"Teaching Efficient Flycasting"

by Erik Poole

First published in *Currents*, Volume 3, Number 2, Summer 1997, Page 5. 
*Currents* is the newsletter of Trout Unlimited Canada, distributed
as an insert to *Canadian Sportfishing Magazine*. 

A good fly caster should imitate the fish that expends the minimum energy
for the maximum intake of food.  When I think of all the aspects of fly
casting that I could try to teach friends, I always favour energy
conservation.  Elegance in the power-cast and control of loops can come
after some efficient casting techniques are learned.  The reason is
simple:  efficient casting is less tiring and permits the angler the
leisure and the energy to focus on other aspects of casting and fishing. 

I am constantly struck by the number of fly fishers, many of them talented
anglers, who inadvertently act to reduce line-speed during the power
stroke.  As you accelerate your rod arm into a cast, pulling on the line
with the stripping-hand can accelerate the line speed and thus extend the
range and ease of casting.  Likewise, feeding line into the cast during
the power-stroke will decelerate the line speed and to some extent "kill
the cast". 

I recommend a series of three exercises for beginners as well as more
experienced casters that aims primarily to teach the necessary line
control, so line-speed can be accelerated with minimum effort.  At least
once a season, I put myself through the same routine. 

Practising flycasting and urban park lawns are closely intertwined in my
mythology.  On the water is a lousy place to learn to fly cast:  too many
distractions such as wild trees and other messy residents of riparian
habitat.  Take a medium weight fly rod (5 to 8 weight) to a lawn in a
local park.  But, if at all possible, stay away from traffic.  Motorists
gawking at practising fly casters will on occasion rear-end each other. 

First exercise:  learning to watch the forward and back-casts.

Tie a bit of wool onto the leader and strip off about 7 to 10 metres of
fly line.  Instruct the student to stand with feet spread at a 45 degree
angle from the line of the cast.  Ask the student to grasp firmly the line
with the middle or index finger of the rod hand.  The stripping hand is
not used for the moment.  Waving commences.  What is crucial is that the
student visually follows all parts of the casts forward and back. 

Although the elbow and shoulder are primarily used, I encourage lots of
body movement, almost a swinging motion.  I usually try to motivate
casting strokes with an analogy to loading an arrow in the bow.  Learning
to watch the cast in all sequences allows the student to monitor progress
and accelerate autonomous learning. 

Too much wrist movement can often be discouraged with politically
incorrect and somewhat disparaging remarks about the wimpy "state" of the
student's wrist.  At least this ploy seems to work with the "guys". 
Narrowing the casting stroke can be accomplished by referring to the hands
on the clock:  suggest keeping the power strokes between roughly 10
o'clock and one o'clock.  

Second exercise:  training the stripping hand to follow

Next step is get the student to grasp the fly line with the stripping hand
and continue false- casting without changing the amount of line in the air
and without accelerating or decelerating the fly line speed.  This is
accomplished by getting the student to hold the line at a constant
distance from the stripping guide, with the stripping hand held a
comfortable distance in the front of the chest.  During the false-casting,
a rocking motion from above the knees can help keep the stripping hand at
precisely the same distance from the stripping-guide.  This simple
exercise is not as easy as it sounds and often worth repeating. 

Third exercise:  timid hauling

If you have ever watched a saltwater fly angler or steelheader double-haul
and shoot over 120 feet of line while actually fishing, it is impressive. 
Many fly anglers would love to be able to pull sharply down on the line
from their chin to their knees and send it sailing into the horizon.  Not
to bother, rarely is such distance-casting useful.  But mastering mini-
hauls -- movements of the wrist that pull in just a couple of centimetres
of line inside the guides during the power stroke -- will greatly
accelerate line-speed for little effort.  Flick the stripping-hand
downwards without moving the rest of the arm, then allow the hand to drift
up as the forward or back-cast straightens out.  The stripping-hand is now
ready for another "timid haul".  Some students have difficulty timing the
timid haul on both forward and back casts, in which case I suggest a
single haul employed on the forward cast so the student can shoot a few
feet of fly line and get a feel for the potential of mastering the "timid

Time and interest permitting, I will go back to the first exercise and
start focusing on casting planes, wide-open and tight loops, allowing the
rod to drift at the end of the power-stroke and so on.  If a mini-haul or
"tug" as some writers describe it has been mastered, then I often suggest
the student face and cast to within centimetres of a large tree and then
shoot the line on a cast in the opposite direction.  This is a good
technique for avoiding the cruel abuse of innocent spring buds and leaves
composing the riparian habitat. 

At the end of the 20th century with our high technology graphite rods and
a large collected body of fly casting techniques, there is no excuse for
clear-cutting back-cast patches along favourite fishing lies! 

Going further 

Any written material or videos by Mel Krieger and Joan Wulff can greatly
help.  If you have access to a home video-camera, sollicit a friend to
video-tape your casting. 

* There is a recent video produced by Vic Bergman, Flyfishing Alberta's 
Chinook Country, which illustrates some of the techniques I have 
mentionned.  It is available through retailers as well as directly from 
Flyfishing International Inc., phone 403-562-7515.

Trout Unlimited Canada (TUC) can be reached at tuc@cadvision.com 
The URL for the TUC Home Page is http://www.cadvision.com/tuc. 

The editor of *Currents* is Bethe Andreasen.  The Managing Director of 
TUC is Greg Shyba 403-221-8363  .


Erik Poole		epoole@sfu.ca
Burnaby, BC