Teaching Fly Casting – More of the Instructors Odyssey from Vince Brandon

In his second excellent contribution to this collection Vince takes us further and deeper into his learning about learning and what happens in the relationship between fly casting teachers and students.

I won’t attempt an all inclusive synopsis but he explores verbal and non verbal communication, learning styles, the effects of teacher expectation and the beauty and functionality of “lies to children” – the legitimate use of half truths in taking a student forward knowing that as they progress the useful fallacies will and can be discarded.

He concludes with a challenge to instructors to remain open to new ideas and wary of silver bullet teaching techniques. To teach better we must continue to learn more.

Hauling – Tune Up

Background 

Confession time. Whether I’m fishing or just practicing my casting I haul more often than not. However, I’ve never before set out to do it by the physics text book as it were. My hauling works fine but in my relentless, some would say obsessive, pursuit of efficiency I wondered if it was time to giving my hauling the efficiency treatment.

More specifically I wondered what peak hauling efficiency would look like from each of the perspectives I have explored in depth on this site – ie mechanics, biomechanics, sensory motor learning and practice. Would like to have included teaching as well but  not enough teaching miles on the clock.

With that in mind I ran it past some casting teacher friends whose views I respect. As you would expect we didn’t agree on everything but here is what I came away with and took down to the park for play and experimentation. Most of what follows are my thoughts but other ideas and considerable clarification came from the email group and it’s only right that I acknowledge their help. 

Mechanics

In the Einstein Series hauls got mentioned a few times and I don’t want to cover the same ground again in detail. What’s important to remember is that we are using both the rod and the haul to put kinetic energy into the fly line. That energy is the result of the Work done on the fly line. Work equals Force times distance. This, obviously, applies to both the rod and the haul.

The rod will always do most of the Work but the haul is invaluable in sharing the workload because it means the rod can do less for any given cast than it would have to do by itself. Putting less effort into the stroke means we can make an easier and more controlled stroke.

My search for how I could haul more efficiently took me to a fresh consideration of how the haul works. We all know that force applied by the rod and haul combine but how do they combine best – most efficiently?

Instead of grinding out a technical analysis let’s consider a practical example to answer that question. Say you peel off the leader and 30 feet of fly line into a pile on the ground near your feet. Next you make a ring around the line with the thumb and a finger of one hand. With your other hand you are going to pull some of the slack line through that ring. If you hold the ring hand about head height you can make a decent length “haul” with the other hand, the line hand. Now you can experiment to see how much energy you can inject into the slack line with different movements of the two hands. For example, you can keep the ring hand still and pull straight down with the line hand or pull at an angle less than vertical.

Now, and this the most important bit, if you lower the ring hand to about chest height and then start lifting it at the same time as you pull down with the line hand something different happens. What you will find is that the fly line gets the most energy put into it (the greatest length of fly line is moved) when the two hands move in opposite directions. As always force is applied most efficiently when applied in a straight line. 

Yes, the force applied to the fly line by the rod is not in a perfectly straight line. Similarly, a long haul can only be made when the haul hand goes around the body, outside the plane of the rod. But that isn’t the focus here. We are concerned with applying a combined force using two hands moving in opposite directions. This separation of the hands works best when the separation is executed at 180 deg. This is the winning combination. The losing combination would be to lower the ring hand while the line hand is hauling downwards.

Back to the fly rod and the haul. The rod is towing the fly line and when you haul the angle of the force applied to the line is diverted by the moving rod. If you haul while the rod is coming towards you then the haul might add something to the speed of the line but, as above, that is the losing combination. If you haul while the rod is going away from you then you are in the running for a winning combination because the separation of the rod and line hands can be made in a fairly straight line. 

The last mechanics point is about total line speed produced by the combination of forces applied to the fly line in the intended direction of the cast. The best combination will be a sequence of peak line speed produced by the rod (during rotation) followed closely by peak line speed produced by the line hand. 

