Below is the conclusion of an article by Mike Heritage in the latest issue of the FFF publication "Loop Magazine". Mike is an internationally known and respected Master Casting Instructor and distance casting champion from the UK who posts here ocassionally.
He's a frequent contributer, debater, question poser and casting analyser on the Sexyloops casting board. I do not think he will mind my posting his conclusion without his permission, as he is one of the most generous people I know in helping people with their casting. I have highlighted the specific primary points in Mike's conclusion.
This is the concluding part of the three parter on how to cast 100’.
The problem for me is that there is no one way to do it. We are not clones. Even if you pick one just particular style there are numerous variations. Add to that the different styles you have a multitude of possibilities and I don’t know them all.
If there is one thing that is constant about my posts is the constant reminder that we are all different physically which means we all have different ways of doing things. However I have seen a lot of very good distance casters and there are some things that they all do, the common denominators if you like, so let’s have a look some of them.
I have never met a good distance caster who doesn’t watch their back cast. If you don’t watch it you are only ever going to see half the picture. Perhaps I should have said all distance casters have great back casts and the reason it is great is because they watch it. There is a link between the eye and the body that always improves the back cast. Without the visual reference the loops will nearly always be wider. You would think that after watching thousands and thousands of back casts while you practice your body knows what to do and you can now stop watching, I almost guarantee your un watched back cast will be shite. In one of my much earlier posts I created the sixth Essential “use your bloody eyes”. I still think they are one of, if not the, most important aspect of learning distance casting.
Next up is progressive. We all like progressive rods but only the best casters have progressive actions . They have a smoothness we can see, and envy. The end of the stroke may be explosive but the build up, though rapid in some cases, is still progressive. A smooth acceleration to a stop. You need to acquire the full weight of the line and smoothly accelerate. You do not just bang the rod forward as fast as you can regardless. This relates back to the back cast. If it is taut you will feel the heaviness in the tip as you acquire the line. If your back cast is not taut you won’t feel anything and half your stroke length may be lost in acquiring the line. With a taut line you will be moving the end of the fly line immediately and if you are moving the end of the line you are moving all of it. This means the whole of the stroke is effective and actually allows you to be progressive rather than snatchy.
The haul. Ideally the end of the haul should coincide with rod straight position (loop formation). This takes exquisite timing and is difficult to achieve. In most cases the haul actually carries on into counter flex and even back to RSP2. I wouldn’t lose too much sleep over it, we are talking nano seconds. But, the haul should never finish before loop formation, ie, during the unloading phase of the rod. You will immediately lose line tension, the rod will unload prematurely and you will probably throw a tailing loop. It’s better to finish the haul slightly late rather than slightly early. You can see from this that the point where we start to haul is important. The longer the stroke and the further we are casting the later the haul will start so as to make sure that the hauling hand reaches the point of extreme travel and line release as near to loop formation as we can get it. The haul is also as progressive as the casting stroke.
There are lots of little tweaks that you can do to achieve a good cast but the majority of these add up to your personal style. I’m not here to alter your style. I just want you to concentrate on technique. This piece has taken so long to write because originally I was going to write about all my personal little casting tweaks and visualizations but I decided that it’s easy to become mired in the minutia and lose the big picture.
Clean your line, throw a good back cast and smoothly accelerate to a stop/ haul and release. It really is that
POST SCRIPT: Here is a clip of Lasse Karlsson doing something I think is pretty amazing
Release timing on Vimeo (Note from Jim: If this link doesn't work, right click on it and select "copy video link" then paste it into your browser window. There is a light in the foreground of the video that comes on at the instant of release. There is also a marker in his hand so you can see the line shoot and delay. )
He is the master of exquisite timing and seems able to vary his haul and release almost microscopically. As you will read in his comments he disagrees with me about finishing the haul early (or release) But I don’t see an early release in his clips. The last segment is, to my eye, perfect release timing. Anyway, just enjoy watching probably the most elegant caster I have ever seen.
The two stand out faults I most often see are too much effort and a totally **** back cast. Mostly they are linked, that’s to say because there has been too much effort, the rod tip gets thrown back too far and very wide or non loops are the result. I even see the line laying on the ground in a heap behind them sometimes and they are oblivious to it. If, as they often are, they are keen to improve their distance and practice quite a bit then all they are doing is practicing their faults to the point where they become ingrained as muscle memory and very difficult to eradicate.
You can show them over and over how to cast properly, “see that nice loop? See how it cuts through the wind? See how it keeps the line tight? See how little effort it takes?”
You hand them the rod back and realize you may as well have been talking to the rod as they completely ignore what you have just shown and told them. So we go over it again….and again….and again. Until, finally, the penny drops and they get it. They suddenly add ten feet to their distance. Whoa, big smiles all round. You think you’ve cracked it.
Wonderful. Well done. Fantastic.
The problem is I am pretty sure that the next time I see them they will have reverted back to effort over technique and we will have to start all over again. The red mist of chasing distance for its own sake (I know, I have been there) will have over-ridden the brain again.
Up to ninety feet, or even 100’ technique will out-do effort every time. Once you reach that point then you need to add focused effort to good technique to cast further.
It’s almost impossible to do it the other way round.
Mike, thank you for a great article and a very concise and lucid summary.
PS. Incidentally here is a link to the page with all the issues of "Loop". The issues are filled with some of the best casting articles ever written, by some of the most well-known fly fishing authors and expert casters alive. It is free and no registration need be filled out. It is hard to find on their website, and well worth a bookmark in my opinion.