Fly Casting- Explaining the Double Haul

by Stefan Siikavaara

originally written in 2009, here’s an interesting approach on the subject that stands up well to time. intended for casting instructors, this ‘frame of mind’ or maybe ‘perspective shift’ should be of  interest for fly anglers of all levels.

when talking about or teaching the Double Haul we tend to simply say “it speeds up the line” and often just leave it at that. Stefan digs a little deeper and i thank him for it.

“You want to keep it simple while teaching, but this is sometimes easier said than done. While teaching you sometime get really tough questions from your students. I’ll give you an example: I’ve been asked a few times about what the doublehaul does to your cast

When I get this question all sorts of things go through my head. I am thinking about what I read in Mac Brown’s excellent book, Casting Angles. The haul is a necessity to master because it enables the caster to conserve energy throughout the fly cast. It entails putting all the various casting fundamentals together for a cumulative effect of attaining higher line velocity on the stream. The line hand pulls on the line. This causes the rod flex to increase which leads to greater rod deflection.

I am also thinking about a great essay in physics that doctor Grunde Løvoll published a while ago. Mr Løvoll’s findings show that the catapult effect, the actual unbending of the rod only equates to about 10% of the total line speed in a cast.

Among the other things that go through my head are a few of the traditional views of the double haul. That it increases the bend of the rod and that it also reduces slack line in the cast.

I am tempted to answer all of this. But as you already figured out, these explanations question each other. On some points they even contradict each other. And most importantly, handing this big package over to my student is not simple enough; therefore it is not good enough.

Let’s have has closer look at them. My conclusion of Mac Brown’s explanation joined with Løvoll’s findings is that the haul gives additional speed directly to the line. I like it, let’s leave it at that.

If I would go for the traditional view of the haul reducing slack in the cast I would risk planting a casting fault in my students head. Why is that you ask? Well, if there is slack in the line it would most likely manifest itself the most early in the cast, while the loop is unfurling or after the line has turned over. The idea of using the haul to reduce slack would incite starting the haul early. Well, if I start the haul early I risk finishing it too soon. And what would that give me? I run a considerable risk of adding a tailing loop to my students cast with that explanation.

So, all these things buzzing in my head and the student still waiting for an answer to his question: What does the double-haul do to my cast?

So what do I say? Do I go for the technical explanation or do I go for a traditional description? This student had not read all the literature and joined in on all the threads on the internet boards. He just wanted to brush up his casting for hunting seatrout down the Swedish coast.

No, instead I’ll choose an explanation by Lefty Kreh that I think sums them up: The line hand is the accelerator. You drive your car, you shift gears and you press the accelerator. You start your stroke, you speed up and then you haul.

Being able to abstract and condense a huge amount of information and different theories into a short and simple answer proves that you really know your stuff. Read everything, evaluate everything and learn from it all. But keep your explanations clean and simple. The mark of a great teacher as the late Mel Krieger is to make complex things simple. Use few words, use your body language, use examples that your student can relate to. Keep it simple.”

Fly Casting Secrets

or, what maybe used to be secrets but aren’t any more.

in fact, a lot of those secrets are now more than questionable but thats why i find this old gem from Jim Green filmed in 1975 to be just that: a gem to look at and listen to and be analysed by not just casting instructors but casters of all levels as there’s a little something to learn for everyone.
since i brought up ‘questionables’ here’s two and i’ll leave the reader/viewer to find other inconsistencies or whatever if such is your calling. i obviously don’t mean any disrespect.

– the Drift by “opening up the wrist” is called Rotary Drift and its rotating/domed/convex movement automatically opens up the loop by pulling the rod leg down.
its alternative is the Parallel Drift where the rod tip is drifted (gently directed) straight towards the unrolling loop. this movement lengthens the casting stroke, prevents the caster from creeping forward and all the other goodies one can get from drifting without changing the line’s course. easy to see which one’s better. more on the Drift from the Tim and Steve Rajeff bros HERE.

