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Topic: Fly Casting 101, observations from a recent class< Next Oldest | Next Newest >
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Chris Dore Search for posts by this member.
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PostIcon Posted on: Oct. 15 2006,08:18  Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

Back to Basics
Fly Casting 101

Recently, whilst instructing at the Wakatipu Anglers Club beginners fly fishing course, I noticed EVERY beginners tendency to overpower, or ‘shock’ the rod. This caused no end of trouble, and resulted ultimately in wind knots aplenty, and a cast that went nowhere. We will now run through how I teach the basic pick up and lay down, before tightening things up and progressing to false casting.

Now, the basic overhead cast can be broken down into five components.

1. The lift
2. Rotation
3. Pause
4. Rotation
5. Follow through

I get all newbie’s to hold the rod in a relaxed grip, thumb on top, likened to holding a hammer, or shaking hands with a child (you don’t want to hurt them).
Now stand with your casting foot forward, feet spaced comfortably apart, and weight more towards the rear foot. Your elbow hangs loosely by your side, with the rod tip pointing to the ground. Trap the line between your forefinger and the rod handle. Put your other hand in your pocket for now.
This is known as the closed stance, where everything lines up – rod, hand, eye, similar to throwing a dart. This is the stance we will begin with.
Strip several yards of line from the reel and manoeuvre this outside of the rod tip. This is the distance at where we will begin.

Step 1. The lift.

The lift is but a powerless repositioning of the rod tip. Beginning with the rod tip low to the ground and with a depressed wrist, we slowly lift the rod tip up towards the vertical.
That’s it! Sorry there wasn’t more excitement, but the lift actually serves two uber important functions. Firstly, it pulls your fly line free of the surface tension, allowing to slide across the water effortlessly. Secondly, it eliminates slack line, one of the most important essentials of fly casting technique.

Step 2. Rotation.

For want of a more descriptive term, lets call this step ‘the upward flick’, as that is just what we do.
As your rod tip approaches vertical, a short, crisp, controlled upward flick of the wrist accelerates the rod tip, forcing it to bend (load) against the weight of the line. This movement begins slow, and accelerates as your wrist opens , coming to a positive stop to form your back cast. Your casting stroke is simply a squeezing of your hand, relaxing immediately after the stop has been made.

Checkpoint - your hand should now be level with your ear, and slightly outside of the elbow. Your elbow hanging relaxed at your side. Thumb, on top of the rod, pointing slightly rear of verticle.



Step 3. Pause

What we do now is very important…. Nothing.
With our beautifully formed loop travelling behind us, we must pause a while for it to completely straighten, before commencing our forward stroke. To begin our forward stroke too early will result in a ‘whipping’ of the fly line, a lost fly, and in general, a really big mess where the line piles up in front of you if it makes it past your head in the first place. Leaving it too late, and your back cast will fall low, introducing slack line, and possibly fowling on bank side foliage.
The length of the pause will vary depending on the amount of line you have out.

Good Instruction = Short line, short pause. Long line, long pause


Step 4. Rotation

We will call this on the ‘forward flick’, and that is just what we do. Whilst our back cast is an upward flick of the wrist, our forward cast is very much the same, a controlled forward snap of the wrist. Some people liken it to flicking an apple off a stick, or hitting a nail with your hammer.
I like to get people to imagine there is a wee button beneath their thumb on the rod handle, and on our forward cast we lead by ‘hitting the button’.
Do not push the rod tip all the way down to the ground. We want to stop the rod high, a nice, crisp stop as we did on the back cast.

Step 5. Follow through.

Like a good golfer / cricketer / tennis pro, following through can make or break a movement.
With the rod stopped high, we wait for the forward loop to unfurl (Pause), before following the falling line to the ground with the rod tip.
This aids in a lighter, more accurate presentation and just looks pretty.

Right, this is your basic overhead cast, lets revise;

1. The Lift – a powerless repositioning of the rod tip.
2. Rotation – A short, controlled upward flick of the wrist.
3. Pause – Let it straighten.
4. Rotation – Push the button / Hit the nail.
5. Follow through – drop the rod tip in time with the line.

Fine tuning

As mentioned, most people have a tendency to over power the cast. This is not needed.
Fly casting is a subtle art form, requiring good technique, not brute force.
Think of your entire stroke as one smooth, continuous movement, the Lift merging into Rotation, the Pause, forward Rotation and Follow through all flowing together. Silky smooth, like a ribbon, without any sudden, jerky movements. This is your bacic pick up and lay down cast.

Rotation. With such a short line, you are only allowing a minimal movement of your wrist. A short, controlled, crisp upward flip is all it takes to noticeably accelerate the rod tip, and load the rod for the back cast. Similarly, your forward rotation should also be a smooth acceleration, similar to hitting a nail with a hammer. Ensure a relaxed grip, and lead with the thumb, to impart your flick into the rod tip.

Once we get this all running smoothly together, we are going to reduce the amount of effort you are putting into your cast. Try it again, but this time use less power.
We are now going to run through a sequence of five pick up and lay downs, each one using less power than the previous.

With a smooth, gentle power application under control we will now endeavour to keep your line in the air. This is what we call false casting, and we use this to both extend line for the cast, and to dry off our fly if required.

Now, Lift, Rotate, Pause, Rotate and ensure the rod tip stops high at the completion of the forward stroke. Do not follow through. This time, when the forward loop straightens, we are going to smoothly accelerate again into the back cast, without allowing the line to fall. This time on the forward stroke, we will allow the line to straighten, follow through, and lay it all down.

