time to tie a Palomar, improved clinch, or uni knot if you’re bored.

These are just a few ways to practice your techniques when you’re not on the water, but I guarantee that keeping up with them will help keep your skills from deteriorating. Rubber practice plugs in the backyard are a great way to keep your casting up to par, and tying knots when you have down time will save time and stress on the water.