I am away for the weekend. I will be with the BFCC at the Spring Show in Newark. If any of you are there come over and say hello.
If creep is a villain then Drift is a super hero, he rights the wrongs that creep does.
Technically Drift is any unpowered movement of the rod, after the stop, either in the direction the line is moving or in the direction of the following stroke.
!!!!!, yes I see the blank look on your face.
Drifting is what you do during the pause, that’s why it’s ‘unpowered’, it has no effect on the line, all you are doing is putting the rod in the best position for the following stroke. Mostly this is moving the rod tip up and back a bit to open up the casting angle. This is the creep killer, instead of creeping forwards you have just drifted back and opened up your stroke and killed Insidious Creep and good riddance. I hope (but doubt) we have seen the last of him.
Drift is the ability to alter your casting angle to suit the conditions you are casting in, lets have a look at a few examples.
There is a strongish wind coming from behind you so your backcast has to be more powerful than your forward cast will have to be. If you move into your forward stroke from where you finished your back cast your casting angle would be too wide for the amount of power you are going to apply and the tip would travel in a too convex (domed) path and you would throw a very wide loop (not necessarily a bad thing with a following wind, but we are looking for nice loops this time, alright?). All you have to do is drift the rod forward a little bit as the line goes out behind you to reduce the casting angle and there you go. Nice loop by the way.
We have to do just the opposite if the wind is in our face. It’s a relatively gentle backcast and where we stop the rod would leave us with too narrow a casting arc for the powerful forward delivery we want to make so we do the classic up and backwards drift that opens up the casting angle so we can power the line out against the wind without a tailing loop.
In general the more line we are casting or power we are going to apply the wider we drift in preparation for the next stroke.
Insidious Creep. Sounds like a sneaky little character from a Dickens novel doesn’t it?. He’s nasty little thief who steals something precious from you without you even realising it. In fact it often takes someone else to tell you that something has been stolen from you because you haven’t noticed anything is missing.
Creep is a fault, I don’t care what anyone else says. It is an involuntary movement of the rod in the direction of the cast, ie, you have stopped the rod on the backcast and instead of staying in that position while the line straightens behind you move the rod hand forward and/or rotate the rod forward before the start of the stroke proper. What does that rob you of?, casting angle. You now have less of it than you thought you had and you will now throw a tailing loop (see the Essentials). If you throw tails consistently check to see if you are creeping.
Creep has to be involuntary, if you do it conciously then it is not creep it’s drift and drift is not a fault. We will probably discuss drift in a future post.
Creep in a beginner is a sort of anticipation of the next stroke and is fairly easy to correct because their stroke is not ingrained in their muscle memory yet. Creep in an experienced caster can be more difficult to correct because they have developed a technique to compensate for it that has become ingrained in their muscle memory and once something like that gets ingrained it can take a lot of effort on the casters part to work it out of their stroke.
A lot of good casters don’t realise they are creeping. When it is pointed out to them they make a conscious effort to stop but as soon as they get back into a casting rhythm it comes back again. This is the time to add drift to the repertoire.
As I intimated in my mildly ranting post ‘Hoary old Chestnut’ is that one of the things that practice produces is a thing called feel.
I don’t think a beginner can be expected to have it, or even know what it is. There is just too much for them to take in while they are learning to cast. I think I would be surprised if someone had it who only fishes and never practices casting . I suspect a lot of decent casters don’t have it because ,maybe, they have never thought about it.
I knew such a thing as feel existed and I was envious of those who supposedly had it. I searched for it but in the end think it eventually found me rather than me finding it.
Feel is not about that tug as the line turns over, it’s a lot more subtle than that. It has to do with the heaviness of the rod tip as the line straightens and feeding the power into the beginning of the stroke, applying the right amount of power through the stroke, the relaxed body, arm and hand that doesn’t jar the rod. This is all starting to sound a bit Zen I know but that’s what happens. You may not become ‘one’ with your rod but you do start to develop a partnership with it rather than trying to dominate it or allowing it to dominate you.
How do you teach feel?, damned if I know. I have dabbled in trying to teach it when I am trying to get across a concept like power application and I do try to teach relaxation while casting and when the student has relaxed and made a good cast I will say something like ‘didn’t that feel better?’ and invariably the answer is yes.