If you click on this link it should take you to a video of Lasse Karlsson letting a long one go. He’s not thinking much about mechanics but his cast demonstrates all the above points about mechanical efficiency.

Biomechanics

As described here a fly cast is a modified throwing action produced by a kinetic sequence of body movements. A shortish accuracy cast is performed using the basic or foundation cast. That uses a sequence of upper arm, forearm and hand movements made possible, respectively, by the shoulder, elbow and wrist joints. The longer the cast the more body bits are recruited to the sequence, right up until everything we can press into service has been incorporated. On seriously long casts there is a weight shift (legs and feet), rotation of the hips and of the torso added to the arm movements.

What about a haul? Well to my mind it is also a modified throwing action so the basic biomechanical principles apply to both the rod casting hand and the line hauling hand. The shortest haul might be just a twitch of the hand. As haul length increases, next would come forearm movement and then finally the upper arm. In this way the haul length can be extended and varied from a few inches to several feet. Biomechanical efficiency will come from the correct sequence executed with correct flow between the components of the sequence. The flow and sequence will be from proximal to distal – upper arm, forearm and hand for a long haul. Peak haul speed should closely follow peak rod speed.

Practice and Sensory Motor Learning

As stated (many times!) my casting is devoted to efficiency because that is the pathway to economy of movement – to graceful casting. Such casting looks nice and works extremely well in landing the fly where and how you want it to land. Minimising effort maximises control.

So, off to the park I went to apply theory and see what worked in practice. I know from both research and experience with sensory motor learning how to incorporate changes in my casting. It means starting slow, really slow, like with the butt section detached and making the adjustments literally in slow motion. The next step was making casts at a medium distance, the comfort zone of my casting where movements are essentially automatic and don’t require much conscious control. From there the distance can be gradually increased and technique challenged. When it starts to falter I shorten up and repeat the process. 

I also expected that concentrating on the haul to this extent might well mess up some of my rod hand technique. The haul and stroke co-ordination was being altered. Change one part of the movements and it is likely other parts will be affected.

I’ve had three practice sessions now (and plan on several more) with a haul tune up as the centrepiece. In the first session I could see immediately that I was getting more distance with less effort than usual. In the second session the hauling was much improved but the finish of the stroke was noticeably suffering – I was over rotating slightly which was opening the loops more than I wanted. This was more of a problem on the forward cast than the back cast. By the end of the third session it was all starting to come together.

Some of the other tricks I employed were looking for external cues to aid timing and execution. The most important of these was watching the rod butt about 30cm or one foot above my rod hand. That told me exactly when the rod was starting to head away from me. Secondly, I did quite a few side casts because these gave me a good view of what my hands and the rod were doing.

Was it worth it? Yes, absolutely. It was and is fun. It tested the sequence of my research and, dare I say it, the results were positive. It added distance without added effort. How much? In casts beyond about 70-75’ my guesstimate is at least 5’ and maybe 10’. Think about that. A 90’ cast with 80’ effort or 100’ cast with 90’ effort? Not saying you will get the same results but those were my results.

Takeaways

It’s all about the combination.

  • When the hands should work together – haul timing
  • How they work together – rod hand moving away – line hand moving towards you.
  • What each contributes and contributes in co-ordination. There are parts but there is also a sense in which the sum is greater than its parts.
  • So it’s not a matter of just doing the right things but of doing them so that each hand complements the other – effectively one movement sequence of two hands working together.

For me the last dot point had the most impact. I have tended to think of rod and line hands performing different and separate movements. (Learning to haul can at first be a bit like tapping your head with one hand and rubbing your tummy with the other.) The tune up changed my mind and my practise.

I had to revisit my work on the rod hand and the finish, say the last 25% of the wrist flexion and a tiny bit of forearm straightening with a thrust in the direction of the cast. Only then could I really assess what the haul was contributing, when it was in tune and slightly out of tune with the stroke. As it happens that last bit of the casting stroke is one I’ve been working on and adjusting more recently. I discovered that automation was incomplete or at least not deeply grooved enough to be unaffected by the hauling adjustments and having to work in a slightly different co-ordination with the line hand. Not unexpected but useful to know and the haul tune up made that apparent.

