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 SEVEN: The Single-handed Distance Fly Event
To review: Last week we featured the Angler's Fly
Distance Event, which the West Coasters often referred to
as the "Steelhead Distance Event." But as we discussed,
the Angler's Fly Distance has wide salt and fresh water
applications: it's a great practice event for just about
any type of fishing that requires longer-than-normal casting distance.
The Single-handed Fly Distance is really an extension of
the Angler's Distance Fly. Both events employ shooting heads
and running monofilament lines and rely on the double-haul
The Single-handed Distance Fly is a "controversial" event.
Its detractors claim that it requires tremendous strength,
stamina, and specialized equipment and has only a vague
connection to fishing. Its disciples counter that Rene
Gillibert, who is not a big guy, has cast a fly more than
200 feet in this event. Rene is strong for his size, but
relies on split-second timing and wonderful coordination.
Think if it: That's two-thirds of football field! They also
can claim that Ed Lanser and Zack Willson, who compete in
the Senior's Division (competitors must be over 60 years old),
have cast 180 feet in Nationals. Furthermore, Joan Wulff,
who is about 5'5" tall threw a fly 161 feet in a registered
tournament years ago. Again timing and coordination were
obviously more important than brute strength.
The big difference between the Angler's Distance Fly (which
we covered in Lesson Six)
and the Single-handed is that the latter employs a heavy,
longer line which requires a much heavier fly rod than
you're going to find in fly shops. The American Casting
Association (ACA) states that the shooting
head "shall not be less than 49 feet, 3 inches in length."
Another rule is that the shooting head can't weigh more than
Now false casting a high-density 50-foot shooting head plus
leader is not easy. You'll huff and puff and use all your
stamina to get that blasted line moving to and fro. You
also need to increase the line speed and execute a perfect
double-haul on that final cast. And if it's done right?
Zoom that line will sail and sail.
Why present the controversial Single-handed Distance Fly Event
here? Several reasons: (1) It teaches us important timing lessons
that can reflect positively on certain fly-fishing applications;
(2) once you get the hang of it, it's fun; (3) it's a tremendous
exercise that burns up calories and, if practiced regularly,
will keep you fit (I find that ten minutes of this event is
more tiring than an hour of moderate exercise at the health
club); and, (4) because it's my favorite event (hey, I get
some perks, you know).
The Single-handed Distance Fly Event is frustrating, but
challenging. It's exhausting but soothing. Dumb in one way,
but compelling in another. Degrading (such as when oodles
of line drape around your ears) and ego inflating when you
unleash a cast of over 150 feet. There will be times when you'll
seriously consider selling this specialized equipment in a
garage sale and going back to your 4-weight rod forever, but,
on other days, when you succeed, you wonder, why isn't this
wonderful event in the Olympics?
What the Single-handed Distance Fly event teaches you is the
importance of a flawless casting stroke, timing and the
precise execution of the double haul. By learning this on
a heavy outfit, where every motion and action is exaggerated,
you'll be able to handle any "normal" fly rod with ease. You've
seen the home-run hitters swing a heavy iron bar or two bats
together prior to stepping up to the plate, right? Same
In distance casting, Steve
Rajeff turns his head back to observe the back cast. He
adjusts his stroke, overhang, double-haul timing and
trajectory accordingly. Even subtle weather changes
must be accounted for with computer precision.
HOW THE EVENT IS PLAYED: Please refer to the previous
article (Lesson Six)
for making a simple measuring tape and general comments. The
rules are basically simple: You cast this event on grass and
make as many casts as you want to within a five-minute period
and the longest casts are marked. It helps if you have at
least one competitor, not only to take turns in casting and
measuring, but because a competitor can observe your casting
technique and make suggestions. In effect, you and your
competitor are really partners. You help each other.
"What if I can't find anyone crazy enough to practice this
event?" No problem. You can do it by yourself. You place
markers at various intervals (e.g., 100, 125 and 150 feet)
so that you can gauge the distances and record your best
casts in your scorecard. As you continue to practice, you
will observe periodic progress.
TIP: Don't even think of trying to cast this event
unless you have mastered the double haul. (Go back to
Lesson Six and
study the James Castwell double-haul animation).
Steve Rajeff executes a perfect
forward cast. Note position of the rod. His longest cast to
date was 248 feet.
TIP: Because of the longer shooting head in this event, it's
important to turn your head to observe your back cast. A smooth
well-executed back cast is equally if not more important than
your forward cast. Phenom caster Steve Rajeff does this all
the time. He wants to know exactly what his back cast is doing
and is constantly adjusting his stroke, overhang and timing based
on what he sees.
