Ladyfisher
This Week's View

by Deanna Lee Birkholm

October 29th, 2001

Happy Caster?


Casting can be as important as you want it to be. If you are happy with how you cast and what you are able to accomplish, this article may be a waste of your time.

The fact is, your casting may make the difference between catching or not. It is true, most fish are caught within 30 feet or less of the anglers. I could get into a number of reasons for that, but if we accept that as fact, being able to cast well and accurately is as important as knowing what the insects are and when they are available. It may be more important.

I've quoted Joan Wulff before, but her phase is, "If you know where the fish are and can't reach them you're out of the ball game." If you know all the insects, when and where they hatch, and can't get your fly where they are - you're out of the ball game.

There are several methods of casting. Differences in the stroke, speed, arc, and where the rod is 'stopped' make up some of those differences. A very short cast (shown on the left) requires a shorter stroke (perhaps with just a little wrist motion) and shorter arc - the distance the tip of the rod travels between the forward and backcast. For absolute accuracy, the caster also makes the short forward cast with their thumb directly between their eyes. Giving that a little visualization, it becomes pretty obvious you can't make a very long cast that way, but it is deadly for short casts. On short casts there is hardly any arm or shoulder movement.

The look of the cast changes as longer casts are used. The length of the stroke is longer, the arc is wider. The wrist is now firm, and the arm moves forward and back like a piston. On the longest casts, the rod may be extended nearly horizontal on the backcast after the stop. Here the shoulder rolls back to allow the arm extension behind the body.

Take a dozen excellent casters and none of them will look identical casting the same distance! We each develop a method that works for us - and is adaptable to different conditions.

There is more. How fast or slow the casting stroke needs to be depends on the rod too! That is where the word 'adaptable' come in. The more experienced one is as a caster, the easier it is to adapt to changing conditions (wind) and different rods.

Castwell did a column last week about teaching a gentleman who was accustomed to casting cane rods. He had never cast a graphite rod. He learned to adapt his casting. He learned well and fast.

Let's take that in reverse. If you've been casting graphite rods forever and want to cast a cane rod what would be different? Let's add fiberglass too. The early fiberglass rods were made to imitate the action of the bamboo rods popular at the time! Why not? That is what folks were using. No one at the time was thinking about 'improving' the action of cane rods. Most of the great cane tapers had already been designed.

A word you may not have heard a lot is 'stroke.' Graphite rods are considered 'fast,' and the words one hears associated with them is 'punch' - the faster the rod, the less stroke used in casting them. A stroke is still the forward and back motion of the cast, but it is slower and smoother than the 'normal' cast used with graphite rods.

In slowing down the cast, it is easy to let the stroke become rounded instead of a nice straight line. The casting stroke could be visualized by thinking of your flyrod as a very long felt marker which you use to mark a line on the ceiling. It's easier to do that fast than slow. But it is important to keep the line of the stroke straight. Not doing so will cause the line on the ceiling to have misses. It also causes fly line to puddle in front at the end of the cast or cause tailing loops. The flyline goes exactly where you point the rod.

All fly rods, regardless of cost or type of material are designed to deliver the fly line. The manufacturer (or maker) cannot predict your personal casting ability or style. You may cast several rods before you find one that 'feels good' - it fits your casting methods and style. It may however not be the most efficient rod for your purposes. Meaning you may have to work harder to get the rod to do what you need to do.

Improving your casting skills has a lot of payoffs. You may find the rod(s) you've been using are causing stress on your elbow, shoulder and wrist. I keep hearing about readers with wrist problems, rotator cup problems, tennis elbow and while they may have been caused by other problems, their fishing is affected. Perhaps improved casting skills would solve at least some of the problems. You might also find it 'necessary' to purchase a new rod!

Fly casting should be fun. It should be 'natural' and not work. If it isn't, it is time to fix it. ~ LadyFisher

If you would like to comment on this or any other article please feel free to post your views on the FAOL Bulletin Board!

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