Fly Casting- The Wiggle / Horizontal Hump / Fly Dryer Pick Up

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….

“Hocus Pocus”

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.


Hocus Pocus
(Focus, 1972)

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 ☺

Fly Casting- A little more on the Double Haul

as a follow up to yesterday’s post Explaining the Double Haul, friend and instructor colleague Craig Buckbee a.k.a. EasternCaster offered a brilliantly simple addition, something every person of any level of fly casting can really benefit from by keeping in the forefront of the mind when practicing the double haul:

“The rod hand initiates the cast, the line hand finishes the cast”

that simple statement/mantra-to-be-mumbled-over-and-over actually says/implies a lot about great hauling form and great casting in general but there’s a few more things to add to this topic so i’ll just leave it at that for today and encourage you to not only try it out but also think about it for a while.


as for this somewhat cryptic image, here’s a minor tip that came in handy to help solve a little issue a casting student of mine had during a course a few months back. i know its a little off-the-shelf but if it can help someone else then it’ll be well, just great.

the situation: this gentleman had been falsley lead to believe for many-many years by a bunch of bozos that the double-haul was a ‘specialist’s’ technique only to be used by the elite to cast very far… and as a result and as primarily a river trout fisher, had never learned to haul but heard the contrary here and there and was keen to learn.
Krieger's Haul drill mono loop m.fauvet-TLC 5-1-16
by far, i prefer to have students use the type of gear they’ll be using in their ‘everyday’ fishing but he was having a little trouble getting the right feel and timing for the feedback so i pulled out my Mel Krieger Hauling Reel backup (it’s a shooting head with a mono shooting line – see the video below) and included Mel’s drill as part of the afternoon’s tasks.

this started off really well for those specific difficulties and after a few minutes they where almost a thing of the past however, whether it was his aging hands combined with the thinnish shooting mono or, 20-30 years of being used to slipping line through the fingers whilst false casting reflex, the end result was an excess amount of overhang after each casting cycle and as anyone who’s cast a shooting line knows, there’s only so much overhang possible before things start to get nasty, ugly and frustrating or in other words, this was turning into negative, unproductive time spent by the student.

since there’s no actual line shooting involved in this drill and after noticing how line slippage was quickly becoming the centre of his attention instead of the key elements (and also noticing how i was starting to sweat whilst trying to find a solution quickly… ) i decided to eliminate the impedment by cutting the shooting line at the correct overhang length and tie a simple loop knot that could be easily held.
line slippage became impossible, focus shifted back to the task and after a few minutes, the beginner hauler became quite proficient. enough so that when he re-installed his ‘normal’, thicker, non-slippery line back on the rod, everything went fine and dandy and the Mister left a happy-hauling camper.

in novels and movies i really like it when the hero gets her/his brains blown out or the couple ends by a grueling divorce but when it comes to casting lessons, a happy ending is always a win-win.

and as another happy ending, here’s Mel ! enjoy !

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- Practice with a purpose

shared here with Walter Simbirski’s kind permission.

Walter is an IFFF Master Certified Casting Instructor quite active in several fly casting discussion groups and today’s wise advice is taken from one of them. intended as a helping guideline for casting certification candidates, the very same advice is invaluable for any fly angler wanting to up their game.
most reading this won’t be preparing an exam so simply replace words like: exam with whatever fishing situation you’re working on- saltwater flats, high-altitude mountain streams or simply your favourite everyday fishing spot and switch the noted distances to the distances you’ll need and you’ll see that this advice indeed fills everyone’s bill.

we’ll instantly recognise that it’s all just common sense but we fly casters/anglers tend to be an easily distracted, unorganised lot… so, a little reminder can only help. enjoy !

ed_mosser_strobe_photo casting

“We’ve talked about training rather than straining in order to avoid becoming injured. The next advice in the area of practice is learning to practice with a purpose. The goal is to make the most of your training sessions by continuing to avoid injury and to practice the things you need to practice in order to advance your skills. The things to keep in mind when practicing with a purpose are:
– Set up a plan and stick to it. If you are going to practice your accuracy casts regularly then don’t let yourself get sidetracked by beginning every lesson with distance casting.

