God, even I am getting bored, so lets cut to the chase.
I have held the BFCC five weight record and the seven weight record. The five weight record is now held by Paul Arden with a world class 130ft 9ins, and I have seen him cast a lot further so watch this space. The seven weight record is held by Mike Marshall with a stonking cast of 142ft 1in. I have been relegated to only (!) holding the records in the Senior (sob) 50-59 categories.
If I had my time over again I would have joined the BFCC earlier than I eventually did. I was desperate to cast against other like minded people but the title the BRITISH fly casting club put me off for a year or two. I had visions of turning up and casting against the elite of the day and feeling totally inadequate. This could not have been further from the truth. They (we) are just a bunch of guys who like to get together and have a days casting. I couldn’t have wished to meet a nice group of people. There have never been many of us, sometimes only four or five of us turn up, other days there may be thirty or more compete. It’s a mystery to some of us why there seems to be such a lack of interest in flycasting for it’s own sake. For the sake of the equivalent of one hours tuition you get to cast and pick the brains of some of the best casters in the country and get some free instruction if you want it, four times a year. Go figure!.
I also had Pauls shootouts twice a year so I was managing to cast with and against some really good casters half a dozen times a year, mainly from April to October. The six months cold weather period was, and still is a period when my enthusiasm would wain and it can take quite an effort to get re-enthused to get out there and practice again.
I honestly believe my best competitive days are behind me but not necessarily my best casting, my new enthusiasm is to just be as good as I can get with a single handed rod casting the ‘twiddly stuff’ as my wife likes to call it, normal fishing distance presentation casts.
Studying for my CCI opened my eyes to aspects of casting I had been virtually ignoring for years and I also found I enjoy, and get a lot of satisfaction, from instructing.
The heart breaking Hardy Angel has now evolved into the Angel 2TE which, so far, does not show the same inclination to become a five piece rod at the slightest excuse.
Who knows, the distance bug might bite again and I will give Paul a run for his money with a five weight.
I used to be good…
I had set my sights on the BFCC five weight record. It wasn’t a massive cast by today’s standards, I think it was around 117ft but this is competition casting and you have to cast in whatever the conditions are on the day and what the conditions might be in those three minutes. There might be a favourable breeze when everyone else has their go only for it to drop just as you start your go, or it’s gusty and you can’t get a consistent backcast in or it’s damp or it’s just one of those days when the line won’t fly. The competition days when everything is just right and you are casting well are rare.
For some reason I decided that if I could cast a British club record I would like to do it with a British rod. While at a show in one autumn a friend asked me if I had ever cast a Hardy Angel TE. To be honest I had never heard of it. I was introduced to Howard Croston of Hardy’s and after a chat he agreed to let me have a cast with his own TE. I was very taken with the rod but the price was a bit too rich for me to risk buying one and then finding it wasn’t the rod for me. Hardy were generous enough to allow me to borrow a rod while I made my mind up.
I remember filming the first casting session and on reviewing it I was amazed to see that the rod was so bloody fast that it passed through RSP and recoil and was straight again and I was only half way through my haul, I had cast some respectable mid to high one teens and a couple of 120′s while totally mistiming the cast!. Oh, wanted one of these, ‘cannon’ just didn’t do it justice. The TE is the only five weight rod I have cast that you could keep asking more and more of and it would deliver, it’s only limitation was the person holding it. Then disaster, the rod snapped just above the cork and I had the embarrassment of telling Howard ‘sorry, I broke the rod’. I sent the broken section back to Hardy who replaced it. I had decided to buy my own TE, I just put the break down to one of those things.
So here I am with my own TE and was getting quite excited at the prospect of breaking the club record with it, which I was doing on a regular basis while practicing when just before the next meeting the rod snapped again and the new section would not arrive in time for me to use it in competition.
On the day of the comp conditions were perfect for a change. I had to borrow Ben Spinks TCR for my turn and I got close to the record a couple of times and realised the record attempt was on. This was the first and only time I have ever got so nervous that my casting totally fell apart. The adrenalin rush just turned me into a wreck. My three minutes were up and I had failed miserably. There is a club rule that if you want to go for a record you can have a limited period after the competition to attempt it, I can’t remember if it’s the full three minutes or a limited number of casts, either way Mike Marshall agreed to my request and I went off somewhere quiet to calm down.
I think I beat the record with my first or second cast and beat it by a respectable margin. I’m not sure what it was but it was over 120′. The only downside was it was with a TCR and not the Angel.
You will, no doubt, be as surprised as I was to go to the BFCC website and find yourself being re-directed here. This is only a temporary phenomenon.
