Fly Casting- Santa’s Underpowered Curve

if like most people you’ve always wondered what Santa Carlos (Azpilicueta) looks like when he’s fly casting here you go.SantaCarlos' Underpowered 180° Curve

often referred to as a good upstream presentation cast, the Underpowered Curve goes directly to the bottom of my list of actual casts to use. even if the final line layout seems really good from a theoretical point of view we’re throwing a whole lot of line directly over the fish whilst false casting and at final presentation and we’re left with an enormous, even ridiculous amount of slack to attempt to tighten up if we didn’t put off the fish and managed to get a strike. if we don’t get a strike, the whole leader and all that line will pass over the fish on its way back downstream before we can pick up and cast again and if that doesn’t put off the fish then its a really dumb fish not worthy of being caught !
accuracy wise, its also probably the most difficult cast to get just right in any repeatable manner even in ‘ideal’ conditions. any kind of wind severely compromises its success. in a sense, its one to keep in your bag of tricks as a last-resort presentation. at best.

none of that sounds very good, right ? but here’s the but and the however: just as with the underpowered Controlling Casting Stroke Force (please read or reread as both articles are directly connected), the Underpowered Curve is a more than excellent manner to learn to use the correct amount of force in your other casts. just as with the overhead version: “practising to cast lines that don’t turn over completely and ‘relearning’ to add a little more force, just what’s necessary to get the job done as we go along. this is an additive method. we start with ‘not enough’ and add-on little by little until it’s’just right’.  it’s quite easy to control because adding-on seems to correspond better to human nature than subtracting; we tend to ‘want more’ as opposed to ‘want less’ is equally valid and productive and might even be considered as the next step, or part II of the overhead drill as it’s trickier.
we need to adopt a slower casting rhythm while casting off to the side in a lower plane all the while keeping line, leader and fluff from hitting the ground. on the delivery cast, the underpowered bit needs to be controlled very precisely. although we can’t push strings or in this case fly lines and this will get the physics geeks tsk-tssssking, it helps to think of it as if we where pushing the rod leg only. (i know, that might be a weird way to visualise the motion but it works for me and hopefully for you too)

as in the gif, don’t forget to ‘kill the cast’ by immediately lowering the rod tip to prevent loop unrolling. be sure to try the exact same cast with and without lowering the rod tip to see how it greatly affects line layout/turnover.
lastly, similar to the overhead drill, the Underpowered Curve also teaches an important aspect that’s rarely brought up; varying the casting force between the back cast and the front cast (or vice-versa). a typical but non-conclusive example of this casting force variance would be when fishing with a strong tail wind. we’ll need  to have a higher line speed on the BC going into the wind, requiring more force and a greater casting arc and less speed, force and arc on the FC where the wind will help push it out.

since practicing without any kind of target is generally pointless, as with the overhead drill, place little targets or reindeer here and there in front of you and place the unrolled loop over them.
even if it’s just a few minutes, do yourself the favour of including both drills every time you’re out practicing. these are seemingly strange and quirky things to do but they really pay off. i guarantee.
whether or not you decide to don the Santa suit is up to you but keep in mind that it would make the occasion that much more special.

video graciously provided by Carlos Azpilicueta. thanks buddy !

post note- i’ve always wondered what the person strolling by in the background of the gif was thinking as they saw this…

Hey Ho, Let’s Go ! – Skunking down with Gink & Gasoline

its not like i’m attracted to this type of music but this song came to mind when i was trying to come up with the name for the new and long overdue ‘shoutout’ section here on TLC. over the years i’ve been honoured by quite a few of these shoutouts by some really cool blogs so the not very liked song title comes up after-all as a high energy reminder to get my stuff in gear… and as an invitation for you to Hey Ho, Go ! visit some of these awesome blogs.

first up and one of my all time faves, Gink & Gasoline: this one’s hotter than a hot-rod.
always on the move, whether it’s off somewhere cool fishing or finding great ways to share thoughts on our activity, today’s gem by Louis Cahill stands out from the crowd. no glim, no glamour but a real sense of honesty, despair, steelhead fishing and humour and it’s about our great friend, Le Skunk.

Skunk-G&G Hey Ho, Let's Go!

“The cost of this mania, as anyone who has ever done it knows, is the ever present risk of getting skunked. It’s always right there with you. It’s on the plane next to you. It’s in the boat. It’s low-holing you in every run. It snuggles up next to you in the bed, its awkward boner pressed against your backside. It’s in you dreams. Dreams where suave Disneyesque skunks bring you heart-shaped boxes of goose eggs. From the minute you pick up the long rod with two feet of cork, the skunk is riding shotgun.”

want more ? click on Pepe and Go ! 

