Don’t let you, hold you, back

Don’t let you, hold you, back

A couple problems hold most anglers back. Yep, just a couple casting fails that hold most anglers back from progressing. From moving forward. From kicking more ass.

Too much Slack

The first of the two killers is that most, 99.9% of anglers, do not strip in line making the other end of the equation, the fly, move towards them before making, the initial, the first movement of the casting stroke.

The cast is just like a train movement. The caboose has to be moving, not stopped, moving before the engine can power up, accelerate, move, start, begin dragging, pulling the train towards its destination.

That is the same with a fly rod. The other end of the string, the line, the fly, has to be moving before you can make the cast. Many just cast a static amount of line. If you have 25′ of line off the tip of the rod, and you have 7′ of slack line, you will have to move the rod tip 7′ before you get any movement of the fly.

This is the most common mistake. It does take one or two extra seconds to achieve perfection at the beginning of every cast. Yep. Each cast. Every one. All of them. 100% of them.

MALES cannot understand this concept. 99.9% of male casters skip step one. EVERY-TIME.

I guess mediocrity is part of their lives. Boy, I can’t change that. Be mediocre. Be below average. Be so stubborn that you handcuff yourself for the remainder of your fly fishing life. Sure, why not. Most out there are mediocre. Why not join them? Be proud of never progressing!

If you spend the two extra seconds each and every cast you may be an all-star. You have the potential. If you continue to skip step one of he cat, then the throngs of mediocre casters for life welcome you!

It is step one to the roadblock of learning, or progression of being better, of fewer knots in your line, of far fewer flies in your head your face, your love handle area, the anchor rope, the weeds 3′ behind you, your fishing buddy who is rowing you around and paid for the shuttle…

Strip in line until the other end moves. Every time. Every cast. Step One. Every cast.

Dropping the Rod Tip

The second of the ways we commonly block our fly fishing learning, progression, accuracy, distance, or fly placement of any kind/type is by never stopping the rod tip in the forward cast. Most casters stop the rod tip when they have maxed out their arm travel at about the 180 degree to 210 degree half circle. Many stop the rod top on the back cast when it touches the water behind the angler. By dropping the rod tip parallel to the water, and completing the 180 degree arc of the rod tip, you can never progress. Ever.

The rod tip travels in a straight line. In the same plane. A straight line. A vector. The rod tip does not follow the path of a Rainbow, half of a circle, an upside down U, or otherwise.

If you threw a football, and ended with your hand pointed towards the ground, and the football bounced in front of you 3 times, you would change the trajectory. Yep, immediately.

But interestingly enough, when we point the rod tip towards the water, ending with the rod tip not perpendicular to the water, the fly goes exactly where you told it too. Where the rod tip is pointing, is where the fly, which is attached to the line you pushed, is where it goes every time.

Even if you wish it harder. Or move the rod tip rounder. Or faster. Or way faster. Or way more rounder and way more faster together. SAME RESULT. Every time man.

An interesting side note here: If you want to shoot line, and it seems that every male likes to shoot line every cast, is that you do not let go f the fly line until the rod stops. That is the timing device, to let go of the line line, to shoot line. When needed. You do not let go of the fly line at some magical point when you are rushing the rod tip to the water. You only let go of the fly line, after you stop the rod.

The rod tip travels in a straight line. The rod tip, the rod, has to stop on both the front or back casts. Sometimes I ask the angler to stop on either side. Just start with stopping the rod at anytime, during either the fore cast, or back cast. Then anglers asks which one? I say both. But just try to pause at least long enough so the line can get either in front of you or behind you before you rapidly push the rod tip roundly, quickly, to the other extreme.

The rod tip travels in a straight line. There are no curves, or rainbow arcs in a straight line. Nope. That is a geometry deal. Look it up on the interwebs. Type in straight line. You can see the image if yo cannot imagine it.

The rod tip, the rod, stop with the tip not pointed away from you. It stops with the rod tip vertical. Not parallel to the water. Never. The rod tip stops like your hand struck a brick wall. No further movement. It stops as it is as accelerating, not decelerating.

When you make a wonderfully round and rapid motion with the rod tip, 99.9% of the time the caster decelerates the rod tip as it comes to rest parallel to the water. Wrong. The caster could not be farther away from the correct rod tip path, or acceleration that at this point.

So anything you do different will be an improvement.

The caster could not be farther away from the proper motion than at that very moment decelerating the rod coming to rest with the rod parallel to the water.

Casting lessons at home, when not on the water, is the only way to rectify theses two debilitating movement patterns, actions, motions, stroke(s).

Or fish 100 plus days a year. Or at least 40+. Then you could learn it while you are fishing. Learning something like changing the entire way, method, motion, you deliver the fly to the target requires acceptance that the way you manifest the casting stroke is completely and totally incorrect.

