Casting in wind [Archive] - Fly Fishing Forum

: Casting in wind


juro
08-03-2006, 09:15 AM
When the wind is coming from the casting side of the body (crosswind) there are a few things we can do to prevent hooking ourselves.

Not counting two-handers (which have great off-hand casting provisions) what do you do with single hand casts to cope?

jhicks
08-03-2006, 09:31 AM
I turn around and cast backwards, when on big rivers. On small water I can cast pretty proficiantly left handed, as long as there aren't any hauls involved.

Adrian
08-03-2006, 09:51 AM
1) Turn around and backcast - good for putting out a long line where accuracy isn't a big factor.

2) Make the cast off the "opposite shoulder" - useful for shorter casts requiring a bit more accuracy.

3) Cast with the left arm. Just started seriously practicing left handed this year. Short distances are pretty fair with good accuracy. Next step is getting the haul going and I'll have a "full quiver".

In cases 2 and 3, I reverse the angle of my body by bringing my left foot back (as opposed to my right for RH casts). "Opening up" frees up the left side rotation and makes these casts a whole lot easier :)

FredA
08-03-2006, 10:42 AM
Backcast or water haul.

JimW
08-03-2006, 10:48 AM
Drive to the other side of the breaking pod of albies - then cast.:smokin:

Paxton
08-03-2006, 11:21 AM
I back cast if the wind is ridiculous, if not, side cast and duck...but after watching JimS cast equally, long and accurate with either left or right hand...there is no doubt that that is the best way to go....given one is willing to spend lots of time practicing which I have not done as of yet.
Ron

Demps
08-03-2006, 11:51 AM
I'm a lefty, but can throw a decent line with my right. The toughest part for me isn't casting w/ the opposite hand, it's the line management (hauling, stiping, etc). One of the benefits to kayak fishing is you seldom need a cast over 50', most are even much shorter.

teflon_jones
08-03-2006, 09:38 PM
If river/stream fishing:
Step 1: Cross the river.
Step 2: Turn around so the wind is blowing over your non-casting shoulder.
Step 3: Cast.

If pond/lake fishing:
Step 1: Rotate float tube 180 degrees.
Step 2: Cast.

:)

If one of the above techniques doesn't work, then I just lower the front of my casting stroke and punch it through the wind, and keep the backcast up high and out of the way. Honestly, after 17 years or so of fly fishing, I don't even think about it any more. I can't remember the last time I hooked myself though so I must be doing something right.

juro
08-04-2006, 06:53 AM
It seems most people have adopted safe and effective means of dealing with crosswinds. It wasn't too long ago that one could observe fly casters hitting themselves over and over because they would not adapt. I think the internet has had a very positive influence in that respect, meaning that people discuss things and learn what others are doing even in mid-winter in forums like this one.

On topic -

I've been a backward caster for many years, having an eye surgeon for a brother who emails me images of mishaps :Eyecrazy:

I insist on my clients backcasting in crosswinds or will change the route for the day to put them on the strong side.

Actually fishing the backcast does not lessen your ability to reach fish, in fact it strengthens your casting because 50% of a flycast is the backcast and being able to drive this backcast makes the forward cast more potent when you switch back.

The body does not have to turn back to target, just shift your casting shoulder to the front and reach across the body a little. Rotate the body a bit (approx 90 from normal toward the other side of the body) keeping the eyes forward.

The key is the keep your knuckles toward the target, thus making it a back(hand) cast. The traditional cast across the body reverses the hand to push with the thumb. The backhand cast does not.

Another secret is to lean the butt of the rod against the inside of the forearm during the stroke to target. This has the effect of really flexing the rod with power that is frankly hard to find on the strong side.

Regardless of how you deal with a crosswind (left hand, cross body, back hand) it's key to keep the path of acceleration true otherwise all the power you apply dissipates into open loops or off-line vectors.

Wind adds tension to the line in flight thus actually helping the fly cast in most cases.

jimS
08-05-2006, 12:42 PM
Great advice from all on dealing with wind and casting. Over time I have extracted close to a dozen flies from fishermen. A couple were large flies in the cheek and neck. I've seen a few rods get beaned with heavy clousers and go "bang" on the next cast. If you fish on the Cape long enough, the wind will be on your casting shoulder at least 50 per cent of the time.

