Fly Casting films- An experiment in White

having recently aquired a decent video editor has lead to a lot of playing around, a lot of confusion, a lot of “what the hell, click that button to see what happens !”, a lot of D’Ohs ! and so far, at least one ah-ha ! and that ah-ha is visible in this little gif.

see, that’s a standard black carbon fibre rod but one of those random clicks magically turned it into a glowing white, extremely visible, just perfect for demonstrating how fly rods move throughout the cast, rod.
a lot of us casting instructors already have white or high-viz rods for just this purpose but the magic button brings the visibility up several notches, really attracts the eye and will enable me to get the same after-the-fact high-viz rendition with anyone’s rod making this gizmo a super-nice tool to demonstrate and analyse anyone’s casts. yup, that’s all quite geek but i’m a casting geek… so i’m also quite excited ! as this magical surprise gives me lots of ideas for upcoming casting videos which is why i got the editor for in the first place.

technically, i’m somewhat of a digital editing newb but the old-school photo student in me tells me the rod turned white through some kind of solarization. why the magical button decided to reverse the tone of just the rod and not other similar dark tones is a complete mystery but one i’ll live with as i love a world filled with an equal balance of magic and science.
as for the cast, this is just some old random footage used for the editor-learning process. the seemingly random rod wiggling is a C pick-up towards the left followed with an aerial Snake roll to the right. being a metre or so above the water level doesn’t help to get an ideal anchor but it worked just fine. besides, casting just for the sake of casting is always fun and rewarding. funny thing with this one is the reward came several years later.

SloMo Spey

from 2013’s Nordic Fly Casting Championships here’s a little slomo ballet gem staring buddy, colleague and super-duper caster Magnus Hedman from Sweden doing a left-hand up single Spey with an 18′ rod.
we don’t get to see the line fly but the emphasis here is body movements and coordination. judging by a lot of little details such as body weight shifting, the D-loop’s position and what seems to be a perfectly placed and very short anchor it’s a fair bet that line went far… enjoy !

 

don’t be surprised if the Hedman name sounds familiar as we’ve seen brother Fredrik’s wicked ‘Crouching Tiger’ single-hand distance style a while back. bad-ass casting genes in this family are rather strong…

Fly Casting- The Foundation Casting Stroke

before anything else, i want to extend a great big thank you to Jason Borger for sending me this video to share here on TLC ! first described in drawing form in his seminal book Nature of Fly Casting, today’s treat is as far as i know, the first animated rendition of the Foundation Casting Stroke.

let’s first have a look at the video in ‘real time’. enjoy !

ok, with all the other styles of fly casting around what makes this so special ? there are several aspects.
– firstly, as opposed to most other styles i can think of (with the exception of say, the 170° or other distance competition-specific methods), the FCS is the only stroke/cast/line path that all works in one plane.
as a reminder, most other styles are somewhat based on a more elliptic stroke. some more, some less elliptic but the main result is typically a back cast where the line travels behind the caster beneath the rod tip or at least much lower than the subsequent forward cast.

lifting the elbow literally ‘lifts’ the line over the rod tip.

JB 'Pistoning' FCS
its purpose is to track throughout the stroke as true as possible which means effectively having a higher BC trajectory keeping the line and fly away from obstacles and also a greater degree of fly placement precision.
– the FCS necessitates the full use of the caster’s arm. the stronger shoulder joint and muscle groups do most of the ‘work’, the quicker-to-move elbow adds a bit of speed and rod butt angle change to the stroke and the wrist and fingers finalise both speed-up and stop of the rod butt while refining the movements the bigger/stronger groups initiated.
this ‘big to small’ approach not only makes perfect sense bio-movement-wise but also greatly reduces the risk of injury, discomfort and fatigue.
– actively engaging the whole arm during the strokes and particularly the up and down ‘pistoning’ motion of the elbow makes getting a narrow and/or super-controlled loop thanks to SLP ‘Straight Line Path’ of the rod tip a piece of easily repeatable and consistent cake. among all the aspects of the FCS, that alone should get most casters interested.
another aspect i find invaluable to the FCS is it prevents what i term ‘arm laziness‘. this laziness is common amongst casters of all levels for what might be one of a million reasons but one thing i’ve noticed throughout the years is it’s often the root of many problems. to put it another way, exaggerated arm movement rarely leads to anything worse than a bigger than normal loop whereas not enough or just-at-the-limit movement very easily leads to casting nasties.

is the FCS the end-all of fly casting ? no and yes. it most definitely is not the kind of cast we’d want to do when casting big, heavy flies or teams of flies and most casting styles don’t rely on casting in a single plane to be effective and people definitely catch fish without casting the line over the rod tip.
learning the FCS however takes our casting game to a whole other level. once we’ve assimilated it to our bag of tricks we’ll be a more complete and therefore more efficient caster. it’s well worth the extra play/work to get this one down pat.
as a final note, i personally don’t consider the FCS in the least bit to be a purely vertical overhead style. we can use the exact same elbow up-and-down ‘pistoning’ as Jason calls it to any other plane in various degrees from completely horizontal and from one side of the body to the other by simply replacing the up-and-down movement of the elbow to one that goes out-and-in. as a supplement to this article, i’ll try to make a video of the ‘out and in’ motion in the near future.
for more on the SLP aspect of the FCS click here HOW STRAIGHT IS STRAIGHT LINE PATH ? and check out the comment section.

here’s  a slomo gif that’ll hopefully help to completely assimilate this all-important movement.

