Hello. I'll give you some background first and then questions itemized below.
I am a fly tier. I currently fish on ultralight spinning gear because I primarily fish when I'm camping (so can't afford the weight/bulk of 2 fishing rigs on the portages) and I spend about 80% of the time trolling from a canoe and 19% casting in small creeks, almost exclusively for brook and lake trout. When I realized that you could effectively troll with fly gear I decided to streamline my hobbies and am breaking into fly-fishing.
As I expect my small creek fishing % to increase since fly fishing is more efficient for these places and since the rod type for trolling will not be as critical, I got myself a 7 1/2 ft 4wt fiberglass (for durability - I'll be camping/bush-wacking headwaters) slow action rod, a matching DT line and a short, relatively heavy leader (started off as a 9ft 6x but with wind knots and breakoffs...) and I've been trying to teach myself to cast with books and youtube videos.
At the shorter lengths my casting seems to be okay but in desperate need of practice. Once I try to extend it, though, my line loses momentum and starts to fall to the ground before loading the rod for the back/forecast. I've measured this distance four times and it's been almost exactly 4 rod lengths (30ft if its nominal length is accurate) + leader length. I know that slow rods don't cast as far and have heard in general that DT lines don't cast as far (but others have said they'll cast as far just don't shoot as well) so I am wondering if (QUESTION #1) is 30ft + leader as much as I can reasonably expect from my rod? From what I read most of my cast will likely be within these limits, but I'd like to learn the basics as well as I can.
When I do try and muscle the line out further, a couple of things start to happen. One, my line hits my rod/the other part of the loop on the forecast which to me suggests that either I am going past the 10 o'clock position (I'm left-handed - do right-handers think of their back cast as the 2 o'clock?) in order to lengthen the power stroke or the line does start to fall before I start my forecast. I have tried to throw the line higher behind me (stopping closer to 11 o'clock) but that seems to slow the line even more and I end up whip-cracking behind me (from what I've read this means I am starting the forecast to early) or end up with the line falling to the ground behind me without ever straightening out completely so this is not a good solution. (QUESTION #2) does my reasoning above seem to make sense or am I missing something that might help if I understood better.
The other way I can extend my line another 3 or 4 strips (about 6 ft) is to break the rule that every source I have read/watched says is written in stone - thou shalt no bend thy wrist. The funny thing is that this seems successful and also feels more natural (more fluid and less rigid). My loops are a bit looser (about 3ft) but still defined and not an arc. I don't really consider what I do "breaking" my wrist. I'd describe it more as letting my wrist lag behind my arm during the first part of the cast and then towards the end of the cast snapping my wrist to the position that it would have been in had I never let it move in the first place. The starting and ending points remain 10 and 2 o'clock. I look at it as letting the rod preload during the first part of the cast and then applying the maximum speed to the line towards the end. (QUESTION #3) Does the "wrist commandment" apply to a very slow rod or is it more specific to the fast rods that almost everyone uses today? i.e. Does casting a slow rod need a slightly different casting technique?
I think I'll keep it to that as this has gotten pretty long. Thank you in advance for your replies, but in the interests of keeping this thread on topic, please refrain from posting that I should just get another rod or purchase casting lessons. I can appreciate those viewpoints but am choosing to learn to use my current rod as best I can (I built it myself and am a little attached to it)
As you know, the fly leg of the cast hitting the rod tip or hitting the rod leg of the line on the cast ("One, my line hits my rod/the other part of the loop on the forecast which to me suggests that either I am going past the 10 o'clock position ") is called a tailing loop.
To understand what causes a tailing loop and a wind or casting knot, one must know what a normal casting loop looks like. A normal loop has a leg that is following or traveling forward and a standing leg that is stationary and attached to the rod tip. Normally the two legs are separated by the width of the loop and usually in an overhead cast, the upper leg is the traveling leg and the lower leg is the stationary leg.
A tailing loop occurs because the following fly leg (upper leg) of the casting loop falls below the standing rod leg (lower leg) AND the legs are in the same casting plane. BOTH situations must occur, that is the following leg must cross the standing leg and the legs must be in the same plane. A tailing loop cannot occur if the two legs of fly line are in different casting planes.
The fly line follows the rod tip. The rod tip follows the path of the hand except for one change. As we apply power to the rod, the rod flexes, and when it flexes, the effective rod length shortens so that the rod tip comes closer to the casting hand. If we move our casting hand in a straight line, we are not compensating for the shortening of the rod tip. The rod tip will travel not in a straight path but in a concave path as it flexes and straightens during the straight line casting motion. This concave path causes a dip in the path of the following fly leg of the fly line. At the stop, the rod tip straightens and the standing rod leg line will be above the traveling fly leg line, and as the two lines cross, you get a tailing loop. So one cause is a straight line casting motion of the casting hand. The casting hand must move in a convex path to compensate for rod shortening. The bending of the rod must be done smoothly to mirror the path of the rod hand.
A second cause is a sudden application of power too early in the casting stroke - this is often called a jab. Again these sudden shock to the rod causes an acute bend and a dip in the rod tip path. The most common cause of this is when we try to cast farther than we commonly cast, and we give the rod that extra punch at the wrong time. The application of power must be smooth so that there is a progressive bend that we can compensate for. I believe this is the main of your tailing loops
Another cause is a poor backcast and poor timing. If you start the backcast too early, you may not have enough loading power to complete the forward cast so your compensate with a jab which causes a tailing loop. If you start too late, the line may have fallen too low and you will get a tailing loop from the low following line. You may also be doing this as your timing breaks down as you do multiple false casts.
