No Combinations Here Please
While at the EWF show recently I had the pleasure of presenting an MCI prep workshop. I was also (rather flatteringly) asked to help two or three guys who are preparing for their MCI. Of course one of the questions I asked them was do you know the difference between a cast and a mend? Without exception they said a cast was before the stop and the mend was after the stop.
That may be an acceptable definition but I believe it is wrong. There may only be a nano seconds difference between that definition and what I believe to be the real boundary but that time span would be the difference between putting the mend into the fly leg (cast) or the rod leg (mend), which, btw, is another definition I would accept.
You have to consider the state of the rod when we stop our hand. Is it loaded or unloaded? Of course it is loaded. The purpose of the stop is to allow the rod to do the only thing it can do on its own. Straighten. That is all that expensive carbon stick you treasure can do without any input from you.
I accept that to make a manoeuvre in that split second between the stop and the rod straightening would take exquisite timing but I contend that that manoeuvre would constitute a cast because it would either only affect the fly leg or would continue beyond rod straight position and then become a combination cast/mend.
For me the boundary is loop formation. Before the loop, cast. After the loop, mend.
There is also a huge benefit in allowing the loop to form and move away from the rod tip before you make a mend. The loop becomes established and any secondary mend wave shouldn’t interfere with the loop taking the fly to its target, which is after all, the point of the exercise.
There is always the temptation to make the mend too early and cause the secondary wave or waves we introduce to interfere with the loop which will cause the fly to kick one way or the other. When I practice mends, or casts for that matter, I want the fly to land on target, not kick or be swept to one side or the other.
A couple of other points. Mends are generally (but not necessarily always) minimum effort. Just enough to get the job done. Too much force and those delicate mends can be pulled out. Practice alternate left and right hand mends to get rid of that little brain twitch that you can sometimes get when asked to mend on the left (if you are a right-handed caster).
I do have a slight issue with this particular task in that in a fishing situation nearly all curves and mends are a combination of cast and mend. It is only because of the definition that we are asked to perform the task (an overpowered curve cast, for instance) in a particular way and there is a risk that those of us who can stop a rod very abruptly can be accused of adding some pullback because the butt kick had moved our hand slightly as the rod tip counterflexes. Pullback is subtle but not that subtle, it is easily visible to anyone who knows what they are looking for. In a situation where pullback is suspected though I would just ask the question and if you gave me the correct answer, and the layout was acceptable, I for one, would be happy to move onto the next task.
If you want to impress your assessors land the fly on target and have a well-defined mend or mends. Oh, and know the real difference between a cast and a mend.