In order to enjoy better fishing results, it is necessary
for most anglers to practice casting on a continuing basis. Admittedly,
practice is b-o-r-i-n-g, so it's my job to make casting practice so
much fun that you'll almost like it as much as fishing! And down the
road you might even want to enter a casting tournament! And Win!
LESSON SIX: The Angler's Distance Fly Event
To review: Okay, we've practiced casting to targets,
and hopefully we've had a chance to make some accurate casts
to fish, too. Good! Now we're going to advance to the distance
events. While accurate casting is the more important factor
in fishing success, we've all experienced times when we needed
to cast an extra ten feet or more to reach a feeding trout, a
tailing bonefish or a bass tearing up a school of fleeing minnows.
Putting extra muscle into the cast isn't going to do it, if the
timing is missing.
A lot of anglers can cast 45 to 50 feet without employing the
single - or double-haul casting technique. If you want to make
longer casts or if you want to make 50 - to 70-foot casts with
less effort and more grace you must learn to double haul.
This week we're going to analyze and practice the Angler's
Distance Fly Event. You may want to take an advance casting
course-one that heavily concentrates on the double haul and is
taught by an experienced double-haul instructor-or you may want
to study books and videos by Joan Wulff, Mel Krieger, Lefty Kreh
and others. I have found that James Castwell's double-haul
animations are also a fantastic learning tool. For distance
casting, study J.C.'s excellent mechanics and delivery.
While everyone eventually develops his own stroke, the
basic principles are similar. Narrow loop, line speed,
timing and trajectory.
As I've explained previously, this is not a how-to-cast seminar;
instead, it is a symposium that hopefully will to get you to
practice more and to make practicing fun to a point where you
look forward to it.
THE TACKLE: If you're fishing a brushy stream or a small
river you're not going to need very long casts and a No.
3 to 5 fly rod is fine. But if you are going to fish a
big steelhead or salmon river, or bonefish flats, or chuck
a fly at a tarpon some distance away, you will be using a
heavier rod. This event is designed for heavier tackle.
Also the accompanying suggested equipment conforms closely
to the American Casting Association (ACA) tournament rules,
and I know that some of you will enjoy these events and
eventually will compete in tournaments. Bear in mind, you
can use just about any equipment except the most delicate,
light fly rod for this event, but again I suggest you try
to come close to the following gear:
The Rod: A 9-ft., graphite calibrated for
a No. 10 shooting head is ideal.
The Reel: A single-action fly reel that
has sufficient capacity.
The Line: This gets a little tricky. You
want a shooting head (No. 10) between 28 and 31 feet in length
that weighs no more than 310 grains.
The Running Line: Use a monofilament that's
.015" in diameter or thicker.
The Leader: Nine to 12 ft. leader tied from
hard or stiff mono that tapers from .026" to about .014."
The Fly: Attach a brightly colored No. 10 or 12 fly (but
be sure to remove the barb and point for practice) or simply
tie on a small piece of yarn.
Chris Korich displays perfect casting
technique, timing and coordination at a national distance fly casting
championship. In actual fishing, the casting motion is of course
less vigorous, but the technique and timing is the same.
WHERE TO PRACTICE:
This event is best practiced on land. It's easier to pick
up the line off the grass and you can easily measure your
casts. Today, most distance casting tournaments are held
on athletic fields.
TARGETS: None. This is a distance event. You need to make
a distance measuring device of sorts, unless you happen to
own a 150-ft tape. Here's an easy way to do it. Take an old
fishing reel with at least 150 feet of 15 - or 20-pound
monofilament. Carefully measure out 75 feet, tie in a piece
of colored yarn with a loop knot at that spot. Then measure
out another 25 feet (the 100-foot mark) and put a different
color yarn. Do this again at 125 feet. If you feel very
confident and are a very skilled caster, tie one on at 150
feet! Good for you!
Before you begin to practice your distance for measurement,
stretch out the measuring line and place visible markers at
each increment (75, 100, 125 or more feet). A marker can be
just about anything that's visible: colored cloth, sticks
into the ground, or even your hula-hoop targets that you've
used for accuracy.
You need one more thing: A simple scorecard. Record your
longest casts every time you practice so that you can gauge
your day-to-day improvement. Before casting distance, limber
up a bit with a few short and easy casts or do some stretching
HOW TO CAST THE ANGLER'S DISTANCE FLY EVENT: Nothing
complicated here. Step right up ladies and gentlemen
and let 'er rip!!!
Okay, okay. So you got the line tangled around your neck, and
you tried to put too much oomph into your cast. Let's back
off a bit. Let's take it e-a-s-y.
First, you need to know the double haul. You must understand
the principle of the double haul in order to attain distance.
And you must practice it. You can practice the double-haul
casting motion even without a rod or reel and expert casters
often recommend it. Kids practice "air guitar," right? Here's
what I suggest. Above you see James Castwell executing the
double haul for distance. While watching him
on the computer imitate the hand and arm motion. That's it.
Nice going. And remember his Keepyst Thynne Backcast Upeth.
