I should have posted my last piece about how to cast a long way by now but I can’t get it right. I may surprise a few of you that I even have the concept of trying to get a piece I am writing right and, to be fair, you have a point. I usually shoot from the lip and once I have an, all too rare, idea it will normally flow without too many problems but I want the post to be a generalisation rather than a specific ‘how to do it’ and I am getting mired in specifics. Once you get mired you have a job getting out. It doesn’t help that I have already written about four hundred words and I am one of those who hates doing things twice. I should really delete everything I have written and start again but, as yet, I can’t bring myself to do it so I am in the trap trying to alter this and that to try to bring it closer to what I want. All this does is take it further away from what I intended. I am sure I will just have to bite the bullet and start again.
How many of you have daydreamed about being given three wishes, and what would they be. Do you save the world or be utterly selfish. I won’t indicate just how shallow I really am by telling you what the other two are but number one on my wish list is that I have a better memory. Mine is really crap for certain things. For instance, it’s no good asking me what happened in either my CCI or Masters tests, apart from one or two things I really can’t remember. I am also useless at remembering conversations. It’s not an age thing, I have always had this problem and it can be downright annoying at times. ”What did he say?” I don’t remember! Christ, I can’t even remember what I said half the time. This does leave me with the sometimes annoying situation where I have been told I have said something I’m sure I haven’t said but can’t be so sure that I can refute it completely. Perhaps this is the same for nearly everybody and this communal lack of total recall is what eventually leads to wars.
Not that is helping me in any way in my decision to delete or not. However, there may be some exciting photographs because a picture may paint the thousand words I don’t want to write.
To Infinity and Beyond is the big picture, those are the basic things you need to master on your way to casting long. However, the devil is in the detail and that’s what this piece is about. The little things that when added together go to producing a near perfect cast. I say ‘near perfect’ because it is very difficult to get it 100% right, even the top guys may only get it right one in ten shots. I may be lucky to get it right one in a thousand, if that, but I would imagine I get close to 90% right most of the time and my 90% is around 120′ with a five weight.
Let’s start with stance. I use an open stance, that’s to say my left foot is in front of my right (I am right-handed). Now, I have seen some adopt this stance but still face towards where they are casting, ie, their feet point towards the target so the body is actually in a closed stance. Turn your feet to about 45 deg and you will find you can now track the rod in a straight line from pickup to stop. If your feet are pointing straight to target you will find that the hand moves in a curve around your shoulder on the way to the stop the stop, this curve can be accentuated by a bit of body rotation from the hips as well. What this does is throw the loop off to the side of the rod tip and open it up, especially if, as I often see, the rod tip goes right around the caster and it ends up on their off side. If we are casting with the breeze from behind this will present a wide area of line to the air and kill the back cast. Just what you don’t want, even in a slight breeze, or ever, come to that. Now go back to the exercises I gave you on Infinity and see if it is now easier to track the rod straight and pop a nice loop on the backcast.
Next up is the body. There are some big muscles in there so let’s use them. Start with slightly bent knees, this will create the willow rather than the oak. You will be able to move with the cast. You can put your weight on your front foot and transfer it to the back foot for the back cast and you can push off the back foot onto the front foot for your forward cast. It will allow you to bend forward for the pickup and sway back as you move towards the stop. I sway more than most, I suspect it started as a way of getting my body out of the way of my hand as it pulled through in a (hopefully) straight line. This has developed into my particular style so try to copy it if you like but don’t be surprised if it doesn’t work for you, develop your own. This body movement will add quite some length to your casting stroke, I have never measured how much it adds to my stroke length because it will vary depending on what I am doing but I suspect it is somewhere in the region of four or five feet when I am balls out going for distance, which would make my overall stroke length (hand movement from back to front) close to ten feet. If you, as some do, add a step in there as well, your stroke length will increase even more.
Some of you may prefer a closed stance, with the right foot in front if you are right-handed. I have dabbled with this because some of the best of the best use it. Be prepared to fall over now and then, I did. One benefit is tracking, closed stance can certainly straighten it up. Once I had the feel of straight tracking I switched back to open stance with better tracking because I wasn’t supple enough to make closed stance work for me. One way to help make it work is to ‘step’ during the stroke. You pick up from a closed stance, step back during the stroke into an open stance and step back into a closed stance during the forward stroke. Again, this doesn’t really work for me, it adds too many variables that can go wrong, but there again I don’t hit 130′ on a regular basis which one closed stance stepper I know does.