When I was skiing full time, and involved in daily ski education, I once had a PSIA clinic leader mention that learning on skis starts taking place after 40 full days of skiing. I believe that. Once you get your feet under you, are comfortable, are athletically able, that then, and only then, can you truly begin to learn, and move forward.

Practicing when you are rowing between spots on the river, is not practicing. That is called tangling, before you get to the next fishing spot. That will not help, or ever be a way to get better. Nope. Never.

Yes, a guide, can fish you down the river, and have you catch a bundle even if you exhibit the casting strokes described above. That is why many do not believe their casting stroke is not good, or terrible, or terribly bad, or otherwise. And I do understand that not every angler wants to improve. And I do understand that there is a set of annual nymphing guests that come to the Mo for the Disneyland Experience and have no intentions of ever learning anything more that getting the fly outside of the boat. I get that. Part of the fly fishing biz. And with that skill set, you can get some to the net. Yessir. I understand that point. And, that is OK. Book your trips for next year today!

But for the rest of you, those who believe they’re good, or can improve, or are interested in moving beyond the Disney catch ’em even if you do not care at all about fly fishing and the sport of casting, or improving ever…you need to find a casting instructor.

Most of the time that good buddy of yours that you believe can cast well, does not have the understanding of the physics of casting to help you. The ‘ol “just do it like I am, just watch, technique” and will not help you man.

So, a November rant from SOL. This is the time to start getting better for your ext fishing trip to the Mo. Even professionals practice. Yessir. They really do. So, get over your casting shortcomings this fall, winter, and spring.

If you are local, we can help you get better anyway. Call today for the best in Casting Instruction here in central Montana. Whether it be with single or two handed rod. We have professional full time casting instructors at the ready here at Headhunters of Craig.

The 5 Essentials of the Cast by Bill Gammel is the first reference you need. 

Check out these videos, about the 5 Essentials by Carl of Epic Fly Rods

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  • Jeez….I feel like I need to wear a pointy hat and sit in a corner. Do I apologize? Hope my wife still loves me when I get home. (LOVE HH BLOG!!)

  • To your points Mark do take some time to understand the basic and simple mechanics or forces of the cast. Rod loading seems to be a hard concept for new casters. Feeling that rod bend (load) and sensing tension in the line – as in no slack -is the first ah-hah feel good for many. I take them out on the grass, have them strip out about 20 ft of line and I grab the end of the line like I’m the fish and have them raise rod to bend it and put sone tension in that line. I was lucky to work with Bruce Richards. He understands the mechanics and, of course, fly lines – Creep, jabbing, arc, travel ect… . But the one I’ll never forget covered why tailing loops happen and how simple it is to fix and to cause to happen. We speak of that tip moving in a straight path to help new casters start then stop with tip high as you say. All really good. Gotta also work on the rod hand moving in a straight path without all the extreme bendi ng in the wrist. Rod tips ending low through huge arcs are killers and it takes practice to visualize not doing this combined with some good timing in that accelerate and stop move. But that rod tip actually, rarely ever travels in a straight path even if you want it to. At the end of the back cast, the more we start hard powering through the fore cast, the more the rod tip DROPS and this causes these ugly tailing loops. Richards taught – this is really key – to start accelerating gradually – and delay that wrist turn till the very end of the stroke – finishing with a strong push then turn the wrist over still stopping rod at a 45 or so. Just takes some practice. This helps keep that rod tip moving in a “straight line” and helps prevent tailing loops which happen because the line ALWAYS follows the path of that rod tip. If the tip drops too much, so will your line and the top of the loop will be UNDER the bottom of the loop and this is the tailing loop. Gotta practice this. Watch that fly line when you practice. Watch what you are actually doing. My elderly neighbor growing up was a really good fly angler on tough, smaller streams here in Michigan. He spoke to good casting but he always said this: good fishing beats good cast casting any day
    Maybe more true here in MI than on western rivers that hold many more fish per mile…..

  • I’ve always wondered why more people do not choose to fly fish instead of throw hardware. You have so much more control with a fly rod. It is not hard to become a proficient caster. I’m at 11 months of working to undue many many years of casting mistakes and for the most part have succeeded. I wish I would not have self taught! For a beginner a couple of casting lessons by a qualified teacher should be enough to become proficient with additional practice. At this level you will be able to catch fish wet or dry. And from there you can take your casting stoke where you feel like with additional practice. I found the fish disturb my ability to focus on casting so I practice in the yard. When fishing you will be able to recognize flaws and self correct quickly. Thanks to this site for continually preaching better casters! It’s even more enjoyable when you know what the heck you are doing.

  • Great point DB on learning from others. I learned so many points from guys like Ray Schmidt, Bruce Richards and guides. There are some good books out there too. A really fun process and challenge.
    Gotta love Mark’s pointers – if only we could break the spells of the dreaded wrist break, the long bomb cast mentality and constant false casting. These are some of the tougher casting things guides deal with all day long……savvy guides tell you the fish are a few rod tips away….maybe less…..they’re right….fly fish smarter, not harder…..

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