As Juro and others have said, backcasting is a tried and proven method to thwart the wind. The one downside to this method is when you are sightfishing. Most will take their eyes off the fish when turning their body to backcast.

As someone with average eye-hand coordination, I started practicing flycasting with my other hand about five years ago. The first step was attempting to form a short, tight loop by emulating what I did with the other hand. I was dismal at the beginning, but as I continued 15-20 minute sessions daily, muscle memory kicked in. Once I felt confident casting short distances, I started lengthening the line, and then shooting on the back and forward cast. The next step was accuracy, and finally learning the double haul. The double haul is not hard if it is broken into single hauls, and then combining them.

Learning to cast with the off-hand has actually improved my casting with the other hand. It has shown me some of the poor techniques I have developed over years of bad practice.

CSJ60 is another guy I fish with that has become an excellent caster with his off-hand.

If you feel overwhelmed by learning to cast with the off-hand, don't. Trust me, if I can do it, anyone can

Warren
08-09-2006, 05:25 AM
I am a little late on this one but What the heck! I use the left hand if I can or cast backwards like rest of you or I bag it & head for the nearest watering hole for a Wee Dram:D

juro
08-09-2006, 06:48 AM
The pinnacle of dealing with crosswind is to become ambidextrous. Having observed both Jim and Craig they know the type of comments and compliments I've given them on this feat as I am truly impressed.

With the two-hander I am quite adept at off-handed casting (left in my case), also fluent with all my Spey casts offhand; but I must admit that in SWFF situations I use a backhand partial cross-body cast almost 100% with the single hander in salt & wind rather than refine my left-hand skills. But it remains a goal for a number of reasons.

Jim speaks the truth about the off hand teaching the dominant hand (and the mind). Learning to cast lefty on the Spey rod was like having a personal tutor it was amazing how much it revealed about casting... to me! I do practice regularly offhand, although I can't say I'm fully there with the single hander like Jim and Craig.

Perhaps because my "cack-handed" single hand overhead solution is refined over years of practice and is an effective weapon. This is diff.erent than a standard cross-body cast in that the thumb does not push the rod. Instead the butt of the rod presses against the inside of the forearm which forces the rod to bend more on the power stroke. It throws a very powerful cast and with a positive stop a very tight loop into wind.

One benefit of this backhanded type of cast is that it dramatically increases your backcasting power, which helps your forehand casting significantly when the wind turns around.

However I do feel it's important to become adept at offhand casting to be a good instructor (which was the initial motivation for my offhand Spey study) and practice offhand single-hand casting regularly regardless of how I fish. I hope this practice leads to the ability to surpass my current backhand solution in hard wind situations someday.

I think I will take a first step by applying it more in fishing this season.

teflon_jones
08-09-2006, 06:52 AM
One thing I'll mention because it came into play on the Deerfield on Monday: I wear a canvas hat (see pic, not the same one but close enough) that covers my neck and ears pretty well, and I realized that a couple of sloppy backcasts in heavy winds came around and bounced the fly off my hat. So wearing the right headgear can go a long way...

juro
08-09-2006, 07:14 AM
teflon,

I would argue that no cast should ever touch any part of the body, or clothing. It's as simple as keeping the line moving only on the downwind side, hence the need for offhand casting per this discussion.

Not meaning to split hairs on the topic as that is a fine piece of headgear, but on the topic of casting I would stand firm to that, particularly as an instructional note to a new caster to instill the thinking early, etc.

jfbasser
08-09-2006, 07:20 AM
I recently purchased a 4 wt and have been practicing off-hand casting. I think am coming to a conclusion that off-hand casting will be easier to master on a lighter rod before I move up to the saltwater rods.

BigDave
08-09-2006, 02:29 PM
the thumb does not push the rod. Instead the butt of the rod presses against the inside of the forearm which forces the rod to bend more on the power stroke. It throws a very powerful cast and with a positive stop a very tight loop into wind.

