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Casting Cane

By James Castwell, Editor FAOL

The following will be a series of observations; mine. They may, or may not be right, or even relevant, but, these thoughts have been buzzing around in my bonnet for some time and I want to share them with you.

I have often, make that very often, watched guys who own cane rods casting them. For the most part they seemed to be having a bit of trouble getting a very long cast. Mostly they would wave the rod, both forward and back, and sling the line on the cast. No forward stop would be noticed, nor any on the back-cast. But, they were content with things as they were.

I then have seen a few who, when casting graphite rods, would use the same strokes as when they were casting cane. These often complained that the graphite were too stiff etc.

Years ago, when fiberglass came out, it was slow and soft. The action was very much like cane. I am not saying cane is, or was, soft or slow. The 'action' was what was similar. And fiberglass rods sold well. As graphite grew in popularity, fiberglass disappeared and so, for the most part, did cane. Now there is at least one company making fiberglass fly rods again and a resurgence in cane is upon us.

A few things factor in here. The 'baby-boomers' have grown up, their kids are out of the nest, the income level has risen and they can now afford the cane rods only dreamt of in their youth. However, these same people are now used to casting graphite. Hard stops, front and back. Tight loops. Long casts, powerful roll-casts, sometimes the whole line. This 'method' of casting did not exist in years past, there were no rods suited for it. It grew along with the development of graphite rods, fast, powerful, responsive.

I have talked with cane rod makers who were quick to admit they were not good casters. When watched, I did not argue with them. I did sometimes wonder how the heck they thought they were qualified to make cane rods, let alone develop new tapers, or improve on some of the old ones.

The truth is, they were casting just fine, for cane. Cane rods are not created to be hammered, rather they should be stroked. Treat them not like wrestling an alligator, but like petting a kitten. They are the debutante at the Country Club dance, not as a 'lady of the evening.' When you cast graphite the power is applied at certain points during the cast, often rather severely. With cane it is more constant. The caster and the rod are in 'contact with the line at all times.'

Often the cast with cane will be an oval, to be sure it will be a rather tight oval, but it will not have the tight 'V' - shaped wedges on each end of the cast. Graphite can give you a sharp 'V', cane prefers to offer a muted 'J'. To cast graphite like cane proves rather ineffective, weak loops and not much distance. To cast cane as one would cast graphite will produce frustration. The rod will appear to be soft, gutless, perhaps recoil in the middle joint or seem tip heavy.

I have seen guys having a tough time trying to learn how cast cane. The more they fought it, the worse it became. Slow down...stroke the rod...take your time...let the rod show you what it will not try to force your style on the rod. With graphite you can hammer it into submission. If it responds, you say you like that rod, if not, you do not like the rod. With cane you just ease your way into the occasion. Go ahead and take a look at your back-casts, the shape of the loops, let the reel roll out a little, keep the rod in contact with the line. Let me repeat that. "Keep your rod in contact with the line."

Remember too, most of the cane rods were developed to cast the smaller diameter, and faster through the guides, silk fly lines. Today's lines are much more wind resistant and still not as slick as a well greased silk.

Probably the bottom line might be this. If you now have a cane rod, do not even try to compare it to graphite. Apples and horses. Treat it as it was designed to be treated and you should be very satisfied. ~ JC

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