This Week's View

by Deanna Lee Birkholm

August 11th, 2003

Elbow Down

One of the ways to really improve your casting - almost like magic - is to check your casting form.

Not everyone has problems of course, but nearly everyone can improve their casting - me included.

In our classes, we tell our students to stand with their feet slightly apart, with their casting arm relaxed at their side. Once the students have the basic stroke, we tell them to drop their foot (on the casting arm side) back slightly, which allows the caster more freedom to use their body in the cast.

Can you picture that?

Quite often, a student new to fly fishing has been fishing - with a spinning rod. The difference between the casting in fly fishing and spin fishing is simple. In spin fishing the weight of the lure takes the line out, in fly fishing the weight of the LINE carries the fly along for a ride.

I'm not sure there is an accepted 'best' way to cast a spinning rod, but often the person who makes the move to fly fishing tries to use the fly rod in the same manner they used the spinning rod. It doesn't work. A flick of the wrist will throw a spinning lure. It doesn't matter much where or how high you hold the rod. It does matter with a fly rod.

Think of it this way, since it takes more effort to cast a fly rod, (except on short 20 foot or less casts where you can just use your wrist) the muscle which stops the rod should be your biceps. The big muscle above your elbow engages and provides the power needed. Here's a little test:

Hold the butt section of your rod in your casting hand (thumb on top please) and with your arm hanging down, elbow bent, begin casting. Put your non-rod hand on top of your biceps. Feel what happens as you cast. Now move your casting hand up and keep casting, feel the biceps as you do so. Notice that once your hand is at or above shoulder level the less biceps you use. Take it to the extreme and reach up and continue to cast where the upper arm is level with your shoulder. Any biceps? What is going to stop the rod? Your wrist? Don't think so.

Where do you have the power to stop the rod? With your elbow down.

That's not all of it.



In the photos shown above and to the right, the anglers are casting with their arms stuck out at shoulder level. It looks like they are casting big rods, and trust me, it's an extremely tiring way to fish. Elbow down, with the arm comfortably hanging at your side is less tiring and considerably more efficient all the way around.


If you were a professional boxer, how would you throw a punch? With your arm extended out to the side and your hand/fist up in the air? Or would you punch with your hand at a low position between your waist and shoulder? Where is the power?


The next time you are out practicing, or fishing, do a mental check. Where is my casting hand? If it is anywhere above your ear you aren't getting the most out of your cast - and you are working much too hard.

Vince Marinaro backcast

By the way, if you are suffering with elbow or shoulder problems, your casting form may be part of the problem. Holding your arm out to the side or over your head places unnecessary stress on them. Correct that problem now by changing to a lower hand position.

Vince Marinaro forward cast

Keep it simple - keep the elbow down. ~ The LadyFisher

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