There are other causes of a tailing loop but given your description, I think it is a soft action fly rod combined with poor timing on the cast and poor technique in terms of power application. All these things come to a head when you need to do multiple false casts, which in itself requires you to carry additional fly line to make a longer cast.
You are using equipment that may server your purpose and casting motion for the shorter casts, but requires more expertise to cast the distances you want to cast.
Take a video of your cast and you will find that your timing starts to break down as you try to cast longer.
I suspect your fiberglass rod has a very soft action and is prone to casting tailing loops especially when pushing it to the extreme. I will be so bold to say that it is probably an Eagle Claw fiberglass rod.
Thanks for the reply.
I definitely need to work on my timing and naturally some casts are better timed than others but I hope that I'll get more consistent with practice.
I didn't really think of the timing of power application causing the tailing loops. Maybe that's why things got better when I started snapping my wrist at the end of the cast. Next time I'm out I'll try smoother application of power without wrist and see what happens. (I'll also try and watch the path of my hand to try and compensate for the rod tip deflection).
What do you guys think is best; Should I start with shorter casts for practice and gradually extend how far I go based on what I can manage easily, or, should I use the length of line where things start going wrong right off the bat so that I am forced to optimize my technique right away?
The rod is actually a Lamiglass - does that mean that my casting is even worse than I feared?
It's also important to understand that there is no one "right" tempo for the casting stroke. As you increase the line length outside the rod tip, you MUST increase the pause time between back and forward casts. The fly line can not go two directions at the same time. When you make a back cast, you have to pause just long enough to let the loop unfold so that the line is going straight back behind you before you move the rod (and the line) forward through the forward cast. Likewise, you must pause long enough in the forward stroke to allow the loop to unfold before you make another back cast.
Those pauses need to vary depending on the line speed that your stroke and the particular rod you're using are generating, and they also need to vary with the amount of line you have airborne. With only a few feet of line out, there will be little-to-no pause needed. But when you get 30', 40', 50' of line in the air, then your casting strokes need to get a little longer and the pauses between strokes need to increase accordingly.
Try to develop a feel for it rather than thinking about a certain tempo. When your loop travels all the way to the end of your tippet and the line goes fully straight out, you will feel a very light tug on the rod tip. THAT is the best time to change directions with your rod. If you also learn to add in a little "haul" in the split second after that little tug (both directions), then you will start to see better line speed and tighter loops.
Once you get the feel, you can cast tight loops in the dark.
You may not think you are applying power unevenly or that your timing is the issue but I will bet you a dollar to your dime that they both are part of the problem.
Take a look at the first video in the explanation below. It shows the rod acting as a simple lever without the compensating convex movement of the rod stroke for the concave rod tip path as the rod shortens during the flex.
Secondly, the author describes rod creep which is is the forward creep of the rod hand before the line straightens. He calls it a common cause and I say it is especially common when attempting longer casts.
Creep is a timing problem of when to start the cast. It both starts the cast too early and shortens the available stroke path so more power has to be applied in a shorter than normal distance causing uneven power application and/or the power applied at the wrong time in the cast which is another timing problem.
60' with a Lami is easily possible. With the right line and timing. If you break your wrist, the rod ends up horizontal and won't load. If you stop your back cast suddenly ( like your hand just hit the wall) hold for a millisecond, let the line straighten out and then forward cast. Stop at the 2 o'clock position.
Pull 20' out, and just practice your 11 to 2 and watch. Muscle memory will take hold after so long. Another trick is to put a thick rubber band around your wrist and tuck the butt of the rod into it.
Your backcast needs work. I would try this: if you are using a "thumb on top" grip, try a "palm forward" grip. You can always change back later.
The "palm forward" grip will put the ball of your index finger on top of the handle and allow you to comfortably bend your wrist down so that the rod will stay close to parallel with the ground/water as you start picking up line off the water in front of you (or starting the backcast move from the forward false cast).
Now pantomime drawing your arm back (no rod in it) with your wrist parallel to the ground , accelerating as you do it. Just before your upper arm runs out of room snap your forearm back, and when it almost runs out of room, snap your wrist and stop it when it is parallel with your forarm (and squeeze your fingers tight onto the pretend rod handle). Your wrist should be pointed upwards at about 2:30 and straight in line with your forearm, (and the rod as well when you try it with the bottom section of the rod).
Your line is hitting your rod because your casting arc is too narrow, and after the stop and the counterflex, the rod it rebounding back up and getting in the way of the line. At best, you will wind up with tailing loops doing this or else be stuck with short distances unless you extend the casting arc.
Before you grab a rod, fill up a large glass with water and grab a shot glass (or even better, a 4 to 6 inch stemmed claret glass). Go outside and stand one and a half arms lengths from a wall. Fill the shot/claret glass 1/2 full. Hold it in front of you where the liquid is almost spilling and do a backcast into the wall. Keep doing it until you get a solid "SPLAT" when the water hits the wall. The center of the splat of water should be just about at the top of your head height. So you should be starting with the hand slightly lower in front of you and ending slightly higher behind you.
After you have accomplished this task, grab the bottom section of a 4 piece (if you have one) rod, or the bottom section of your 2 piece and practice with that. You will not hear any "whoosh" until the rod tip is well behind you.
This is a saltwater type backcast. There is a good picture of "Swirlchaser" standing on a beach after such a backcast. In that picture, he has already drifted back even further than when he stopped, but you will get the idea if someone can find it.
Slow, soft rods require a longer casting stroke than fast action, high modulous rods.
Do what I suggested, then let us know if it has made a difference. Once you get a strung rod working, watch your backcast and play with the casting stroke length, amount of force applied and so on. It is easiest to do this by standing sideways with your legs parallel to the travel of the line and casting horizontally instead of overhead. That way, you can just turn your head to see both forward and back casts.