– point two is a bit subjective but its one i can’t stray from when analysing fellow casting instructors and it doesn’t have anything to do with what is being explained but how an instructor conveys the message.
to be honest, i can’t remember most of my teachers but the ones i do remember all had one thing in common; enthusiasm and they made it a contagious enthusiasm that got us interested even in subjects that where typically more than boring to us kids. i’ve seen far worse than Jim’s performance and he’s not bad at all, its just that he reminds me of teachers that drone on monotonously and also feel the need to include “you must” and “you have to” to get their point across instead of finding a way to teach without giving orders. i don’t expect fly casting instructors to put on a show or appear fake but i guess i expect them to at least look like they’re enjoying themselves because when they do, they transmit that enthusiasm and learning then becomes a joy and not a chore. i hope this will be taken as constructive criticism, a little something to keep in mind for anyone who shares our passion of fly fishing to others and not just a random rant.

enough ! here’s some vintage casts. enjoy !

as a side note, almost the exact rod and reel Jim’s using hangs on my wall doing what it does best: sitting pretty and doing nothing because to be honest, apart from being a physical, concrete memory of a wonderful moment in my life as a fly fisher, its not really good at anything else.
fenwick
nevertheless, its my first ever fly rod, a 7′ 6″ 5wt and one that i won in a fishing contest from the Fenwick company itself when i was thirteen after having caught an eight pound largemouth bass with a popper on a borrowed (Fenwick) rod. every few years or so i take it out for a cast or two and put it back where it belongs but the joy of having won it is still as strong as forty-one years ago.
who knows, since he worked there designing rods and such, it might have been Jim himself who decided to award me with this treasure. whomever it was i thank deeply because even if its not used, this rod and its history has kept me fly fishing ever since.

Fly Casting- Some thoughts on Instruction and Descriptions from Mel Krieger

an excerpt from The Essence of a Fly Cast – Mel Krieger via Christopher Rownes

words, words, words. we need them to teach fly casting but if they’re not carefully chosen they can lead to confusion.
for instance, a pet peeve of mine is Joan Wulff’s ‘Power-Snap’.
in my mind, and something i’ve often witnessed in person is, when described to a novice caster those two words connected together often result in too much power and too much snap: things that get them in trouble real quick.
another one is the infamous ‘stop’ which we’ve already scratched the surface on that deserves an in-depth article of its own but in the meantime, what this article mostly reminds me of is there’s two basic approaches (or maybe mental-frames) to how the rod moves and how it affects the line. i like to refer to them as-

Hand Centric and Tip Centric.

in the first case, instruction and casting movement is envisioned around what the casting hand does and in the second, what the rod tip does.
it goes without saying that the hand needs to move the rod butt to eventually make the rod tip move but i by far prefer to focus on what the tip is doing because it’s the rod tip that’s the final element affecting the fly line and this greatly affects our understanding of concepts such as the ‘stop’, rod bend/rod shortening, straight or curved line path, rod straight position, counterflex or: just about anything that has to do with the casting stroke. besides, thinking about your rod tip is a lot sexier than the usual dirty, ill-manicured hand…

needless to say i’m happy to see a similar hand/tip approach coming from a Top-Gun like Mister Krieger. i sure wish i could have met him.

Mel’s approach on this and a whole host of other matters remain some of the better ones i’ve seen and leaves a lot of food for thought. enjoy !

All fly casting, no matter how descriptive and analytical the directions and teachings, must finally conclude kinaesthetically – that is by feel.
The only way to learn this unique feel of casting a long weighted line with a flexible rod is to experience it; not unlike the learning process of riding a bicycle for the first time. Convincing or inspiring the learner to jump on the bike and go for it may well be the ultimate instructional mode. Casting a fly is identical, and again like riding a bike, virtually every person who is not severely handicapped can learn the timing and feel of fly casting simply by casting.
There is of course a place for other instruction even in this basic learning cycle that may help the learner focus his or her efforts and hasten that learning process. That would include analogies, visuals and key words and phrases, techniques that are also used for intermediate and advanced fly casters. Although most of these instructional tools are valid and useful to the learner, there are times when they can actually inhibit learning and possibly lead to serious casting faults. The following are some possible examples.
“Throwing a ball” is an excellent analogy for communicating the athleticism and fluidity of a natural throwing motion. It can, however lead to the use of too much wrist movement and a throwing motion that fails to utilize the bending and unbending of a fly rod.
Words like “whump,” “snap,” “flick,” “flip” and “pop” are commonly used to convey the feeling of bending (loading) and unbending a fly rod. Again, they are mostly good words, but often misconstrued to indicate a too-quick loading and unloading of the fly rod, resulting in a dip of the fly rod tip and tailing loops. Spelling whump with two or three “U”s – “whuuump” or possibly “snaaap” might be of help, especially for longer casts.
Phrases like “accelerate to a stop,” “speed up and stop” and “start slow and end fast” are common instructional tools that accurately depict the tip of the rod during a casting stroke. Many learners however, attempt to emulate those slow to fast directions with their casting hand, often with poor results. A more useful instructional phrase might be “a smooth even hand movement to a stop.” The result will actually be the rod tip accelerating throughout the casting stroke.
Another common phrase that has almost become a mantra in fly casting is “Applying power too early in the casting stroke creates a tailing loop.” This statement is actually incorrect. It is possible to apply maximum power in the beginning of a casting stroke. The key to a good cast is maintaining or even increasing the rod bend throughout the stroke. The real culprit in this tailing loop concept is unloading the rod too soon.


