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Art of Casting Analysis, refinement of the cast

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Topic Review (Newest First)
05-02-2007 04:45 PM
Goofy Casting...

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.
08-27-2006 12:28 PM
jimS 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!
08-27-2006 09:55 AM
basses 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".
08-22-2006 09:51 AM
juro 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.
08-22-2006 09:03 AM
Sean Juan 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 (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.
08-17-2006 08:30 PM
juro 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.
08-17-2006 08:12 PM
Smcdermott 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.

08-17-2006 08:03 PM
Originally Posted by Smcdermott
the Sedotti Singapore sling
The WHAT??? 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.
08-17-2006 07:53 PM
Smcdermott 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.)
08-17-2006 05:10 PM
FredA 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).
08-17-2006 08:05 AM
Smcdermott Juro,

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

08-16-2006 11:39 PM
juro 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.
08-16-2006 10:05 PM
Smcdermott 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 .

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...


08-16-2006 08:14 PM
juro 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.


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.
08-16-2006 04:31 PM
juro 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

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.

ok back to the coal mine...
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