One benefit of this backhanded type of cast is that it dramatically increases your backcasting power, which helps your forehand casting significantly when the wind turns around.

The other major benefit: locking the butt against your forearm will prevent you from getting tennis elbow if you spend a lot of time backcasting grain lines.

teflon_jones
08-09-2006, 03:22 PM
teflon,

I would argue that no cast should ever touch any part of the body, or clothing. It's as simple as keeping the line moving only on the downwind side, hence the need for offhand casting per this discussion.

Not meaning to split hairs on the topic as that is a fine piece of headgear, but on the topic of casting I would stand firm to that, particularly as an instructional note to a new caster to instill the thinking early, etc.
I'd definitely agree. That's why I said "sloppy backcasts" because it happened because of poor technique. After casting for 7 hours my arm was getting tired! :)

juro
08-09-2006, 03:25 PM
Well at least our hats can look sharp even when we mess up :smokin: ;)

Smcdermott
08-10-2006, 11:01 AM
I think one thing that has been lost in this discussion is that you may start a cast and need to reposition to target fast moving fish. Knowing when you need to drop the cast or make other adjustments only comes with practice and feel in real-life situations. I think this applies most to boating situations where the "ground" is moving underneath you. Saying a cast should never hit your body from an instructional view is one thing but if you spend a good amount of time in a boat chasing fish it will happen. You can only hope to minimize the number of occurances and take appropriate steps to prevent a more serious event, such as wearing eyeware.

Sean

juro
08-10-2006, 11:47 AM
Sean,

I respectfully disagree. I was using the instructional element as a way to qualify the point but if there's a hard stand to be made on it I believe that there really is no acceptable time that a fly should touch any part of you or your clothing, period.

Having a maneuverable craft below you only increases the options as others with boats have pointed out. I've run boats a lot until just recently when I sold my last one, and in very hairy conditions particularly the north pacific coast for feeder salmon. Those rips would make anything south of the maritimes look mild, in fact they are on lattitude with the maritimes. Setting up is an option that a boat offers that the shore does not.

Change of direction is made with intermediate false casts when overhead or by angular positioning of the line on the water or in the air (e.g. snake roll, Spey casts) and never require a collision. Spey casts do it in one movement with no risk. Hence investigating some of these options is very much an option as is moving the boat.

I do agree completely that eye protection is smart, believe me. I will post some pics of eye injuries one of these days, if you all can stomach them (my brother is an eye surgeon who has dealt with many eye injuries from fishing).

I also agree that in the heat of the moment we do silly things. However I can't accept that these are correct and acceptable, they are in fact IMHO dumb and dangerous and it does well to refine safe tactics in your pursuit of the "Art of Casting".

.02

Smcdermott
08-16-2006, 09:55 AM
Juro,

Yes you can position a boat to fish a rip or even schools of blitzing bass or blues. They stay up long enough to do so. But I have to disagree that these are always valid options when fishing for speedsters which is what I was eluding to. A school of skipjack crashing the surface at 40mph and staying up for 4 or 5 seconds gives you very limited options to get the fly in the mix. Couple that with the fact that you may only get a few shots all day due to boat pressure or just lack of fish and you are going to take a risk to get the fly there. Now of course you will do everything you can to not hit yourself but even the best casters will have mishaps. A very likely scenario is just miscommunication as the angler is expecting the wheelman to turn one way and he goes the other. Unlike from shore being able to cast using either hand is really no help as the console and helmsman are on the other side and you should not cast over them. In this instance, IMO, the best option is a series of water hauls and some chuck and duck. Would I argue this is textbook casting or the correct way to do it. Probably not. But I will say you do what you need to do get tight and I don't care if the cast has a name or not.

Sean

juro
08-16-2006, 10:14 AM
We don't always do what's right, we sometimes have to do what it takes.

However, that doesn't make it an acceptable approach it just means we do it anyway.

My point is quite simply this - proper casting technique (the point of this section) is to find ways to keep the casting stroke on the downwind side. Period.

I think you are creating an argument where there is none, I also do what it takes fully knowing it's wrong in the heat of the moment. So when I hit myself, I say to myself "self - YOU EEDIOTT!!!".