– Concentrate on the things you need to improve, not the things you are already very good at. Each of us will be different in this respect although virtually everyone will begin with learning to control their loops. Are you able to consistently cast over 85 feet and make it look easy but can’t seem to hit a target? Then you should probably spend most of your time practicing accuracy rather than distance.

– Start every practice session with some warm up drills. Make sure you are stretched and warmed up before getting into the practice session.

– Vary your practicing and forget what the test requires. Instead of setting up targets at 30, 40 and 50 feet try setting up targets at different distances and at different angles rather than just on top of your tape. If you can consistently hit targets at any distance up to 50 feet then you will have a lot more confidence in your ability to perform this task during the test. Some of my fellows take a number of tennis balls and toss them out onto the field as their targets for their practice session.

– Don’t worry about meeting the minimum requirements of a task but concentrate on meeting the requirements with ease. You are required to cast 85 feet – is that your personal best? If so, then don’t count on adrenaline to get you across the line in the test. Continue practicing until you can hit 90 or 95 feet consistently with minimal effort and with the line landing straight.

– If one of your casts is giving you a problem then break it down into smaller parts and identify the things that are giving you problems. Fix these items and then put it all back together. You might recognize this as a form of Whole-Part-Whole. It works for your students and it works for you as well.

– Work with your mentor to identify the areas to concentrate on and what sort of practice drills might help you fix an issue.

– Set aside a time to practice each day stick to it. If you set a regular time you are more likely to stick to practicing each day. Make sure people know that this is your time for practice and that you should not be disturbed. But don’t let your schedule become too much of a habit – vary your times on occasion. If you become mentally conditioned to making your best efforts at a certain time of day you may find your test time is not optimal for you.

– Make sure you revisit the things you don’t concentrate on regularly to ensure you continue to improve or don’t backslide in those areas.

Train. Don’t strain.
Preparing for a casting certification test can be difficult because you need to practice a broad range of skills and it can be hard concentrate on one or two things. When I first began working towards becoming a certified instructor I printed out the performance test, took it to the field and worked my way through each task every time I practiced. After a couple of weeks I found that I spent about 10 minutes each session running through the parts of the test I felt mildly interested in and then spent the rest of my session trying to see if my distance cast had somehow improved from the previous day. Instead of my casting improving it became very sloppy. My loops were large and I was constantly ticking the grass. I was in no condition to attempt the test. At some point I decided that if I was going to pass the test I needed to concentrate on what was really required. Instead of spending every day trying to cast farther I concentrated on increasing the distance for which I had good loop control. If I started each session and found that I could easily handle the distance from the previous day then I added 1 or 2 feet for that session – no more than that. If I felt the loops weren’t up to my satisfaction I shortened the line until I felt I was back in control. By changing my practice methods I found that within a few weeks my casting, and my best distance, improved significantly. It takes patience but it pays off in the long run. Instead of running through the test every day you should run through it every few weeks to identify what things you need to concentrate on for the upcoming weeks. Select a limited number of items you think you can improve and stick to those.

One more tip – review your equipment regularly as well. Make sure you are getting the performance you need from the equipment you have selected and that it is kept in peak form.”

