Bendy vs Stiffy – a study of fly rod action and casting mechanics

“My experience is that for a given line length (and weight) the caster uses almost the same stroke regardless of the action of the rod. Different rods certainly “feel different” but there is little or no “adjustment to or matching of  the stroke” going on.”
Grunde Løvoll

how many times have we heard or read that we need to change the casting stroke depending on a rod’s action ?
the typical explanation given is, for a slower rod we’ll use a slower stroke and a faster stroke with a faster rod.
well, this happens to be incorrect and is a classic example so common in the fly casting world where ‘what we think we do and what actually happens’ don’t meet up.

as we’ll see below, Lasse Karlsson has taped two very different rods together to cast them at the same time with two identical lines of the same weight rating. simultaneous loop formation, loop shape and loop speed are very-very similar with both rods.
if it weren’t for the excessive counter-flex/rebound (and it’s resultant waves of the rod leg of the fly line) produced from the slower rod’s heavier tip  it would be extremely difficult to determine which line was cast from which rod.
there is no adjustment of the casting stroke to achieve these equal results.

for the tech geeks, here’s the equipment info from the video-

“Two rods cast at the same time, same line on both, and same line length.
Bendy rod: Berkley Grayphite 8 feet 5/6
Stiff rod: Sage TCX 690
Line: Rio tournament Gold 5 weight
To make up for the difference in length, the rods where taped together so the tips where aligned.
The berkley rod is 75% glassfiber and 25% graphite, has an IP of 97 grams and a AA of 65 (so really according to CCS it’s fast ;-)) and a MOI of 76
The sage is full graphite, has an IP of 167 grams, an AA of 74 and a MOI of 70

Several things to learn about tackle here.”

and one of them is that a lot of ‘experts’, many rod designers and people in the tackle industry just blindly repeat what they’ve heard without giving it any thought and don’t seem to try these things out on their own, specially when they’re so simple to observe.
thank goodness for people like Lasse, Aitor, Grunde, and a host of others who don’t live in a box.

EDIT: someone asked what would happen if there was more line out of the rod tip and Lasse shared a variant of the first test, this time extending line whilst double-hauling.
the quick answer is: nothing different than if it had been done with only one rod/line. the casting stroke widens, the pause lengthens and every other aspect of a basic cast remains the same.
see for yourself.

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51 thoughts on “Bendy vs Stiffy – a study of fly rod action and casting mechanics

  1. very interesting. yet sunday, considering my stroke was too jerky (too much power + improper application), Steven Kamp made me cast with his ZXL. the change of rod induced quite a dramaqtic change in loop form. the TCX was relatively forgiving with me (:loving sigh:) but the ZXL reacted to my jerks by producing a total mess.
    I actually thought that it was a very valuable exercise for correcting my faults.
    Is that compatible with the claims above?

  2. last time I checked, no.
    maybe you mean I ha already changed my stroke. possible. but usually (one of) the problem(s) with beginners is that they tend to stick with their bad habits.
    it seemed to me that the same faulty stroke on a different rod resulted in a very different loop, and the whole point of the exercise was to use the different rod as a magnifier for my particular faults.
    maybe the difference become important on border conditions. maybe Lasse’s flawless casting stays reasonably within the operative conditions for both rods, but pushing harder would make fail.

  3. well, i guess that’s good news… 😆
    what i meant by ‘machine’ was that you, or i, or anyone is usually wrong in how we think we move.
    the biggest error is thinking that ‘my stroke’ is always the same. it isn’t and it isn’t for any caster of any level.
    the Paul’s, Mikes and Whoevers of this world don’t always cast far without screwing up and beginners don’t always make ‘wind knots’. it’s actually the other way around in both cases.
    we’re not machines, more on this later.

    do you think Lasse’s experiment would be any different and yield different results if it was a different caster ?

    • I’m not sure.
      I’m under the impression that if I had done a similar experiment with a tcx/zxl tandem sunday, I would have produced quite different loops (on a 20m pu&ld). I may be completely wrong, of course.
      but then what would be the difference in feel, if not the fact that the rod reacts differently to what you do?