Smcdermott
08-16-2006, 10:41 AM
Juro,

I don't think I am creating an argument, just discussing casting in the wind. I thought this thread was about dealing with the wind and ways of doing it. I have to disagree that having your cast on the downwind side is always "the right way". The right thing in my opinion is as I stated (getting the fly to the fish.) Using water hauls is an effective means of casting with wind coming into your casting shoulder. I have never taken an official FFF casting lesson so I don't know if it is taught but I think it should be. Yes there is a narrow margin of error with this technique but without it I would have caught far fewer speedsters on the fly. Maybe an on the water session this fall is in order to demonstrate our concepts :lildevl: .

Sean

juro
08-16-2006, 12:34 PM
Although I can't think of any others, I think the water haul is an exception to your point (depending on the force of the wind that day).

Especially from a water craft like yours. I need more practice let's go. :lildevl:

alan caolo
08-16-2006, 04:09 PM
I agree with Sean on this issue . . . do whatever it takes, how ever it takes you, by whatever means, no matter how it looks . . . to get the fly where it needs to be, when it needs to be there. The "McDermott Sling 'n Slay" - call it what you want.
I played a lot of hockey in my youth and knew some great "practice players" who sucked in the heat of the game. Many of the best players were not great skaters, not great shooters . . . but they were always in the right place at the right time and didn't mind taking a hit.

juro
08-16-2006, 04:31 PM
Hey Alan -

Good to hear from you.

Yeah well your friend and mine changed his tune from "it's ok to hit yourself" to the water haul, which I do use in fact he saw me doing half the day off his transom on Brewster this spring :lildevl: ;)

Of course magnifying load due to friction will help resist the effect of a crosswind, however the maneuver will be limited to side/side (boat in the way and not a target) and limited to shorter lengths of line, preferably with short heads like the T-series, QD, Rio deep sea, etc.

Nothing is more of a water load than a Spey cast, particularly a Skagit cast, however as the line leaves the surface of the water it is still dangerous in wind.

A water haul by definition does not have the pulley wheel component that a Spey cast does, so it would project linearly along the path - provided that point of release was close enough forward so as to not cross the path of the angler while in flight.

So a short tight pull against the surface sounds reasonable regardless of what 'the experts say' yet when I get home I will check what Wulff, Jawarowski et. al. have to say about casting in a cross wind; maybe they feel the water load is the cat's meow.

Once again, I put the fly in my mouth and spit it at the fish if that's the best option however the cast will be significantly more effective if I just load it back and forth in the lee side of the wind.

Another cast talked about a bit is the "belgian" or elliptical cast which draws the backcast out and away to the windward side then comes directly overhead while ducking.

Drifting with the outdrive down puts the nose into the lee thus the backdoor man always gets the crosswind. If not for the center console the backcast would be roomy, makes a panga sound attractive for inshore flycasting. :hihi:

ok back to the coal mine...

juro
08-16-2006, 08:14 PM
Sean,

Neither Joan Wulff nor Ed Jaworowski cite the water haul as a means to deal with wind, instead they propose casting backwards in the lee of the wind - yet I do agree with you that it's an effective mechanism from a boat to deal with winds coming onto the casting shoulder as I have practiced this myself often as you may recall even on your boat.

Caveats:

I still maintain that there are certain considerations for those who wish to use this as an alternative to leeward casting:

a) the line must be kept short enough to prevent getting blown into you or the hull after the grip of the water is relieved

b) the line would be best to have a short head length (e.g. QD, Rio Deep Sea, Teeny series, etc)

In 99% of the situations where I have fished my boat before selling it the outdrive drag spins the bow into the lee in any measurable wind and casting from the bow is usually assisted by the wind blowing the line away from the deck and passengers.

The transom angler is the one that suffers from crosswind, and for him casting is either a formality as line can be released by drift or if sight fishing water loading can be an effective tool. I think we even talked about it on your boat, no?

In any case, I think you have a winner here. Without a doubt an approach to consider is water loading in a cross wind for overhead (or sidearm) casting.

As far as rationalizing the occasional bodily hit per your earlier post... well you'll have a much harder time getting me to agree to that under any circumstances!