ANOTHER TIP: You know that video camera that's used
mostly for recording family barbecues and weddings? Set it
up on a tripod and record your casting. Then play the video
on your TV and analyze your casting in slow motion and normal
modes. Even if you have only a moderate knowledge of fly casting,
you will notice your flaws and correct them next casting session.
AND ANOTHER TIP: You absolutely don't want to cast this
event for more than five minutes at a time because you
will tire and develop bad casting habits.
THE TACKLE: I'm going to give you a simplified version of the
ACA tackle requirements for this event and then some suggestions:
The Rod: Not to exceed 9 feet, 9 inches.
Who'd want a longer one? Who could handle it? (Okay, maybe
The Reel: Unrestricted.
Scientific Anglers makes
high-density fly lines for distance tournament casters.
Amnesia monofilament .015 is a good running line for
novice distance fly casters when learning this event.
The Shooting Head: Shall not be less than
49 feet, three inches (49'3") in length, and shall not weigh
more than 650 grains (again, who could handle a heavier line).
The Running Line: Unrestricted (nearly all
competitors use monofilament).
The Leader: Single strand, not shorter
than six feet, or longer than 12 feet.
The Fly: The hackle shall not be smaller
than 5/8 inch in diameter. (Please, please remove the point
and barb when practicing - or tie on a small piece of yarn.
And wear glasses whenever you are casting).
This is all well and good, but the problem is that you would
need a very powerful fly rod (No. 15 or heavier) to cast this
line. Actually, if it weren't for the minimum shooting head
length this line would be manageable. Since the standard
line rating system is based on the weight (in grains) for
the first 30 feet, it would be a No. 12, but because
of the minimum length (almost 50 feet) it's equivalent to a
No. 17 line. See why you need stamina to cast this event?
For most of us, this gear is not practical or readily available.
We're going to assume that you are not going to compete in
the ACA Single-handed Distance Fly Championship. At least,
not right now. However, you'd like to learn this event and
have some fun and perhaps wow your fishing friends when
you unleash some very long casts at the next fly-fishing
First of all, the rules state that the line cannot be more
than 650 grains for the 50-foot length. It can be lighter.
I think nearly all the top casters use somewhat lighter lines
and these guys are terrific casters. You might have to
experiment a little, because it depends on what type of
heavy fly rods you have. If you have a No. 12- or 13-weight
fly rod and some high density fly lines that you can cut up
and splice, you can eventually put together an outfit that
is usable for this event. Although you don't have to follow
ACA's rules--unless you're competing in their tournaments--you
want to come as close as possible to the length of the shooting
head. Try a 40-ft. shooting head as a starter and use a .015
Amnesia mono (or similar) for a running line.
I like the Single-handed Fly Distance event for reasons I've
mentioned above, despite the fact that one must obtain special
equipment to compete in the ACA sanctioned tournaments.
(Scientific Anglers makes a number of fly lines strictly
for the tournament casters and several rod makers offer
heavy sticks for this event.)
In my opinion I think the line length (30 feet) of the
Angler's Distance Fly is too short, and the Single-handed
Distance fly line (almost 50 feet) is too long. A 38- to
40-foot shooting head would have been ideal as an official
ACA event because: (1) it's the easiest length head to
handle for distance casting; (2) a number of manufacturers
make these heads line and are readily available; (3) this
event has excellent fishing applications; and, (4) you could
use it with many fly-rod models.
WHAT ABOUT DISTANCES: Normally in these lessons I
like to provide benchmarks, but because this event is heavily
based on specialized equipment, not readily available, it's
difficult. But assuming that you put together the right outfit
based on ACA rules, and you've mastered the double-haul
here are some numbers:
NEXT WEEK: Our concluding remarks on this series.
(We need some time to catch some trout and also attend
the ACA 94th annual casting championships for a special
report in a future issue.)
100 to 125 feet: While this distance is not particularly
impressive in tournaments, it indicates that you understand the
basics and with some practice you will quickly ascend to the
126 to 140 feet: You're an excellent distance caster.
141 to 160 feet: Wonderful! Feel proud! You have climbed
a peak that very few anglers have reached. You're in the elite
Over 161 feet: Surely you've done lots of tournament
casting! Not more than a dozen anglers/casters in North America
can cast this far under normal weather conditions
THE LONGEST CAST: Steve Rajeff cast 248 feet at the
world casting championship in Pretoria, South Africa. His
longest cast at an ACA National was 236 feet!
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