October 22nd, 2001

Graduate From Cane To Graphite?
By James Castwell


We, my wife and I, were having lunch with Mike and Susan in town and chatting about the normal thing for us, fly casting. They had come to see us about another matter related to FAOL, (not to go fishing). About one-thirty, as we were finishing lunch, he told me he had fly fished for forty years but had always used an old fiberglass rod or one of his many cane rods. Here was a guy who knew a lot about fly fishing but had never used a graphite rod. I was fascinated.

"How is your casting coming along," I asked.

"Well, truthfully, I have to wade a lot deeper than I sometimes like so I can reach the fish."

He stood about five foot six, I could see this could be a problem. "You got a good handle on the double-haul?"

"Really, I don't. I have never learned how to do it."

Now, Mike has fished in several states for all kinds of things including steelhead. He even used shooting heads on his cane rods to get some distance. Under more questioning I learned he didn't give a hard tug on the line on the forward cast. I just had to get him out to our casting pond. "You want to learn it right now, the double-haul, this afternoon? There is a slight breeze, it's a nice day and we have time. I'm game if you are."

"If you're game, I'll pay for lunch. Let's do it!" he said. Susan admitted she needed some help with her casting too and that clinched it.

We were off to Port Ludlow, WA, where we have access to a huge lawn and a perfect man-made casting pond. A quick stop on the way by my place for some rods and we were soon crossing the Hood Canal Bridge and on our way. Twenty-five minutes later found us at the trunk of my car stringing up rods. I handed him the six-weight Gatti graphite and said, " Take this out there and make friends with it. I'll get these others ready. Go ahead, get the feel of it, I think you will like it. It's real smooth like cane." I purposely turned my back and let him, unobserved make a few casts. I wanted him to cast it without worrying about anyone seeing him. Some guys get a bit nervous and I try to avoid that when at all possible.

When the six weight RedFly was ready, I handed it to my wife and turning to Mike asked, "Well, how is that working for you?" He said it was just fine and then made what for him was a long cast. I asked him to make a few more so I could watch something about how the rod was bending. In reality I was studying him. His style was strongly influenced by all the years of casting cane. Mostly soft cane it appeared. He was working his tail off even with this powerful rod. He would load the rod and then also unload it. With today's rods, you load them, they better unload by themselves or they should go back. We definitely had some work to do here. He was having fun and showed good potential.

His casts were going about forty feet and not with much authority when they got there. I don't think one made it out to fifty feet even with the extra body english he added. For some inspiration, but not so much as to intimidate him, I asked for the rod for a second and with as little effort as possible and one quick short double-haul laid it out to eighty. It worked, now he was hooked. It is an important line to walk between showing a person what can be done with a rod but not showing off or making them feel inadequate. I have seen more than one instructor mess up on that one.

My wife had Susan a little way off with the RedFly and seemed to be making progress. Susan was very new to the casting game and had not really 'fallen in love' with it yet. Casting for her was just a method of trying to get a fly out there someplace. Under Deanna's careful and gentle guidance that soon changed. She became all smiles and for the first time actually asked her husband to, "Look at me, Honey, this is fun!" Deanna really is a very good instructor. I am very proud of her.

The time had come for me to introduce Mike to the double-haul. I showed in slow motion what the moves were just so he had some general idea. I then explained the "Pull-Cast-Feed" system of the 'DH' and got him started. I didn't try to correct or change any of his casting styles or methods at this time. That may come later if needed. Remember, he had never been able to cast a long line. He had no bad habits. I hoped to start him off right and see where it went from there. In about two minutes he had the 'DH' working, had lifted the line to vertical and was carrying about forty feet of well-controlled line in the air. He was like a kid at Christmas. This is also a very rewarding time for me. The learning is in direct proportion to the students eagerness and the teacher getting out of the way. I made an excuse to go back to the car for a few minutes and told Mike to keep doing just what he was doing. I wanted to carve it into his mind and so did he.

We spent a wonderful afternoon, probably two hours of great fun and a lot of learning. We covered some pointers on the roll-cast, (his was just fine) some presentation moves and just a little tuning-up. It is days like that which make teaching very enjoyable. It is a wonderful thing to watch the learning happen - to see a student make a minor mistake and correct it all by himself on the very next cast is my 'pay-off.' When it all seems to come together he no longer needs to feel intimidated under any casting situation anyplace.

Oh yes. He never was able to cast that far and well before. He now can't wait to practice as often as possible and already has become a fine caster. The truth is, he graduated from cane to graphite. Now he can cover all the water, not just the first thirty feet.

I do not mean this column to be derogatory in any way toward cane rods. There are long ones for wet style fly-fishing and shorter and lighter ones for dry-fly conditions and there is graphite. They all have their place.

Fly-casting, it's not just for fishing anymore; it can be fun anytime. Try it. ~ James Castwell

Till next week, remember . . .

Keepest Thynne Baakast Upeth

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