Great discussion, and thank you I learned a lot from thinking it through.

Smcdermott
08-16-2006, 10:05 PM
Juro,

To be honest we very well may have discussed it that day. I don't recall either way. I do know we saw a lot of big bass with lock jaw. My wife tells me I have a selective memory, maybe she is right :lildevl: .

I don't think I have been perfectly clear. I am not saying its good to hit yourself. I am just saying it will happen. The water haul technique is one way of dealing with wind and as you eluded to there are others, such as casting out a little ways off angle from the target but then bringing the forward cast overhead to bring it back inline. All of these methods I would classify as high risk of hitting yourself. The point I am trying to make is be creative out there. Don't do anything stupid but don't pigeon hole yourself into thinking if it wasn't written in a book or taught at your last casting class that it won't work.

Couple of other points I think are pertinent to this situation:

Keep the false casts to a minimum.

It may be neccessary to utilize the water haul on each cast and possibly on both the forward and back casts.

If using a sinking line you will need to almost start picking up the line before it hits the water to prevent too much tension on the haul.

Be smooth in your delivery and it will be easier to pick up the line.

I have been very fortunate to fish with a number of very talented anglers over the years and have learned a lot each time out. As Alan mentioned one of the common denominators among them was the ability to dial it in when it counts. To me one of the thing that draws me to this game is that challenge of making the cast when it counts. Be it sightfishing or tunoids, any situation where time is of the essence and the conditions demanding will always be the pinnacle of our sport. No knock on those who prefer to sip whisky and ponder how to fool that one lonely trout for a half hour. That just isn't my cup...

Sean

http://members.cox.net/seanmcdermott/Sakonet%20003%20(Small).jpg

juro
08-16-2006, 11:39 PM
Sean,

With all due respect you're right I am not clear on what you are trying to say; of course accidents happen but they occur despite what we adopt as guidelines for safety and proper technique. Also, if I agreed with any more zeal that the water haul can be useful from the windward end of a boat then I would resemble a parrot. The two points are separate and to keep blurring them only promotes pointless debate.

So if these two points are kept distinct we are in partial agreement - water load good; yet we can agree to disagree that hitting oneself bad even if it hooks a fish sometimes.

I can't agree that a fish is worth an injury, coming from a family of doctors and frequently discussing (with my brother the eye surgeon) heinous eye injuries from one-time mishaps; a single cast gone bad. In fact there is such a photo on R/T right now; mild compared to some my brother has shown me that he had to operate on.

I agree that a teacher might discuss water loading with shorter lengths of line, appropriate line designs and good technique as an option especially from the windward end of a boat. Even if it's not commonly presented as such. Your idea has a lot of merit.

However IMHO an instructor of any caliber should *never* use the pursuit of a fish as an excuse to compromise safety in casting.

Again the two are distinct points not to be muddied.

It seems we could go on debating this point forever, however I hope I am making myself clear that as long as these two points are not twisted together I have no need for further rebuttal and agree with the casting tactic you proposed.

Smcdermott
08-17-2006, 08:05 AM
Juro,

I agree no need to further discuss. We both agree that hitting yourself is bad.

Sean

FredA
08-17-2006, 05:10 PM
I'm curious. Are we talking from two different perspectives here? Seems if you're fishing from a boat chances are the wind is either moderate or you are fishing in the lea. If you're shore fishing you may be fishing in wind that will keep the boat at the dock. I use the water haul when chucking QD type lines or when the wind is moderate and driving against the casting shoulder, if appropriate. Basically the water haul is used in lieu of false casts. If the wind is moderate (say 10 to 20 mph) you can get away with one back cast and a shoot, try a second false cast if you're into body piercing. If it's blowing 15 to 30 that return flight of the first backcast might get you, or worse, ding your favorite rod. Time for the salt water backcast. If you're finessing on the flats to sighted fish I tend to face the target and cast across the downwind shoulder (usually with little success).

