Mid-winter is always a good time to brush up on casting skills. Mix that mission with the acclimatisation crew from the Southern Highlands (who really know how to organise a social day around such an essential activity) and the ingredients were there for a good day.
So yesterday I headed for the deep south, and caught up with a baker’s dozen of casters all there to stretch their casting arms and eager to pick up a few tips. I get a lot of satisfaction out of doing this, spotting little things and suggesting how they can be fixed is a genuinely rewarding experience; and I’ve mentioned a few common problems below if you’ve been thinking about tuning-up.
The venue was a paddock by a farm dam. We got going a little later than expected under a clear blue sky, in a balmy 18 degrees, but with a gale force wind. To be frank, all you needed to do to cast was chuck a line in the air anywhere behind you, and a 60-foot cast would roll itself dutifully across the paddock. Not ideal conditions by any means; but we stuck at it for a couple of hours before both fishing and lunch intervened.
Hurricanes aside, I can’t imagine a nicer day. Wine, beer and soft drinks appeared at just the right moment; pumpkin soup, softened brie, pickles and crackers, followed by a tasty curry, and gourmet meat pies heated and crisped on-site in a kettle BBQ – with blueberry cheesecake, banana cake,and a backdrop of the occasional fish, midging along the dam wall.
Casting turned into fishing and then everyone was into fish. Even young Sam showed his maturity at aged 8, landing several fish on behalf of others, and eventually catching one all on his own. I want Sam back in a few more years when he’s ready for some wisdom. Despite my best efforts to give him a few casting tips, and with a few stern (but smiling) words from his dad to listen up, Sam politely informed me that he just “preferred to do it his way”! Anyway, some tune-up tips for a future Sam herewith; (everyone else of course will know all this).
Tune-up tips for basic casting – if you can already cast
1) Get onto a nice green oval to practice – you can’t practice casting properly if you’re fishing. Start with your stance slightly sideways – as if you were throwing a spear – and keep a relaxed grip on the handle (you’re not trying to choke it).
2) Practice casting with just three false casts – and then shoot your line. The more false casts you do, the more risk it will all go wrong. Rarely should you ever need to do more than three false casts when you’re fishing.
3) Keep the rod moving in a single plane, don’t allow it to move in a convex (or concave for that matter) plane when travelling back and fore.
4) Keep your hand moving in a straight line, more or less parallel to the ground, as it moves back and fore.
5) Think about three variables:
i) the length (amount) of line you’ve got in the air;
ii) the length of the stroke (the distance your hand moves back and fore);
iii) the pause (the length of time you pause the stroke for the line to unroll – before starting the next stroke).
Then remember: THE LONGER THE LINE, THE LONGER THE STROKE, THE LONGER THE PAUSE (apologies for shouting). There is no tick-tock in casting; a pendulum won’t cast a fly line; it’s not a fluid movement; but there is a stop sign front and back, and the count before moving away from the junction gets longer with the amount of line you’ve got airborne.
6) Don’t rush your last false cast. A really common problem I often see is casters not allowing the line to fully extend behind them, and then starting the forward cast too soon, and for some reason thinking they have to give it an ill-timed heave-ho. All that effort gone to waste. Remember, the right amount of power, at the right time.
7) Last quick tip – about creep and drift. Creep is when you bring your hand forward a bit while the line is still unrolling behind you, setting yourself up for the forward cast (bad habit); and drift is when you stop the rod on the back cast to allow it to unroll, and then allow your hand to drift backwards to set up for the forward cast (good habit). Creep is bad, drift is good – trust me on that (and an acknowledgement to Peter Hayes who first explained this to me).
I should also mention, just in case you were wondering, that too much wrist is really really bad. Your wrist needs to be more or less locked, with just a flick to get the power on, and stop the rod. Use both your arm and your body to cast, not your wrist. If you can’t figure this out, get a block of wood, a hammer and a six inch nail, and try knocking in the nail only using your wrist (and the hammer of course – and I say that, tragically, as a disclaimer against liability because it will really hurt if you literally try to knock in a six inch nail with just your wrist).
Tight tippets all
Steve (Snowy Lakes Fly Fishing – Casting Instruction)