      I totally agree that we are poor judges of our own motions (and some — me — poorer than others). that’s why I think instruction is useful whatever your level.

  4. I can’t. firstly because I have none of these rods, secondly because I’ve become the very incarnation of smooth power application.
    jesting aside, woudn’t you agree that some types of stroke just don’t work on certain rods?
    isn’t that the phenomenon explaining our preferences ?

    • of course not, a rod is a rod and the exact same principles needed to move a line apply to any rod.
      i guess you’re missing the whole point of this experiment. how else can i help ? lemme know. 🙂

  5. if the rod reacts differently, then I need to adapt to it. I can’t see how the rest doesn’t follow
    it seems I have to think more.

  6. I think it’s safe to say he’s not ^_^
    but sometimes the difference increases with the power you use. maybe here Lasse is well within the zone where the rods react similarly. pushing farther would perhaps be revealing

  7. Lasse is using a somewhat longish stroke.
    I can think of two very differently actioned rods, a short stroke that suits the fast one with the amount of line in play… and a tailing loop produced by the slow one.

    • that’s exactly what Mark, Mike and Steve were trying to have me do: longer smoother stroke, while mine was short and jerky. the tcx could cope with it, not the zxl.

      • a bit more time with the ZXL and you would have been casting it just as well. it doesn’t really come down to the rod, does it ?

    • hi Aitor,
      sure, and there’s probably more to add to the list if we include different casting styles as well.
      an experienced caster (and one who likes to play around with possibilities) can go against a lot of ‘rules’ and still get good results.
      the point i see in Lasse’s video (and i think is quite clear) is that we don’t HAVE to change stroke for a ‘normal fishing cast’ at a ‘normal fishing distance’. (just read and don’t comment on the last part, ok ? :mrgreen: )

      • Yes, I mostly agree. But I also have the impression that we have a preferred casting stroke that we use with different distances; we just adjust by using different accelerations and thus we cast with different line speeds.
        So it could happen that if our preferred stroke is a shortish one changing to a slower rod will most probably result in tails.

    • Agreed Aitor, Lasse is using a stroke length that suits the slower rod, The faster rod is of course still going to produce a fine loop.

  8. but if they’re already adjusting acceleration and don’t adjust their ‘preferred stroke’ they deserve those tailing loops ! 😎 😆
    but seriously, your (very correct) point brings up the issue that there shouldn’t be a ‘preferred stroke’ and this is probably the biggest issue i have with Hanneman and his narrow-minded views…

  9. I have a student who taught himself in his back yard, which was 80 feet long and he stood in the middle. For 2 years he threw 40 foot casts until he became a pretty good caster at 40 feet. Its been just about impossible to lengthen his stroke to deal with even 50 feet. I see it a lot.

  10. Ok, somebody tell me the combination that will produce two different loops, one good and one tail. I’ll get that film it and post it.
    I’m willing to bet it won’t happen!

    • It is dangerous to bet when you are around, Lasse 🙂

      I changed my view about this issue when I started filming and studying creeping.
      These are very interesting experiments. IMHO they lead to the concept that only bad application of force is responsible for tails, just narrowing the angle (like when creeping) doesn’t produce a tail if the acceleration is nice and progressive.

      • Sorry Marc, Lasse is right! 🙂

        Incidentally that is the reason of so much “cheating” when demoing tailing loops.

  11. Hi Aitor

    About 6-7 years ago, Rick Hartmann wrote something similar, and I agree with both of you 🙂

    Still, it’s a bet I’m happy to loose I can only learn something new.


    • You will have to wait for another occasion to lose 🙂

      By the way, a very recent video shows a good “tail by creeping” demo in which the casting angle has been kept the same. However I tend to appreciate a burst of acceleration at the end of the tailing cast. What do you think?:

  12. Thanks Marc, but my contribution hasn’t been a great discovery if, as Lasse has said, Rick H. had noticed something wrong with the mainstream view of these issues way before me 🙂

    I will go on with my work but away from the buzz of public forums 🙂

  13. Hi Aitor

    Can’t see the clips, get an error loading…

    Most things have been said before, no need to hide, you are very good in distilling things, and that is needed! Besides you will be missed!

