“Beat the Wind! Use Your FULL Double-Haul.”
As promised here is our SKIFF EPISODE, where we REVup our Double Haul for casting in the wind, getting extra distance, and throwing big flies. Skiff fishing provides its own challenges, especially where distance is concerned. Because a boat is bigger, makes more noise and throws a bigger shadow, fish can see/sense/feel it and us from farther away. That often means longer casts are essential just to get the fly away from the boat into a zone where the fish are not yet alerted to our presence.
This is a more advanced tip, but still comes back to basic principles of casting, namely: Slack is the Enemy! Many anglers who have learned to double-haul don’t take it far enough. Specifically, they don’t get their “hauling hand” back to their casting hand before they start their forward cast. If there is a lot of space between your hands, there’s a tendency for the casting hand to MOVE TOWARD the hauling hand at the beginning of the casting stroke. This puts slack in the system, reducing bend in the rod and stealing energy from the cast.
The difference between a good caster and an expert fly caster is that the latter will end their haul with their hands nearly together. This makes it impossible for the hands to move toward each other during the casting stroke. It also provides more distance for the haul on the forward cast.
Work on getting the hauling hand back to the casting hand BEFORE you begin your forward stroke. The line will tell you how fast. Too fast and you’ll put slack in the line. Too slow and you won’t make it all the way back. It should feel as if the line is PULLING YOUR HAND back toward the rod, after you make the haul for the backcast.
“Avoid Shoulder Injury: Keep Your Elbow Close.”
Good movement equals good results.
That’s our basic premise for this series.
This week we focus on “Casting Longevity”: using good movement (proper form) to reduce the risk of shoulder injury from fly casting. Yes! It’s a real thing. “Casting Elbow” and rotator cuff injuries are fairly common among those who cast a fly rod for hours.
The good news is you can help avoid injury through the practice of good movement. You could say that “good movement equals safe movement.”
We’ve talked about keeping the elbow low—not raising it too high during the cast. Let’s build on that concept and also keep the elbow INSIDE of our hand as we make our casting stroke. Keeping your elbow close is basically external rotation, which is proper form for any “pushing” motion, whether it be a pushup, a bench press, or a fly cast!
Work on keeping your elbow close as you cast and your hand OUTSIDE of your elbow. To borrow from Lefty Kreh, KEEP THE ELBOW ON THE SHELF. This makes it easy to go straight back, and straight forward, which is the most efficient way of casting.
Next week we talk about special issues for casting from a skiff. Stay tuned!
“Fix your Back Cast: Direct your fly line.”
Does your back-cast hit the water? Wish you could have your fly land a little softer and spook less fish? Use your thumb!
Your thumb can be used to direct your backcast… and the fly. If your thumb stops going down, the line will go down. If you point your thumb up, the line goes up. Simple.
The same is true on the forward cast. If you’re fishing for spooky bones in calm water, try a sidearm cast and turn your thumb “up” at the end. This will direct the fly line (and fly) up a the end of the cast and allow the fly to flutter down, as opposed to flipping over and splashing down.
HOMEWORK: Try directing your fly cast (and fly line) 1) down, 2) straight out and 3) up…. by focusing on where you point your thumb at the end of the cast. Practice until you can direct your flyline (and fly) at will.
Stay tuned as we pick apart some of the most basic fly casting errors, one at a time!
Good Casting Form: Don’t Throw It!
This week we follow up on Episode #3 by clarifying an important aspect of good casting form: keeping the elbow down and resisting the urge to “throw” the flyline. At it’s core, fly casting is basically unrolling the fly line. We aren’t throwing it. However, raising the elbow up triggers that throwing instinct—it’s how we throw a baseball, after all—and prevents us from performing good casting mechanics because it’s very difficult to go straight back and straight forward when you raise your elbow.
In this video we demonstrate what good casting bio-mechanics look like, versus the poor mechanics of raising the elbow and trying to throw the fly line. And, we do it into the wind for good measure!
