By Louis Cahill
In response to my review of the T&T Solar a reader asked,
“This may be a dumb question, but how do you get 100′ of line out on a cast?”
It’s not a dumb question and it deserves a detailed answer.
It’s easier than you think. That doesn’t mean that you will read this article and instantly be able to do it. My point is more that most folks who are trying to make long cast are trying too hard and that’s a lot of their problem. Distance casting is about timing and technique, not power, and with a little practice a hundred feet is perfectly doable.
You will have to excuse me here, but if I don’t make a few qualifying statements I’ll be called everything but the son of God in the comments section.
First, and likely most important, you don’t have to make a long cast to catch fish. Even in saltwater an accurate forty-foot cast is more important than a long bomb. In trout fishing the long cast is almost non-existent and can even be a liability. That said, there are times when a long cast will add to your catch. There is also a lot to be said for the confidence you gain from mastering the long cast. Making a long cast requires good technique and there’s no downside to being a better caster.
Secondly, let’s not get hung up on the number. Although I can cast 100 feet when everything goes right, 90 feet is a much better working distance for me. I can make that cast with a greater degree of accuracy and consistency. Both are important and your number for accuracy and consistency is what’s important. It will always be a little less than your maximum distance. For the sake of discussion let’s just say “long casts” and define that as anything over 70 feet.
So, if you are still interested in making long casts read on and if not, move on and spare us your dissertation on Euro Nymphing.
The Price of Admission
There are a few things you will have to master before distance is an issue of concern. It’s far more important to master these than to cast any given distance. Any high school coach will tell you, it’s fundamentals that score points, not heroics.
It’s crucial that the timing of your cast is spot on. That means that you are waiting for the line to straighten out completely, both in front of you and behind, before starting your stroke. Creep, moving your rod before the line straightens, is a killer of good loops.
A straight line path
Way too many anglers think of the casting stroke as the tic-toc motion of a metronome. This reeks havoc in the majority of fly casts. In order to make a tight, energized loop, your rod tip must travel in a straight line. The physics of how that works is simple but invisible to the eye.
When you cast the rod bends, compressing the path of the tip. When power is applied smoothly, this compression causes the tip to travel in a straight line. If you are not an engineer by nature, it is enough to know that the motion is a push forward and a pull back, not the waving of a wand.
A loaded rod
It’s the rod that casts the line, not your arm. If you feel like you are winding up and pitching a baseball, you’re missing the point. Your job is to bend the rod, it’s the release of that bend that throws the line. If, like most casters, you use a thumb on top grip, there is a simple exercise I use to illustrate this idea.
Hold the butt section of the rod in front of you with both hands. Your hands should be shoulder distance apart with one hand on the grip. Place your thumbs on the side of the rod closest to you. Your casting hand should now be in a normal grip position. Bend the rod naturally with your thumbs as if you were going to snap it. Just don’t. This is the same bend you should be putting in the rod when casting. The opposing hand is the weight of the line. Remember this when driving the rod forward with your thumb.
The Double Haul
To cast for distance you will need a well energized line. This will allow you to shoot line effectively, which is key. You’ll need a good double haul. It will need to be smooth and well timed and the length of your haul will change in proportion to the amount of line you are carrying. This will help generate enough line speed to shoot lots of line.
Rather than write at length about the double haul here, I’ll provide you links to some articles with everything you need to know.
Bruce Chard’s Double Haul Drill
The Double Haul
Joel Dickey’s Line Speed Drill
There are plenty of other details you can perfect to improve your distance, but these are the big ones. If you can get a handle on these you can cast a full fly line. Now let’s talk a bit about the specifics of the cast.
What to carry and what to shoot.
Most anglers, including myself, have a tendency to carry too much line when making long casts. If you’re not familiar with that term, carrying line means keeping line in the air while false casting. There are a lot of reasons you should make your presentation with as few false casts as possible. One of the most important is that false casting gives you more opportunity to make mistakes. That’s never more true than in distance casting. It’s in you best interest to present the fly with no more than three false casts. That’s totally doable on a long cast and I will explain how. First let’s take a minute to talk about lines.
A standard fly line is 100 feet long. The section called the head is usually the first forty feet. The head contains all of the weight needed to load the a fly rod which matches the given line weight. The head has three parts. The front taper, the belly and the rear taper. The other sixty feet of line is what’s called running line. It is thin and supple compared to the thicker, heavier head. It is made for shooting, not carrying line. If you try to carry the head with the running line for very long you’ll be in trouble.
So here is the part you are going to like. You may have struggled getting to the point where you could cast forty feet. Here’s the good news. The next sixty is going to be much easier! When you are casing at distances under forty feet you do not have access to the full weight of the head. Once the full head is out of the guides, your rod will load much more efficiently and your line will shoot much farther, carried by the weight of the head.
So let’s break down those three false casts. You should already have nine feet of line out of the rod tip when you begin casting. Your job in those first two false casts is to make good loops and get the head out of the guides. You will need all of the skills we talked about earlier to do this but it’s very doable. The most important thing is that you effectively shoot line on both your forward and back casts. No way around that!
When you are ready to start the back cast for what will be your presentation cast you should have about fifty feet of line out of the guides. At this point you are committed. The angle of your cast should already be dead on your target. You will not be able to steer the cast by the running line. You now have one back cast and one forward cast in which to put out another fifty feet of line.
This is simpler than it sounds. The key is in having nice tight loops, good line speed and a clean double haul. Shoot twenty feet of line on your back cast and thirty feet on your presentation and you’re there. Again, don’t get worked up about the numbers. In the real world every cast is different. Don’t let me catch you marking your line with a sharpie. Master the techniques and trust the process. You’ll get there.
Distance casting is not for super humans. You can do this. It’s going to take some work but it easier than you think. Just focus on the fundamentals and don’t try to power it out there. You’ll be casting the whole line before you know it.
Louis Cahill Gink & Gasoline www.ginkandgasoline.com email@example.com Sign Up For Our Weekly Newsletter!