Aren't these computers wonderful? (Hint: Don't practice
"air casting" in a supermarket, or during intermission at a concert,
or while listening to a less-than-inspiring sermon. Not everyone
understands the double-haul motion or what it's for. If you insist
on practicing the motion in public, take along the butt section
of an old fly rod. People will then know that you're a fisherman
and not pay any further attention to you.)
Back to casting. You will note that the shooting head must be beyond
the rod tip (known as "overhang") during your false casts, and this
takes a little experimentation. If you have about a foot of line
beyond your extreme pull on the double haul, that's a good starting
point. You may have to let out a little line or take some in. It
takes adjustment and competent casters may disagree as to the exact
amount of overhang.
You will find that the narrow loop, timing, trajectory and equipment
determine the distances, but wind conditions are also very important.
Even a light breeze can alter your distance positively or negatively.
Unless you are a very experienced caster take your time and
don't try to throw the cast into the next zip code. Work on
timing, on comfort and not hitting yourself on the cast. Work
on preventing tailing leaders.
I don't know why it is, my friends, but it seems that an angler
may spend hours developing a golf swing or putting, or working
on an explosive serve on the tennis court, or shooting clay
targets, but, for some incomprehensible reason, many feel that
casting shouldn't require much practice and should almost be a
birthright! Not so. Casting requires as much practice as learning
to hit a baseball, playing the piano or any number of thousands
of activities. The more you practice intelligently, the better
you become. Oh, you'll have your good days, and the bad ones,
too, but practice develops consistently.
So you practice and practice, and maybe you've become a little
discouraged at times, but you listen to what I've preached ad
naseum and practice some more. Keep it up. One day, soon, you're
going to get off that cast that just sails and sails, and goes
so far that it will give you such a high, that you will always
remember that cast. That is, until you make a better, longer cast.
Keep track of your scores and you'll notice the improvement.
Your improvement will fuel the desire. After you warm up,
don't make more than five minutes of uninterrupted distance
casting as it is very tiring on certain muscles and you will
slip into bad casting habits. Suggested schedule: Five minutes
of vigorous distance casting, relax for ten, than another
five minutes of practice, then go home and drink a glass of
orange juice and tie flies or whatever.
What is great about this casting game is that you can practice
it just about anywhere and at any age unless you are physically
challenged in later life. There are guys in their high 70s and
maybe lower 80s who can cast further than some of the experts
half their age and twice as strong. Why is that? Because they
understand the principles of the casting and timing and
continue to practice.
WHAT ABOUT DISTANCES: Again this is subjective, but
here are some benchmarks:
Stu Apte (on left) has never
competed in a National Casting Tournament but is a very
strong distance caster who delivers a tarpon fly quickly
and accurately. He obviously uses the double-haul technique.
60-70 feet or less: Good going. It's a start.
70 to 90 feet: Consider yourself a fairly good caster
(you are throwing a heavy shooting head which, for some people,
is harder to cast than a lighter outfit with a standard fly line).
90 to 110 feet: You've learned the double haul well and
with more practice can develop into a very good distance caster.
110 to 125 feet: Superb. With a few tips (which we'll provide
in a future article) you could move up into the next bracket.
125 or 140 feet: See what I mean about getting a high when
you uncork a long cast! Great isn't it? You bet.
140 or more feet: Okay, okay you're a tournament caster
and you came to these pages accidentally. If you aren't a
tournament caster, you're one heckuva good caster and
definitely ACA National Casting Championship material!
WHAT DISTANCES DO THE "BIG BOYS" CAST IN THIS EVENT? Steve
Rajeff (in my opinion, the world's best all-round caster ever),
cast 183 feet in the 2000 National tournament; Tom Gong, a senior
caster (over 60 years old) cast 163 feet while Alice Gillibert
threw a fly 134 feet to win the Ladies Division.
What's amazing about these scores is that the average fisherman
has no idea of how far he is casting. Unless they actually
measure the distance with a tape, most anglers greatly
overestimate the casting distance beyond 80 feet. Secondly,
the distances are determined where the fly lands and not how
much line goes through the guides. Often a caster can get
150 feet of line (head and shooting line) beyond the rod tip,
but the end of fly line and the long leader do not straighten
out and may fall back 20 feet or more. Result? Perhaps a
HOW DOES THIS EVENT RELATE TO FISHING: Easy. Any time a longer
than normal cast is necessary. In addition to the above-mentioned
steelhead, salmon, bonefish and tarpon fishing, this event
teaches us how to apply line speed, develop the double haul
and timing so necessary to deliver bulkier fly patterns,
bass bugs and other air-resistant lures to farther
destinations. Furthermore, it's fun. When that line goes
and goes and goes, and you've just made the longest cast
of your life, you are awe struck. That is, until the next
week or the following month. . .when you make an even longer cast.
NEXT WEEK: We look at the Single-Hand Fly Casting
Event--where some of the fellas cast a fly more than 200 feet!
Hey, we're talking more than two-thirds of a football field.
Jim Chapralis is a world traveler, a pioneer in the international fishing
travel business, and author, most recently of Fishing Passion, reviewed in
our Book Review section. He is an avid angler - and caster.
Currently involved with the 94th Annual National Casting
Tournament July 29 to August 3, 2002. You can reach Jim via his