Due to circumstances beyond our control we are having to rebuild our website. It’s a complete rebuild so it may be a little while before it’s up and running, please be patient.
In the meantime, if you have any suggestions for the new site or other relevant BFCC matters, either leave a comment here or email me or Mike Marshall <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Rebuilding a stroke is not as easy as it sounds, it’s a mental thing as well as physical. You know that what you are doing at moment has put you up there with some good casters so why change?. Well, as I said in the previous post, it was starting to hurt. I sometimes had to lay off casting for a couple of months while allowing something like tennis elbow to clear up; what a pain that is, have you ever tried washing your face one handed?.
I need to mention the mental bit because to an outsider it may look as if every cast you make is identical to all the other ones you have been casting for the last hour. To the caster every cast is different. I’ll try dropping the rod tip before I drag or I will keep the rod a bit more vertical or I will haul a fraction later, or, or, or. And so it goes on. About the only time I try and repeat a cast is when I finally get one that goes a long way but that doesn’t always work because your brain was in neutral and you can’t remember what the hell it was that made that particular cast so spectacular. Frustration leads to the slippery slope of putting more effort into the stroke and yelling ‘get out there you bastard’ as you whack a cast as hard as you can. You know you need help when you chuck the rod on the ground and want to stomp all over it because the cast only went 120′. This happened a few times until one day I asked myself when did 120′ become a crap cast? and laughed out loud.
Stefan made me drop back and concentrate on form, timing and tracking, all the little things that add up to a huge increase in efficiency. As I worked on it I lost a lot of distance but gradually the distances started to go back up to where I had been and then just kept improving. I even got good enough to beat Paul now and then, especially with a seven weight. The irony is that Stefan got seriously interested in distance casting a year or two ago and asked me for advice, I think he even sent a film clip!. Stefan is one of the most elegant casters you are ever likely to meet and took a bit of persuading that he should open up his stroke and hit the f*****!.
Thanks Stefan, see you in May.
My need for a decent rod became more apparent, TCR’s didn’t frighten me any more, I had cast quite a few by then, and I had set my sights on claiming the BFCC five weight record. This was when I met the love of my life who kept breaking my heart.
It looked like I was going to have to buy a TCR even though it’s reputation still had me a bit awed and it’s price had me wincing in pain thinking of the other things I could do with almost £600. A chance remark on Sexyloops saved me a fortune though. It was whispered that there was another rod out there that cast just as far and was about a fifth the price. Apart from anything else it would enable me to find out if I was ready for a TCR. My Echo UD#5 was delivered from the States to my door for about £120!
The rod was a brute, nothing subtle about it, it was an out and out distance stick. I found it difficult to cast with at first, it took a while to get the best out of it. It was avoided like the plague at Pauls shootouts.
I have gained an, I think, unreasonable reputation for breaking rods. This was mainly due to an unhappy set of circumstances surrounding one particular rod. I have set out with the express purpose of breaking the Echo and never got anywhere near it, other rods have cracked or shattered, the bloody Echo is still going strong. If I feel particularly masochistic I get it out and have a cast but not for long, that thing has hurt me a damn sight more than I ever hurt it. It’s given me tennis elbow, a sore shoulder and a sprained wrist, sometimes all on the same day.
If the Echo was brutal, so was my casting so we probably suited each other perfectly. The problem was it was beginning to hurt and I wasn’t improving.
I had developed a friendship via Sexyloops and email with Stefan Silkavara who lived above the arctic circle in Sweden. Now, we may moan as the nights draw in and it starts to get dark at seven o clock, northern Sweden starts to get dark around October and doesn’t get light again until February. I may be exaggerating but you get the picture. Swedes get a bit stir crazy and Stefan is no exception. He was constantly asking me for any film I had taken at shootouts or just me casting or any casting, I know he did it to others as well, his lounge must be full of crap casting DVD’s. The end result of this was that Stefan became a superb crap casting DVD analyser. He developed the knack of casting analysis to an art form. He, gently at first and then with more insistence, started to get me thinking about technique rather than just brute strength.
Time to rebuild my casting stroke.
As I have mentioned before, there is always a the urge to go out and buy the best rod for what you see the job to be, in my case pure distance, because there is always the nagging worry that the rod you are using is not up to it. I was never that convinced that my casting ability was capable of using a ’cannon’ to it’s full advantage anyway. For instance the thought of buying a TCR worried me, especially when I read the hyped up posts about them being so fast etc etc.
