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Reach That Faraway Target
Or How To Reduce Fly-Casting Fatigue
by Randy Kadish

o be able to fly cast eighty feet or not. Does it matter?
No, argue many dry fly anglers. After all, since we fight drag by having slack line on the water, we can't mend or set the hook with eighty feet of line out.

But wait, insist streamer anglers. Since we feel strikes by having tight line on the water, we can set the hook with eighty feet of line out.

Well, like they say: there are two sides to every argument. And sometimes a third or fourth.

Consider this scenario: You're fishing a fast, rocky river, so instead of wading you're making long casts. But you keep missing your targets. And even though it's the first day of your fishing trip, you're already exhausted.

Is there any way around these problems?

I'll answer the question this way: you show me an angler who can cast eighty or ninety feet, and I'll show you an angler who can accurately and almost effortlessly cast fifty or sixty feet.

And so for four frustrating and often discouraging years I experimented with long-distance fly casting techniques. Now that I have dramatically increased my casting distance, I'd like to share those techniques with you.

But before I begin let me say I'm well aware of the "Lefty Kreh" method of long-distance fly casting. My purpose is not to compete with that method, but simply to describe another, because I believe each caster should experiment with as many techniques as possible and see what works for him or her.

GETTING STARTED
Use a short piece of string or a rubber band for a fly. A long, nine-foot leader will help reveal some of your casting defects. During each practice, try to focus on one technique. Don't worry about putting all the techniques together until you feel good at each one.

Copyright © R. Kadish

POWER STANCE AND GRIP
(I'll assume you're right-handed.) Start with your feet about shoulder-width apart, a little closer for more power, a little wider for better balance. If you're casting vertically put your left foot forward and point it at the target. Point your right foot about thirty degrees to the right of the target. If you're casting off to the side, point both feet a little more outward. Bend your knees and put your weight on the ball of your front foot. To make a long-line pickup, bend forward and hold the line close to the stripping guide. Point the rod at the water, with the rod tip about an inch above the surface. Grip the rod lightly with a slightly bent thumb on the side or on the top of the handle.

LONG-CAST SEQUENCE
As a general rule, casting slightly upward will help keep your loops tight; so, if there is no head or tail wind, aim your first backcast upward about thirty degrees. Aim the rest of your false casts and your presentation cast slightly lower angle or parallel to the water. (If you aim your presentation cast too high the belly of your fly line will pull your cast down and kill it prematurely.)

And remember: apply maximum force only at the end of your presentation cast.

However, at least four basic casting defects will cause your cast to lose power, and therefore change your intended trajectory:

1. Starting your cast after, or well before, your cast has unrolled and, in effect, shortening your casting stroke.
2. Accelerating your backcast haul too slowly. (Since there is no backcast wrist snap, your hauling acceleration should be faster on your backcasts than on your forward casts.)
3. Casting a weighted fly too hard. (When the line unrolls the fly will pull it down.)
4. Shooting line without increasing the acceleration of your casting stroke and your haul.

ANGLE OF THE ROD
Some casters argue the vertical cast is the most efficient. Others disagree and cast with the rod tip pointed outward. Besides, they say, this is a safer way to fish. Maybe so, but in my opinion, if your cast is not under powered, and if you do not move your rod hand in a convex motion and lower the rod tip from the target line, the fly will not hit you or the rod.

The following casting defects will cause you to move your hand in a convex motion:

  1. Pulling your elbow back during the backcast. (Your elbow should move back only because of your rearward body rotation.)
  2. Beginning your forward cast with your elbow behind your rod hand, and therefore being unable to lead with your elbow during your loading move.
  3. Breaking your wrist more than halfway during your forward-cast power snap. (To prevent this, try to pretend you're hammering a nail)
  4. Lowering, instead of just rotating, your shoulders.
  5. Stopping the rod too late in your casting stroke. (This sometimes happens because of starting your weight shift before your casting stroke, or because of quickly accelerating you backcast, but then not abruptly stopping the rod with a short, upward motion.)
  6. Beginning your cast with your rod hand too low for your intended trajectory. (For example: if you want to execute a cast parallel to the surface, you must finish your back and forward casts with your rod hand at the same level.)
  7. Casting with your elbow too far out from your body.
  8. Having your right foot too far back or pointing too far outward.

