Fly Casting- the Vertical Hoop drill

a lot of fly casting practise involves using rings, a hoop or any other object placed on the ground. this teaches us target distance acquisition and of course, accuracy.

the next step up from there is placing that hoop or something similar vertically and casting through it. (in her fantastic book Fly Casting Techniques, Joan Wulff offered the idea of casting through a car window and later varying the opening of that window by making it go up or down) this vertically-oriented target, or rather ‘loop passage space’ adds loop size to the previous learned skills.

what’s the point ? apart from variety, fun and a nice game to play with other casting nerds, learning to control loop size is really important when casting into the wind because a small loop takes up a lot less physical space and is less influenced by wind. casting into the wind needs a higher line speed as well and we can just add the extra line speed drill to the ‘through the hoop’ exercise.

the other very obvious reason is when having to cast with obstacles either in front of us or behind. those obstacles will vary greatly but maybe the most common are trees and their branches as in the pic below.'between the branches m.fauvet-TLC 11-2-16

this was a while back in deepest-darkest Sweden and if memory’s correct, the only available back casting space i had was a little tunnel about 1 metre and a half wide. i put this pic here as a reminder of how important it is to do the hoop drill on the back cast as well as in front. it goes without saying that turning around and aiming for the empty space is the only way this is going to happen with success.

this great little clip from Chris Morris shows the hoop drill in both real time and slomo. variances of the drill could be varying the casting distances, how much line is shot through the hoop, side casting with loops at various angles and when you get good at this, casting at an angle instead of straight on. (the hoop’s height remains the same but its width ‘ovals’ and narrows, for lack of a better physics term) that one’s tricky !

practise never really makes perfect but it always makes gooder so here’s hoping this will inspire a few to do just that. enjoy !

Fly Casting- Santa’s Underpowered Curve

if like most people you’ve always wondered what Santa Carlos (Azpilicueta) looks like when he’s fly casting here you go.SantaCarlos' Underpowered 180° Curve

often referred to as a good upstream presentation cast, the Underpowered Curve goes directly to the bottom of my list of actual casts to use. even if the final line layout seems really good from a theoretical point of view we’re throwing a whole lot of line directly over the fish whilst false casting and at final presentation and we’re left with an enormous, even ridiculous amount of slack to attempt to tighten up if we didn’t put off the fish and managed to get a strike. if we don’t get a strike, the whole leader and all that line will pass over the fish on its way back downstream before we can pick up and cast again and if that doesn’t put off the fish then its a really dumb fish not worthy of being caught !
accuracy wise, its also probably the most difficult cast to get just right in any repeatable manner even in ‘ideal’ conditions. any kind of wind severely compromises its success. in a sense, its one to keep in your bag of tricks as a last-resort presentation. at best.

none of that sounds very good, right ? but here’s the but and the however: just as with the underpowered Controlling Casting Stroke Force (please read or reread as both articles are directly connected), the Underpowered Curve is a more than excellent manner to learn to use the correct amount of force in your other casts. just as with the overhead version: “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. we start with ‘not enough’ and add-on little by little until it’s’just right’.  it’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’ is equally valid and productive and might even be considered as the next step, or part II of the overhead drill as it’s trickier.
we need to adopt a slower casting rhythm while casting off to the side in a lower plane all the while keeping line, leader and fluff from hitting the ground. on the delivery cast, the underpowered bit needs to be controlled very precisely. although we can’t push strings or in this case fly lines and this will get the physics geeks tsk-tssssking, it helps to think of it as if we where pushing the rod leg only. (i know, that might be a weird way to visualise the motion but it works for me and hopefully for you too)

as in the gif, don’t forget to ‘kill the cast’ by immediately lowering the rod tip to prevent loop unrolling. be sure to try the exact same cast with and without lowering the rod tip to see how it greatly affects line layout/turnover.
lastly, similar to the overhead drill, the Underpowered Curve also teaches an important aspect that’s rarely brought up; varying the casting force between the back cast and the front cast (or vice-versa). a typical but non-conclusive example of this casting force variance would be when fishing with a strong tail wind. we’ll need  to have a higher line speed on the BC going into the wind, requiring more force and a greater casting arc and less speed, force and arc on the FC where the wind will help push it out.

since practicing without any kind of target is generally pointless, as with the overhead drill, place little targets or reindeer here and there in front of you and place the unrolled loop over them.
even if it’s just a few minutes, do yourself the favour of including both drills every time you’re out practicing. these are seemingly strange and quirky things to do but they really pay off. i guarantee.
whether or not you decide to don the Santa suit is up to you but keep in mind that it would make the occasion that much more special.

video graciously provided by Carlos Azpilicueta. thanks buddy !

post note- i’ve always wondered what the person strolling by in the background of the gif was thinking as they saw this…

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 !

 

Fly Casting- Back Cast Training

one of the more useful, yet commonly overlooked casting practice drills there is: accuracy to a target on the back cast.

it makes tracking perfectly straight a necessity and we have to move ourselves and the rod tip in the exact same manner as when delivering to the more common front.
this brings us closer to casting symmetry and that brings us closer to being a really good caster.
even if we’re not delivering there, being able to place the back cast in the exact alignment and casting angle not only sets us up to make better fronts casts but also to keep the back cast out of trouble and out of branches, grass, fences and cows.
delivering on the back cast isn’t just an exercise either as it’s of great use for casting longer lengths of line when there’s on-casting-shoulder wind. personally, i find this a lot easier and more consistent than casting and hauling off-shoulder as apart from turning around, i don’t have to change a single thing from my usual cast. it’s all good.
i hope you’ll give it a go and maybe even turn this into a little comp among your casting friends.

here’s yet another great video from Aitor Coteron showing us this drill. enjoy !

Muscle Memory, Chocolate, Marital Sex and Fly Casting Games

“Muscle Memory has been used synonymously with motor learning, which is a form of procedural memory that involves consolidating a specific motor task into memory through repetition. When a movement is repeated over time, a long-term muscle memory is created for that task, eventually allowing it to be performed without conscious effort. This process decreases the need for attention and creates maximum efficiency within the motor and memory systems. Examples of muscle memory are found in many everyday activities that become automatic and improve with practice, such as fly casting, typing on a keyboard about fly casting, typing in a PIN number to buy a new fly line, ‘drawing with the rod tip’ to perform presentation casts, playing fly casting  games, or performing complex arm movements while attempting to explain fly casting physics.”

you got it, fly casting is just like sex or eating chocolate. you can talk and theorize about it all you want but you’re not going to be any good at it without practicing regularly and just like chocolate, it should be a fun thing to do or it just becomes a boring unproductive chore like marital sex.

anyhow… if you’re in need of some fun casting practice inspiration, i definitely recommend Carlos Azpilicueta‘s list of Casting Games.
to discover what the mess below is about and why it will make you a better fly caster/fisher, click the pic quick !

Carlos' Casting Games