I have found that to go beyond relaxation and enter the mystical world of feel by trying to get a student to ‘become one’ with their rod is a short road to frustration as they struggle with the concept. Better, I think, is to plant the seed in their head that there is such a thing and let them find it for themselves or it finds them, like it did me.
Now look guys (and girls?), this is all getting a bit surreal. I cannot believe the amount of hits this little blog is getting. Apart from those friends that have commented I don’t know who you are, or if you are unique hits or just the same people re reading some of my old posts. I honestly never thought I would attract more than the odd viewer but, especially at weekends I am getting upwards of forty or more a day, not many compared to some blogs maybe, but a big suprise to me. This was just meant to be a showcase for my instructing not the launch of my literary career.
I would honesty love to get some feedback from you, maybe some suggestions for posts and if what I write makes any sense. If there are things you think are wrong tell me, if you don’t understand something tell me. I am here to inform, entertain and more importantly, learn.
There can be no slack in the casting system during the application of power.
”During the application of power”, that’s the bit to remember. After you have stopped you can do whatever you like, and we often do, to make fancy presentation casts or shoot line when false casting.
Where is slack likely to occur and what will it do to the cast?
If you have got to the double hauling stage there are a couple of things that can give you slack. If your loops are not dynamic enough to properly straighten the line you will lose effective casting angle because the rod will have to move a substantial distance into the next stroke before the slack is removed so your effective casting angle is now not wide enough for the amount of line you are casting (see, I told you these Essentials all meld together). The same thing will happen if you automatically raise your hauling hand to the ‘ready’ position instead of feeding it back against the tension in the line. Just take a look at the slack between your hauling hand and the butt ring, that’s got to go somewhere and that will be in losing effective casting angle again.
I’m not sure if I have already mentioned effective casting angle before. It’s the powered part of the casting angle, the bit where you are actually moving the line in the direction of the cast. Now, you might want that to be 10 to 2 because your brain is telling you that that is the correct casting angle for amount of line you are casting but you have taken your hauling hand up too soon so the rod may not acquire the line until 12 so your effective casting angle has now been reduced from 10 to 2 to 12 to 2 and you tail. That’s what slack can do to you.
In order for the rod tip to move in a straight line you must apply power in a smooth acceleration from RSP to RSP.
To keep a rod loaded correctly you have to apply a continuous force to it…continuously! right up to the moment you stop applying force anyway, that’s called the stop.
Acceleration through the stroke has to do just that, accelerate. It’s not a 10, 10, 10 thing it’s a 5, 10, 20 thing. You start slow and finish fast, a bit like sex.
So, what happens if you don’t apply power properly?, usually the tip rises as the rod tries to unload prematurely ( I wish I hadn’t mentioned sex now). That puts a buckle in SLP and hey presto you have just tailed. Or, you apply too much power too soon and the tip drops below SLP and then rises as the system reaches some sort of equilibrium, bingo, you just tailed again.
At the other end of the scale if you don’t apply enough power the rod tip will not flatten enough and it will describe a dome shaped path and you will have wide loops.
I was going to use a Goldilocks and the three bears analogy but I think we have had enough sex for one day don’t you?
The Pause between each stroke must vary with the amount time it takes for the line to straighten.
I am almost tempted not to write anything by way of explanation, I mean, come on, thats a pretty obvious statement. The more line you have out the longer it takes to straighten so the longer you have to wait before starting the next stroke.
So WTF do I see so many casters who have no concept of pausing?. Buggered if I know.
I think it all ties in with cadence. Some casters only have one speed, tick tock ( that bloody clock again!). And like a stopped clock they are going to be right twice a day but the rest of the time they will be wrong. The same also applies to the previous Essential, variable casting angle.
How often do you see casters on a bank whipping the rod back and forward unable to increase the amount of line they are carrying, or if they do shoot some line while false casting they don’t wait for it to straighten so they are finally casting a huge horizontal S and the loops get bigger and bigger until the final mighty heave when the whole lot lands in a heap twenty feet in front of them.
Come on guys. Casting works best when there is tension in the line and the line is tautest when it is straight so let the bloody thing straighten. There is so much less effort required to cast if you allow the proper pause between strokes.
