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Old 03-11-2013, 05:19 AM
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Default Rod grip style, and Lefty's principles

Hi - I was fortunate to get to watch (and meet) Lefty this weekend at a fly tie festival in MD. He did a casting demo, and my wife got to actually cast with him for a bit -- which I was extremely happy about . He's a spry fly fisherman!

Anyway, it's hard to argue with LEfty's methods when you've watched him cast, but I had 2 points:

1. Lefty advocates a thumb on top position, and to always have the thumb facing the target on the other side of the rod grip.

2. He also advocates the "eblow on the shelf" technique, which would seem to eliminate arm-position factors from messing up your cast.

Here's my problems with these 2:

- Thumb on top and pointing directly away on all casts kills my wrists. Particularly on a more "side arm" cast, the thumb in this position feels VERY unnatural to me, and after 3 hours of it my wrist was sore...far more so than I've ever experienced before.

- The elbow on the shelf, when wading the larger streams that I fish (ones that you wade up to your stomach or chest) results in hitting yourself with the fly occasionally and/or *barely being able to clear the water behind you on the backcast. And yes, I end up backcast abruptly and at an upward angle.

From what I can tell, these two things are not compatible with how I fish .

For grip, I prefer a "v-grip" and/or index finger on top. I almost never have my thumb in the position described above....most likely because it feels uncomfortable!

For my elbow, I frequently must cast with my arm outward, and I nearly always have to raise the elbow on the forward cast to clear my skull with warm water flies.

Anyone else find this?

No disrespect to Lefty -- he's a great guy and excellent caster.
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Old 03-11-2013, 07:46 AM
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Default Re: Rod grip style, and Lefty's principles

Your wrist only hurts because you haven't developed the different muscles needed to do that all day. Think back to when you first started casting fly rods....your arms probably hurt as a combination of poor technique and undeveloped muscles. As you continued, that pain stopped happening because both elements improved - the same will happen if you keep practicing with your thumb on top.

Besides, when you are casting into really windy conditions and/or big flies, the extra power generated by having your thumb on top can really be an asset. Learning this technique will make you a more versatile angler.

IN regards to you having trouble keeping your line off the water on your back cast...you most likely just aren't stopping as high as you think. I used to have the same problem and the same thought that my back cast was at a high angle...it wasn't. Deliberately try to make it even higher and you will probably be surprised.
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Old 03-11-2013, 10:55 AM
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Default Re: Rod grip style, and Lefty's principles

I was fortunate to have a great Tai chi teacher who taught me many of the ways of the classics. Holding a rod for me was similar to using tai chi whip or tai chi sword. For these weapons a loose two finger grip was advocated. Thumb and index fingers; similar to a badminton raquette. That's not to say just 2 fingers held the rod or sword. But the focus in your mind was in these fingers. A loose relaxed grip was preferred.

The rationale was that a loose grip allowed your weapon or rod to naturally become an extension of your body. No tension or white knuckles. A very loose wrist as well. The sword technique was called sticky sword. Contrary to the hard barbaric clanging of swords that we are used to seeing.

A softer approach was recommended. As well the elbow was always left relaxed and down. By properly weighting your legs (opposite of rod hand) you can swing and turn in the hips to get more power. Hope this makes sense.

I have found that the more tension free my limbs are the better my cast. Developing rod sensitivity is the name of the game.
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Last edited by noreaster; 03-13-2013 at 02:08 PM.
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Old 03-11-2013, 11:52 AM
 
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Default Re: Rod grip style, and Lefty's principles

Quote:
Originally Posted by turbineblade View Post
Hi - I was fortunate to get to watch (and meet) Lefty this weekend at a fly tie festival in MD.

1. Lefty advocates a thumb on top position, and to always have the thumb facing the target on the other side of the rod grip.

2. He also advocates the "eblow on the shelf" technique, which would seem to eliminate arm-position factors from messing up your cast.

Here's my problems with these 2:

- Thumb on top and pointing directly away on all casts kills my wrists. Particularly on a more "side arm" cast, the thumb in this position feels VERY unnatural to me, and after 3 hours of it my wrist was sore...far more so than I've ever experienced before.

- The elbow on the shelf, when wading the larger streams that I fish (ones that you wade up to your stomach or chest) results in hitting yourself with the fly occasionally and/or *barely being able to clear the water behind you on the backcast. And yes, I end up backcast abruptly and at an upward angle.

From what I can tell, these two things are not compatible with how I fish .

For grip, I prefer a "v-grip" and/or index finger on top. I almost never have my thumb in the position described above....most likely because it feels uncomfortable!

For my elbow, I frequently must cast with my arm outward, and I nearly always have to raise the elbow on the forward cast to clear my skull with warm water flies.

Anyone else find this?

No disrespect to Lefty -- he's a great guy and excellent caster.

Your observations are pretty much spot on. I suggest you keep casting the way you are.

Since Steve Rajeff, one of if not the best caster in the world, uses the elbow forward style, you might do better to improve the style you are using than to learn a new style. I think it is not the style of casting but the mastery of the style that determines the distance you can cast.

"This is the arm style of people who have most influenced casting in California, including Jimmy Green, Mel Krieger and Steve and Tim Rajeff."

Both the Elbow Forward style of Steve Rajeff and the Low Elbow style of Lefty Kreh are described by Al Kyte in Casting Clinic.