In the pull-through casting stroke, the casting hand precedes the rod tip through most of the casting stroke and the turnover and stop takes place only at end of the casting stroke.
Lay out 70 or so feet of fly line on a lawn behind you, fly rod pointing to the fly, and throw a javelin, turning the rod over only at the very end of the throw. You may be pleasantly surprised with this extreme pull through casting motion.

Let’s look more closely at a fly casting stroke. The first step in all fly casting strokes is “bending the rod. Significant movement of the line only takes place after the rod bend.
Starting a casting stroke too slowly, or for that matter too quickly, commonly results in a poor rod bend and an inefficient cast. Think of starting strong or heavy, forcing a bend in the rod as the casting stroke begins. A somewhat better description of a casting stroke might be “bend the rod and sling the line” or “bend the rod and accelerate to a stop”, or whatever words work for you following “bend the rod and …”. Casting the fly line from the water and changing the back and forth direction of the line helps to start the casting stroke with a good rod bend. Notice that many casters make their best back cast from the water. That’s because the friction of the water puts a decided bend in the fly rod early in the casting stroke! A roll cast however requires a more forceful rod bend as it does not have the loading advantage of a water pickup or an aerialized line between back and forward casts.

The roll cast can be an excellent entry to the unique feel that exists in fly casting. Forcing the rod into a bend and keeping it bent – finally unloading (stopping) in the intended direction of the cast – almost like putting a casting loop in the fly rod itself.

for the second part of this article: The Pull-Through click here

‘a matter of life and death’

Speyside, Scotland

 

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.

related articles

Lefty Kreh has Aids

adding to the ‘Fly Casting Instruction Analysis‘ series, here’s yet another example of what i consider poor casting instruction. it’s not that it doesn’t or cannot work because his method is used by many and i guess they’re happy, it’s the definitive ‘you must’ tone used to imply that his style is best. it isn’t and it can’t be because of it’s rigid structure and how it’s taught.

here’s why-

foot stance– beyond the obvious that very often we don’t even have a choice as to how our feet are positioned, (meaning that to be able to cast and fish efficiently without it being a chore or just to make it possible, we’ll need to learn to cast and fish in different positions.) Kreh would have us believe that there’s only one valid casting foot stance and his manner suggests that any other method is less efficient or a fault. he does point out the possibility of using a ‘squared’ or ‘closed’ stance but they’re referred to negatively when in fact each one has it’s advantages and disadvantages, furthering the notion that no one stance is better than another.
what he’s teaching is style and not substance but he’s treating it as substance.

thumb placement– i’ve already explained here why i believe the thumb-on-top grip is the least interesting grip to use but as also noted, there’s nothing wrong with it when we overcome it’s shortcomings, but once again, the person interested in developing their capabilities will include other grips to their repertoire.
wrist control– interestingly, twisting the wrist along the forearm’s axis is most prominent when side-casting, exactly what he’s teaching with the elbow-always-on-the-board method.
take away the board and we’re left with a much greater cause of improper wrist control: flexion.
take away the thumb-on-top grip and very often the excessive flexion disappears. interesting indeed.
as a side note and although not so easy to see, if we pay attention we’ll notice that he does indeed twist his wrist a little while casting. this doesn’t really fit in well with the explanations given. also, starting the cast with a high rod tip and it’s resultant slack in the loops doesn’t fit in with what i would describe as demonstrating a style very well either but i guess that’s not part of this style.
anyhow, again, what he’s teaching is style and not substance but he’s treating it as substance.

