January 5th, 2009

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Some Notes on Two-Faced Fly Casting with a Twist
--This Radial Maneuver Has Straight-line Thrust--
By David Sylvester

I suppose the casting clock still has its place for beginning casters although it is nonetheless a very one-dimensional figure, offering no distinct casting lane. My other reservation is its circular shape with those suggestive arcs and parabolas, as though your tip should follow such paths when we know that good fly casting requires straight-line tip travel.

But, even fly casting can have its irony. What could make a limited side clock more dimensional except maybe…yes, another clock, this time in front, replete with a vertical grid offering definite casting lanes. Now, I could position my tip with more authority for a straight-line backcast. Being left-handed, the best zones for me were 10, 10.30 and 11.

Conventional fly casting calls for a backcast that loads the rod on a top-to-bottom axis in line with the guides. In fact, rodmakers purposely place guides on the strong side of a blank for maximum power. As a result, anglers most often rotate their rod so the pickup and backcast conform to this power mode.

But on another occasion, I found myself absently raising and lowering the rod in the 11 o'clock zone without this adjustment so the guides, facing directly down, were nonetheless slanted 30 degrees away from the front. Usually, I would raise and rotate the grip to a top- bottom axis and then make the backcast over a horizontal plane. This works but there was a new message coming through now.

Holding the rod at this oblique angle and half-lifting, I felt increased line tension. On impulse, I made a pickup, twisting the rod back in 30 degrees, stopping the tip at 11 on the side clock. The difference was remarkable. The pickup at this slightly softer angle, coupled with the thrusting power of the twist, which angled the rod back in to a full-power axis, made all the difference in loading the rod. Making the rotation first for a top-bottom axis has nowhere near the thrust or smooth-loading power of the twist that comes at the end of a backcast. It offers just the right briskness for the "speed-stop" maneuver that favors gradual acceleration instead.

The drill is easy enough. The stop point is always the same as the time zone. Thus, for right- handers, 1 o'clock at 1 on the side clock, 1.30 at 1.30, 2 at 2. It is the last inch or two of the twist that is the power stroke. Go through the move in slow motion and you will see that as you make the twist, the tip travels in a flat, horizontal plane in what I can only interpret as a kind of radial compensation. Speaking of the latter, you can practice the twist itself with spot casts from 12 on the side clock.

My favorite lane is 11 because I can rest my upper arm against my body. It's how they taught casting years ago with a book tucked under the elbow. Thus, an old idea that reaffirms a new one. The 10.30 (or 1.30) slot is comfortable too; the 10 or 2 slot is a bit of a reach but useful in windy conditions for side-casting.

Some other nuances that might enhance matters. I extend my thumb a bit and pinch down throughout the cast. I was surprised at how well this squeeze helps lock the wrist which is critical to straight-line casting. It is still tempting to break the wrist a little on that forward stroke but I have cultivated more of a downward "painting" motion that softens presentation even more.

I also tend to hold the back end of the grip with lighter rods in the 2-3 range, in the middle for 4-5 and on top for 6 or above. The bottom grip definitely offers a distinct weight forward effect for those ultralight lines. Then, too, I skew my thumb a bit to the outside of the grip instead of directly on top. This provides a noticeable cushion and support on both the back and forward cast.

For want of a better phrase, I think of this maneuver as more of a 30-30 power stroke or casting on a bias even though, technically, it uses two faces of the casting clock. It feels so natural and authoritative, I wonder if other anglers haven't been doing the same all along and never told anyone. Nor did it happen overnight, gradually establishing its own kinetic history with tiny revelations along the way. I use it for the shortest of casts to the longest. I still marvel at its definitive loads and fulsome presentations. ~ DS

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