Back Cast Tune-Up

At the beginning of April I arrived back from another extended and delightful trip to Tasmania. Unfortunately, I also came back with a bad casting habit I thought I had gotten rid of.  Five weeks fishing in Tassie conditions – wind and an urge to make quick covers – brought back the (felt) need for speed and with that my version of over rotation on the backcast – too much effort. The result of this over rotation was a pronounced dip (slack line effectively) in the back cast, especially with longer carries. It’s mechanically inefficient and a Force thief because the next forward cast has to remove the slack before it can propel the line where and as I want it to go.

The problem was picked up by Graeme Hird with whom I had a post trip “cast and a chat”.  It was confirmed with some video footage. He also suggested a remedy which was to practice making a delivery off the backcast – something I have long needed to do more of.  I took up and adapted his suggestion. Thanks mate.

At first glance all this refers to a common and “simple” problem. Viewed from a fault correction perspective both the problem and the solution are straightforward. Too much rotation? Rotate less. How? Use less effort and don’t use your wrist joint as much. Oh, ok then.

If you, like me, tend to over rotate on the back cast and a standard fault correction approach works that’s your good fortune. However, I need to know the why if I’m going work out the how to of fixing the problem. In this instance I wanted to work out why going a bit hard was driving a biomechanical bug which came in two parts. First, too much hand movement (extension) at the wrist joint (effort induced) and secondly, not enough freedom to extend the forearm more and thus the rod hand less. Both these problems derive, essentially, from excessive effort.

That first problem was assisted by more upper arm movement during a basic cast from a squarish stance. The second problem arises with a more open stance for longer casts and so more shoulder turn/torso rotation assisted effort reduction and also improved tracking issues which also arise during the rotation stage. (More squared stance for short to medium distances and more open stance for the medium to long casts.)

As always, casting movements of the rod hand should be executed with smooth acceleration and minimum effort. In my case the acceleration was smooth enough until the point where too much effort was being applied during wrist extension. A lack of shoulder rotation on the longer carries was forcing my forearm to move outwards in an attempt to get around the block imposed by the limited movement permitted by the elbow – essentially it is a hinge. That outward movement put my tracking off by about 20 degrees. Like I said, none this was entirely new nor is it the end of the world for fishing casts. It was old habits returned in both square and open stance casting that produced slack line and a tracking error. You can check this fairly definitively for yourself by making a delivery off the back cast and seeing how the line lays out. The best evidence, however, will come from video footage.

I don’t want to make this either more simple or more complicated than it deserves but, as you may have found out already, tweaking one thing often results in consequential changes of two kinds. 1) Other things have to be adjusted to accommodate the change. 2) Insights gained from changing one thing can inform how you do other things. In fixing my problems I’ve had to make adjustments and I’ve benefited from both varieties of consequential change. More on that another time but for now let’s look at the remedial process. Off to the park for some practice and (re)learning.

Step One 

Working with a square stance and basic stroke I could watch my loops in real time and then on video. Were they tight enough or a bit fat?  Starting with a medium length cast and then going longer and shorter did the trick. Pick up and lay down casts in both directions helped as did smoothing out the forward cast in response to the easier tempo of the back cast. Also incorporated was something Peter Morse showed me recently – deliberately casting with (absolutely) minimal effort in both directions. It feels like the casts will fail – but they don’t. 

Step two 

The next job was sorting out the longer carries for longer casts from a much more open stance. This was more complicated, of course, because the casting movements involve a lot more bits of the body. To give the adjustments a clear purpose I used my line of targets but instead of facing them I turned around and aimed at them off the back cast. The focus became back casts with false casting, delivery and trajectory alterations to suit. While I was doing this I could sortout the biomechanical issues to keep the loops tight and the tracking correct. It soon became obvious that I needed to ease up a bit more to keep everything tidy. Easing up applied to casts in both directions. Oh my, did I just find a way of saving some more effort? Yep, an unexpected bonus.

Step Three: Reflection

I had made significant changes to my back cast which had consequences for my forward cast technique. Instead of merely correcting a “fault” isolated from the rest of my movements I had finished up renovating and reconstructing a significant part of my overall casting technique.

Let me explain that a bit more. I have become a great believer in the virtue of making the back cast movement mirror, as far as possible, my forward cast movement. By that I mean I want the cadence and tempo to balance out and I want the technique and its kinetic sequence to feel essentially the same in execution and effort going back and going forward. Translation, rotation, completeness of the finish and most especially the timing, amount and progression of effort – I want all of this to feel like two cycles of a pendulum. I want to make two focussed casts, one backwards and one forwards, with the same conscious intent such that with trajectory adjustment I can deliver effectively going either way.


My practice regime has been amended to include:

  • Casting in both directions with minimal effort – meaning just enough to complete turnover and with gradually increasing distance from medium to medium long – no hauls.
  • PUALD casts made in one direction and then the other – pick up and back cast then pick up and forward cast – no false casting allowed at first and then allowed in one direction at a time.
  • Accuracy casting in both directions – as above with increasing distances. False casts and hauls added back in.

My casting has been restored to its pre-trip status and with added benefits. More on where those benefits took me that next time.