as the title suggests, this technique has several names but in my heart it’s the Wiggle and since i like things that wiggle… i’ll stay with the jiggly moniker !
just as in Pavel Kupstov‘s description and super-excellent video below, its main purpose is to easily and very quickly shake/fling off water from a waterlogged dry fly or emerger during the backcast lift without having to bring the fly back to dry and/or treat it with more floatant or powder.
as we’ll see in the slow-to-fast sequences in the video, the Wiggle sheds most if not all residual water on one single backcast enabling the angler to complete the cast and present the fly with one p/u and lay down instead of having to whip the line back and forth, false casting to get the same result.
how does it work ? just as with a standard casting loop, most of the water is shed when the fly goes from one direction to its opposite direction (back to front/front to back) but in this case, there’s a whole lot of direction changes before going into the actual backcast loop and this latter one finishes flinging off whatever water was left. pretty ingenious when you think about it.
the Wiggle also sheds water from the leader and fly line, something that will greatly help when using a silk or textured line and furled or braided leaders but ‘standard’ mono leaders and plastic fly lines aren’t immune to ‘water retention’ either.
in both cases, fly and line(s) won’t be spraying fish-spooking residual water droplets upon presentation, something to keep in mind in slower flowing pools or stillwater.
as for this pick up’s history and other names, i have no idea if other authors have talked about this p/u method previously but Joan Wulff writes about it in Fly Casting Techniques and Jason Borger in Nature of Fly Casting.
Joan calls it Horizontal Humps and Jason, Wiggle Pick Up. i might have missed it but interestingly, neither one mentions the p/u’s fly-drying attributes as its described as a way to effectively pick up fly and line from vertically oriented snaggies like grass and brush without, well, snagging them so there you go, yet another reason to add this technique to your bag of tricks.
as for how-to’s, wiggling is pretty straightforward but i always advise to start off the lift with the arm extended, rod tip pointed directly at the fly and start wiggling as you’re drawing the elbow back towards you whilst lifting the rod tip and then going into the backcast propper. this avoids ‘running out of casting arc’, leaves more space and time to get it all done correctly and smoothly and generally leads to a better backcast loop. Pavel’s one of the finest casters there is and despite that we’ll see backcast loops that aren’t picture-perfect but that’s not important as long as we don’t lose control of the line and flop it around.
last note: in her same Pick Ups chapter Joan also writes about a variant; Vertical Humps. basically the same thing but instead of wiggling (humping?) left and right, the waves are created by jiggling the rod tip down and up during the lift and since it doesn’t really matter which plane the waves are going, there’s yet another option for you.
there might be more but i can only think of one potential minorly negative aspect: all that spray goes straight towards the caster but then humping usually involves some kind of, ehhhh, nevermind….
was a lot more interesting than what was inside.
last time i visited the small town was about three lives ago, not having noticed neither the shop nor the little dust-riddled sign in the window stating fly fishing and tying tackle until today.
i hadn’t been planning on doing any shopping but you know, a fly shop is a fly shop and… ya just can’t walk by pretending you’re not hopelessly addicted and always seem to need something you probably already own but forgot about, and, and, and, of course, creaked the old door open, walked in, said bonjour and enquired about the fishy stuff.
’round the back’ grunted the old man.
round the back went this guy only to find what has become the norm in any fly shops within at least a three (perhaps five ?) hour drive from home: mounds of dust on really-really old supplies that where pretty much crappy low-end fluff when they where new ten, twenty, thirty years ago but hey, that’s more than fine.
no expectations means no hurt feelings. in a sense it was like visiting an abandoned museum and i got to breathe in some really nice old-world dust. for free. what a great find.
～ Friedrich Nietzsche
the original version might have been about voids but intentional misquoting is where it’s at, man.
a very dark day needs some light to balance it out. this article cum memoir kindly sent in by Mark Surtees gleams with childhood fears that turn to admiration, magic, the realisation and appreciation that fly fishing is a lot more than just catching fish and most importantly, at least in my eyes, how we as sharers or teachers share and teach our passions. all too often, the what takes over the how but as with light and darkness, one doesn’t really mean anything without the other.
thanks again Mark for giving our readers another gem to reflect on and enjoy.