There is a fundamental principal at work here: only performing the movements that create a fly cast will produce a fly cast. If you perform some other movement—like throwing—you are expecting the impossible: that a good cast will come from a motion that has nothing to do with casting. It’s like going on the flat and performing the motions of flipping an omelet and hoping we miraculously get a fly cast.
However, a fly casting motion will always produce a fly cast. When we fail to make the cast, very often that is because we have ceased fly casting and performed another movement. Go back to fly casting, and all of a sudden we can again make the cast. It’s not magic, it’s not mysterious. It’s physics, and it’s reproducible. 2+2 always equals 4.
HOMEWORK: Practice keeping your elbow low. Make every casting stroke a photocopy of the previous one, especially the final, presentation cast! Nothing changes on the final cast.
Fly Casting Basics: Straight Back, Straight Forward
Let’s focus on the DIRECTION of our casting stroke. For this weeks REVup Challenge, try to work on casting straight back, and straight forward, rather than around a curve.
Head guide of Fish Bones Fly Fishing in the Cayman Islands analyzes the difference between the standard “loopy” overhead, 10-to-2 casting stroke and a slightly “side arm” stroke.
The classic overhead casting stroke tends to throw the flyline down on the backcast and forward cast, forming a large, inefficient loop.
By contrast, a slightly side arm immediately directs the fly line straight back, and then straight forward, parallel to the water surface. This produces a stealthier cast (for spooky bonefish) by turning the fly over parallel to the water, rather than kicking down at the end of the fly cast and splashing down. A straight line will also get more distance in the wind, because a tighter loop is more aerodynamic.
This is because focusing on “side arm” encourages the caster to keep his elbow down, rather than raising it on every backcast. Keeping the elbow low is a critical element to good flycasting, as it helps us track the rod-tip (and fly line) along a straight path.
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Fly casting is: a slow, gradual acceleration to a sudden speed-up-and-stop.
~ Lefty Kreh
Join the REVolution. REVup your casting and REView the fundamentals. This is the first in a challenge to myself: one casting video a week (52 for the year) focusing on the fundamentals of casting a fly rod. We’ll look at basic casting principles, mechanics, common faults and even mobility issues. These will be drawn in part from the plethora of casting woes I witness as I daily guide anglers to tailing bonefish on the saltwater flats of Grand Cayman Island. Over the years I’ve had to learn how to quickly diagnose an angler’s cast, ignoring most of the issues but focusing on the biggest problem so we can go fishing. This forum will allow me to elaborate on some of the problems upstream and downstream of the major issues like wrist-ing, raising the elbow and failing to stop the rod.
We all wish we could be better casters. Let’s take the challenge and work on it.
WindKnot the Angler
Smile, breath, and go slowly.
– Thich Nhat Hanh
It was early, too early to be wading thigh-deep in cold water. I could clearly see the tails of bonefish on the shallow flat rising in front of me, but with the wind in my face I had better odds of being beaned by a coconut than actually getting one of them to see my fly. Still, I’d come here to try. My first few casts were tentative, feeling out the situation. Not good: the line piled up about halfway to the fish, which fed on oblivious of my presence. I tried harder, keeping my cast low and really muscling it into the rising morning breeze. Suddenly a small gust caught my cast and in an instant I was draped in fly line.
I raged at the wind, pulling lengths of line off my clothing, and false-cast hard against the breeze. Bad to worse. The bonefish continued to feed on into the tide, easing farther away with each futile false-cast. My leader looked liked I’d used it for knot tying practice and my fly was fouled in a loop of monofilament which had wrapped around one eye, dragging the fly sideways through the water. Humiliated, I retreated to shore and left the flat in peace.
The cast is the heart and soul of fly fishing. It’s what separates us from those who are merely fishing. It is the source of our joy, and considerable frustration. Many years have passed since my early morning jaunts to the local bonefish flats, but I can clearly remember the sense of futility when anything but a downwind cast was called for. It seemed like no matter how hard I tried Mother Nature got the better of me.
Of course, I now realize that it was exactly my own effort that defeated me. Casting is about finesse and control, not strength, and certainly not anger.
There is probably a lesson here somewhere, but I’ll work it out after I finish practicing my cast.