SLP length Borger:Lovoll

Fly Casting- How straight is Straight Line Path ?

Making Adjustments on the Fly B.Gammel

a very astute casting student asked me recently, “I think I’m having difficulties keeping a Straight Line Path throughout the stroke. I must be doing something wrong ?”

i love these kind of comments. it shows the person is curious, really pays attention to what they’re doing and shows they’ve studied well. at this point i should say that his loops where ideal, nice and smooth, very close to parallel very nice loops, as nice as what we see Andreas Fismen performing in the 500fps slomo gif below. so, what was the problem then ?
since his casting was spot-on it obviously wasn’t anything he was doing wrong (loops don’t lie. they can’t) but simply his understanding of how rod tip travel should be for a textbook straight line cast but who could blame him ?
diagrams, books, videos and even in real, most instructors explain that just as in the diagram above, SLP (Straight Line Path) is a constant from one end of the stroke to the other. even in Jay and Bill Gammel’s awesome reference construct The Five Essentials of Fly Casting, this straight all-the-way-through concept is very easy to accept and take for granted.

“3. In order to form the most efficient, least air resistant loops, and to direct the energy of a fly cast toward a specific target, the caster must move the rod tip in a straight line.”

but is that what really happens ? lets take a closer look.

'SLP' Borger:Lovoll FC

first published in 2010, these findings aren’t anything new to some of us casting geeks but might be a sorta eye-opener for the non geeks, shedding some light for those who have asked themselves the same question as my student. just as we’ll see in the still below, in this study cast SLP is roughly a little bit more than a third of the overall stroke, most of the rod tip’s path has a mostly domed/convex shape with a somewhat flattened top. *
SLP length Borger:Lovoll

i won’t risk any absolutes but as far as i can tell, the only time we’re going to see a true, all-the-way-through SLP and its resultant tight loop will be when a non-flexible rod (the proverbial broomstick) is used to perform the cast. but even if the broomstick is somewhat frequently brought up in casting-geek circles and is a wonderful tool to understand a lot of casting concepts, it’s not something we use.
our ‘real’ rods bend, react to the forces we apply to them, get shorter as they bend and go back to their original length as they unbend and there’s the caster’s biomechanics and probably a billion other factors that are involved when considering rod tip path and even if they all where within my understanding, they’re not about today’s subject.

to conclude, after having shown this video and image to my student (ah, the beauty of bringing an iPad to lessons!) with a few explanations and demonstrations, you’ll most probably have already guessed it but here was the furthered response to his query.

– knowing this isn’t going to change your life, its just one of those ‘what we thought we where doing isn’t necessarily what was going on’ things.
– does this not-as-straight-as-we-thought SLP change anything in the way we should cast ? nope.
– provided you get the loop shapes you’re wanting to create, should you be doing anything differently ? absolutely not !
– if you want a straight line cast, keep on imagining your complete casting stroke is a straight one (and do all the other elements correctly) and you’ll get that tight loop and a straight line layout.

which in a certain manner, makes it resemble Saint Exupery’s elephant inside a boa drawing a lot more than your everyday ruler. at least in my eyes…
elephant-in-boa-SLP


top image from Bill Gammel’s brilliant Making adjustments on the fly
regiffed video and adjoining image via Grunde Løvoll. click HERE for more of Grunde’s slomo studies on Jason Borger’s site: Fish, Flies & Water
elephant/boa drawing from Antoine de Saint-Exupéry: Le Petit Prince

note- although the loop shape in the gif is textbook ideal, Andreas’ casting stroke seems to be quite long considering he’s only false casting 10m (32.8ft) of line. my guess is he was casting at a fast rate which necessitates a wider casting stroke, perhaps something to do with getting a good visual result with the 500 frames per second camera.

Fly Casting- Tailing Loops, those Oh-So Mysterious Creatures !

here’s yet another inspiring casting analysis gem straight from the creative mind of Aitor Coteron.
more than worthy of careful study for fly casters of all levels, i’ll venture to say that this one’s specially important for anyone teaching casting.

