J. Castwell Congradulations Castwell - ya made it!
September 6th, 1999

The Castwell Switch



Several years ago I spend many summer evenings fly-fishing for salmon. The Ladyfisher and I would drive the twenty miles to an ocean beach known as Point-No-Point on the Kitsap peninsula in north-western Washington state. The evening sunset over the water of Puget Sound, the view of the majestic mountains, boating traffic, occasional arrival of Dahl porpoise, wading out into the salt water, long-line casting for silver salmon, the pain of cutting a grove in my index finger from stripping the line back in after each cast. Ah, yes. I remember it well. But, no more.

My introduction to fly-fishing was dry fly in Michigan and Montana. No chance of cutting my fingers while stripping a fly line using a number 18 dry fly. I would cast right handed and strip the line in with my left hand.

After we moved here I used the same style of line retrieval. I did change how I held the rod though. It was important to keep the rod tip low and pointed at the fly line. When a salmon took, I would 'line-strike' with my left hand. That gave a solid and direct connection to the fish without any flexing of the rod. This results in solid hook-ups, or if missed, the fly does not rip itself out of the target zone as it would do if the strike were done with the rod tip. I still use that method to this day. However, I have changed how I strip the line in.

There are basically three methods that I use. First is the 'normal' way. I cast out about as far as I can, using the double-haul, lower and point the rod at the line, run the line over the first joint of my index finger of my right hand and pull the line in using short tugs with my left hand. This move causes the left hand to work back-and-forth across in front of me. This I can do for only a short time as the fly line would soon cut my finger. This is because the line would be going around a 90 degree bend at the joint. Remember, the tidal movement and wave action has a pull on the line causing some resistance to the line retrieval. Soon, a cut will form. In salt water not a nice thing to have.

croft artwork

A very acceptable substitute is used by many, I will here call it the 'rod-under-the-right-arm' method. It is by no means my idea, as it has been used for decades world wide. After the cast I put the reel and grip of the rod well under my right arm, hold it there with arm pressure, direct the rod at the line by body motion, and strip the line in using both hands. A bit like a hand-over-hand motion. Using this method there is no bend whatsoever in the line and I always have at least one hand on the line at all times. When a fish hits I line strike and simply with my right hand grab the rod and the game is on. A very effective method of line retrieval.

Croft cartoon! The third way of getting the job done is a major modification of the 'normal' method. I will try to make this as clear as possible. I have just made a right-handed cast. I lower the rod tip and point it directly at the line, removing all the slack and start my retrieve as normal. But here is the modification. I move my right hand with the rod across my body to my left, while still keeping the rod pointed at the line. At this time my rod hand is in front of me, about in line with my left jacket pocket.

The line is still across my right index finger, but by stripping now with my left hand I am able to use a motion that is from front-to-back along my left side. The angle of fly-line on my finger has been reduced to perhaps ten degrees at the most. It is possible to reduce the angle to zero if you desire. Certainly not enough of a bend to cause any line cutting. I also find I rotate the rod a bit clockwise while doing this, seems to make the retrieval easier.

Before I came up with the'Castwell-switch,' I tried putting band-aids on my fingers only to have them roll up and soon fall off. Special gloves to not excite me. And the neoprene fingers which are available for this are also a nuisance, I made some and tried.

I have used this method for years not only on salmon but on other specie of fish which are large and require a line-strip action to the fly and I never have any problem with cut fingers. It should be obvious you need to keep your fly-lines as clean as possible to avoid any 'sandpaper' action of a dirty line. I hope this will help; works for me. ~ JC

Till next week, remember ...

Keepest Thynne Baakast Upeth

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