Boy, these little details add up to a lot of writing and we haven’t got to the arm, hand and rod yet. More to come.
So, you want to cast a long way eh? Well, pin back your ears. I’m going to tell you how to cast anything from a three weight upwards to 100′. Lay off the macho crap and concentrate on technique. There, that was easy wasn’t it.
Of course there is a bit more to it than that, but not much.
Oh, your rod isn’t good enough. Bollox is the simple answer to that. There are very few, if any, modern rods five (or probably four) weights or over that won’t cast at least 100′. So, don’t blame the rod.
Lines are a different matter, you will need a long belly WF like the Mastery Expert Distance ( MED) or a Barrio GT140 or a good old DT. Something you can carry a bit of line with. There are a few short or mid length bellied lines you can carry some decent lengths of line with but on the whole they tend to hinge like mad and even if they dont hinge they don’t transfer a nice loop from running line to belly. If you just want to practice increasing carry then I would go for a cheap DT and as you get better, say 60′ plus, then perhaps drop the weight of the line by one weight. If you get to 75′ carry with a five DT on a five rod you are getting close to rod breaking territory, be warned.
Ok, you have a rod and line. The leader can be just seven or eight feet of fifteen pound line with a small wool tag tied on the end. Don’t wast money by using tapered leaders (yet) it gets expensive.
As an act of faith I am going to assume you can already cast a fly line. That’s to say you can cast reasonable loops to a reasonable distance and that you can double haul.
As you stand there, rod in hand, and looking down the tape you have laid out, a red mist will descend and the macho streak kicks in. Well, kick it out again, think clever.
The shortest route between A and B is a straight line so the 180 rule is important. Walk down the tape a few feet, turn around and eye up a distant target directly inline with the tape. That’s you’re aiming point for your back cast, don’t lose it.
Next; yes I know you can carry 70′ but go back to fifty. Just do a smooth lift and crisp stop with just enough effort to get a nice turn over and hit the forward cast just as the loop straightens, and lay it back down. Nope, less effort than that, nope, even less. You should notice that the less effort you put in the better the loops will get. Ah, that’s better, nice one. Now keep doing that for a day or two. This is about building muscle memory so don’t rush it. While you are doing this try different stances and grips. Do it with your eyes closed and feeel what you are doing. Are you planted like an oak tree or bending like a willow, think willow. Now try a couple of casting cycles, always working on good loops and minimum effort. At this point Bill Gammel will tell you to increase your line length by one foot and repeat it all. Sorry Bill, life is too short. I say three feet. You should now have a decent grasp on what is happening so your repetitions can get shorter and your plus three feets can be come a bit faster. However there will come a point where it all goes tits up, the red mist descends and macho man is getting desperate to escape. This is the moment to drop back two or three phases and get a grip on yourself. Kick Macho into touch, he is only trying to hurt you. Oh, and while we are talking pain, if you feel any, STOP. If you get shoulder, elbow or wrist pains pack it in and let whatever you have done recover. I have ignored these warnings in the past and had to lay off casting for months. It ain’t worth it believe me.
I will allow you a five or ten minute session at the end of practice to just have a blast and see if you are progressing.
The funny (not) thing is that once you can hit 100′ consistently it becomes a ridiculously easy cast to make.
Let me know how you get on.
SLP is from RSP to RSP. The line always follows the rod tip. A concave tip path will result in a tailing loop. Hauling loads the rod. True or false?
As someone once said, it depends.
All of the above statements are used every day by instructors to try to convey a concept or visualisation to a student to try to get them to perform a task. Fine and dandy for the student, especially if it works. Not so fine and dandy if the instructor actually believes it or perpetuates it as a cast in stone fact. Of course as instructors we use these half-truths as a simplification. We will sometimes tell a student who overpowers to ease off and let the rod do the work knowing full well that the rod can’t do damn all unless someone is holding it, but it gets a concept across and that’s what matters.