I decided to take a pragmatic approach, I would buy a rod that I thought was one or two steps better than the one I had and learn to cast it as far as I could before going on to an even better one. I’m not sure this was the best approach. I am quite sure that if I went back to some of them now I could cast them a lot further than I could back then.
Ok, I had cast my original rod, which , to be honest was a bit of a noodle (a Hornet Pinfire 6/7) To 100ft and it was time to upgrade so I bought an Orvis T3 five weight and an Rio wind cutter line. My aim was to hit 100′ consistently, in fact I had decided that I would not buy another rod until I could hit 100′ ten out of ten casts. My personal best distances went up a bit, 104′ then 108′ but I could not get consistency. I heard about a new line and bought one, an SA Mastery XXD. It was the line all the distance guys were using so it made sense. I didn’t get on with it to start with but I gradually got better.
One day I made my ten out of ten and set about deciding on my new rod. I still didn’t think I was good enough for a TCR so I finally bought the most expensive rod I had bought to date, a Sage XP. Anyone who knows me will know I hate choice, I will agonise for days and weeks and then I guarantee I will make the wrong choice, luckily the XP was one of my better decisions. It has turned into a classic. The hue and cry when Sage announced it’s replacement with the Z-axis recently says a lot for it’s popularity. I have to admit I was a bit puzzled by it at first, it was supposed to be a fast rod, but it never felt like it in my hands, nevertheless it launched a long line when you got it right, which I was beginning to, now and then.
At this stage my casting was a bit frustrating, one day I could go out and blast 110′ plus’s until the cows came home, the next I couldn’t have hit 100′ if my life had depended on it but my occasional PB’s were getting better. It’s a funny thing but you don’t improve by inches, you improve by feet. I could be stuck on a particular distance for weeks or even months and then all of the sudden I would put another 3- 4- 5 feet on or sometimes, but rarely more and all of the sudden the previous distance you had been stuck at was a peice of p, I mean easy. I found, much later, when I was really casting well, that if I expected to hit a mid one twenty I would usually do it so perhaps a lot of the mental side of casting is about expectations.
I seem to remember setting 115′ as my distance for the XP. I hit that and there seemed to be more there so I kept going. Then on one cast I just watched the line go, and go and go, bloody hell, it’s still going. I think I was a bit slack jawed when it eventually hit the ground. I dropped the rod and ran up to the tag which was miles passed the end of the tape, I pulled the tape to the tag and discovered I had just made my first 120′ cast, whoo hoo.
I would come home from work, grab the rod and go practice, weekends I would be down there for hours and hours and come in exhausted. I asked questions on the Sexyloops board, I didn’t understand half the answers so I asked more questions. I was quite bloody minded that as I had seen Paul cast my poor old rod well over 100′ that I would not buy a ‘real’ rod until I had cast it to 100′ myself. It was three or four months before I eventually did it. I still use the same tape I had back then and I used to write all my personal bests on it. The first is 94.2ft the second is 95ft the third is 100ft exactly. Can you imagine?, it took me four whole months to add less than six bloody feet. I will come back to this later.
Because I didn’t know anyone in my area that had the same interest I had to cast alone and thats the hard way to do it. I eventually bought a camcorder and started to film myself casting. What a revelation that was!. I thought I was casting superbly, perfect tracking, nicely timed haul, fantastic stroke. I was shattered to see this stiff, upright, tense, badly timed caster with very poor form. Boy, did I need help, badly.
I had been getting some help on the board from some guy called Bill Gammel in the States. His answers were always detailed and full of useful information so I just sent him a short clip of my casting by email. It was truly awful quality but he replied with a couple of questions, one was how much line I was carrying? I replied ‘about 75ft’ he replied ‘are you sure?’, ‘yes I’m sure’. Bill came back with ‘well with what I can see on the clip you shouldn’t be able to carry anything like that amount of line with that stroke’ he did add, however, that it must be my natural athleticism that is helping me mask my many flaws, or words to that effect. I was quite chuffed, I had never been called a natural athlete before, or since now I think about it.
As it turned out I had been measuring my carry from the rod tip to the end of my flyline (not including leader). There was a debate on Loops and I discovered that carry is actually measured from the hand holding the line, effectively the end of the tape, to the end of the line, I wasn’t holding up 75′, I was holding up 84′. I had been beating myself up because couldn’t carry more that 75ft no matter what I did, I just couldn’t get up there with the big boys who carried 80′ to 90′ or more, now I suddenly realised I was up there with the big boys, at least as far as carry was concerned. I’m glad I didn’t discover this until after Bill had started helping me. If I had told him I was carrying 84′ I don’t think he would have believed me.