  14. Ok, seen it… Tail comes from burst of force, and is accentuated by the pronounced swoop at the end of the stroke… Good demo otherwise, I would ask to see it without swoop in a test though…


  15. To me it looks like you’re using a very wide “angle” for a 690 TCX loaded with a 5 Rio gold with that length of line Lasse. Thats going to cover any possible tails in the slower rod. To play around with rod bend and stroke length we’ve been using a 13 weight xi3 with a 3 weight line and a 5 weight glass rod loaded with a 10 weight line. If you used the angle necessary to get a half decent loop out of the 5 with the 13 it would go nowhere and vice versa. That soon sorts out concepts of matching stroke length and rod bend. Be interesting to strap those two together. We strapped together a 589 Circa and a 590 Method with a matching 5 weight DT line on both. Technical issues got in the way and I would like more separation between the 2 lines so will try it again with a slo mo camera. Very interesting exercise.

    • Hi Peter

      Does a 3 weight line move as fast as a 10 weight, and given the same speed for both, do they look similar when they go straight? If both answers are no, then how can you say anything about comparing the rods? If anything, one should minimize the possibilities of contaminating results 🙂

      And does the loop from the tcx seem unusually large to you?


      • The loop on the TCX does look larger than a loop you would normally throw on an under lined rod that is already stiff.
        No they don’t look similar, its impossible to make the 10 line on the 5 look like the 3 line on the 13. Not comparing the rods Lasse, comparing the stroke required with those rod and line combinations to throw the best loops you can with them.

  16. Hi Peter

    The rods overlined, Jerry Siem isn’t using it, I am, and I say it’s a 4 😉
    And I’m impressed that you would expect under 2 feet loop sizes, I really am!

    The original exercise, that the video’s above are showing is, that for the same line, different rod actions do not really require changes in stroke.

    Now you are comparing two very different lines on two very different rods, and make the statement that you have to make changes in stroke between them, and that the 5 with the 10 line never will get the same loop shape as the 13 with a 3… Different excercise. I still bet my stroke would look very similar throwing the best loops I could with those two rods, if you send them up, I’ll shoot the video 😉 And if we isolate one cast, the pick up, where there isn’t a difference in line layout from the previous cast, it will even show up cast at the same time 🙂
    That’s why I asked if they travel alike, the 10 will have more momentum than the 3, so they will most likely not straighten at the same time, and if they do, the 10 will most likely kick like a mule, making the line layout for the next falsecast very unpredictable.

    These are the loops on my soft 5 with a 10 weight line on it, I know I cheated and cut it up 😉

    And here with something stiffer than the Xi3 13 and a 5 weight line

    Stroke and loops seem pretty equal for the same linelength there 🙂


    • Very interesting Lasse. I need to make some clips, and to work on my acceleration using a 10 line on a soft 5 before doing that! I have a friend with a super slo mo camera. You think the 690 TCX is a 4????


      • Hi Peter

        I take the number above the handle as a guideline, and a invitation to experiment. I rarely use a 6 on it, mostly a 5, sometimes a 4 and sometimes a 9 or 10 🙂

  17. Yeah I like to play around with that sort of stuff too Lasse, especially the 3 on the 13, that is more fun than anything else I have ever cast with loops that would go through the eye of a needle and just keep on sailing through the air. I have been casting today with a 590 Method, a 589 Circa and an 8ft Redington Butter Stick in a 5 (glass, wicked wobbly thing until you tame it, a bit snakey really). All done with an orange DT Rio line in a 5 as well. My gut feeling is probably in line with what you say, the issue is compressing enough energy smoothly into a brief enough stroke with a slow rod to produce a clean loop. Its easier (smoother) of course through a wider arc and a longer stroke. But I’m not convinced.

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