Let’s start with SLP. SLP from rod straight position (RSP) at the start of the stroke to RSP at the end of a stroke is not only virtually impossible (in the horizontal plane) it would result in the line piling into the rod tip and not going anywhere. In many, many years of fly casting I don’t recall it ever happening, Yes the line sometimes clips the rod tip but I have never had a full-scale collision. The horizontal tip path is ideally slightly domed (convex) and this starts right from the point we start to load the rod. The tip will deflect so is now slightly lower than it was before it acquired the weight of the line. During rotation we may have a portion of the tip path that is actually straight then we stop the rod and it unloads. Depending on our style the tip path will then be slightly curved down or remain straight if we thrust up slightly. Either way there will be some counterflex as the rod passes RSP and we also tend to lower the rod slightly so the line passes over the tip. For short casts SPL may be longer, in percentage terms of tip travel, maybe 80% or more. For long casts that percentage drops until, for very long casts, SLP may only be 50%, or less, of overall tip travel. It is even possible that for 180 style casts there is no SLP at all.
The line always follows the rod tip. Not true. A portion of the line has to, it has no choice, but the further away from the rod tip the less likely it is. It will go in the direction the rod tip sends it but it won’t follow the exact path. Those of us that do distance casting will often see the front taper and leader come through doing some very odd things that seem to defy the laws of physics, but that’s another story.
A concave tip path will result in a tailing loop. This is an out-and-out lie. The thing that caused the concave tip path in the first place is the thing that caused the tail and that thing is you. Your application of force was faulty. You either hit the stroke too hard, you put too much effort into the end of the stroke (power snap, I do dislike that term. Sorry Joan) or you finished the haul too early.
Try a little experiment. False cast thirty or forty feet of line with nice clean loops, now keep the same casting angle but reduce the power. Then cast your nice loops again and keeping the same power reduce the casting angle. Let me know what happens.
Last, but not least; The haul loads the rod. Well of course it does, you can’t defy Newton, but it is a by-product, it is not the purpose. The purpose is to directly increase linespeed. Or, we may not want to increase linespeed, just spread the work load between two hands.
I have had a couple of rather unsettling things happen in the last few days. The first was quite a shock the second was a result of the times we live in.
The new issue of the loop is out and I was reading my way through it when I came across the post I written about my masters assessment http://fedflyfishers.org/LinkClick.aspx?fileticket=gbgC1b%2baU7A%3d&tabid=4469&mid=3361. All was going well until I got to the part where I said ‘I’m a fucking master, how the hell did that happen?’ or something along those lines. To see the profanity in print, in The Loop was something shocking, literally, I think my eyebrows twitched in horror. For all my use of ripe language I am a Victorian prude at heart, it was years and years before I ever swore in front of a woman, for instance. To see that word screaming at me from such a publication as Loop was embarrassing. I am not going to apologise for using the word in the context of this blog, these are my pages and my thoughts so all is fair game. My problem is that I forget that these words can be lifted and used elsewhere (Denise has my permission to take whatever she wants). I am left with the choice of always having to remember that my words may go out to a wider audience than I anticipate and be a bit more careful what I write or I will have to ask Denise to please edit the stuff she lifts and filter out some of my courser comments. Or, perhaps I am being just a tad too sensitive and the Yanks can take it.
The other unsettling event was yesterday evening when I went out for a quick chuck. There was a game of cricket going on so I had to move over to a more public football pitch. I very rarely go over there and I almost instantly had an audience of one young girl who wanted to know what I was doing. The first thing that struck me was a girl of twelve or thirteen would even come over and talk to a complete stranger, the second thing was what the hell would it look like to anyone watching. This is a sign of the times where there can be no such thing as innocence any more and I have to feel uncomfortable about being alone with a young girl (albeit in a field with the occasional dog walker passing by). You are stuck between a rock and a hard place. Tell her to go away, pack up and go away yourself, answer her questions while guiltily looking around to see if anyone is watching, or, as I did, risk being labeled a perv and just talk to her, explain what I was doing and why I was doing it. When she left I was joined by another group of youngsters and we had a laugh and a joke while I went through the whole demo procedure again with lots of oohing and aahing at some of the casts. Even with a group of them I couldn’t feel relaxed about the situation though.
I don’t know the rights and wrongs about any of this, I just think it is a sad reflection on society that I cannot enjoy the company of one or a group of youngsters without feeling uneasy about it.