Fight Wind: Learn the Double Haul
Fight Wind: Learn The Double Haul
This is your time of year: your vacation. You're on the flats, fly rod in hand, finally. The tarpon is sixty feet away. Something electric - perhaps a primitive instinct - surges through you, turning on your long-held dream of hitting the fly-fishing grand slam. You lift the line off the water, cast back, then forward. The wind howls, and in your mind you hear a coyote, but then you remember: you're nowhere near the woods. Over the water you see your beautifully shaped, but somewhat wide, loop blown out of shape. Your line crashes down, well short of your quest. Reality left hooks your dream. Your guide says, "Use this."
He holds a spinning rod. You think, Isn't a spinning rod cheating? What will I tell my friends? That I played it safe and stopped at third base? I'm supposed to be a fly fisher, for better or worse, aren't I?
Yes. Then why not for the better? I ask. Why not learn the double haul and how to turn your casting loops into tight, wind-piercing-like arrows?
It's easier than you think.
LET ME EXPLAIN. I'll begin by asking: what is a haul?
Simply put, it is casting a fly rod with one hand and simultaneously pulling down the line with our other hand, and increasing the line tension on the rod tip, and therefore fully bending (loading) the rod so that when we abruptly stop the cast, the rod tip recoils faster and across a longer arc.
To take this definition even further: The haul is, in a sense, a reflection of our power snap.
And what is a power snap?
I'll define it as the second part of the casting stroke. In the first part, the loading move, we slowly accelerate the rod. In the second part, the power snap, we rapidly increase acceleration, reaching maximum speed at the end of our casting stroke.
Let me digress: It is a well-known principal of fly casting that if we want to increase the length of our cast, we must also increase the length and acceleration of our loading move, and also of our haul.
(If you ever watch a long-distance, tournament fly caster you'll see that during his or her power snap they move their hauling hand faster and longer than their rod hand.)
HOW LONG AND FAST? The more line we're casting - usually at least 35 feet - and/or the heavier our fly, the longer and faster we must haul. If we properly accelerate our cast but our line forms a wide loop, we hauled too slowly. If our line forms a tailing loop, we hauled too quickly or too early.
To be more specific: When false casting, we'll finish most of our downward, back cast hauls with our line hand pointing to about eight o'clock. If we want to increase the length of our back cast haul we'll have to haul at a steeper angle, and finish the haul with our line hand pointing to about six o'clock.
On most of our downward, forward-cast hauls we'll finish with our line hand pointing to about seven o'clock. On our presentation casts, we'll accelerate our haul as fast as possible, and finish with our line hand behind our front thigh.
To help increase my presentation-cast acceleration, I like to pretend that, instead of hauling, I'm holding a football upside down and throwing it behind me as far as I can.
But what about those tailing loops? To help prevent hauling too early, we must begin our downward haul and power snap at the same time. So during our back-cast, loading move we must keep our line hand level with our rod hand and move both backwards. (This will seem difficult at first, but with a little practice it will become second nature.) During our forward-cast, loading move we must move both hands forward.
Next, we begin our power snap and downward haul, rapidly increasing acceleration, then snapping our hauling hand down. Finally we stop our haul and our fly rod.
(To help me do this, I like to visualize a loose rope connecting my rod and line hands. When I stop my rod I imagine the rope completely tightening and stopping my line hand.)
But what if we continue our haul after we stop the rod?
We'll make it very difficult to execute our upward haul without adding slack.
(More about the upward haul below.)
So now you have it: the basics of the long, downward haul.
WHAT WENT WRONG? Probably when we executed our upward haul and gave line back.
As soon as we finish our long, downward haul we must immediately give line back at the same speed the line is unrolling. If we give line back too quickly - sometimes to compensate for stopping our downward haul too late - and we don't feel tension on the line, we'll add slack and weaken our cast.
But supposing we give line back too slowly, and don't get our line hand up to our rod hand before we begin our next cast?
We'll probably commit one of two serious, casting defects: 1. We begin our cast by moving our rod hand before or faster than we move our line hand, and therefore add line slack between our hands and decrease the line-tension on the rod tip. The result: the rod doesn't fully load, and our cast is under powered and maybe even collapses. Oh, the embarrassment! 2. We begin the cast with our line hand below our rod hand, and we manage to move both hands in-sync; but because we started our haul with our line hand too low, we run out of hauling room. Again our cast collapses.
To help get our line hand up to our rod hand, it's important to remember that if we shoot line, we should simultaneously slide our line hand upward.
If we finish our upward haul level with our casting hand, but start our next cast and still add line slack between our hands, we should try varying the speed of our cast and/or our haul. For example, slow down our haul and speed up our cast, or speed up our haul and slow down our cast.
If we're false casting into the wind and we cannot execute our upward hauls without adding slack, we should increase the acceleration of our downward hauls but decrease their length. This may appear to be a contradiction, but it isn't if we begin our haul later in the casting stroke, after we begin our power snap.
And remember: when executing our upward, back cast haul we must not move our rod hand forward. (This will shorten our forward casting stroke.)
GETTING THE LINE TANGLED AROUND THE ROD BUTT. This is a common problem when executing a long, upward haul. To solve this we should begin our upward haul by moving our line hand up and away from our body.
FINALLY THE REAL SECRET. To become a great hauler practice throwing a ball with your hauling hand.
In closing, for as long as we fish we'll probably wish for less wind and closer fish, but now we won't have to wish as much, because in our double haul we'll thankfully see its defects: wide loops, tailing loops: loops that reflect cures and help us become our own hauling doctors; so the next time we're on the flats and see a tarpon we'll round third and head for home.
Copyright (c) 2007 by Randall Kadish
Randy is the author of the historical, fly fishing novel, The Fly Caster Who Tried to Make Peace with the World