JB's FCS 303fps slomo

i’d like a mention that Jason’s upcoming book Single-Handed Fly Casting is in the photo/drawing stage and that the list for the 1001 signed and numbered copies is filling up quick. be sure to click HERE to reserve your copy soon, the casting world’s been waiting for this one and i’d expect them to go fast…

Fly Casting- The Anchor does Not load the rod.

IMG_0977.JPG

when talking about rolls or Spey casts how many times have you heard that it does or that we load the rod against the anchor ?
probably many, many, many but all those manys are wrong because the anchor can not load the rod, it’s as simple as that. let’s see why this beastie doesn’t have any magical properties, its real role and why we use it.

because slomo videos don’t lie and have the wonderful habit of debunking myths here are two eye-opening videos from Aitor Coteron with a few words first to guide you along.
– firstly, take note of the equipment and location used for this demonstration. the rod is an Echo MicroPracticeRod with its synthetic rope and yarn line and the hallway’s floor is like most hallway floors; super-slick.
in other words, the rope/yarn/floor combination offers so little grip that it’s almost irrelevant to bring up any notion of a ‘real’ anchor. i’m a dummy when it comes to physics but the only conceivable ‘anchor’ i can think of in this particular case would be gravity’s effect on the yarn and considering its mass that can’t amount to much.
i can’t put any figures to this but let’s just say that an equivalent anchor on water and its subsequent surface tension gripping qualities would be hundreds or maybe thousands of times more than this kit on this floor yet the cast works perfectly.

– as noted in the video, we’ll easily see that the anchor doesn’t move until the rod is already fully loaded and if it isn’t moving it’s because there’s no tension on it: it’s not being pulled.
if we where loading the rod against the tension of the anchor, line tension would need to start and continually increase before the rod could start to bend.
line tension is gained and the fly leg only seriously starts to move backwards in the direction of the D-loop once the cast is completed.

now that that’s done and over with and hopefully the notion that the anchor loads the rod is wiped from the slate for good, let’s consider what the anchor actually does when we’re on the water and why we need it.

the anchor’s functions are twofold and interrelate. it prevents the line end/leader/fly combo from swinging back behind the caster where it might snag something or someone while simultaneously allowing a more efficient cast because there’s a loss of line energy efficiency if part of that energy is going in the opposite direction of the intended cast. in other words, we’re pulling the line in one direction (forward) but part of that line needs to go in the opposite direction (backward) before it can turn around and go towards our target and that’s no good.
when performed on water, even if there’s a very slight reversal of the line end going backwards towards the D-loop it’s negligible compared to a slick surface. (we see this on slomo video analysis, it’s not impossible but not so hard to see this slight reversal on water with the naked eye if we look carefully)

just to give another perspective to the smooth-floor casts here’s another sample filmed from the side.

ok, with that said we’re left with the obvious question: what am i loading the rod against if it isn’t the anchor ?
well, that’s easy. it’s exactly the same principle as when we’re doing aerial casts, we’re loading the rod against the combination of the rod itself (its actual physical weight and swing weight ) and the weight of the line outside of the rod tip except for one difference, with rolls and Speys the effective line weight we’ll be using isn’t all of the line outside the rod tip but only the rod leg- A and B through C. the fly leg- C to D doesn’t contribute significantly to the loading process.
here’s further clarification on this last point from Aitor:
“Just another common misunderstanding is that the anchor + fly leg of the D loop don’t load the rod because there is very little mass in that part. That isn’t the reason. The fly leg doesn’t load the rod because it isn’t accelerated by our stroke: no acceleration = no force; no action on the fly leg = no reaction from it on the rod.”
from the second video above Side View “See how the anchor starts sliding when the stroke is almost finished. And this even on a polished floor and with a very short line between loop apex and “fly”. If the anchor doesn’t move is because nothing is pulling it.”Spey D-Loop & Anchor
the anchor D to E is disregarded which goes to explain why we don’t take into account the weight of sink tips when we’re figuring out line weights for Skagit or other shooting head line systems.
having most of the weight near the rod tip A to C also explains the typical profile of just about every Spey line there is.

