Bloody Hell, it’s a tough life being a casting instructor. I have been so busy lately that I haven’t had time to even go fishing let alone update this blog. I did start a piece about the ‘loops gathering in Strathdon but I didn’t get time to finish it and because it happened more than twenty-four hours ago I have forgotten what went on, except, we did have a good time, made some new friends and got re-aquanted with old ones. I didn’t do any actual fishing but I did watch some Aus lose a salmon, again. I will have to have a go at this salmon fishing lark. It seems you just keep chucking flies into a known pool and, eventually, one will get really pissed off at being continually buzzed by some fur and feather concoction and have a go at it. Getting it to stay hooked is another matter, apparently. Or, you just run a Woolly Bugger through some runs trying to catch a trout and a salmon decides it’s lunch time and before you know what’s what you have a seven or eight pound salmon on the bank Like Trevor Bourne did http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j9UMTClI3LI . I did film Matt losing his fish but I don’t have the heart to put it up on Youtube.
I had a very nice weekend with the BFCC at Sportfish last weekend. Saturday was particularly hectic with virtually non stop instructing most of the day, even though we had help from various quarters as Paul Arden, Gilly Bate and Matt Howell stepped in to give me, Mark Surtees, Roger Miles ,Mike Marshall and Alex Titov a occassional break. One thing that really surprised me was the amount of women who wanted to have a go. In fact there were far too many for Mike Marshall to monopolise and we all had our share, for a change. I love teaching women, they are generally a lot easier than men. I was lucky to have a couple who showed real promise, one in particular was so good I stopped the lesson a bit early because I didn’t want to run the risk of it all going wrong. The BFCC really seems to be meeting a need at the moment as our meetings seem to be getting busier and busier, almost to the point where competitions are getting harder to organise around all the instructing going on.
I have just got in from running a casting clinic for a local syndicate water and I have other lessons in the pipeline. This has been my busiest year so far and my garden is suffering, I have seeds to sow and a lawn in dire need of a good mowing. Ah, I see I am free tomorrow afternoon. I bet it rains.
The BFCC had an excellent day in ‘alright my lover country’ last weekend. Devon is very green compared to my corner of the country. The only bugbear was that for some reason the lines just didn’t turnover despite a nice breeze. If a lot of the casts hadn’t just collapsed most distances would have been ten or more feet better. Still, those were the conditions on the day and we all did our best.
I have been mulling over what type of instructor I am. I have concluded that because a lot of the instructing I do is twenty-minute ones for the BFCC at our instructing events I tend towards the quick fix. Not necessarily a bad thing because you quickly learn to get to the nub of the problem and try to fix it. If the client goes away happy then it’s job done, if we enthuse them then even better. However, this short burst style instructing probably colours the way I approach my other instructing, which may or may not be a good thing. I have never used a lesson plan, for instance. I talk to the client and try to find out what they want from the lesson, mostly realistic but sometimes not. I am also a great believer in getting them casting as soon as possible which gives me a chance to assess their skill level. If I see a problem or two I address those first, hopefully sorted quite quickly before we move on to what they want, be it distance, double hauling, presentation etc. But, sometimes we never get beyond trying to fix the faults, which can be frustrating for both of us no doubt. This is why I can’t see the use of a lesson plan for individual clients or even couples come to that. In fact when having two or more I think it’s even more important to be flexible because so often one will progress much faster than the other. I know this can sometimes lead to me running around like a blue arsed fly and leaving me knackered after a couple of hours but if at the end of it I feel that there has been satisfactory improvement then I am happy to do it.
There has been some talk recently about teaching the mechanics to students. By this I mean we explain what they are trying to achieve and how to achieve it. I take this to mean the five essentials or a version of them. I have seen some clients eyes glaze over when I have tried to explain Straight Line (tip)Path (SLP), I think a lot of them would lose the will to live if I then went on to explain the other four essentials. In the last four years I can think of only four or five occasions where I realised the client actually needed to understand why before they could get to grips with the how, and a couple of those latched onto the theory as an excuse not to actually do any casting, they just wanted to talk (bollocks mainly).