Fly Casting- Casting by hand

although very cool to watch, casting fly lines by hand (without a rod) isn’t anything new. i’m not sure they where the first to develop this but Lee and Joan Wulff wrote about it eons ago and if i remember correctly, they got the idea of trying this out when they ended up stream side one day and realised that even though they had their reels, lines, flies and other stuff, they hadn’t packed their rods ! it saved the day, they caught fish, probably had quite a few laughs along the way all the while coming up with an ingenious learning/teaching method that’s as good now as ever because by removing the rod and forgetting about the all-too overly emphasised ‘loading the rod’ mantra from the equation and focussing on moving the line which is the whole point of fly casting, we either instantly or very quickly understand just about everything there is to understand about line tension, casting rhythm/pause, force application, straight line path, stroke length and forming loops (in other words, Bill and Jay Gammel’s Five Essentials of Fly Casting) and all that with just a simple piece of yarn or thickish string.

today’s video via allcastcomp (i don’t know the fellow’s name. if you do please leave a comment below, thanks !) is in two parts.
in the second, our mystery cowboy explains and demonstrates some really nice hand-only line control and accuracy and in part one, and the part i find the most interesting teaching-wise is the concept of getting people, specially beginners but something a lot of us could benefit from as well, to do exactly as explained in the video and mentioned above and learn or relearn to do all the moves without a rod.
in the same sense as pantomiming teaches our body to easily repeat a movement, casting a short length of line by hand will not only get us familiar with that movement but we’ll get instant feedback on our results and those results don’t lie. in my eyes, this kind of no-nonsense and ultra-simplified teaching and learning is simply brilliant as the caster can only get better when they put that rod together and string it up.

i have no idea if he fly fished or even considered such seemingly menial things as playing with strings but if he had, i’m sure George Orwell would have said “Triple plus Good”. enjoy !

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- Throw Away your Watch !

or (Where to Stop the Rod)

as we’ve already seen in Jay and Bill Gammel’s The Five Essentials:
4. The length of the stroke must vary with the amount of line past the rod tip.
“If you are casting a short line you will need a short stroke to move the rod tip along a straight line. If you are casting a longer line the extra weight causes the rod to bend much deeper, and a longer stroke is necessary to keep the rod tip moving in a straight line.” or to make it even simpler- Short line, short stroke – Long line, long stroke.
here, Chris Myers explains and demonstrates this principle very well.

keep that in mind at all times and you’ll pretty much have this ‘Where to Stop the Rod’ business down pat without having to resort to some nonsensical watch face (which hardly if ever works in the real world anyway).
people usually know where 9, 12 and 3 o’clock are, that is, if they don’t invert the 3 and 9… but are typically wrong by at least a half hour and usually a full hour or more if you ask them to point at a given time when compared to a real watch face. i’ve done this experiment many times with a clock face printed on a clear sheet of plastic which i could look through and superimpose both the caster and the clock face. i’ve never kept precise results but at least 90% where off by at least a half hour. that probably doesn’t sound like it would make a big difference in the real world but if this half or full hour (or more !) are off when casting we end up with either a casting stroke that’s too short or too long and it might even tilt the casting plane up or down instead of the intended angle.

now, as fine and unquestionable as the Gammel’s number 4 rule is, there’s still something missing and that has to do with casting tempo/rhythm/cadence/speed. let’s take the example of 30ft of line carried with nicely controlled 3′ loops.
with the same fixed length of line we’ll have a much shorter casting arc and stroke if we’re casting slowly than if we’re casting the exact same 3′ loops with a faster tempo as it needs a longer stroke to avoid having problems.
so, to complete no. 4 we should add Slow cast, Shorter stroke – Faster cast, Longer stroke.

after reading this the beginner might be thinking, “great, it used to be more or less simple and now i have to figure out and combine two principles to get this ‘stopping’ stuff sorted ?.. “ but don’t fret ! because the solution is very simple.
as Chris explains in the video above, simply watch what the line’s doing and adjust from there.
– if the loops are too big, reduce the stroke length.
– loops too small or even colliding, lengthen the stroke.
– if you’re casting faster or slower than usual, lengthen or shorten the stroke accordingly.
– what works for me and what i teach is the stroke (by that i mean the rod tip’s travel) is simply a straight line that gets shorter or longer: ‘more or less’ or changes speed: ‘slower or faster’
its simple, everyone understands this and it doesn’t need a watch to get right. besides, who wants to worry about the time when we’re out by the water ?

