This Week's View

by Deanna Lee Birkholm
September 5th, 2005


No, not the neighbor down the street. This has to do with fly casting.

Earlier this week my husband and I were invited to go down to the Sage plant a few miles from us to try out their new 'Casting Analyzer.' Sage's Ned Hobson took us by the hand and explained how this unique system works.

The Casting Analyzer depends on a MEMS, (MicroElectroMechanical Systems); tiny mechanical devices that are built onto semiconductor chips and are measured in micrometers. In the research labs since the 1980s, MEMS devices began to materialize as commercial products in the mid-1990s. They are used to make pressure, temperature, chemical and vibration sensors, light reflectors and switches as well as accelerometers for airbags, vehicle control, pacemakers and games.

A gyro is attached to the bottom of a specific fly rod calibrated at this time for a Sage XP 9 foot, 5 weight. The gyro cord is attached to the pod which accepts the data translated from the rods action. The system and supporting software uses a 'palm pilot' but will also be available in a standup kiosk. The results with suggestions on improving your own casting can be printed out so you can take with you to work on later!

It is a personal casting instructor without an attitude or agenda.

How does it do that? The caster makes a series of just 'normal' casts with line, leader and practice fly using a pre-measured 40 feet of line. No double haul, just normal casting. The caster starts false casting and a tone rings letting you know the 'start' and rings again when you are to stop. Maybe a minute or two. That's it.

The system measures and records (and eventually compares with a 'standard' cast) these components of your cast:

    Cast Symmetry (the forward and backcast should be identical).

    Cast Arc (the ideal arc for a 40 foot cast is 65 degrees, wider produces an open loop.)

    Creep (not sticking the backcast and starting forward too soon, resulting in a incomplete casting stroke on the forward cast.) See it really is in there.

    Smoothness Ratio (speed up and stop as opposed to abrupt power application which often causes tailing loops.)

    Peak Speed (applying too much power too soon causing inefficient casting.)

    Deceleration (this is the period of time it takes to go from the speed-up to the point where you actually stop the rod. Like putting the brakes on in your car, in this case too slow and the caster loses the nice tight loop.)

    Stop (the difference between and soft and 'hard' stop - the harder stop gives tighter loops.)

    Rod Load (the results of rod arc, peak speed, smoothness ratio and stop data - which combine to show the efficiency of the cast.)

All of these factors are instantaneously measured with both the forward and back cast. Absolutely amazing stuff.

Just telling you what is measured doesn't give you nearly the impact of seeing the actual numbers, percentages and graphs of how you are doing. The neat part is you can work on one or all of the factors to improve your own casting. You can actually SEE the results.

Many people have tried video camera to try to analyze their casting and fix problems and improve their casting - but unless you know the name for the problem it is difficult to get a handle on how to fix it. If you don't know something is a mistake how can you fix it? Well, maybe not a mistake, just not as good as it could be.

The Casting Analyzer also gives you suggestions as to how to adjust so the cast could be better! How cool is that?

Being a 'beta tester' for the Casting Analyzer was really great fun as well as being instructional. I will do it again - and knowing what I know now, I will take a little time to 'practice' casting with the rod which is used in the system now. It was not a rod I was familiar with, so it did not feel quite as comfortable as 'my' rod. That isn't an excuse, I did quite well actually. Is there room for improvement? You bet!

The Sage Casting Analyzer will be unveiled at the Denver Fly Tackle Retailer Show this week, (Sept. '05) and I fully expect to have to stand in line to see it there. It's worth it.

One other thing I want to mention, Sage is making these analyzers available at about cost to their dealers, and the idea is to really provide a free service to fly fishers who want to improve their casting. That is wonderful for our sport. Casting is so important to catching - and nothing is more frustrating to fly fishers than not being able to get the cast where it needs to be. Being able to cast truly makes all the difference in the world.

If you have a Sage dealer near you, do ask them when they are going to have it. It is just terrific. ~ DLB

If you would like to comment on this or any other article please feel free to post your views on the FAOL Bulletin Board!

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