and here, the very significant contribution by Grunde Lovoll.
“in another discussion on Aitors wall I was challenged to elaborate on
this statement:
“The main benefit of the anchor is preventing the fly leg from going
“backwards”. _That_ effect actually lowers rod load, since greater
velocity difference in fly- and rod-leg would result in more line
tension…”
The statement above has two claims about anchors in
roll-/spey-casting (from now on spey-casting).
1) The main benefit of the anchor is that it “stops” the fly-leg from
going backwards (i.e. in the opposite direction of the cast being
made).
2) In roll casting a slipping anchor will in fact give higher line
tension in the loop than a static anchor, and thus more rod loading.
Before I explain these two claims I would like take a step back and
talk about line tension and rod loading. Frankly I think that the
focus on rod load is causing a lot of confusion and it is anchored
(pun intended) on the “false believe” that the main driver in casting
is the rod giving back potential energy when it unloads. This may
explain why people think the anchor is responsible for rod load; a
slipping-, crashed-, skew-, misplaced-, whatever-anchor is indeed bad
for your cast; therefore the conclusion is that it also is crucial for
rod loading (which we all know is complete and utter bullshit, yeah
English is also my second language).
Now we also know that what’s loading the rod is line tension. This is
off course also correct (ignoring self loading, air resistance and
gravity), but what isn’t correct is that the tension is the same along
the whole line. This is only correct in some static cases, if the line
(or parts of the line) is accelerated the load is not the same along
the line. In the D loop of a spey-cast the tension is highest at the
rod tip and decreases as we move (along the rod leg) towards the loop
(because the line pulls on less and less accelerated mass). The
tension in the loop itself is caused by the moving rod leg, and it is
given by the momentum change in the loop. Change in momentum as the
line is accelerated from fly- to rod-leg. It can be shown that the
tension in the loop is proportional to the velocity difference of the
fly and rod leg. So as the speed of the rod leg increases the tension
in the loop also increases. This tension from the loop then pulls on
the fly-leg, and the higher tension from the loop, the higher will the
acceleration of the fly leg be.
Now we can discuss the initial two claims.
1) The purpose of the forward stroke is to get enough inertia/energy
into the rod leg so that it is able to lift the fly-leg up and forward
and still have enough energy to unroll the line and get it nice and
straight. Any line mass moving in the opposite direction is therefore
bad for the cast as it takes energy out of the cast.
2) This statement is in essence explained above. The tension in the
loop is proportional to the speed difference between the fly- and
rod-leg. A slipping anchor gives higher speed (in the opposite
direction) of the fly leg. Thus higher tension in the loop and higher
tension in the rod leg. Now; this effect is probably very small, since
the tension in the loop is small, and any benefit on rod loading is
canceled by the backwards moving fly-leg.
All in all the tension in the fly-leg is quite small in all
spey-casting, and focusing on it and how it affects rod loading is
therefore quite a diversion for understanding what actually goes on in
spey casting. Also; Aitor has brilliantly demonstrated exactly this
in many of his casting videos, so nothing new here… “

and that’s about it !  if you’re still sceptical about the anchor thing go out and try this slick floor experiment for yourself with your standard rod and line, it’s a no-brainer.
to add to that you could always consider that although not exclusively, many of the International Federation of Fly Fishers casting instructor exams are performed on grass and the roll and Spey tasks may be done there as well. i and many of my colleagues have done both the basic instructor and master level exam without water and have performed spot-on rolls and Speys without a ‘proper’ anchor. why so many have passed their exams on grass and continue to ascertain that the anchor loads the rod is beyond me… but that’s another story i guess.

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- Dual personalities psychedelically hauled and non-hauled.

created a while back by some casting-tech geek on a casting-geek forum and slomoed and giffed for your over-and-over pleasure, this little film originally created by the Jason Borger – Grunde Lovoll duo at the Fly Casting Institute was made to show the casting stroke difference between a hauled and non-hauled cast and if i remember correctly,  the whole idea here was to show that contrary to popular notion, there wasn’t a whole lot more added rod bend to the hauled cast.
the guy in red is hauling, the same guy in green isn’t.  we’ll notice a remarked similarity between the two strokes but, as good as some casters may be and Mathias Lilleheim, the caster performing in the video is definiteley one of the more than good ones, humans simply aren’t machines. our motion repeatability skills can’t compare to those of say a robot meaning that to this guy, its not a fair comparison and not something i would use to come to any conclusions.

so with that in mind, lets forget all about the tech stuff and get to the important:
even when its not overlayed and high-teched and whatnot, fly casting; watching a line fly back and forth through the air is not only a thing of beauty but its also a trippy thing. fancy colours or not, it’s psychedelic or rather, can expand consciousness in a rather mild and safe manner that doesn’t necessitate any imagination additives and this, whether we’re doing it ourselves or watching someone else. i’ve often had feedback to this effect by people who have never picked up a fly rod themselves or who have never watched anyone cast previously and its this last part that mostly explains why i feel what i feel when casting: a strange sensation of expansion that has nothing to do with the one happening at my waistline.

i do hope you’ll enjoy this little rod-weilding visual escapade. beyond the hauled – non-hauled aspect its exemplary casting and the flashing lights in the background well… make the whole thing all that more special.

Dual-Personality Psychedelics M.Fauvet:TLC