But in the real world of fishing, even the best casters make imperfect casts; so I recommend wearing sunglasses and a broad-brimmed hat, using shorter leaders, and casting heavy flies with the rod tip out to the side.

To simplify my descriptions I'll assume you're casting vertically. (If you're casting to the out to the side, adjust your rod-hand position more outward and less upward.)

BACKCAST
First, remove all slack from line. Slowly start your cast by lifting your elbow, and moving the rod in sync with your rearward weight shift. Slowly tighten your grip. (If you started the cast with your shoulders about forty-five degrees to the target, do not move your right shoulder back more than a few inches.) When the rod butt reaches twelve o'clock to the target line, quickly increase your acceleration--I call this my power acceleration--and execute your haul. (More about hauling later.) For maximum power, keep looking straight ahead. When the fly comes off the water, abruptly stop the butt at about one o'clock. Your weight should be on your right heel if your rod position was vertical, on the outside of your right foot if your rod position was out to the side.

Ease up on your grip. If you stopped the rod by moving it upwards, lower your rod hand back to casting level. (Some casters feel they increase their power by rotating their forearm and palm outward during their backcast so that they can then execute their forward power snap with a sharp, twisting motion.)

On your next backcast, you'll lower your trajectory, but since you'll also rotate the imaginary clock face, you'll still stop the rod butt at about one o'clock, with your forearm still at about twelve o'clock. If you're casting vertically your right elbow should be a few inches behind your left shoulder, and point outward at an angle of about sixty degrees to the target. Your wrist should be at about eye-level.

If your loop turns sideways or swings open, you moved the rod in a curving motion or pulled your elbow out and back on your backcast.

HAULS AND DRIFTS
The more line you are false casting the faster and longer you'll have to haul. If you're using a weight-forward line, begin your cast with most of the belly of the line outside the rod tip. Once you've retrieved enough line to start the cast, pull off about three feet of line from the reel. (This will help keep your line from tangling.) Start your backcast. Keeping your hands at the same level, accelerate them upwards during your loading move.

Copyright © R. KadishBegin your power acceleration and your downward, backcast haul at the same time. Haul at an angle of about sixty degrees the water; so that at the end of the haul your line hand is at about eight o'clock. (To lengthen your haul, execute it at a steeper angle.) Haul hard enough to keep your loop tight, but if you haul too hard in relation to the acceleration used on your casting stroke, you'll add slack, probably near your line hand. To avoid this, slow down your haul and speed up your stroke. Stop the rod and haul at the same time. Immediately begin your upward haul at the same speed the line is unrolling. (If you still add slack, your downward haul was too long, or your cast was under powered.) Do not prematurely move the rod tip back! When the fly passes you, turn your head, but not your shoulders, and watch the line unroll. As you give line back, move your line hand up to, but not passed, your rod hand.

Not moving your line hand up far enough may cause you to begin your forward cast by moving your rod hand before or faster than you move your line hand.. Since this will add slack between your hands, you won't fully load the rod, and your cast might collapse.

Copyright © R. KadishAnd remember: the stronger the wind you are casting into, the shorter you should haul.

To make a long, presentation cast you must add a drift move after your last back cast. So, keeping your wrist stiff, your elbow in place, and your shoulders level, wait for your backast to unroll at least halfway, then move your rod hand back, but not passed your rear shoulder. Slightly break your wrist, and lower the rod to between two and three o'clock. (If you added slack you probably drifted too fast.)

On false casts, unless you're trying to change trajectories, shorten or eliminate your drift, and therefore reduce the risk of adding slack.

On your presentation cast, haul as hard as possible, and concentrate on stopping the rod and letting go of the line at the same time. (Momentum should force your line hand well behind your front thigh.)

Copyright © R. Kadish

To make an effective backcast haul, I find it helpful 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 hands.

FORWARD AND PRESENTATION CASTS
We should start the forward cast just before the backcast completely straightens out and tugs on the rod tip. (The heavier my fly or the faster my false cast unrolls, the sooner I begin my cast, especially my backcast.) To start your forward false cast, keeping looking over your rear shoulder and push off your back foot. With your wrist locked, begin your forward cast in sync with your body rotation. (Watching your rod hand during the cast will help keep your body from getting ahead of your casting arm.) As you accelerate the rod try to feel it loading. Move the butt to twelve o'clock to the target line. Begin your power snap and haul. Abruptly stop the rod and haul when the butt reaches about ten-thirty. Ease up on your grip. Your right shoulder should be slightly ahead of your left. Your weight should be on the ball of your front foot.