It pays to keep false casting to a minimum, one or two at the preferred most.
The more time your line is in the air, the more chance it has of both fouling up, and scaring fish. Also, you cannot catch fish if your fly is not upon the water…

Practise this for a while, ensuring your casting stroke remains the same. Nice smooth false casting, avoiding any jerky movements or applications of power.

Time to clean up your loops…
Now, tight, aerodynamic loops require the rod tip to travel in a straight line path.
A big, circular ‘window washer’ path will result in a wide, ineffective loop, whereas a concave path, where your rod tip dips below the straight line path (SLP) will result in a tailing loop, which is bad.

If we are keeping to our smooth casting stroke, and employing minimal power application our loops should be looking pretty good by now.
Let me introduce you to the casting arc.
Our casting arc is the angle through which your rod butt travels throughout rotation. This angle will vary depending on how much line you have out. Short line, small casting arc, longer line, wider casting arc.
But lets use something visual.

Whilst false casting you will see the distance your rod tip travels throughout your casting stroke. Look at the path it scribes across the sky between your rear stopping point, to your forward stopping point.
Now lets play with this a little.
With the short line we are using at present, lets lengthen this tip path, and scribe a long path across the sky. Notice how your loops open up? A wide loop sports a large front face, which is very susceptible to wind. What you want is a tight, narrow loop, which presents a small forward surface area, and cuts through winds with ease, also assisting in more accurate presentations.

Lets reduce your tip path to only a short scribe across the sky. Using minimal power and a smooth power application, watch your loops narrow.

Congrats, this is your new casting stroke!

Chris


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ThomasW Search for posts by this member.

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PostIcon Posted on: Oct. 20 2006,23:40 Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

Thanks for the great post. Very helpful.

I went out for my first serious fly rod cast today. After a while I tried to put  your recommendations into use and I think they did help. Although I find it hard to 'pause' after the  upwards flick, I keep on wanting to cast back outwards.
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PostIcon Posted on: Oct. 21 2006,22:21 Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

Thanks for the info Chris everyday we can all learn something new.Iam always lookin for advice,regularly lookin on sexyloops.but i enjoy this forum.
                                           manythanks rua.
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Chris Dore Search for posts by this member.
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PostIcon Posted on: Oct. 22 2006,22:47 Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

Thanks guys. Paul from sexyloops is a good mate of mine, and my style is based on his teachings. Easy, straightforwards, and without the BS.
Feedback is always welcome, just PM me

chris


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PostIcon Posted on: Oct. 23 2006,15:29 Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

You and I teach similarly Chris... I actually get anglers on casting courses to spend time, and encourage them to practise this, casting a rod with the lightest grip they can muster and the least amount of power they can apply... It helps the amount of power actually required to sink in....

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PostIcon Posted on: Oct. 23 2006,15:45 Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

Hi Chris,

I thought I'd just let you know I've been following your casting posts with interest.

BTW the video links have been really helpful.

Thanks, Chris
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Chris Dore Search for posts by this member.
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PostIcon Posted on: Oct. 23 2006,18:32 Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

cheers guys.
Clarke, I find minimal power false casting the perfect way to cure many problems. Just keep saying something like 'let it roll off the tip, smooth as silk', and it gets them in the right mindset. As for casting arc, use the visual - 'see the path your tip scribes across the sky? Try and shorten it - you have just adapted your casting arc...' Its also a great way to perfect timing, using the open stance, to watch it all happen

I appreciate everyones feedback

Its a lot of fun, and always a learning experience

chris


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PostIcon Posted on: Oct. 26 2006,16:25 Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

Very true Chris.

I was struggling a bit with my 4 wt on the weekend, I seemed to be trying hard and getting poor results. So I took a few minute to watch the loops and sure enough there were the tell-tale shock waves on the forward cast. So I reduced the effort on my forward cast and concentrated on a smoothe accelaration. Straight away nice straight line and more distance for less effort.

I don't think the Taupo winter fishing with heavy nymph rigs did my casting any favours!  :(
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PostIcon Posted on: Nov. 04 2006,00:22 Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

I am not the world's best fly caster in a quinzillion years and also not the greatest teacher either.  So I'll shut up now.

(All I was going to say was that I get poor the unfortunates I teach to cast [they only do it once...] to watch their line on the back cast so they can see when things start to load up behind them.  When they get that timing thing right I then get them to do it with their eyes shut.

Somehow, sometimes, that seems to get the timing thing in their heads for when to start the forward stroke.  Probably the most heretic thing one could possibly do in teaching someone to cast but it seemed to work on the odd occasion.)

Perhaps the most useful advice I could ever offer is:

Track down a video of fly casting instruction by Mel KREIGER.  He also has a good book called the "Essence of fly casting".  I think the video (or is it now DVD?) is of the same name.  

Or read what Chris Dore has to say.....


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Chris Dore Search for posts by this member.
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PostIcon Posted on: Nov. 04 2006,06:45 Skip to the previous post in this topic.  Ignore posts   QUOTE

cheers mate.

I think the closed stance is very important when teaching ppl to cast. Sure, it makes it tougher to see their backcast, but standing with the casting foot (right foot for right handers) comfortably forward, all weight on the back foot (this prevents the novices tendency to 'lunge' into the cast with their entire body, thus affecting hand / tip path) and the casting arm hanging loosly at the side is the best way to teach good form.

Remember to keep a relaxed grip throughout the casting stroke, squeezing only at the stop. Squeezing with a tight grip throughout the whole motion not only affects tip response, but rotating ones arm through the casting arc with all those tendons / muscles tightly contracted can lead to 'tennis elbow' and other nasty afflictions.

chris


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