Smcdermott
08-17-2006, 07:53 PM
Fred,

I don't think we are talking from two different perspectives. I would not say that if you are on a boat that you are not in the wind. There are plenty of days when I am out there in 10-20, sometimes more. I agree that more than one non-water haul backcasts and you are risking the pierce. That was part of my reasoning for suggesting the use of multiple water hauls to get a longer cast out there. I think this is one thing that is better illustrated on the water and personally its something I have seen more need for on the boat. As you and Juro have pointed out when on foot I would just turnaround and use the Sedotti Singapore sling (i.e. fish the back cast placing the butt against your forearm for leverage.)

juro
08-17-2006, 08:03 PM
the Sedotti Singapore sling

The WHAT??? :hihi: ;) :) He's a hell of a caster but that name is pretty emphatic.

I just call it a backward cast. According to Jaworowski it's called the Barnegat Bay and he claims it's been in use since before we were all born.

Joan Wullf calls it a backhand cast.

Smcdermott
08-17-2006, 08:12 PM
Sorry Juro, I should have placed a wink after that one. He is the first one I ever saw at one of the shows preaching it. Although I think he mentioned its use for distance and not dealing with the wind. In any case its where this young buck first saw it.

Sean

juro
08-17-2006, 08:30 PM
It doesn't come thru in the post but I was only poking fun at Mark, he is a freak caster (I mean that in a good way)! If he wants to call it the sayonara sling then so be it! :)

Anyway it really is tough to express the joking around mode on this media.

Sean Juan
08-22-2006, 09:03 AM
The Sayonara Sling is a bit different than a backwards cast - though essentially the same.

The only reason I mention it is because Mark showed me that cast in relation to slowly getting over a broken elbow, back and wrist :frown: (by the way learning to cast lefty is easy, but learning to haul with your right hand proved to be nigh-impossible for me.)

The key difference is in how you hold the rod. By bracing the fighting but against you forearm you essentially lockout your wrist add your forearm to the length of the rod. Then you stand sideways to the target, point your right shoulder at it rather than standing backwards. It really makes casting heavy lines that much easier since you are using your upper arm. Added to a water haul you can get some nice distance in a heavy wind.

Made a huge difference for me, not trying to be a smark or anything.

juro
08-22-2006, 09:51 AM
Per the earlier description, forearm-locking a cast in that manner and the offset stance is what I've always just called a backward cast, by any other name (however that's why the description was provided). I guess I am not ethnically comfortable with Mark's monniker :)

Here is the above description again FYI:

Actually fishing the backcast does not lessen your ability to reach fish, in fact it strengthens your casting because 50% of a flycast is the backcast and being able to drive this backcast makes the forward cast more potent when you switch back.

The body does not have to turn back to target, just shift your casting shoulder to the front and reach across the body a little. Rotate the body a bit (approx 90 from normal toward the other side of the body) keeping the eyes forward.

The key is the keep your knuckles toward the target, thus making it a back(hand) cast. The traditional cast across the body reverses the hand to push with the thumb. The backhand cast does not.

Another secret is to lean the butt of the rod against the inside of the forearm during the stroke to target. This has the effect of really flexing the rod with power that is frankly hard to find on the strong side.

Regardless of how you deal with a crosswind (left hand, cross body, back hand) it's key to keep the path of acceleration true otherwise all the power you apply dissipates into open loops or off-line vectors.

Wind adds tension to the line in flight thus actually helping the fly cast in most cases.



I've found this same technique very useful for my normal backcast (when casting forward) pretty much ever since SWFF raised the bar for casting against the forces of nature.

Several years ago at the North Reading Athletic Center Casting Clave we had a contest involving rolling an archery target across the gym and hitting it with a cast. I volunteered to use my backcast for the contest and because of the forearm lock nailed the target easily. It really does boost the energy when the lower portion of the blank can be loaded.

Earlier after talking to my brother (eye surgeon) about injury I posted on another site about this technique and was met with quite a lot of resistance to the idea of fishing the back cast. Of course that was when there was only one website discussing striper flyfishing and that only part-time. It was also a time when a crosswind on the beach meant you could hear a chorus of "whack! smack! and OUCH!".

