July 8th, 2002

D H Casting or Not
By James Castwell

For a number of years we ran a casting school out here on the coast, wonderful location, a huge impoundment edged with a grass lawn at Port Ludlow, Washington. At the end of the one day school we would lay out on the grass a dozen or so nine foot, six weight fly rods. They all had the same reels and identical weight-forward lines. One after another, the 'graduates' would pick up and cast each rod, lay it down and move on to the next rod and so on. The rods were from several different manufacturers. No two rods behaved the same.

The interesting part was, that after learning how to cast during the day, each student was able within only a very few casts, make each of the differing rods perform as they should. That was as is should have been. It was the person behind the rod who was responsible for the casting, not the rod. Far too many times I have seen guys, who for one reason or another, try rod after rod looking for one which might improve their casting, most often to no avail. It is disheartening to watch, they all are looking for the 'magic' rod that will overcome their faults.

Anyone who has done much casting instruction will admit that teaching a new person is far easier than trying to help and correct one who has been doing it for years, and doing it poorly. The bad habits are cemented in their brain. Things happen as automatically as shifting into second gear with a stick-shift car. It just happens, you are never even aware of it.

I have come to realize that some of us, and that may include you, may be as good at fly casting as we will ever be, or at least about as good as we will ever be. And a new fly rod will not help, and neither will practicing. When a person is practicing, but his casting is poor, he may only be reinforcing the already acquired bad habits. Practicing will only make them stronger.

When they seek help and someone may point out a part of the cast that can be improved in some way, as they attempt to correct that area, the other habits defeat any real progress. For them to work on any two things at once will lead to frustration and the inability to make both changes occurs at the same time. The results are dismal at best. A feeling of desperation and confusion mix with near anger at themselves and nothing of value is accomplished. For these a new rod will not correct anything.

To make a fine cast there are many elements which must be performed, some at the same time, others in an exacting sequence, and that must be changed and modified as each bit of line is added or shortened. Line control and rod handling are not difficult to learn, but poor habits are difficult to unlearn when practiced for many years.

If you feel you may be in this situation at least take heart. You are not alone and you have been enjoying fly fishing for years doing it the way you do. An instructor can only show you where you might change a few things, he can not wave a magic wand and fix anything, including you. If you are highly motivated, and I mean very highly motivated, you may be able to break thru the automatic habits and advance, but, I would say the odds are against you and the frustration may not be worth the effort.

Learning the Double haul is another thing entirely. Unless one has absolutely no coordination whatsoever, it can be grasped and by most, rather quickly. Even then, one must be able to control his basic casting first. The double-haul will give increased line speed which may compensate for some other casting flaws, but when it does the result is not as good as it could be if all parts were done properly.

So there you have it. Did I want to write this? No, I did not, but it is the truth as I see it. You may agree or disagree, my email will be full either way. If I have disheartened you in any way, it was surely not my intent. I just wanted to let you in on all sides of fly casting instruction and learning. I have not found anyone who I could not help at least a little bit, but there have been times when I sure wish I had been able to do more.

Just because someone seems to be a good caster does not necessarily make them a good teacher. Casting and teaching are not quite the same thing. The better coaches have been teaching for many years, have seen a lot of styles and flaws and have found ways of communicating suggestions on the corrections in effective ways. A newer teacher may miss a simple thing and it may become an ingrained flaw only to be repaired, if possible, in the future by someone more accomplished.

If your casting is not what you would like it to be, take it slow, find help in any of it's many forms, try on your own to analyze exactly each part of you casting stroke and see if changing any of them seem to help. Try not to get too locked into any style you may have seen or read about. We are each different and our casting will be unique to each of us. ~ ~ James Castwell

Till next week, remember . . .

Keepest Thynne Baakast Upeth

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