When I first got the distance bug it became an obsession. I used to fly fish back in the seventies so I knew how to cast, or thought I did. Life got in the way during the eighties and nineties so when I decided to get my fly fishing gear out again I thought I had better see what had happened to the sport while I had been away from it. The internet was getting going and I browsed the net in search of information. I eventually found a site that just sucked me in. I don’t think I turned the computer off for three days as I read the adventures of some trout bum who roamed the world in search of trout. Although that was fascinating enough the thing that really grabbed my attention were the articles on flycasting. I barely understood what I was reading but for some reason it excited me. I dusted down my old rod, bought a line and went out into the field, gee, thanks, www.sexyloops.com. To be honest I wasn’t that bad a caster, I was up in the low to mid ninety feet area so fairly respectable.
The trout bum came back to the UK now and then so I booked a lesson, thats when I first met Paul Arden. There is always a doubt in the casters mind that he has reached the limits of the equipment he is using, I thought I had reached the limits of mine anyway. Paul soon disabused of that notion when I handed him the rod and asked him if he could do better than me and he promptly put another ten or fifteen feet on my best effort with a rod he had never cast before. I was a bit put out by that!. Whenever Paul is in the UK he invites a few friends over for a ‘shootout’ and I was honoured to be invited to one the next weekend. His friends turned out to be Pete Sutton and Jon Allen, both bloody good casters in their own right. That weekend I discovered what flycasting was really about, you just can’t beat being near a good caster for inspiration. I was now on the rocky road of pure distance, I wan’t even bothered if I went fishing or not, just as long as I could get down the field and practice.
This is actually a very long story. The drama, tantrums, depression, ecstasy, despair, shock and horror of it all, and that’s only my wife’s reaction!
This is going to be a several parter
Casting or fly fishing, like any other hobby, has it’s own language. Part of the process of ‘joining the club’ is that at first you are perplexed then you gain some understanding then you become perplexed again as you realise you don’t actually know as much as you thought you did. I expect the final stage is when you do know something and are regarded as something of an authority, I hope to find out one day, I am still in one of the perplexed phases, not sure which one, I just hope it’s the second stage perplexion.
First phase perplexion (is there such a word?) is when you ask questions but don’t understand the answers. As you gradually start to understand some of the answers you move into the understanding phase. Because your understanding is now a lot better your questions get a bit more complex, and if you are really unlucky the anwers may involve mathmatical formulae. If you are an Engineer you now move into a different class, if you are a poet you go back to being perplexed.
It also doesn’t help when different countries use the same word to describe a different action than we would use the word for, and then you get objections from Engineers to terms that are more strictly related to geometry rather than maths. If I said casting arc to a poet I suspect he would immediately know what I was on about, but the word arc to an Engineer means something entirely different so now we try and use the description casting angle, ie, the change of the angle of the butt during power application ( rotation), I think they think an arc would just describe the shape the tip makes during rotation (a very shallow arc if you want to perform good SLP (see Essentials) but I am probably wrong about that.
The FFF are trying to sort out this confusion. They have a definitions committee to try and define words like drift, casting angle, rotation, drag, creep etc etc. I wish them the best of luck, seriously. If they can manage to produce a list of definitions that everyone agrees with, and understands, they will have done the world of flycasting a great service. I just hope they do it by email because if they are all in the same room I can see blood being spilled if some of the discussions about definitions we see on on some forums is anything to go by.
This might go in one of several directions, I just make up a title and see where it takes me. I could go down the ‘what the hell have I started’ route and tell you that now I spend some considerable time wondering what to write about next but it wouldn’t be strictly true because I do actually spend a considerable amount of time just doing my job and that doesn’t actually leave me with a lot of time to consider anything else. Besides I have discovered I’m a mood writer. If I’m not in the mood it don’t get writ, so you may find that I just don’t post anything for a week or two.
I could talk about rods, but what could I say?, what suits me may not suit you. I have noticed that in the last couple of years I have been finding it more and more difficult to find a truly awful rod. I get the chance to cast quite a few and I often take the chance to cast some of the lower end or entry level stuff and seem to find myself enjoying casting a lot of them. I would guess that the vast majority are made from blanks made in China or South Korea but if you talk to the any rep from the rod retailer they will tell you that they have a large input into the rods design, how much of that is true I don’t know, all I do know is that you will be very unlucky to buy a real dog these days.
That’s not to say you can’t tell the difference when you pick up a real honey, they immediately stand out as quality. Some are just pure pleasure to cast.
Pervesely I do quite enjoy casting awful rods now and then, they make you think. You have to learn how to get the best out of them and that can take a surprising amount of time sometimes.