Dynamic rolls (also) encourage a very late straightening or flexion of the wrist because the timing and effort applied in that last little bit makes so much difference. How much? With adjusted hauling technique the results were similar to the overhead casting. It added maybe ten feet at max distance. I made some of my longest ever dynamic roll casts during the third practice session.

One last thing. Hauls are useful for all sorts of things in addition to adding casting distance. As I’ve said before “Whatever casting mechanics might prescribe as the ideal way to cast in terms of efficiency I absolutely reserve the right to do something else because it works or simply because I enjoy it. I can’t break the rules of physics but I am not their haplessly obedient servant.

Let’s take hauling for example. How we share the load between rod hand and line hand is up to each of us. I might not want or be able to time the haul to peak a few milliseconds before Rod Straight Position, which is ideal for going long. I might not be making a long cast. I might want a different tempo of movement in one or both arms that I find pleasant and helpful to accuracy. I might simply enjoy creatively playing around with different contributions of Force between rod and line arms.”

Tuning up my hauling to make it more efficient has been and will be enjoyable. It has changed what I do but not my mind on the freedom to cast expressively.

Making Waves 2.0

This is to let you know that I’ve added a new page talking about using the concept of a fly line as a wave medium to improve our casting. As the piece explains this is a relatively simple idea with a lot of very useful applications.

Waves got a mention back when I wrote the Einstein Series but  I have since been persuaded, mostly by Graeme Hird, that thinking of our fly line as a medium through which we make waves is more useful than my initial treatment gave credit for. In particular we can manipulate tension in the fly line after the loop has formed, something few of us do consciously. However, as Graeme points out, with deliberate movements of the rod tip we can actually maintain, increase or reduce tension. This is a very important insight.

In the new page I report on what I’ve learned about wave theory and tension manipulation during a number of recent practice sessions. Graeme’s experience and mine are much alike on some things and less so on others and I offer some ideas on what might account for the differences in the context of casting efficiency and finesse.

I’m not done with tension increases post loop formation and I’m certainly keen to get more from intentionally manipulating line tension for both casts and mends. Have a read, give it a try and see whether and how it works for you. 

Teaching Fly Casting – New Contribution

I’m delighted to announce publication of a new contribution from UK friend Vince Brandon entitled “2020: An Instructors Odyssey“. In this piece Vince shares part of his journey as a caster and casting teacher showing us how both have been informed by science and sports science. He does it all with authentic and refreshing openness.

Vince is something of a physics boffin and draws on his understanding of mechanics. He also draws on biomechanics, sensory motor learning and control and sports psychology. There is a lot of good stuff in this piece so its well worth making time to read it all the way through.

Teaching Fly Casting – Update

In my previous post I announced the creation of a new section devoted to Teaching Fly Casting. As explained here in the introduction, this section will open the site up to other contributors. You will also see in the intro what kind of contributions I am looking for – basically from people who have gone beyond orthodoxy in what they teach and how they go about it. Most likely, they have found and adapted knowledge gained in looking to other contexts, sporting or otherwise, in which skilled movement is being learned and taught.

The new section has been kicked off in fine style with a delightful and thoughtful piece from prominent UK casting teacher Mark Surtees entitled The Wizard.

If you are interested as a potential contributor I would love to talk it over with you. Feel free to send me an email via the contact button on this site.

Teaching Fly Casting – Call for Contributions

Background

For some time I’ve wanted to create a section dealing with the teaching of fly casting. What stopped me was a relative lack of teaching experience. You need a lot of miles on the teaching clock to have experience that is both wide and deep enough to speak with authority about goes on between casting teachers and students. Teachers are the keepers, borrowers, contributors and conveyors of the fly casting body of knowledge and more needs to be said about how people learn and teachers teach to greatest effect.

