Svirgolato – Twist With A Tail

Confession time. I don’t fish small streams very often, much less overgrown ones so way back when I saw my first footage of “Italian style” or Tecnica di Lancio Totale  (TLT) I thought, “Yeah, ok. Ingenious adaption of technique to circumstances but jeezuss that looks awful. Not for me.” As with many things in fly fishing, my judgement turned out to be a tad hasty.

The first crack in the wall of my prejudice appeared when a thrusting motion at the end of the bog standard overhead delivery cast started to become a regular thing. As an extension of the casting stroke it adds to the Work done on the line so it facilitates going further while staying smooth. It has another benefit which is to counteract over rotation which makes for fat loops which are a sure sign that Force is not being applied efficiently. Straight lines rule – ok?

Fast forward a bit and I started to play with Lancio Angolato, the classic and basic cast of TLT. (Very good videos of this and more will be found here. The guys from SIM Suisse know their stuff.) It was fun, it was unconventional and I could see interesting uses for it beyond poking dry flies under the shrubbery. What’s not to like? For example, picture a cast to a target 70′ away, tight loop, low trajectory, high line speed, fly lands before leader or line. Perfectly doable with standard fly fishing tackle. Not a practical distance for small streams but for sight fishing, say on the flats? Fishing a dun hatch on a Tassie impoundment. The wind is blowing. My target rises upwind 50′ away and time is short. By now my wall of prejudice was completely demolished and beyond lay a fascinating garden that any curious fly caster would commit to explore with an open mind and the expectation of pleasurable reward for effort.

Then, on a forum I inhabit, along came a thread on curve casts which turned into an exploration of Svirgolato and next thing I was down at the park with something new to learn. Before I get into this cast let me say a couple of things. First, I’ve been able to curve cast for a very long time, long enough to know that I only liked overpowered curve casts because they were the only ones I could land with any degree of accuracy. Second, in all the years I’ve been fly fishing I can think of exactly one fish landed after a curve cast which I couldn’t have made a decent presentation to in any other way. True, I don’t fish small streams often but even so, one fish in thirty plus years tells  me/you something. Thirdly, when I started this site I wasn’t intending to explore specialty casts in much detail, if at all, and for this I’ve made a conscious exception. That also says something.

The initial motivation to learn Svirgolato was novelty and as a test of my sensory motor learning skills and knowledge.  The second stage came after I realised how useful this thing could be and how accurate it could be once mastered. The third was when I realised it was a cast of subtlety in power application, tension management and, as ever, timing. The fourth will involve identifying, via mechanics, the keys to efficiency and optimal line shape at the completion of the cast.

Perspective needed. This particular cast is not for long range. You can’t shoot line and still get a good result because you would lose tension in the rod leg. [Correction. As Malik has pointed out to me and practice has confirmed, you can shoot line but you need a check haul to stop the shoot and restore tension.] It’s a specialty cast whose specialty is delivering a fly out to the side of the main line at short to medium distance. On the vids you will probably see it used to negotiate current differences and buy time for a drag free presentation. But that’s just the vids. Imagination will take you to other scenarios. There is footage of Malik Mazbouri bending a decent sized deceiver around using a 10wt rod and 9wt line.

So if I have caught your interest go to the last few pages of the curve cast thread  and have a look at the posts and videos from Malik. They are about performing the standard Svirgolato with line going over the rod tip. As he says it is vital to make the outward movement of the rod hand during the stop – not before, not after. A second tip comes from Graeme Hird which is to divide the learning into 1) side casting so the line comes over the tip – loop in the vertical plane and 2) producing a tailing loop.

On the mechanics side we have to produce a tailing loop, transverse to or across the direction of the cast. This is a wave which propagates through the fly line at the same time as the loop is propagating through the fly line. Making the cast nicely and reliably means that the wave of the tail is still in the line as the loop is finishing up its work.

If we cast too hard the tail will have completed its journey before the loop completes turnover and there will be no kick around at the end. If we tail too early (before the stop) we get a similar result. There are other possible problems from power application and tension management but I won’t try now to list them all. Have a go and see what happens. Like I said, it’s a cast of some subtlety.