By Captain Steve Soule’
Here it is another month gone by and it’s time for another installment of “long rod lunacy”. I’m going to take the big challenge this month of describing with words something that is difficult to explain and teach even when you’re standing next to someone with a fly-rod in hand I’m going to run through the “Essentials of Fly-Casting” in the order that I teach them to a beginning caster. The terminology and statements are taken from the booklet written by my good friend Captain Bill Gammel and it has been adopted and used by the Federation of Fly-Fishers as the foundation for teaching. This booklet is the most concise and informative tool that I’ve ever encountered for learning and mastering fly-casting. The booklet is available through the federation for a mere two dollars. You can contact me for information on obtaining a copy.
So you’re ready for the first attempts al casting, you’ve got your new rig all set up and you’re ready to cast. You’ve seen it on TV, in movies, maybe even watched a casting demonstration. It doesn’t look all that hard, more graceful or elegant, to watch the fly line “loop” unroll off the tip of the rod. It really isn’t, given the right instruction and a little basic understanding of how it works. I talked last month about rod actions, now I need to add a few new technical terms to our vocabulary. First of all, we need to understand” rod loading”. A rod “loads”(bends or stores energy) by the force being exerted upon it. With conventional gear we use weights or lures to accomplish this, with a fly-rod it is the weight of the foreword section of the line or the “head” that helps to load the rod. The other important term is the “loop” which is formed during a well-executed cast. Generally speaking, a tighter “loop” is better because the casting energy is directed more efficiently towards the target.
On to the casting, keeping in mind that initially we will work only with the casting hand, in other words no “hauling” or “double hauling” until we’re proficient at the basic casting stroke. The first essential element involved is that slack line must be kept to an absolute minimum at all times during the cast. I’ll give a few quick examples; before beginning each cast the rod tip should be near or touching the ground so that there is no slack between the tip and the ground. During the cast, the line between the lowest guide and the reel must be controlled so that it won’t slip or allow slack in the cast. The other example falls into the next essential so we’ll refer back to it then. What we need to remember here is that the goal in fly-casting is to move the fly to the target, and before we can move the fly we must move all of the line from the rod tip down to the fly. Why does slack matter you ask, because all slack line must be removed before the remainder of the line can move and in casting and in doing so potential casting stroke is always lost.
Essential number two says: there must be a pause at the end of each casting stroke, which varies in duration with the amount of line beyond the rod tip. This one sounds simple and basically it is. The reason for the pause is that the line needs time to straighten at the end of each cast before the next cast can be made. The amount of time for straightening is greater when casting with a longer amount line and conversely shorter when using less line. The reference back to the slack line issue here is that unless the line is allowed to straighten between each casting stroke it acts much like starting a cast with slack line. It works like this, you make a back cast and don’t pause long enough before making your foreword cast, the first part of your foreword casting stroke must essentially pull the slack line straight before you can effectively begin moving the line foreword. The tell tale sign of this casting error is hearing the line “pop” as you begin the casing stroke. It helps many casters early on, to watch both foreword and back casts until the sense of timing and feel for line straightening is developed.
The third essential states; In order to form the most efficient loop the Rod tip must move through a straight-line path. Again this sounds fairly simple, and again it is, but to understand it completely we must understand and account for the “rod loading”. I said earlier that the rod loads from the weight of the fly line and the force exerted on the rod. To put this into perspective, the casting hand actually moves through a slight arcing motion but as the “rod loads” the tip flexes in the opposite direction of the cast and therefore travels along a straighter plane when compared to the casting hand. Here’s an important point; a fly rod is designed to cast a fly line by “loading” and “unloading”. A fly-casters job is to create “load” in the rod by applying power and then “unload” it by stopping the casting movement in a crisp or sharp manner with the rod tip pointed toward the target. This is how the “loop” is created and controls the shape and size of it as well. If the rod tip moves through a convex or outward curving arc the loop will expand. If it moves through a concave or inward curving arc the loop will grow tighter. It can and will become too tight if the arc becomes concave and this is how a tailing loop occurs.
Essential number four says: the length of the casting stroke must vary with the length of line being cast. This works much like the pauses from essential number two. The best way I know to explain it is that the fly rod acts as the lever to propel the fly line and to cast more line you must use more of the lever. This can be seen very easily when casting with only twenty feet of line the cast can be made efficiently with a very short stroke where the casting hand may move only one foot. When casting longer distances of line say sixty feet the casting strike must be lengthened to two to two and a half feet. Keep in mind that what maters here is how far the rod tip moves not the casting hand, so there are ways to lengthen the stroke without overexerting yourself.
The final essential refers to power application; Power must be applied in the appropriate amount and at the appropriate time during the casting stroke. This one is often difficult to master. and is the cause of many problems especially for those who have spent a lifetime casting conventional tackle. Here’s how to apply power at the proper time; power application should be smooth and gradually increase through the casting stroke to the maximum necessary speed for the given cast. At the end of the stroke the casting hand must come to a “crisp” stop at the point where the rod tip is directed toward the target and will allow for a level trajectory of the line. This casting motion will generate both rod “loading” and “unloading” and create a tight efficient loop.
Obviously there’s much more to be said about fly-casting but it would take up more space than FishWestEnd.com would probably want to donate to me. I hope that you find this information helpful in your quest and if you have any questions feel free to give me a call. Until next time, just try to keep those loops tight.