I suppose the casting clock still has its place for beginning casters
although it is nonetheless a very one-dimensional figure, offering
no distinct casting lane. My other reservation is its circular shape
with those suggestive arcs and parabolas, as though your tip should follow
such paths when we know that good fly casting requires straight-line tip travel.
But, even fly casting can have its irony. What could make a limited side clock more
dimensional except maybe
yes, another clock, this time in front, replete with
a vertical grid offering definite casting lanes. Now, I could position my tip with
more authority for a straight-line backcast. Being left-handed, the best zones
for me were 10, 10.30 and 11.
Conventional fly casting calls for a backcast that loads the rod on a top-to-bottom axis
in line with the guides. In fact, rodmakers purposely place guides on the strong side of a
blank for maximum power. As a result, anglers most often rotate their rod so the pickup
and backcast conform to this power mode.
But on another occasion, I found myself absently raising and lowering the rod in the 11
o'clock zone without this adjustment so the guides, facing directly down, were nonetheless
slanted 30 degrees away from the front. Usually, I would raise and rotate the grip to a top-
bottom axis and then make the backcast over a horizontal plane. This works but there was
a new message coming through now.
Holding the rod at this oblique angle and half-lifting, I felt increased line tension. On
impulse, I made a pickup, twisting the rod back in 30 degrees, stopping the tip at 11 on the
side clock. The difference was remarkable. The pickup at this slightly softer angle, coupled
with the thrusting power of the twist, which angled the rod back in to a full-power axis, made all
the difference in loading the rod. Making the rotation first for a top-bottom axis has nowhere near
the thrust or smooth-loading power of the twist that comes at the end of a backcast. It offers
just the right briskness for the "speed-stop" maneuver that favors gradual acceleration instead.
The drill is easy enough. The stop point is always the same as the time zone. Thus, for right-
handers, 1 o'clock at 1 on the side clock, 1.30 at 1.30, 2 at 2. It is the last inch or two of the
twist that is the power stroke. Go through the move in slow motion and you will see that as
you make the twist, the tip travels in a flat, horizontal plane in what I can only interpret as a
kind of radial compensation. Speaking of the latter, you can practice the twist itself with spot
casts from 12 on the side clock.
My favorite lane is 11 because I can rest my upper arm against my body. It's how they
taught casting years ago with a book tucked under the elbow. Thus, an old idea that
reaffirms a new one. The 10.30 (or 1.30) slot is comfortable too; the 10 or 2 slot is a
bit of a reach but useful in windy conditions for side-casting.
Some other nuances that might enhance matters. I extend my thumb a bit and pinch down
throughout the cast. I was surprised at how well this squeeze helps lock the wrist which is
critical to straight-line casting. It is still tempting to break the wrist a little on that forward
stroke but I have cultivated more of a downward "painting" motion that softens presentation
I also tend to hold the back end of the grip with lighter rods in the 2-3 range, in the middle
for 4-5 and on top for 6 or above. The bottom grip definitely offers a distinct weight forward
effect for those ultralight lines. Then, too, I skew my thumb a bit to the outside of the grip
instead of directly on top. This provides a noticeable cushion and support on both the
back and forward cast.
For want of a better phrase, I think of this maneuver as more of a 30-30 power stroke or
casting on a bias even though, technically, it uses two faces of the casting clock. It feels so
natural and authoritative, I wonder if other anglers haven't been doing the same all along and
never told anyone. Nor did it happen overnight, gradually establishing its own kinetic history
with tiny revelations along the way. I use it for the shortest of casts to the longest. I still marvel
at its definitive loads and fulsome presentations. ~ DS