Lefty Kreh claims his style is easier on the body, however, studies have shown this is not the case. There are fewer injuries of the elbow and wrist with the overhead style compared to the sidearm low elbow style.

"A team of researchers is studying the biomechanics of fly-casting at Montana State University, Bozeman (MSU)..

A study looking at pain ratings in relationship to casting style found no significant difference between casting style and shoulder pain." However,

Elbow pain was significantly less in casters who used multiple casting styles.

Elbow pain was significantly less for the overhead style compared with the elliptical style.

Wrist pain was significantly less for those who used the overhead style instead of either the elliptical or sidearm styles.

Wrist pain was significantly less for those who used multiple styles.

In the survey of the fly fishing instructors, those reporting use of the V-style grip indicated significantly less shoulder pain (i.e., less than 3 on an 8-point Likert scale where 0 = no pain and 7 = worst pain).4 13% of the finger-on-top, 19% of the 3-point, and 7% of the thumb-on-top users reported shoulder pain with a severity of 4 or greater.4 As noted earlier, there appears to be some discrepancy in the terminology, so respondents may have been confused as to whether they use the finger-on-top or 3-point grip.
"

http://www.working-well.org/articles/pdf/Fishing.pdf
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Old 03-11-2013, 12:06 PM
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Default Re: Rod grip style, and Lefty's principles

Cast how YOU are comfortable, Rajeff casts how he likes and it works for him Kerh casts how he likes, one works for one obviously doesn't for the other. Develop your own style use the pro stuff for a guidline but not every study, clinic, and magazine article is gospel.
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Old 03-11-2013, 12:24 PM
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Default Re: Rod grip style, and Lefty's principles

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Originally Posted by brookfieldangler View Post
Besides, when you are casting into really windy conditions and/or big flies, the extra power generated by having your thumb on top can really be an asset. Learning this technique will make you a more versatile angler.
I know less about the fly cast mechanics than most, but have found the above to be true. If I need to make a powerful move with the rod or really nail a roll cast, the thumb on top makes a significant difference for me...and if I'm throwing an 8 or 9wt with a heavy head (like for stripers in the delta) thumb on top is much better and saves my shoulder by end of day. Maybe that has to do with thumb on top helping me keep the rod from falling to a sidearm motion...?? $.02
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Old 03-11-2013, 12:40 PM
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Default Re: Rod grip style, and Lefty's principles

As to the grip....
Most often I'll "V" grip with all the pressure in the front of the hand and almost none at the heel. I've destroyed enough grips to be very conscious of this...

If I want power for distance then I'll switch to "thumb on top". For me this grip make the power stroke and sudden stop second nature.

If I want accuracy, then I'll switch to index finger on top. There's nothing better for accuracy than pointing with your finger exactly where you want the line to go.
For me, there's no reason to settle for one way over another.
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Old 03-11-2013, 01:30 PM
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Default Re: Rod grip style, and Lefty's principles

I'm going to make the assumption that Lefty advocated the thumb on top because this was all beginners. The probable reason being it helps to keep them from going back past 2 oclock. He has cast long enough to see a great many casters, some of which can cast better than Lefty, who use other grips on the rod.

I also assume that was the reason for the shelf thing. It's probably again so a beginner doesn't use his elbow like a fixed pivot point which will give you a dandy case of bad tailing loops.

Once people are not beginners and start to develope their own style, and everyone does, the shelf and thumb deal Lefty is talking about can be disregarded. I see why he says it, but if you are not comfortable, don't do it. A sure way to louse up your casting is make it uncomfortable.
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Old 03-11-2013, 01:44 PM
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Default Re: Rod grip style, and Lefty's principles

I appreciate the feedback. Yes, this was a group of people who mostly had not held a fly rod before .

The thumb on top isn't just a muscle soreness from lack of use -- I play a lot of sports and do a lot of road cycling and know the difference between muscle building/soreness and joint pain. This is an unnatural type of pain.

I'll stick to my own style, which is working okay. I only gave this a thought because he advocated it . Funny, is that he preceded telling everyone to keep the elbow in and thumb on top by saying "most fly casting instructors teach casting the way that THEY cast...and if you aren't built like the instructor you shouldn't cast that way" .

Irony? No, I see why he'd say that. The thumb on top thing he was explaining as a means to prevent twisting the wrist on the backcast and throwing the line around a curve. I can cast finger on top and have no problem throwing the line straight (not around a curve).

I do need more practice though -- for sure!
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Old 03-11-2013, 02:40 PM
 
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Default Re: Rod grip style, and Lefty's principles

My experience has been that the thumb on top grip leads to the "beginner" floppy back cast. The thumb on top grip aligns the fly rod across the palm at almost 90 degrees to the forearm.

Click the image to open in full size.

Unless the caster locks the wrist cocked forward, the rod tips way back as in the photo below. For beginners, this is an unnatural position to hold the wrist so the thumb on top grip does not prevent a floppy backcast.

Click the image to open in full size.

Gary Borger Blog Archive Thumb on Top Grip

The three point grip (white line below) aligns the fly rod closer to the forearm. So at the back cast stop, the caster does not need to lock the wrist cocked forward to "correct" to prevent the rod from tipping back too far. The three point grip naturally places stop with the rod tip at 1 o'clock.

I change beginners from the thumb on top to the 3 point grips if they continue to have problems.

Click the image to open in full size.

Gary Borger Blog Archive Three Point Grip Part I
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