Was it for fun as a kid on holiday or day trip? Perhaps it was in adolescence to distract you from a life of petty criminality, a developing meth habit or a wicked and dangerous career out on the cultural edge in politics, accountancy or law. Maybe it was as an adult just to help de-stress. Whenever it was, the chances are, one way or another, you were actively taught to fish. Very few people pick up fishing tackle of any description without encouragement and brief instruction from a third party.
My Grandfather taught me. Over cold fishless winters he would sit, black suited, in his high back chair, smoking bitter navy cut cigarettes, sour as wormwood, silent, waiting. Sometimes he looked at me with his old crow eyes and I wondered if he would lean forward and peck out my soul…..he didn’t, but I was only six years old and very, very afraid of him.
One spring, when the grasses were still flat from the snow and the primroses bloomed on the banks, I went with him to fish the local river. We sat among the streamside flowers and I watched him tackle up. He cast a beaten up bamboo rod with a broken tip that was patched with a short length of brass tubing, a greased kingfisher silk line and flies from an old mock tortoiseshell fly box which contained a few nondescript patterns he had tied himself long ago. I could see his fly land on the surface of the water, float a little, then disappear as a trout rose amongst the ripples in the run and took it.
For an impressionable little boy it was an act of unimaginable and astonishing magic, a fish conjured seemingly from nowhere. This relatively simple, deliberate and entirely expected catch on the part of my Grandfather caused a radical and entirely unexpected transformation in my childish opinion of him. I moved instantly from fear to fascination. I was six, he was a caster of spells, so I naturally concluded that he was, very obviously… a Wizard.
I begged him to teach me the magic, and, as I grew up, he did. It was of necessity an inexact, imperfect, ad hoc sort of instruction but it was a gift from Grandfather to Grandson of almost inestimable value. I think he knew that…me? I had no idea and he died long before I realised.
Of course we all know that magic tricks do not happen by accident. They are repeatable, infused with purpose and completely within the control of the magician. Their objective is to deceive, just as ours is to deceive a trout in the stream when we fish.
Whilst, hopefully, we do not seek to actively bamboozle our clients in quite the same way, our lessons too are not, in many respects, significantly different to a well executed trick. If we structure and objectivise them properly then we too may surprise, amaze and delight.
Useful objectives should be observably measurable as far as is reasonably practicable and when we pick them they should be within the power of the student to achieve.
Appropriate selection of these achievable objectives allows students to build a succession of small but consistent learning wins. Each win a learned skill and each learned skill used to develop a new one and/or reinforce an old one.
For an instructor teaching within a “whole, part, whole” schema, it becomes critical to select suitable objectives so that common faults can be actively taught out without introducing negativity to the process. By doing this, within reason of course, new skills can be made to compound and combine largely error free.
That there are objectives for a student is a given. What is not so obvious, or maybe just not so often admitted, is that there are personal objectives for the instructor too. Whilst we may all wear the ego boosting insignia of our qualifications, the official regalia and psycho-protective badgery cannot really mask the ghastly truth, which is that we all, (well, most of us), have the same wonky limbic system and full complement of cognitive frailties as everyone else. So, I too want wins because this gives me a sense of achievement and I know I will instruct better and my student will learn better in a teaching environment which is giving us both positive rather than negative feedback.
In this context, although we clearly need subsets of grimly practical casting targets, there is no need to be emotionally dry with more abstract over-riding aims. Instruction isn’t just about a perfect PULD (Pick Up and Lay Down) or tail free loop, a quintuple toe hauled Jelly Roll or a cast out to the backing knot, it’s also a little bit about making people feel happy.
As a goal, I have to admit that this is very easy to say, not as easy as I ever first imagined to achieve and very difficult to objectively measure. But, sometimes, just sometimes, when you have had to do your very best sorcery to make it all happen, when those casts pop out from the turmoil like my Grandfathers perfect little trout from the ripple in the run, when you are dancing in a monastery garden with a beautiful laughing woman or being hugged by a big beardy biker on a wet suburban rugby pitch when the lessons end, then, you feel happy…and I like that…my Grandfather would have liked it too I think.
Mark Surtees ☺
although not exclusively, fly fishing in the south of France and a lot of mainland Europe is generally done quite close to if not actually within smallish towns and villages. most of these images are of such waterfront areas, less than a backcast away. they’re also all iPhone images, maybe bridging the gap between the old and the new. i hope you’ll enjoy.