I’m basically lazy, I don’t want to thrash a rod back and forth and get nowhere I just want to flick a nice loop back, wait for it to straighten and flick it forward again. What could be simpler.
The Next Essential I want to talk about states,
” The casting angle must vary according to the amount of line we have outside the rod tip”.
Now we are into variable casting arc. I will use the term casting angle rather than arc.
One thing to bare in mind when reading this is that the line always follows the rod tip.
Casting angle is the angle change at the rod butt from rod straight position at the start of the stroke to rod straight position at the end of the stroke (RSP to RSP). In other words from the rod starting to load at the beginning of the stroke to moment it unloads at the end of the stroke. It does not take into account any lateral hand movement, if there is any, that’s a stylistic thing and not essential.
Basically the Essential is saying that the more load you put into the rod the deeper the rod will bend and the wider the casting angle has to be to create SLP (see the first article).
I’m going to have to use a clock face now, not something I like but there you go.
Say you are casting 20′ of line, the rod would hardly load and the casting angle would be something like two minutes to twelve to two minutes passed twelve to create tight loops, now we add 10′ and the casting angle would have to increase to five to twelve to five passed twelve, add another 20′ and the casting angle increases to ten to twelve to ten passed twelve and so on and so on. Simple. But, there are other variables to take into account such as the action of the rod. A softer actioned rod will load deeper than a fast actioned rod so will need a wider casting angle than the fast actioned rod for the same amount of line outside the tip. You can alter the amount of load in the rod by increasing or decreasing the amount of power you apply to the stroke, you might want a delicate 30′ cast to present a dry fly or a 30′ powerful into the wind cast both will put different loads into the rod and require different casting angles.
If the casting angle is too large for the amount of line you are casting you will get wide loops because the tip path is too convex. If the casting angle is too narrow for the amount of line you are casting the rod tip will actually drop below SLP and you will get tailing loops because you have created a concave tip path. Don’t forget the line follows the rod tip, if the tip drops below SLP at any point during the stroke the top or fly leg of the line will actually be below the rod leg and the line will have crossed itself, this is a tailing loop, the thing that gives you those evil wind knots.
Variable casting arc is a bit like learning to ride a bike, it takes a bit of practice but once you have it it becomes ingrained in your stroke and you will hardly ever have to think about it again. You have just learned how to cure tailing loops as well, just open up your casting angle a bit.
Doubtless you have heard of the Five Essentials but have you actually thought about them. No?, well you should.
Casting God Bill Gammel and his father Jay Gammel synthesised overhead flycasting down to these essential elements. These are the things that must occur to produce the perfect flycast. There is not one that is more important than the other, they all have to meld together. But we have to start somewhere so, not in any particular order and certainly not in order of importance, here is my take on The Five Essentials.
”The rod tip must travel in a straight line throughout the casting stroke”
This means not only backwards and forwards (tracking) but also horizontally.
Tracking the tip in a straight line is the most efficient way to transfer energy, you cast from directly behind to directly ahead (180 deg). Unfortunately out of line tracking is one of the most common faults and I often see tracking that is 10 to 20 deg out of line. It means that you are losing a significant percentage of efficiency. I have heard of several methods to straighten tracking; cast an old rod or cane along a wall, cast along a line on a football pitch, drop the occasional back cast and see where it is lying. One friend casts on a grass verge that is only a few feet wide. One of the best methods is to pick a target in front as well as behind you, a tree or chimney or the corner of a building and aim your cast at it. Whichever method you decide to use the results will be well worth it in the end.
That’s the back and forward sorted now to the horizontal.
What we are looking for is ‘straight line path’, SLP. This is where the load on the rod corresponds to the weight of the line we have aerialised and the rod tip bends to produce SLP, this will give us our nice tight loops. I like to look at it as slicing the top off an orange.
SLP is one of the things you can alter to suit a particular situation, if you are casting a team of three flies you do not want a tight loop or you risk getting the flies tangled, you want a more open loop, so you track the tip in a more convex path. If you are casting into a wind you want a tighter loop that presents less surface so a flatter SLP is required.
What you do not want is a concave tip path where the tip drops below SLP so this will lead us nicely onto the next Essential.