Archive for the ‘Fly Casting’ Category

Casting Accuracy

May 17, 2016

AccuracyHead

“It isn’t so much a matter of feet but of inches”.. wise words from a client on a local stream, trying to land a fly across a current seam, between two boulders and under a tree so as to get a six inch drift, drag free and close enough to a feeding fish to illicit a take.

All too often we consider fly casting in terms of distance, and that is no bad thing, but there is another part to casting effectively , what perhaps golfers would refer to as your “short game”.

Most stream fishing requires casts of only moderate distance but frequently demands unprecedented accuracy combined with delicacy. To achieve that there are a few things that anglers need to understand, much of which goes against the normally accepted wisdom of fly fishing.

Firstly you need to use a longer leader, quite possibly a LOT longer and if a long leader and accuracy seem an oxymoronic combination to you I would suggest that you read on.

Line speed:

It should be obvious to anyone with much experience that accuracy requires line speed, a fly line flipped out in a wide loop is at the mercy of the wind, won’t get in under trees or penetrate a downstream gale and results in the fly floating down well after the fly line has landed.

So the goal is to have tight rapidly propagating loops produced by a straight rod tip path, (remember that the shape of the loop, in particular the top leg of the loop is entirely determined by the rod tip path), and a rapid rotation to produce rod tip speed. For the most part that goes for all casting but for a few specific exceptions.

Once you are able to cast nice fast, tight loops the next “problem” is that fast tight loops are liable to have the fly crash into the surface perhaps sinking the fly and scaring the fish. This is where the long leader comes into play. Ever wondered why a fly line is tapered? Getting thinner and thinner towards the front end. It is to burn off energy, bleed away all that casting energy that you created such that the fly will land gently, but the taper in the line is not sufficient on its own to slow things down enough. Try casting a fly line without a leader on it and see how much the tip of the line “kicks” over at the end of the cast. This is residual energy that hasn’t been burned off as the cast comes to an end.

Long leaders

A long tapered leader then assists in burning off excess energy such that in an ideal world the fly runs out of steam just as the loop turns over.

If I were to offer you five hundred bucks if you could cast a fly into a tea cup ten metres away and then say that you could choose a set up with a 9’ leader or a 15’ leader which would you choose?

Most would pick the 9’ option believing it to offer better accuracy, but to be sure of hitting the cup you would have to generate a lot of line speed and with a 9’ leader the fly would almost certainly bounce out of the cup.

The alternative option with the shorter leader , which is in fact what most anglers do when fishing, is to aim high and “hope” that the fly will miraculously float down into the cup. The traditional “land like thistledown” presentation. Useless in all but windless conditions and not the best way to approach things.

The smart money would be on the longer leader where the energy of a fast accurate cast would burn off just as the fly arrived inches above the cup and it would fall in, winning you the money in the process.

In essence, the better you cast, the tighter the loops and the more energy you impart into the line, not only CAN the leader be longer, in fact it MUST be longer.

(as an aside, this is the reason that I detest furled leaders, furled leaders preserve casting energy, the antithesis of what I believe you want. Certainly if you are a poor caster they may make casting seem easier, but I assure you that you would be better off to practice your casting and ditch the furled terminal tackle).

So you have now got the perfect loop sorted out, you are generating massive amounts of line speed and are using a long leader to burn off all that excess energy such that the fly lands softly after all. There is still one very important step that you have to take, you have to change the angles of your cast.

What happens most often on the river when casting against the wind is that anglers perceive that they are unable to turn the leader over. Frequently this is not the case, the leader is turning over just fine but it is blowing back in your face because it ran out of energy too high above the water. What you need to do is aim at the water (or only fractionally above it).. Most don’t do this because if they do the fly hits the surface like a brick and that is because the energy didn’t burn off in time.(The leader is too short)

Cast High

Often in an attempt to “aim at the water” then the caster breaks the 180° rule. Making a near horizontal back cast and bringing the rod down along the ideal casting angle on the forward cast, resulting in a wide loop, the line hitting the water before the fly and no accuracy or line speed.Break180

The answer to getting more accurate is to aim at your target, not above it and to burn off the energy just as the fly arrives. To aim at the target you have to change your casting angles. The 180° rule states that the line should follow a 180°path. If your back cast is low or sags down your forward cast will either be high or have a very poorly formed wide loop.

Take a look at the diagram below to perhaps make this more clear.

Angles

 

In essence then, it is your back cast which determines the forward casting angle, back cast along the ideal line between target and rod tip. For close targets this means a back-cast that, to most people, looks ludicrously high above your head.

To summarize then, if you want pinpoint accuracy and delicate presentation you should:

  • Adjust your back-cast angle in line with the target, higher for closer fish and more horizontal for far ones.
  • Lengthen your leader to insure that all the energy is burned off at the completion of the cast.
  • Maintain the 180°rule at all times
  • Maximize line speed, do not modify your cast or loop shape to try to achieve delicate presentation. Delicate presentation is the leader’s job NOT yours.
  • Have the fly turn over only inches above the target.