I have also wanted to take this site in new, different and more expansive directions by opening it up to other authors who could add to the fly casting body of knowledge. After a bit of head scratching and discussion with people whose opinions I respect, the solution decided upon was to do both at the same time. The new section will house contributions from casting teachers and, hopefully, from students as well.

Among casting “instructors” there are people who have gone beyond orthodoxy in what they teach and how they go about it. They understand that the job is teaching people to fly cast rather than teaching fly casting to people.

Further, there are people who, like me, understand that teaching fly casting is teaching movement and accordingly there will be other contexts, including other sports, in which relevant knowledge and experience has been accumulated. Teachers elsewhere will have learned things we can take up and adapt to teach fly casting better.

A huge amount of money, effort and time have gone into the science and practice of teaching movement. To take advantage of that we need look past the assumption that fly casting, like fly fishing, is completely unique and exceptional. The trick is to look for similarities (instead of assuming fundamental differences) in the subject matter, the learning and therefore teaching of movement.

Call for Contributions

This post has two purposes. First, it announces a new section and my intention to take this site in new directions. Second, and more importantly, it is an invitation to casting teachers who have ventured beyond orthodox thinking and would like to share their experiences with others. If you have experience as a (casting) teacher that seems to fit the bill please let me know. If you use the contact button in the side menu to send me an email we will get the ball rolling.

The broad subject areas I have in mind are:

  • Teaching people – Relevant principles, perspectives, approaches and concepts
  • Learning movement – Understanding how we do this best “naturally”
  • Teaching movement – Other contexts
  • Teaching Fly Casting – Combining the above

I should add immediately that I am seeing these as potential assemblies of content and not as spaces reserved for an exhaustive collection of all available knowledge. The latter is neither possible nor necessary imho. What we need are fresh ideas freely expressed that have been field tested and proven.

As well as these knowledge assemblies I also want to make space for students to participate by providing us with Student Reports of what worked for them. Lastly I can see room for a multi media Resources Collection – bibliographic suggestions. One thing at a time though. We’ll open and start populating the space shortly, kicking off with a ripper piece from Mark Surtees.

Gear Changes and Adaption

In the previous post I spoke about a practice session using different lines on two 5wt rods with different actions. Same reel for both rods. The gear variations weren’t huge in quantitive terms but taken altogether they did produce significant demands for adjustment in order to maintain control and sustain efficiency.  They changed the feel and, in particular, the feedback provided while casting. Not many casters need to be told that qualitative differences matter because they do and because changing outfits requires our sensory motor system to adapt. Adapting is what fishing demands of us and the better we are at it the better our fishing will be. Simply put, it is an integral part of sound casting technique.

Here in Melbourne Australia we are back under even stricter lockdown so casting practice is out for me until restrictions are eased. As I’ve become fond of saying, when it comes to transmission of the virus population density is indeed a problem. Sigh. My last extended practice session involved another cut at adaption, this time by changing the weight of the outfit by changing reels – heavier reel, lighter reel and zero reel (off the rod and in my pocket).

It all started, as these things often do, with a discussion of how reel weight affects the feel of the rod. My friend in the UK said it made a lot of difference, to the point where shedding the reel made some of his rods come alive.  My own experience suggested it made a difference but not to same extent. So we started weighing some of our reels with different lines spooled up and I devised an experiment. Off to the park I went with my two 5wt rods and various reels and lines. I set up a targets at 60′, 70′, 80′ and 90′ and after limbering up I put the two rods and two different reels (GT125 5wt on an SKB 6/8 cassette reel and GT90 5wt on an ancient Danica 6/9) through their paces. With the reel pocketed that made a total of 6 combos.

Lest anyone think that I’m trying to promote any of the gear, I’m not. This stuff is simply what I fish(ed) and practice with most often. Normally I avoid any mention of brands or models but in this instance an exception has to be made. Why avoid tackle talk? Because technique can’t be bought at a tackle shop.