i’ll add a personal note here – reel weight and it’s effect on grip. (regardless of grip style)
if we believe that the reel should be in a fixed position relative to the arm’s movements we’ll need to apply more force on the rod grip to keep the reel in plane when we should be doing exactly the opposite: relaxing our grip as much as possible throughout the cast. as a reminder and generally speaking, the only time we should be tightening the grip is during the ‘stop’ sequence.

the shelf– wow, this is the big one that really demonstrates the narrow-minded rigidity of this method.
to achieve SLP (Straight Line Path of the rod tip), the elbow needs to be at first extended away from the body at the beginning of the stroke, then brought towards the body towards the middle of the stroke and then back out at the end. the board method indeed does this but why should the elbow remain on the same plane off to our side ?
how can we stay on the board while casting over the shoulder ?
what about roll casts and Speys ?
what happens if we don’t have a board ?
and more importantly, won’t i get splinters all over my arm by doing this ?!

in Jason Borger’s ‘Foundation Casting Stroke’ we have the exact same elbow out-in-out method but it’s free to move around on any plane. for vertical casting i often describe this elbow movement as ‘picking up the phone’, what Kreh teaches us is to ‘throw it away’… :mrgreen:
as for the “mental shelf”  i’ll just reverently bow to his creative imagination…
once again, what he’s teaching is style and not substance but he’s treating it as substance.

what this all points to is he has a method of teaching based solely on reinforcing the validity of his own method with the exclusion of others.
a good teacher observes the pupil and adapts to their needs and physical abilities and not the other way around.
a good teacher, while having his/her own preferred methods knows different methods and knows how to pick parts from one or another and combine them to suit the student’s needs. rigid teaching doesn’t leave this possibility.
a good teacher learns how to apply ‘band-aid quick fixes’ but doesn’t model their method around them.
a good teacher knows how to exclude his own ego from the lesson.

to sum things up, Kreh may have aids but i don’t find them very helpful.

get a grip…

starting off on what will be an ongoing ‘fly casting instruction analysis’  series, this one will be part of my studies on widely available tutorial videos and why they’ll usually induce the viewer to believe something that has been proven otherwise.
why does this bother me ? it bothers me because so many fly fishers are taking these free and abundant videos as references and as fact and these ‘facts’ are continuously propagated while being a great disservice to the angler desiring to learn how fly casting really works. the video below is just an exercise of self promotion, “my style is the only good style” and it’s riddled with inaccuracies such as:

– there is no such thing as one ‘proper grip’. grip choice is not a matter of substance but one of style. it’s a personal choice and the avid angler will learn which works best depending on their physiological abilities and the situation at hand (what they are trying to achieve),  which means that the avid angler will use several.
– “altering the grip” involves a little more than keeping the same grip and sliding the rod a little forward or little backward. it does indeed make for a shorter or longer ‘effective rod length’ but for maybe 99% of fly casters it’s just changing the balance point and nothing more.
– moving the hand forward on the grip does not make for tighter loops. a straight line path (SLP) of the rod tip does that.
– having the rod bend at the tip of the thumb is certainly possible but it involves a heck of a lot of force. possible yes for a very experienced caster but very unlikely in the short-accurate cast scenario described, specially when we consider that this video is intended for casters who aren’t ‘very experienced’. it’s safe to say the ‘more experienced’ would have already figured all this out long ago…
– “Some of the World’s best distance casters” don’t hold hold the rod near the bottom of the grip at all but towards the front. it’s interesting to make such bold statements without taking a few minutes to watch, as an example, World Championship videos so readily available on the net.
‘logic’ does point to the ‘longer effective’ rod length or longer lever being an advantage but practicality in the vast majority of cases points the other way around. if anything, personally, i would slide my grip towards the front for longer casts and towards the back for shorter and more intricate casts. i know i’m not the only one so, so much for his theory of ‘proper grip’.

to finish, i’ll add that personal experience has shown that excessive wrist use, probably the biggest problem to resolve in fly casting, is accentuated by the thumb on top grip. this happens on the back-cast where most are unaware of it because they never look back…
outside of the fact that we basically never throw anything with our thumbs pointing forward (which of course makes me wonder how this style ever came about in the first place), it’s not a bad grip but it’s one that needs to be controlled and controlled super-well to have consistent results.

to really finish today’s post, i’m not out to break someone’s back, specially when it’s apparent they haven’t studied much or have a lot of varied experience but contemporary fly casting instruction is about proven facts and not long-ago notions. expect more soon.