Fly Casting Accuracy- Think Small

practicing to very small targets
think small m.fauvet:tlc 22-4-14

until a few years ago i was a keen archer and although i had to stop due to a shoulder injury and its consequent surgery, there’s a few things i’ve brought over to my fly casting world that have helped a lot in getting better and more consistent fly placement results.
whether we’re shooting arrows, throwing darts, balls or rocks or fly lines, there’s one constant we need to strive for or we might as well be blowing hot air and that’s accuracy because if we can’t get our flies to the fish, we’re not really fishing. productive and consistent fly casting isn’t just about waving our arms, we have this wonderful mushy thing called a brain. it’s kinda hard to forget it at home and it’s always with us so, let’s put it to good use.

hopefully some of these ideas will help you get your flies where you want them to go.

Archery_targetthe Invisible Target-
right in the middle of the yellow 10 point zone of FITA targets there’s a teeny-tiny cross that’s used to separate match finalists. even if the two archers get all their arrows in the 10 point zone, the arrow(s) closest to the cross gets the win. now, where this becomes interesting is this cross is impossible to see with the naked eye at 70m (229.65 ft) but in order to hit it or get very close to the cross the archer needs to envision it, see it with her/his ‘inner eye’ and to be really accurate in fly casting it really helps to do the same.

archery targets are angled to be in the same plane as the incoming trajectory of the arrows, the whole target is in good view of the archer but when fishing we’re faced with a different set of problems regarding perspective, target acquisition and target placement. contrary to FITA style archery we don’t have known and precisely marked distances and we’re casting to a horizontal plane target.
we rarely have a fixed target point to concentrate on, specially in moving water. we very often need to cast our flies above the water to enable them to land gently and not splash and spook the fish. even if we’re casting to a sighted fish, we’ll almost always cast somewhere away from the fish so that our fly will drift towards it or in the case of induced takes, have time to settle before being pulled in front of the fish. there are other variables like induced slack for specific drift qualities which is the most difficult accuracy-wise but for the moment let’s just concentrate on a standard straight line/leader presentation.

back to archery targets- one of the first things we learn when starting off is to not shoot for the whole target but for a very specific point within the target: it’s centre. (shooting for the whole target is very common among beginners)
when we shoot for the target we’re not focusing on a specific area and even if the archer has good form they’ll be lucky to place an arrow anywhere inside it. as soon as we train our focusing capabilities (i refer to it as ‘critical focus’) we start getting our arrows grouped towards the centre and get better scores. later on, when we learn to abstract the whole target and even the colours (in this case the yellow) and focus exclusively on the unseen-yet-known centre cross our arrows seem to magically and consistently get closer and closer to it.

of course there’s no magic involved, as predators our bodies are made to be most efficient in acquiring targets that are in front of us. our major acquiring/hunting senses: hearing, smell and in our case the most important, vision, are all geared to what’s in front of us. precise target acquisition: distance assessment, angle of projectile trajectory, etc first start with our eyes and to be very precise we need to focus on very small areas and in fly fishing, what’s maybe the oddest form of projectile throwing, we very often need to cast our flies precisely to an area that is not our target. just as with the little cross, to place the fly precisely we need to abstract everything that is not the very small target we are aiming at. this can be a challenge when there are distractions such as the targeted fish, peer pressure, obstacles, mooing cows, branches etc, etc, etc.
to regularly and predictably reach our target we need to be aware of and keep all of those distractions in mind but for a few seconds, keep them in the background and favour only the very small target zone until the fly has landed.
just as with the little cross, we’ll need to envision this target area and critically focus on the most minute area we can actually see or imagine where we want our fly to go.
on rivers we can sometimes aim for a bubble or something else floating downstream but most often this target area will be (if we’re lucky enough to have something to lock our vision on) something way beyond but in the same eye/target plane: the tip of a branch, a flower, a stone in the water, a far away tree top or cloud. the possibilities are endless and innumerable but there’s almost always something there, we just need to look for them.
and then sometimes there’s nothing at all to focus on and this is where the little cross and using our imagination comes in. we’ll need to make up/imagine the little cross in our mind.

just as with the arm-waving part of fly casting, teaching the brain to work in a different manner takes some practice and a little time but lucky for us, this time there’s no risk of sore joints, muscles, back pains or cramps.