There is also a huge difference between teaching beginners, intermediates and potential casting instructors. Beginners come in all sorts, from never holding a rod of any description before to those who come from another fishing discipline. intermediates also fall into several groups, those who have fly fished for years and are self-taught (me ten years ago), those who are competent casters but have a problem they want cured, those who want to add a few feet of distance, etc. Perhaps a few of the intermediate would benefit from an understanding of the mechanics. Potential casting instructors are the only group that actually have to understand the mechanics. They need to know to pass their assessment, they need to know so that they can see and fix casting faults, they need to know so they don’t look a complete pillock when discussing fly casting to other instructors (easily done btw).
This year in particular I will have many opportunities in various scenarios to try to adapt my instruction to suit the situation. I am going to try a more formal demonstrate and explain at a couple of casting clinics. I will be doing the full on mechanics with Mark Surtees at the EWF in Munich where we are holding a workshop for CCI candidates. I will be doing loads of quick fixes at BFCC events and I will trying different approaches on the one to one lessons I do.
The more instructing I do the more I enjoy it. I just hope a few of my clients enjoy it as well.
Did you realise there were people out there who neither know about, or even want to know about, fly casting and fly fishing? I know, I didn’t believe it myself…..until this weekend. No, they are more interested in dogs, horses, owls, hawks, ferrets and wildfowling. It’s true, I’m not making this up!
It started auspiciously enough, sunny and warm, unheard of in living memory. Detling is where cold, wet and windy lives on a near permanent basis for most of the year. I guess it wanted a a day out on saturday and took itself off for day trip somewhere. I drew the short straw and had to do the first demo of the day in a small indoor arena with hardy anyone even at the show let alone wanting to see a fly casting demonstration. I was the warm up act with no-one to warm up. You would think that for a near demo virgin the idea of no-one seeing you would be quite comforting. It’s not, it is in fact quite unnerving to be talking to yourself for half an hour. However, I did discover a few hazards to avoid for my next scheduled humiliation, like overhead lights and roof trusses. I also discovered the limitations of using an MPR as a demo tool.
The next demo was in the outdoor arena. Much better all round. I actually had an audience, all three of them. Whoever you were, thank you. The last indoor demo of the day was an improvement on the first one by some margin, I actually heard a clap when I finished, only one, but I was grateful.
Heather and I then had to rush off to Muswell Hill to get to Marks reception before the food was gone, which thankfully we did as we hadn’t eaten all day. I will say no more about the wonderful evening other than to comment that Mark and Christina have some interesting friends and even more interesting relatives, and lots of them.
Day two started at a Hotel in Muswell Hill on the same morning the clocks went forward and we were meant to be somewhere else an hour ago, but we made it back to Detling where cold, wet and windy was back from it’s day off and had brought it’s mate, fog, for a visit. We could hardy see the area, just across the road, that had been set aside for the BFCC to give casting lessons. I was once again the warm up act in the indoor arena. Guess what? I actually had an audience to warm up. What a difference it makes to have some people to interact with. The demo had a purpose, and it showed. I even did a mini casting clinic for the last few minutes where I asked if anyone had any specific problems they wanted answered and tried to give them some solutions. Blessedly the fog decided to go home before my next outdoor demo and I was actually visible to those who were watching (yes, there were a few). I turned the wind to my advantage and focused on casts to cope with windy conditions and did the casting clinic again and overran my time by ten minutes.
Normal service was resumed at my last indoor demo. I was running out of steam and turned to one dogged spectator in the hope of ending with another mini casting clinic. ”Do you fly fish?”, he shook his head and I learned the real meaning of despair.
Ok, I have exagerated…slightly. I did enjoy it, I learned a lot. One lesson I am considering is training up something furry, feathery and/or cute for an audience to ahh at while I run through my program. I now understand why you never see Charles Jardine without his dog Midge.
On the plus side Mike Marshall, and Roger Miles with Terry Jenner snapping away merrily had a quite successful first year at the show providing BFCC casting instruction to those who were actually interested in fly fishing and fly casting. Nice one lads.
If someone asked you what defined fly casting to you what would your answer be? The fly? The symmetry of the back and fore cast? the line we have to use? For me it is the loop. I find the loop endlessly fascinating, not the least because I don’t understand the forces involved. The loop is dynamic, I feel it has life. Of course it hasn’t got life, it’s not sentient but it is the beating heart of a good fly cast.