tailing-loop-backcast-a-bit-slower-than-real

” for although that dip/rise is somewhat of a “concave path of the rod tip” it has nothing to do with those big bowl shaped tip paths so many drawings depict. For years those bowl shaped explanations were to me as perplexing as the tailing loops themselves: however much I looked whenever I saw a tail in someone’s casting I couldn’t see that big concave path everybody was writing about. Not even on the casting videos available. Reality is much much more subtle, so subtle that seeing with the naked eye the expected anomaly in the tip path -even knowing what to look for- is really hard. Here we have a tailing loop in full glory. It is played at a slower pace than real speed. The tail could be used to illustrate a casting handbook; can you see the “bowled rod tip” anywhere? “

this last point is quite important. most (all as far as i know) video analysis of TLs has been done by casters staging them just as us instructors do when certifying. they’re over-exagerated and very non-realistic interpretations of what’s really going on when its an involuntary fault. or in other words, studying bad examples can only lead to bad conclusions… 
“P.S. The tailing loops shown here are real ones, nothing staged for the camera but involuntarily produced.”

i’ll not add more. click HERE for Aitor’s complete article including different gifs at different speeds and rod tip path overlays. enjoy !

Fly Casting- have Fronton, will cast.

Fronton rod m.fauvet-TLC 23-2-15last weekend was spent in the Basque region of Navarra, Spain with friend, casting instructor colleague and someone i could consider to be my mentor in these fly casting shenanigans, Carlos Azpilicueta.
the weather couldn’t have been any worse (well, technically it could have been much-much worse) but trying to figure out some intricate casting stuff while there’s very strong wind gusts, rain mixed with slush snow and the consequent quite low temperatures that make slush snow while having fun and working on casting repeatability just doesn’t do it. having the option of hanging out at the local café and just talking about it was the first plan but all of a sudden an indoor fronton appeared out of the sky giving us the opportunity to do some actual swishing and slinging instead of blowing hot air and getting the jitters from too much coffee.
when i was living in Sweden i had had numerous casting sessions in the enormous indoors sports arenas that are in just about every town or city. the biggest i saw was able to have four simultaneous full-sized football/soccer games going on at the same time. that’s big. way too big.
our little fronton/basketball/multi-sport complex was a much more intimate affair, just perfect for anything except for the long-longest competion-style distance casts. i couldn’t care less about comp-style distance casts anyway so this was a real treat on several accounts:
– not being able to cast far forces one to cast at closer distances. i know, that’s an obvious ‘duh… ‘ but ! take some casting geeks to a big field and nine out ten times they’ll instantly peel all the line off their reels and try to cast it all and even if generally speaking, distance casting makes for better overall casting, that isn’t the complete picture.
– although we may bring our own cones, hoops, measuring tapes, golf balls or whatever to a field, we tend to place them, work on a few casts and challenges/games but there’s a horizon and that horizon always seems to beckon that full line again and we’re back to square one.
– this fronton, apart from being indoors protecting us from all the weathery crap had two distinctive features that made it all the more special and productive and they where both on the floor. first, the surface was incredibly slick (not slippery as in sliding and falling over when moving about but in the sense that the fly line had much less grip than field or artificial grass might give). this made for a perfect manner to study, observe and demonstrate the effects of the anchor for roll casts and Speys by effectively removing the anchor from the equation while still getting good casts. not only that but it was yet another perfect way to demonstrate and disprove the too often common notion, that the anchor loads the rod. (it doesn’t because it can’t. more on that in another post)

– the other and real eye-openning feature to this super-slick floor was that we could execute and demonstrate all sorts of casts on the floor itself similar to what several colleagues such as Aitor Coteron and Lasse Karlsson have been demonstrating with bead chains to great effect but this time, with real fly casting equipment: a rod, line and leader/fluff combination.
to be perfectly clear, i have the highest respect and gratitude for all the work my friends have done with bead chains and they’ve contributed enormously to the contemporary understanding of fly casting but there’s always been something missing, something always nagging me in the back of the mind and that mostly has to do with tapers or, different weight distributions along the whole fly line/leader/fly system. bead chains have a continuous mass and profile from one end to the other whereas our lines, leaders and flies don’t. in a nutshell, tapers make fly casting easy(er), predictable and get the job done. anyway, in my opinion the slick floor and real kit can only make any experiment or demonstration a bit more realistic. if nothing else, we’re using equipment that any fly fisher can really relate to and not something that seems to always get in the way when we’re trying to brush our teeth.

different loop shapes; tight, open, loop-fronts rounded or pointy, big uncontrolled loops and tailing loops where a breeze to execute and we could show them all in a slower-than-normal fashion making for an easier way to study them. if we underpowered the cast the loop would not completely turn over but retain the loop’s shape giving us a real-time casting drawing or video pause effect as if they where suspended in mid air. very cool.
we can’t do any of that or rather, lets say that its a lot more difficult to get the same results on grass because grass grabs the line, curves it out of shape because its irregular and nowheres near as smooth as this deluxe surface.
the darkish floor made for increased contrast with the bright orange lines making this all one of the best visual experiences i’ve ever seen or can imagine. i tried to film some of these casts but although it looked really cool to the naked eye, the low camera angle from head height didn’t do this justice. i’ll be back with a tall ladder next time to film them from above. can’t wait !

