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The Meaning of Slack

As part of the Einstein Series I wrote about the Straight Lines Rule and part of that was casting with straight lines which means fly lines having as little as possible slack in them. The reason to avoid slack is that taking up it is a Force thief. It steals from the net Force in the intended direction of the cast – forward or back – and we don’t have that much Force to spare. We don’t want to spend part of our stroke length taking up slack instead of powering the line out to where we want it to go. That’s the mechanics taken care of.

So there I am down at the local park practicing with my 5wt combo and trying to maximise carry. I’m not going for distance alone. My objective, as usual, is to extend the distance at which I can cast accurately. Effort and accuracy are sworn enemies because effort diminishes control.

My aim is to extend carry while staying in my comfort zone. That zone is staked out with a  bunch of big signs that all say “Keep out! No heaving allowed”. How do I know when I am at the edge of that zone? It is when my technique starts to crack, slack starts to increase and I am sorely tempted to heave to try and get rid of it. In other words the appearance of slack is an alarm signal telling me my technique is faltering.

A few dots need to be joined here. Some years back I watched a video of Matt Howell and he talked about “chasing slack” as an impediment to distance casting. I also remember a post to Sexyloops Board by Bernd Ziesche describing his observation that going long requires more than just a good back cast and a good delivery cast. It requires a good sequence of casts. Light bulb moment. A good sequence for me equals slack being minimised (among other things of course). During a good sequence carry length can be built. During a poor sequence slack starts to get out of control. Consequently, carry length is being demolished and, on the longest casts, sometimes to the point of complete failure.

When the carry gets hard to maintain I frequently start chasing slack. Sometimes I get it back in hand and sometimes I lose the battle and the bastard gets away.  Slack is, however, always a sure sign that something is amiss. Consequently, I look for that border between comfort and battle and try to find out why 65′ is a doddle and 80′ is often a battle. Slack marks the frontier. My job is to expand the empire.

Of course the presence of slack doesn’t mean so much in shorter casts because we can catch it more easily with a longer stroke or a touch more power in a “normal” stroke length. The longer our carry, however, the less margin for error we have. At the limit of our stroke length we only have more power to use in arresting the thief and that opens the door to heaving who happily teams up with the slack thief to increase the proceeds of crime. A vicious cycle ensues.

There are various ways of finding the culprits but CCTV (my phone on a tripod) is usually foremost among them. If I film a series of casts of increasing carry length starting well within in the comfort zone and finishing beyond it, I can often see what the problems are and just as importantly, where they start.

If you have come this far you probably don’t need me to say what drills or tricks I use but, fwiw, I do things like:

  • PUALDs in both directions to check out tracking and to see where the limits are and how they can be pushed.
  • Extend carry a little bit at a time (tighten the reel drag and peel off a foot or so each time)
  • As above, with and without hauling
  • Pantomime and slow motion using just the butt section of the rod especially to groove the joint movement sequence and therefore late rotation and haul timing
  • Making accuracy casts to a series of small targets at 5-10 foot intervals

All these things, performed with close attention to effort, loop shape and turnover, help me improve technique which then shows up in all the usual places, including carry optimisation and slack minimisation. It is all about energy efficiency – body to rod and rod to line.






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