Fly Casting- The Anchor does Not load the rod.

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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 Practice- Controlling Casting Stroke Force

experience tells me that apart from improper wrist control, the second most common difficulty many fly casters struggle with is force application throughout the stroke and to be more precise, they use too much force. way too much.

there are several ways to create tailing loops and they all have to do with the rod tip rising after dipping below the standard straight or slightly convex tip path in one manner or another but i’m firmly convinced as well as many of my instructor colleagues that the main cause is improper; too early or too much force application and often both are combined.
leaving aside for the moment that rod rotation (where most of the force is applied and the rod tip is going its fastest) should be done at the end of the stroke, today’s casting drill tip is about force quantity and to understand the point of the topic i’ll ask you to consider these two questions:
1) how many times have you seen a fellow angler drive their fly into the water surface (when that wasn’t the intended presentation) or make tailing loops or have the fly kick back or hook to one angle or another before landing ?
2) how many times have you seen a fellow angler cast a pile at the end of the line when they wanted a straight presentation ?
i’ll be very generous with no. 2 and give it an approximate 10%. even if that approximation is just a roundabout figure its quite obvious that there’s an overall higher tendency leaning towards the ‘more than necessary/too much’.

now, there are two methods to adjust how much force is being used:
– the first is the standard ‘do your normal cast’ and try to apply less force until its all nice and smooth with super control.
this a subtractive method. it may work and there’s nothing wrong with it but its a hard way as its much more difficult to ‘hold back’ and ‘unlearn’ an engrained movement, specially when its something we’ve been doing for a long time.
– the other method consists of doing the exact opposite, practising to cast lines that don’t turn over completely and ‘relearning’ to add a little more force, just what’s necessary to get the job done as we go along.
this is an additive method. one that’s quite easy to control because adding-on seems to correspond better to human nature than subtracting; we tend to ‘want more’ as opposed to ‘want less’ and its a method that works very well for people of all levels in all the various types of fly casting whether it be close/middle/long range, stream to sea, little to big flies and single or double handed.

since years ago i had been working on an almost exactly the same presentation cast -the Dunkeld Dump– (named after the city in Scotland where i first demonstrated this cast to a group of fellow casting geeks) and of course using it a lot for river fishing but it was only last year that i realised what a gem this was as a practice routine on its own when friend, colleague and super-caster Aitor Coteron wrote this article that set off so many lightbulbs: To straighten or not to straighten. That is the question.

here’s a slightly different full-on angle of this drill from one of last year’s casting-geek meets in Spain.

to conclude, just as mentioned in the link, i highly recommend doing this exercise at every practise session, preferably at the beginning.
to add some variety and improve one’s force control while still working on accuracy, a great thing to do is place cones, tennis balls or whatever at different distances, even in a zig-zag formation and place the piles on the targets in sequence. dump and enjoy !

 

some places just say “Cast me !”

this is where i regularly practice my casting when there’s no need for current. grass fields are ok and certain elements of different casts are best addressed on land but why not make it a bit more ‘real’ specially when that real is just a short drive from home in such a nice setting.
'cast me' ftlow m.fauvet:tlc 18-1-15
i’m holding a course today with two lovely and very enthusiastic people. that last part is what really pushes me to try to do my best. if i manage to fulfil half my personal expectations things should be more than fine for them. we still have a few things to work out on grass but next series of courses will be here, can’t wait to be back ‘home’.