i’m fully aware at how geek this must sound but for someone like myself, this is extremely exiting stuff. its like several doors and windows opened and let in the light. of course, i want to learn more and more for myself because i crave this casting-geek stuff but a lot of those windows and doors that opened up will help my students see a bit more light as well because in the end, its all about sharing.

if we manage to not get distracted by unexpected phallic shapes, all these lines, lanes and curves open up a lot of casting-challenge possibilities. the mind’s the limit.
Fronton Floor 1 m.fauvet-TLC 23-2-15
trying to control a weighted and very air-resistant fluff-puff with a standard 6wt ‘trout-sized’ rod/line/small-fly leader: i’d say he’s damned good at it. of maybe more interest than casting overweighted fluff, we’ll notice how overall supple and fluid Carlos is when he casts. this makes for super-smooth casting that’s a real necessity with this kind of challenge but also translates to silky-suave-smoothness and line control when casting a normal fly. awesome !

and just another of the myriad game possibilities; keeping the fly line and leader on top of the white line. well, almost…fronton 3 m.fauvet-TLC 23-2-15

Single Hand Spey Casting- An Enlightening video

always on the research to find quality, inspiring casting videos to share here sometimes leads to real gems that don’t fit the quality and inspiring criteria at all and this one might be the gemmiest of them all.
i can’t decide whether this guy’s a very good actor or… so, let’s just take it for what it is, something funny to watch and just in case it isn’t a joke, lets be sure to completely disregard anything said or demonstrated. enjoy !

Fly Casting Practice- Controlling Casting Stroke Force

experience tells me that apart from improper wrist control, the second most common difficulty many fly casters struggle with is force application throughout the stroke and to be more precise, they use too much force. way too much.

there are several ways to create tailing loops and they all have to do with the rod tip dipping below the standard straight or slightly convex tip path in one manner or another but i’m firmly convinced as well as many of my instructor colleagues that the main cause is improper, too early or too much force application and often both are combined.
leaving aside for the moment that rod rotation (where most of the force is applied and the rod tip is going its fastest) should be done at the end of the stroke, today’s casting drill tip is about force quantity and to understand the point of the topic i’ll ask you to consider these two questions:
1) how many times have you seen a fellow angler drive their fly into the water surface (when that wasn’t the intended presentation) or make tailing loops or have the fly kick back or hook to one angle or another before landing ?
2) how many times have you seen a fellow angler cast a pile at the end of the line when they wanted a straight presentation ?
i’ll be very generous with no. 2 and give it an approximate 10%. even if that approximation is just a roundabout figure its quite obvious that there’s an overall higher tendency leaning towards the ‘more than necessary/too much’.

now, there are two methods to adjust how much force is being used:
– the first is the standard ‘do your normal cast’ and try to apply less force until its all nice and smooth with super control.
this a subtractive method. it may work and there’s nothing wrong with it but its a hard way as its much more difficult to ‘hold back’ and ‘unlearn’ an engrained movement, specially when its something we’ve been doing for a long time.
– the other method consists of doing the exact opposite, practising to cast lines that don’t turn over completely and ‘relearning’ to add a little more force, just what’s necessary to get the job done as we go along.
this is an additive method. one that’s quite easy to control because adding-on seems to correspond better to human nature than subtracting; we tend to ‘want more’ as opposed to ‘want less’ and its a method that works very well for people of all levels in all the various types of fly casting whether it be close/middle/long range, stream to sea, little to big flies and single or double handed.

since years ago i had been working on an almost exactly the same presentation cast -the Dunkeld Dump– (named after the city in Scotland where i first demonstrated this cast to a group of fellow casting geeks) and of course using it a lot for river fishing but it was only last year that i realised what a gem this was as a practice routine on its own when friend, colleague and super-caster Aitor Coteron wrote this article that set off so many lightbulbs: To straighten or not to straighten. That is the question.

here’s a slightly different full-on angle of this drill from one of last year’s casting-geek meets in Spain.

to conclude, just as mentioned in the link, i highly recommend doing this exercise at every practise session, preferably at the beginning.
to add some variety and improve one’s force control while still working on accuracy, a great thing to do is place cones, tennis balls or whatever at different distances, even in a zig-zag formation and place the piles on the targets in sequence. dump and enjoy !