Basic Castng III

by Fly Fisherman

I feel compelled to bring up one other minor movement in the casting procedure. You may have developed the gesture unconsciously, many do. That is, as your rod tip travels backward and forward it should not be in a straight line. If it travels in a straight line, the line or leader will have the tendency many times to strike and tangle with the rod tip on too many casts. It is not difficult to make your forward cast slightly to the right and the back cast to the left, forming a sharp ellipse of the rod tip, with the sweeps of the rod only a few inches apart at the greatest width of the ellipse. This is an easily developed habit if it did not form itself with you naturally. You can feel this action without looking. Some say this is necessary only when combatting wind. That may be true, however the action does not detract from accuracy in any event and it’s a good habit to form so you won’t have to think about it.

Now go through the procedure except that the steps be continuous. Do not permit the fly to touch the water or ground surface but start it on the back cast just before the loop straightens. This is termed “False Casting” and is used constantly in dry fly fishing. The purpose, primarily, is to dry the fly after previous contact with the water and to get direction and distance required, preparatory to presentation of the fly to the trout. Extending or lengthening the distance is done on the forward cast. Line is stripped from the reel, held in the left hand during the back cast and is released on a forward false cast or immediately before dropping the fly.
In your practice sessions I would suggest that you forget distance or long casts until you have attained a measurable rhythm and a semblance of accuracy on casts up to not more than 30 or 35 feet. “Accuracy” isn’t putting your fly in a teacup each time you try but you should be able to drop it on a spread handkerchief, more times than not, in continuous casting.
If you are a beginning fly caster I would hope that you would or could refrain from fishing until you had put in several hours cast practicing over a week or ten-day period. By that time, if you have worked with intent to improve and have imbued yourself with the two basic laws so that you do not even have to think about them or your timing, you will have reached a stage of skill attained by too few anglers. A bit of practice every day will result in greater benefits and more accuracy-skill than if the work is packed into one or two long sessions.

If you have followed. this instruction with the short line and have been able to make the casts behave more times than not, start extending the length of line up to 35 or 40 feet. Notice how much easier it is? You have a bit of additional weight of line to cast now which, you will observe, seems to make your casts smoother. Be sure to hold an angle of line with your left hand, if casting with your right, from a few inches up to the extent of your normal reach, whichever is natural to you. This grip on the line allows you to feed line out when needed; it permits a hasty single or double haul, also when needed (this movement is described later); it gives you better control of your line. Now you begin to feel confidence in your ability and that feeling alone is going to raise your skill several notches. You wonder how you could have been so awkward at first when this is so easily done—then-
When your line falls and wraps itself around your neck, reel it in to the original short cast and work out from there. You’re just a bit dumbfounded. What happened? I cannot tell you from here—that’s something you’ll have to dope out for yourself. However, as practice continues, those interludes of miscalculation will become more and more infrequent. (As you become increasingly skillful and the term “Good Caster” may be applied to you, then watch carefully because little gremlins will start taking rides on your fly and will force it to execute very unexpected reverses.)

I have purposely delayed mentioning an old rule that still is law to many fly casters. The reason it was not brought up is that I do not believe it. This law is, that your elbow must be kept rigidly at your side and close to the body, if the cast is to be any good. I remember how my dad put a handkerchief under my arm when first instructing me in the rudiments of casting a fly rod. I was told that, under no circumstances, must the handkerchief fall to the ground. I learned that way and it became a habit I had much difficulty in breaking. Some say to keep a stiff wrist and suggest tying the butt of the rod, below the reel, to the forearm to learn how it should be handled. Bologna and Salami! There is no relaxed movement evident at all when either or both of those restrictions are followed. The purpose of casting is to place your fly at a designated spot, smoothly and with a minimum of effort, with a high percentage of hits.

How you do it physically is of little matter. Whether your arm is extended over your head, across your body or rippling like a hula dancer’s, has no bearing on your cast, providing the rod does not go beyond the vertical on your back cast, as the line is thrown straight up in the air. Find the way, yourself, how you cast best and easiest by trying different movements of your arm and wrist in a natural manner. Adopt the arm and wrist action that handles your rod correctly, is the least tiring to you, and forget any others.

At this point you should have a rhythmic cast and can place your fly approximately where you are aiming. The next step is one of imagination. It may sound a bit absurd, but it isn’t and it is quite important. In your practice sessions you have been seeing the water surface, or the grass surface, stimulating water. I’m going to ask that you raise the level of that surface two or three feet, in your mind’s eye. If that doesn’t picture itself on your mind, imagine a carpenter’s sawhorse out there, the distance you are casting. It is your problem to cast your fly over that sawhorse before it drops to the surface. By drilling your imagination in this exercise every time you cast it will become semi-automatic, but notice how lightly your fly lands every time. If you have difficulty in the fly dropping too hard, release a foot or so of line as the cast reaches its extreme distance. That takes the shock out of the cast and the fly drops as it should.

You will have observed now that the power which propels or drives the line in the direction which the caster wishes, occurs at the butt of the rod, traveling up to the tip, is applied by a degree of pressure in the form of a forward “kick” or push rather than by an extended sweep of the rod, which either terminates in a definite whip cracking snap or the line falls weakly in front of the caster without any determined direction. A good forward cast depends entirely upon the quality of the back cast. Remember again, the perpendicular halt of the rod and the “straight up” back cast.

Practice this regular or normal cast every time you have the opportunity until it becomes a part of you. Well over 90 per cent of your fishing casts will be this one. Many fishermen know no other method of casting. As you become adept at the normal “overhead” cast, using the same movements, the same procedure, drop your rod tip to the right two or three feet and cast at this angle. Then drop the rod to a horizontal position or nearly so and work that angle. This latter cast is more difficult because timing must be perfect to keep your line off the ground or the water. The horizontal cast is somewhat important if you intend learning the “curve” or “hook” cast, which will be described later. Now try a 90-degree or right angle cast from your left side, working the rod with the arm across the body. These angle casts will be required many times when you are compelled to fight a wind or other obstacles in your actual fishing or in your casting practice. When you have these casts down pat, and not until then, go on to the trick or “craft” casts.

At this point, after a few conscientious practice hours, and the rod, line, leader and fly are not performing as you would wish, that they are not executing the maneuver as you have directed, let’s take a glance at the “Delinquent Ten” of good fly rod casting. Should you be employing any of the following —that’s probably your answer.

1. Are you gripping the rod too tightly, with no relaxed periods, during the cast or are you grasping the rod grip in the wrong manner?
2. Are you failing to employ force, at the 10 o’clock point, at the beginning of the back cast?
3. Are you negligent in halting the upward power stroke at the vertical point or applying enough power on the upward thrust to get a high line?
4. Are you permitting the rod to drift backward too far after the vertical power halt?
5. Are you starting your forward cast too quickly, before the line completes its roll out on the back cast?
“Basic Casting” 45
6. Are you applying the power too gently at the start of the forward cast, then have to rush it with a too vigorous “kick?”
7. Are you employing too much force throughout the forward cast, or extending the power too far, or beyond the 10 o’clock angle?
8. Are you permitting any line to escape through the guides as you put on the power, in the forward cast?
9. Are you in too much of a hurry and trying for the
long cast before you’re master of the shorter one? 10 Are you permitting yourself to tire in practice
sessions?

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