Because fly lines tend to be mono coloured it’s difficult, if not impossible, to actually see what happens when we create a loop, all we see is the shape moving down the line. If you take the time and marker pen the line so you have black and white bands every four or five hundred millimeters you start to see a whole new universe open up before your eyes. You suddenly see the loop is actually a wave traveling down the rod leg. You see the fly leg whizzing along, feeding into the loop and then just being part of the static rod leg (if you don’t shoot line). It becomes even more fascinating when you start messing around with presentation casts. Do some wiggles and the line actually appears to come back towards you. Snap casts can produce some vomit inducing optical confusion as the bands on one part of the line move in opposition to other parts of the line.
You can have fast loops, slow loops, wide loops, narrow loops, pointy loops, rounded loops, vertically orientated loops, horizontally orientated loops and upside down loops, there is even a photo somewhere on Sexyloops of Ben Spinks casting a square loop (God help me if I haven’t tried to create one of my own).
I sometimes look at a loop, especially one that is very slow, and wonder at it’s ability to turn the leader over. But it does, somehow. There is a loop shape we now call dolphin nosed because of the kink immediately behind it in the fly leg. As far as I can make out the loop is at near stall speed, it looks as if it should collapse, but it doesn’t, it just keeps rolling along and will even turn the leader over. When I first started to notice this loop shape I was preparing for my CCI and assumed it was a fault in my casting. I posed the question on Gordy Hills group and had a reply from Bruce Richards that if he saw one in a test he would regard it as the sign of a good caster. I now regard it as a sign that the caster has the ability to control the amount of force they apply to the line (ok, I know we apply force to the rod, but you know what I mean). It’s the amount of force we apply and the way we transfer that force to the line via the stop that creates the different loop shapes. High line speed, a hard stop and some counterflex will give you the classic top pointed ‘sexyloop’. A softer or dampened stop will give you a more rounded loop. Some rods, and even lines, are more inclined to throw one or the other naturally. There was a time, not so long ago, that if someone handed me their rod to have a cast with (for some reason I sometimes had to wrench it out of their hands first) the first thing I would do is strip all the line off the reel and either see how much line I could aerialize or see how far I could cast it, or both. These days I am more likely to see what loop shapes I can create first……..then try and blast the thing.
I was asked a question a few weeks ago. Is there a pause in a constant tension cast? My immediate answer was I don’t know, my second reaction was whats a constant tension cast?
In theory a CT cast is one where the rod and line are in constant motion so you would expect to see the rod tip traveling in an oval path constantly pulling the line in its wake. That’s not what I saw however when I watched some clips on YouTube. I saw a loop being formed and if a loop is formed the line has to have passed the rod tip. If the line has passed the rod tip it means it is no longer being pulled, if it’s no longer being pulled it means you have to wait for it to straighten before the next stroke, if you are waiting for it to straighten you must be pausing………except….. you might not be!
What is the pause, apart from being Essential? I bet if you were asked the question your answer would be something like ‘the time it takes for the loop to unroll’ which I couldn’t argue with. But let’s take it a step further. If you had a student who either kept letting the line fall to the ground between strokes or you kept hearing whipcracks you would tell him his timing was off and that’s what the pause really is, it’s a timing issue.
With that in mind we can take another look at the pause on a CT cast, especially a shortish river type cast. Is there a timing issue with a CT cast? Yes, there has to be if a loop has been formed, but it does not have to involve the waiting period you would have with a conventional overhead cast, you only need to adjust the speed you move the rod tip at. There will be a natural pause as the stroke moves from one direction to another anyway so all you have to do is adjust your hand speed to accomplish it in a way that makes the cast smooth. As far as I can see line speed and cadence is faster on a CT cast than with a conventional O/H cast, especially if you underline by several weights as I understand happens if you use the TLT technique, so it may appear that there is no pause but as far as I can see the only pure constant tension cast where the line is being pulled by the rod top would be the helicopter cast and the figure of eight that we sometimes use for students to get used to the feel of a rod with some line outside the rod tip.
There is a lot of hype and myth surrounding CT casting. One day I might get to watch a true exponent and get a better insight. Until then I can only call it as I see it, and I see a pause.
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.