The Tests

Practice regime for each combo – limber up, short accuracy work, some TLT (Svirgolato and Lancio Angolato), single hand spey, backhand side as well as forehand for overhead and spey.  Casts were then repeatedly made to each target finishing with a series of longer casts 80’, 80′ plus, 90’ and 90′ plus. No casts made for maximum distance. The idea was to get familiar with each combo applied to wide range of lengths and tasks. Sundry extra combo swaps were thrown in to check felt differences.

Didn’t take notes because this was about qualitative feel rather than quantitative fact. Conditions were wet ground and a very slight head wind which was actually good because there were no free lunches on turning over the leader completely at distance or with roll casts.

Results

Two overall “metrics” – performance and preference. For this exercise mechanics are a side issue to caster experience.

Rod 1 Hardy Wraith 590

No significant performance outcomes except maybe for shorter casts <60’. At that distance the feel aspect actually favoured the heavier outfit. Of course this is the one I and my sensory motor system know best. Going up from zero reel to heaviest reel, yes I could feel the heavier weight/load especially at medium to longer distance. Didn’t really like the zero option until the carry was 70’+. Then things smoothed out nicely.

Takeaway? Slight preference overall for the lighter reel. The rod is an absolute weapon in fishing terms with a really nice balance of power and finesse – distance, accuracy and specialty casts.

Rod 2 Sage X 597

No significant performance outcomes. Zero reel felt especially “off” with this rod – heavier tip, whole thing felt a bit wobbly and unbalanced until the longer casts were being made.

Takeaway? Clearer preference for the lighter reel. The weight and effort distribution were nicer on this rod which needs a gentle approach to truly show its class. More about finesse than power but the power of this rod is not to be underestimated when stroke timing and effort are properly adjusted.

Overall

I didn’t think that the action and feel of either rod were “set free” by the lighter reel or by no reel but I did like the effect of less weight for stroke control – except for the shortest casts with the Wraith 590. Would not choose the no reel option for either rod. Of course it’s a) not an option and b) the least familiar combo. Confession time, I placed an order for  a lovely reel with nordic design and engineering. Sadly, haven’t had the chance yet to see how it fishes and what it’s like to cast but I expect pleasant experiences in both domains.

My suggestion, with due regard for individual preferences and needs, is to try switching gear around occasionally during practice sessions. It reduces boredom and increases skill.

 

 

Control, Adaption and Casting Mechanics: A Practicing Example

I mainly practice with a fast action 5wt 9′ rod and a long belly 5wt line (Barrio GT 125). Every now and again I like to switch to something else not just to break the monotony but to force adaption to a different gear setup and thereby fine tune sensory motor control. So, for a recent session I changed rods to a slightly longer and slower action 9′ 6″ rod.  (More about that rod here).  As well as the GT125  5wt line I took along an SLX “5wt” single hand spey line. The inverted commas are there because technically it is significantly heavier than the AFFTA standard range for a 5wt line which is in no way a criticism but rather a simple statement of fact.

During the first part of the practice session I warmed up with the GT125 going through the parts of the practice regime I considered would help to make the necessary adjustments. Then I moved on to making accuracy casts to 4 targets laid out at 10 foot intervals.

There were a few signs of things needing refinement with the most important being the size, shape and orientation of the loops – overhead and roll casting. They were just a tad too wide for my liking signifying that the efficiency of force application – amount and timing – was just a bit off. A little less effort overall and a slight delay in final rotation were the required adjustments.

Now it was time to switch lines and limber up with the SLX. These lines have a comparatively shorter, heavier head and as Vince Brandon pointed out to me in subsequent discussion, their taper profile is somewhat similar to a Wulff triangle taper – a line I have never owned or cast. I bought the SLX on something of a whim and have fished a couple of sessions with it on my fast action 5wt. On that rod I found it just a bit clunky at distance when overhead casting. On my 9′ 6″ rod it is a much sweeter line to throw.

The surprise came when the SLX was used for accuracy casting to the 4 targets. The loops were noticeably tidier, meaning tighter and not just for the shorter range casts of 60′ and 70′.  What was that about? Wider loops for the GT125 and narrower ones for the SLX when initially deployed.

