The Special Delivery Cast

In the fly casting universe huge amounts of the discussion come down to what happens on the delivery cast, especially when travelling in the solar system of distance casting. Competition accuracy casting is by comparison a mere asteroid despite accuracy rather simple distance being the answer most of the fishing time. Methinks something is not quite right with gravity in this neck of the space time continuum.

Ok, let’s face it, not too many people I know, myself included, wouldn’t mind adding another ten or even twenty feet to their maximum distance.  Call it what you will, this dark matter of the ego has a strong attractive force which is reflected in the map of the discourse. After all, this is what late rotation, late hauling, power snaps, hitting it after the rod passes the perpendicular and so on are about – really. The overt or implicit message is that the reward for these virtues is more distance. Simple translation (cough)? How to put more oomph into your delivery and get away with it.

So, let’s consider the elephant in the room question namely, how does this work out for most casters, especially those in the intermediate to advanced layers of the casting skill pyramid? My answer, informed by both observation and personal experience, is very badly. It doesn’t help at all in dealing with the natural inclination to overpower our casting, especially the forward cast and most particularly the delivery cast. That’s putting it mildly.

For those somewhat familiar with my schtick you probably know where this is going. He’s getting ready to sing his favourite song about efficiency and effort. You’re right I am, but this time with some instrumental backing from my thoughts on casting practice and how to tell a good session from an ordinary one.

For some time now I have been working on increasing the efficiency of my casting. Far from being about improved technique issuing a licence to put in more oomph, it has been about eliminating or at least reducing errors which create inefficiency, that is, casting faults which steal from net Force in the intended direction of the cast. Tracking errors, early rotation, (leading to) over rotation, slack problems, haul timing and such are all examples of force theft leading to inefficiency.

Many efficiency draining faults are rightly categorised as force application problems but usually without reference to the fundamental pre-requisite of efficiency in force application as illuminated by the relationship between Force, mass and acceleration of an object. F=ma and F is always a net Force – what is left of force in the intended direction of the cast after subtracting force which isn’t in the intended direction of the cast. In fly casting we can add by not subtracting.

To pick a prime example, heaving is endemic among fly casters but instead of understanding it more deeply as a cause of inefficiency it’s just said to be a fault.  Heaving is, counterintuitively, a thief instead of a source of net Force because it is the usual suspect if we rotate before translating or throw tailing loops or produce fat loops by over rotating and so on. Over rotation of the forward cast is what I want to concentrate on in this post and the cause in my case could be described as a subtle form of heaving because I find it very hard to resist the temptation to put a little extra into the delivery cast right at the end – ie during the last bit of rotation.  Importantly, it takes only a tiny amount of extra force to produce over rotation which steals a disproportionate amount of net Force. We subtract by adding.

How I know this? Let’s start with the evidence. Sometimes I’ve had the experience, as I am sure many of you have had, of a delivery cast that feels ridiculously easy and travels an unexpected distance. It’s the cast with a shoot included that would “normally” go 50 feet but instead goes 60 feet or a similar experience with much longer casts again. This can happen if we unexpectedly deliver off, say, the second false cast instead of the next forward cast which was going to be the delivery. Likewise we have all experienced the cast that should have gone ten or twenty feet further than it did. The effort was there alright but the efficiency sucked.

I practiced forward casting intentionally and mindfully until I found the problem which was indicated by the loop shape – just a bit too wide for my liking. Going for that extra little bit, no matter how little extra it was, produced a little bit of over rotation just at the end of the stroke. Remember, a small movement of the hand is greatly amplified by the length of the rod. Leverage has a downside too.

A clue was provided some time ago when I started playing with Lancio Angolato (as mentioned in my previous blog entry) and using the idea of the thrust in more standard overhead casts. It increases the Work done on the line and, more importantly for the current context, it mitigates against over rotation. More movement, less effort. Great, how far can I take this? How little effort can I finish with? You know, when you put the match box up onto the shelf delicately instead of smacking it down.

I found further and better proof when I practiced until I could turn it on and turn it off again – so finishing easy and then finishing just a touch harder. What I was looking for was a delivery without any conscious attempt at oomph, a delivery that I went easy on all the way through, right to the very end. Bingo. A special delivery that goes a long way with good accuracy. (Same deal with the back cast too.)

With that refinement firmly in place – still a work in progress – I can go back to things like tracking, haul timing, trajectory, release timing and other useful things that are all important but perhaps secondary to comprehensive control of force application.