The northeast flyfisher has come a long way in terms of casting safety as I see it. You rarely see people hitting themselves anymore.

basses
08-27-2006, 09:55 AM
Jim.
I knew we should have made our "Fly Casting in a Cyclone" video when we had the chance. It would have made a great follow up to the rimfly challenge and an excellent double feature when combined with "Fly Tying in a Cyclone with Jim Simms".

jimS
08-27-2006, 12:28 PM
True story. During a trip in April to Weipa, Australia, Basses (Silas Maitland), Matt Fender, and myself were expecting a direct hit from a Category 5 hurricane (cyclone). It was supposed to hit about 3 a.m. Our condo (read mobile home) was the hangout that night for one of the guides in the area (Nat Bromhead), Anthony Gomes, local flyfishing expert, and Jacko, Queensland distance casting champion. With lots of fresh tuna, and Four X beer, we decided to get pissed and wait out the cyclone. In the wee hours of the morning, we tied braided leaders and refined our distance casting while keeping close tabs on the path of the cyclone. Our intent was to do a video of both flycasting and flytying in a cyclone. We shot some of the footage, but guess drinking and serious videography don't mix.

The cyclone eventually went south of us. Silas is now a great distance caster!

bonehead
05-02-2007, 04:45 PM
Thought I'd chime in on the whole subject of learning to cast with the "off hand". Of course, it goes without saying that this is a good way of defeating a contrary breeze, and I won't really get into other methods for that here... though that's actually the topic of this post.

I taught myself to cast lefty last year, in about 2 half-hour sessions. Now, I'm no great caster, nor a particularly quick study. I also don't profess to tremendous accuracy with that hand, but it's typically enough to get the job done... and keep from getting whacked by the fly.

I used a version of Lefty Kreh's teaching method that breaks the cast down into separate parts that we can see. He uses this to teach the double-haul, but it works just as well to learn to cast (with either hand). Basically you cast totally side-arm, with the rod parallel to the water. Get out about 30 ft of line in front of you. Sweep the rod back and gradually accelerate until the sudden stop at the end. Now, instead of trying to go directly into the forward cast, let the line drop to the ground. Do the same thing in the opposite direction, again letting the line fall to the ground after the cast. Ideally the line should unroll and lay out straight, with no hook or bend or waves.

In practice it takes a while to get the timing right so the first few casts are awful. However, by watching what happens to the line at the end of each cast, it's amazing how quickly our brains and hands adjust to correct the mistakes. And, if we get confused we can study the movements of our good casting hand.

Make sure you're doing a couple key things if you try this.
1) The rod should be almost totally parallel to the water/ground.
2) Let the line fall to the ground after each section of the cast - both forward and backward.
3) Slow everything down. The slower you do this, the better, and the more you'll learn from each cast.

After a while you'll feel you've got the timing down; try keeping the line in the air for a few false casts. An important note here: once you get the feel of this, don't try keeping the line in the air for a dozen false casts. If you do your hand and arm will naturally tire after the first few casts (especially with the off hand). Once the hand tires it loses it's finess and you'll actually end up practicing poor technique about half the casts. You don't learn to shoot a basketball by starting with three-pointers. Try to limit yourself to 3-4 false casts then let the line fall again. This gives your hand a chance to rest and allows you to assess the quality of the final cast.

I could go further with this. One of the biggest mistakes beginners make when trying to teach themselves to cast is making too many false casts. Their hands tire and they end up frustrated at the end of the session when they could leave feeling they've made progress. The other mistake they make is not practicing for the right amount of time. In this case, too much is just as bad as too little. This has to do with the way we train our muscles. I've heard it said that optimum practice time is 15-20 minutes, though I have no actual evidence to back this up (merely heresay and conjecture... are those are kinds of evidence?). Anyways, the main point the author was making was that our brains and muscles need repetition in order to form the 'habit' of a new physical task. However, the muscles tire quickly and then instead of training new muscles to do a new task, we fall back on the old muscles which perform the new task inefficiently. Basically if we practice for too long we end up learning the wrong series of muscle movements but if we don't practice enough, we have to practically start over next time. Above all, if you don't know how to cast properly, get some instruction (DVD, Books, Magazine, Instructor). Like someone once said, practices doesn't make perfect, it makes permanent.

Good luck.