Sparing you most of the analysis I think there were two related things going on that shed light on the different results with different lines and made the heavier line initially easier to control. On the sensory motor side the additional weight increased feedback. When feedback diminishes, from slack or lighter line weight, we have an instinctive tendency to speed up the stroke and increase effort until we find what we are searching for – the feeling of effective effort. Unfortunately, we are also in grave danger of producing a negative outcome – we heave and when we heave we rotate too much or too soon or both. That’s why loops get wider – in extreme cases we see the effects of a windscreen wiper stroke.

On the casting mechanics side I suspect the different weight of the amount of line aerialised affected the amount of rod bend. Rods shorten when they bend. If the body movements are identical then for the same casting stroke the tip of a longer rod travels more distance, ideally in the intended direction of the cast. The tip of a shorter rod travels less distance. In summary, the length of the lever amplifies the movement of the casting arm. The detail of what the rod does as a third class lever is explained here. A longer rod performs more Work on the line because the Force is applied for a greater distance.

So in the present example a slightly shorter rod giving more feedback is somewhat easier to control and we need control to cast efficiently. On the other hand the Work done by the longer rod is greater. For the same movement of the casting arm we get more kinetic energy going into the line. From a caster’s perspective the efficiency sweet spots for the two different lines will be slightly but significantly different. Staying in those sweet spots  produces a noticeably different overall feel. For the longer rod I needed to “wait for it” just a bit longer and throughout the casting stroke.

The actual measurements slotted into the relevant equations are not where this is going. They might be interesting but they provide no feel or feedback to a sensory motor system which is what we use to control our casting strokes. The extra rod length is proportionally small and the difference in rod flexibility is probably also on the low side. However, those differences combined with different weight distribution in the two fly lines do produce significant demands for adjustment in order to maintain control and sustain efficiency. Making those adjustments is enjoyable and produces better overall technique. Try it and see what you think.

 

 

 

 

Free at Last! Expressing Yourself

There hasn’t been much to write about for a couple of months. Been in lockdown mode so no casting practice. No practice means I’ve had nothing to preach about.  Here in Oz the restrictions have eased enough that the optics of throwing some loops have greatly improved and I’ve managed a couple of park sessions.

With the aid of a structured practice routine the first session was about discovering how much had been lost and the second was about picking up where I left off in the last post. The key point there was making a delivery without any conscious attempt at oomph, a delivery that I went easy on all the way through, right to the very end.

The obvious place to resume was at a medium casting distance, the point where no effort or restraint from effort is required. Physically, this is biomechanical easy street. From a sensory motor perspective little conscious thought is involved and movement is largely automatic. Technique is sound. Mentally it’s a composed and confident space. I really enjoy this place; it’s where learning is relatively clutter free because available attention is high. If you haven’t visited this clearing in the casting jungle I urge you to seek and explore it. Yes, I know, I’ve said most of this before but for now, consider it context establishment.

So, there I am, casting to a target at medium distance and then to the next one ten feet further away and then back again and then ten feet short of medium distance and then progress as before. Something importantly different starts to happen. Instead of an external focus on technique (eg tracking, tracing, translation, rotation, loop width, full and straight turnover) I am now experiencing the movement internally. Rhythm and tempo are matched and in balance between forward and back casts. Minor changes in trajectory can be made at will. I’m fully in the movement of my body rather than trying to observe it and its results from the outside. Not only can I do it correctly I can do it expressively. Then the question becomes for how long and how far can the experience  be extended. Space, time and distance.

As I write this I’m doubting it will hit the spot with many of my fellow casting pilgrims but each and all the journeys are simultaneously shared and personal. A tag line I have taken from Emerson is that “The line of beauty is the result of perfect economy.” Graceful movement then, is economic. It is not surprising that Joan Wulff and Chris Rownes were both professional dancers. Their casting is pretty easy on the eye.

 

 

 

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.