Fly Casting- the Cunning-Ling

an Off-Tracking Curve Cast demonstration by ‘Doc’ CK Ling

to me, ‘Cunning-Ling‘ sounds a lot better than ‘Off-Tracking Curve’ but let’s just say that the latter gives us the idea that it’s a presentation cast and not something else…
i had come across this cast several years ago during line layout research sessions and it sure is nice to see someone perform it so well on video for all to see.
easy to do and easily repeatable, this short range curve cast works well with all leader and fly types. this brings it into the world of real fishing casts and not show-off ones that are of little if any use on the water.

anyhow, back to tracking and off-tracking:
we know that to cast a straight line we need to track the rod straight. this is what we call the 180° principle and it’s one of the hardcore foundations of fly casting. once we’ve learned to track and cast straight (and learned it well), the next step in the evolution of a fly fisher is to learn to go freestyle and be creative with what we previously learned and one of those, and in my opinion a very important one, is to learn to cast the line in voluptuous curves that will dazzle the fish. (well, the fish aren’t supposed to see any of this so not really but it’ll for sure put your ‘linear’ friends to shame and you’ll catch more fish and have more fun and satisfaction at the same time)
to do this we need to break away from the ‘2 Dimensional’ aspect of straight line casting and go straight into ‘3D’ mode because we’ll need to move the rod tip out of plane, what Ling refers to as Off-Tracking.
what we’ll see below is on the final stroke, the rod tip swings around behind him going from (his) left to right and this makes the line end up going from right to left after the casting stroke. when ‘off-tracking’, it’s good to keep in mind that line layout directions will be the reverse of what the rod tip did.
we’ll also notice that this and some other presentation casts take up a lot more aerial space to perform them, something we’ll need to take into account and check feasibilities before planning it’s execution.

another aspect i really like with this particular curved line presentation is that it’s composed of both a cast (the curved front part of the line is created during the casting stroke) and a mend ( the part of the line closer to the rod tip is repositioned after the casting stroke).
the mend part allows us to place the back part of the line judiciously to either avoid obstacles or to position it in an ideal manner to reduce or increase drag.
clever indeed and just another demonstration that there are a lot more efficient line layout possibilities than most fly anglers might think and all it takes is to break out of the box. (and a little practice !)

CK Ling is an IFFF-MCCI (International Federation of Fly Fishers-Master Certified Casting Instructor) from Malaysia. both Ling and Dron Lee are responsible for the UFO (United FlyAnglers Organisation) Malaysia (cool name) International Fly Fishing Festival. i was invited last year to demonstrate presentation casts but wasn’t able to go but the invitation still stands so…

20 thoughts on “Fly Casting- the Cunning-Ling

  1. none of us like to see how bad we are ! 😆
    if you have like-minded friends it’s always well worth getting together on a field and working things out.
    you can’t really practice well while fishing. (fish are just too distracting) :mrgreen:
    thanks for your comment Monsieur B and happy holidays !

    • hi Aitor, hope the two of you are enjoying the holidays !
      i guess we could see several things in the slo-mo, like quite a pronounced pause before the FC but mostly that the FC ends similarly to an under-powered curve.
      care to share your humble opinion of what you see ? :mrgreen:

      • What I see is what you see 🙂
        The cast seems to have the ingredients of an underpowered curve.

        So, it could be that if the caster gets rid of the off-tracking part the result is very similar. Maybe the off-tracking helps a little but not much.

        In fact a backcast way off the good tracking doesn’t necessarily gives a curve at the end, even with a longer line. I checked that in practice years ago when filming Bernd in slo-mo to see te effects of exagereted bad tracking

    • thanks, i thought you’d bring that video up… 😆
      the way i see it is although both vids are on the same subject and both very informative, they’re not really compatible (sorry, don’t know what other word to use)
      your video is showing us what bad (and let’s just say, unintentional) off-tracking does and Ling’s a demonstration of what intentional off-tracking can help us achieve.

      “Maybe the off-tracking helps a little but not much.”
      actually, i think it makes this particular cast much easier, consistent and a lot more accurate than a ‘single-plane’ underpowered cast. it’ll also work with some wind whereas it’s basically pointless to even try an UP if there’s any wind. to me, the underpowered is fine as an exercise in power application but not one of much use in actual fishing. (apart from a Perry Poke)
      there aren’t many situations where we could use it without lining the fish anyhow.. :mrgreen:

      speaking of, another thing i like about the Cunning Lee is the false casting/fly drying is done away from the fish. the only time the line goes near the fish is on presentation. 😎

  2. Aitor, here’s a little video i did years ago along the same idea as Ling’s. it’s mostly to show you the regularity of curve layouts and decent accuracy. (and my fancy filming technique ! :mrgreen: )
    the line was picked up over my left shoulder, swung around towards my right on the BC and delivered again on my left. the curved BC swing wasn’t as pronounced as Ling’s because i didn’t have a lot of aerial space but the result was fine.

  3. Yep, I know the technique since long ago: those of us who aren’t into distance casting have to find things to do (and I see those things much more interesting fishingwise) 🙂

    My point is that IMHO just off-tracking without some underpowering manouvers doesn’t work. But I will gladly change my mind if proven wrong.

    • you could also just sweep the FC in a curve. that doesn’t involve any under-powering.
      (sort of like Joan’s ‘Circles’ but with a laydown) does that make sense ?
      it would take 3 seconds to demonstrate in real…

      • Yes, I know and teach thattechnique of curving a line as well.
        But here we are talking about a curve resulting from an off-tracking backcast. And, again, my point is that the off-tracking part isn’t enough to make the curve.

    • I have noticed nothing else.
      I will shoot some slo-mo about this. What I think is that, for an off-tracking backcast to result in a curved lay out just by itself, we need a minimum length of line, a longish one to be precise (longer than what is normally used in presentation casts); with a shorter line bad tracking don’t result in such a pronounced curve… unless you put something else in play.

  4. To be more precise what I think is that, for off-tracking to produce a curve, the line must be long enough that when the forward casting stroke ends there is still a wave in the line. With a shortish length of line any wave due to a tracking fault disappears before loop formation.

    But I don’t want to bore your readers. 🙂

    • go on buddy, bore us to death ! 😆
      good stuff. it might also depend if the line is allowed to straighten on the BC before starting the FC or not ?

  5. Hi Aitor and Marc, thanks for the comments. It was just an off tracked back cast to accentuate a forward cast curve. Name was coined by Peter Hayes not me. Of course if you overpower the front cast you can straighten the line!
    It is an interesting exercise on what breaking the 180 degree rule can result in.

    • ah, i was wondering when you’d show up ! 😎
      like you, i feel that “accentuate” or “help to make the result easier” is what the off-plane BC does best. as noted, it’s not mandatory to get the same line layout but why make it any harder ? :mrgreen:
      thanks again for the cool video Doc. this cast and its description got my attention a while back on SL but somehow it never got shared…

      hope all is well for you and yours,

      ps- make more videos !

  6. Hi Aitor, surprisingly I noticed the effect of an off tracked back cast on the forward presentation cast while playing around with a shortish line 20 ft or so. The curve came of a straight line forward cast. You can exaggerate the curve with a curvy casting stroke.
    Cheers too!

    • Hi Ling,

      Would you try an experiment?

      Turn the off-tracking backcast into the delivery cast (presenting the fly with that backcast) and check whether if falls forming a curve. It should since the previous forward cast was off-tracking.


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