If you want to finish your forward false cast in position to increase the length and power of your backcast you can: 1. Speed up your forward false cast (if you get a tailing loop slow down your haul) and end your cast with your weight on your toes and with your right shoulder well ahead of your left. 2. Execute our cast parallel to the water so that you'll begin your backcast with your rod in a lower position. 3. Add a drift move by slightly lowering the rod tip.

As soon as you finish the cast shoot up to about eight feet of line. (As the line slides through your curled fingers keep moving your line hand up so you'll be able to reach your rod hand before the cast unrolls.)

To make a long presentation cast, begin with the rod drifted back, then push off your back foot and move the rod forward and upward. As you rotate your body, keep moving the rod butt perpendicular to the target line. When your arm is about three-quarters extended, execute your power snap and haul.

Stop the rod when your arm is fully extended and your body fully rotated.

Your front leg should now be straight, and all your weight on your front toes.

To reduce friction between the line and the guides, immediately raise the rod butt a few inches.

Copyright © R. Kadish

Do not lower the rod tip from the target line!

Finally, if you do everything right and finish the presentation cast with your arm fully extended but you still can't get the fly to turn over, add line tension just before your loop unrolls by raising the rod tip, or by beginning the cast with a little less line off the reel than you want to cast.

To make a long roll cast, start the cast just before the line stops moving.

OVERHANG
Overhang is the amount of running line between the rod tip and the belly of the line. As you increase your overhang you must also increase the acceleration of your casting stroke and haul.

If you use too long an overhang your loop will not turn over. If you use too short an overhang the belly will pull your line down and cause the head to land in a ball. Experiment to find the longest overhang you can handle, but keep in mind: the more long, false casts you make the more you risk adding slack; so once the belly of your line is outside the rod tip, try to make your presentation cast after your second backcast.

To increase your overhang use a heavier, stiffer rod, or a line one weight lighter than your rod, or a shooting-head line.

Or be daring: learn to shoot line after your last backcast.

TAILING LOOPS
Some common causes are:

  • The rod tip is moved in a concave path because too much force is used early in the casting stroke.
  • The casting stroke is too narrow for the action (bend) of the rod.
  • Executing a presentation cast with too short of an overhang.

WEIGHTED FLIES
Are harder to cast and, at high speeds, can hit and damage some rods. Therefore, to fish below the water's surface, I use lighter flies and full-sinking lines. If your loops are still too wide, try a faster acceleration on your casting stroke and haul, and an earlier stop on the imaginary clock face.

If that doesn't work, shorten your overhang.

IF YOU DECIDE
Whether it is necessary to learn to cast eighty or even ninety feet and endure hours and hours of casting trials and tribulations is up to you.

But if you decide it is, try not to get discouraged. Long-distance fly casting, like hitting a good tee shot, is a lot harder than it looks. Luckily, however, studies have shown that frequently visualizing proper athletic techniques is often more effective than practicing them.

For us older guys, isn't that something to be grateful about!?

HOW MUCH LINE DID I SHOOT? I use the counting method. For example, if I fully accelerate my casting stroke, then shoot line for as long as it takes me to say one thousand, I know I shot almost ten feet of line.End

Copyright © 2007 - 2013 Randall Kadish, All Rights Reserved

Additional Articles
Fishing Beneath a Marble Sky
Going Back Again
The Fly Caster Who Tried to Make Peace with the World
Fight Wind: Learn The Double Haul
Reach That Faraway Target

About the author
Randy Kadish is an outdoor writer and avid angler who has spent countless hours experimenting with long-distance fly casting techniques. For this novel he extensively researched the history of flyfishing, particularly on the famed Beaverkill River during the golden era of the early 1900s. "Flycaster" is his first novel, but his short stories and articles have been appeared in many publications, including Flyfisher, Flyfishing & Tying Journal, Fishing And Hunting News, StriperSurf.com and Sweden's Rackelhanen fly fishing magazine. Much of Randy’s writing is about the techniques of spin and fly casting, and about the spirituality/recovery of fly fishing.
Randy’s novel, The Fly Caster Who Tried to Make Peace with the World, is available on Amazon.

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