The best way to practice is to have some targets on the lawn, a bit of wool in replacement of the fly and play with the angles. To start with you will no doubt find that the closer targets are the hardest to hit. Adjust your angles and all of a sudden those close ones will be easy.

One final note: as the targets (fish) get further away and the angles get shallower so also you will be casting longer lines and the rod will be bending more. So you will not only need to adjust the angles but also the stroke length of your cast or you are going to get tailing loops.

Stroke-accuracy

Get out there and play on the lawn, it will improve your fishing.

Tim Rolston is an IFFF (International Federation of Fly Fishers) Certified Casting Instructor and runs both Inkwazi Flyfishing Safaris , a guiding operation based in Cape Town South Africa and “The Casting Clinic” offering individual and group fly casting tuition to both beginners and experienced anglers. You can contact The Casting Clinic by email, just click on the logo below.

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Tailing Loops 101

December 24, 2015

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This is the third of a series of articles  written for Vagabond Flyfishing Magazine , this one a little more detailed still and focusing on the relationship between rod flex and casting arc. You can’t escape it, fly fishing is about fly casting, or at least that is the starting point. So in the next few pieces for Vagabond I am going to be looking at some structure in terms of what makes fly casting work, what is happening when it is going wrong and how to fix it. So this and other articles on casting will also appear on The Fishing Gene Blog, for the benefit of those yet to discover Vagabond.

Following on from the previous articles some slightly more advanced thoughts on the mechanics of fly casting.

Last time we looked in some detail at the concepts of arc and stroke, the basic movements of the fly caster and those which ultimately determine the track of the rod tip and thus the movement of the line and shape of the loop.

Trouble is that with fly casting, unlike any other form of casting in different types of angling, one is not casting a constant mass; the weight of the line cast varies all the time as a function of the length of it out of the rod tip.

So how does that change the structure of the casting stroke?

The issue here is that the more line out the more weight and the greater the inertia and it then follows that the rod will load more (bend to a greater degree). In effect then the rod gets shorter under more load and flex, “The effective rod length”.

If one is aiming to move the rod tip in a straight line the starting point of that straight line is the height above the caster that the rod tip finds itself when bent. The more bend the “lower to the ground” the starting point of the stroke and thus the wider the casting arc has to be. Now that isn’t very easy to explain in words but perhaps a diagram will assist in understanding.

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Images are copyright protected and generously provided from Tim’s latest book on casting which is still in the process of being completed.

 

In the above diagram the rod has been bent to 80% of its original height above the angler. So the correct point to start the stroke is with the rod at an angle which starts the stroke with the rod point at this height. In other words the starting point is where the tip of the rod at zero flex is in line with the tip of the rod under maximum flex..

CraigRodBend

If you let out more line, or to a point apply more force the rod will bend more, the effective height above the angler will reduce further and the starting point of the stroke will have the rod at a greater angle.

StrokeLength

Above, you will note that as the rod bends more deeply the starting point of the stroke is at a greater angle, and the width of the casting arc becomes greater. More line out requires a greater arc and longer stroke.

In addition to the above obviously the more line out the more power that is required , but one of the absolute keys to casting a fly line is to adjust the arc and stroke as the amount of line in the air changes (or as the amount of rod bend changes if you wish to think of it like that).. For the most part anglers adjust this naturally but understanding the relationship is the key to spotting the cause of some faults which may appear in your casting.

So what happens if you don’t get the adjustment correct?

Although there are more than a few ways of creating tailing loops, those annoying squiggles in the line which look remarkably like the ebola virus and which can be as devastating to your casting, resulting in tangles and wind knots in your tippet. Virtually all of them stem from the rod tip dipping down below the ideal line and then flipping back up again. Failure to extend the arc and stroke as you let out more line will cause the rod tip to do precisely that, dip down and climb back up again during the cast which will result in the line doing the same.

Stroke and tailing loop

In the diagram above one can see that based on the amount of flex in the rod it should have started “lower” and the arc should have been wider. Now the rod starts in the incorrect position, the rod tip bends down as it loads and then springs back up during the cast producing a tailing loop.

This isn’t the only way to get a tailing loop but all of the various faults that can cause one are based on the same thing. The rod tip dipping down in a concave arc and climbing again. Next time we will look at a couple more ways that you might inadvertently produce the same effect and create wind knots in your line.

Tight lines and tighter loops.. and of course MERRY CHRISTMAS. 🙂

Tim Rolston

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Tim Rolston is a fly fishing guide, past World Flyfishing Championships competitor, captain and coach, an IFFF certified fly casting instructor, fly tyer and author. His book “Learn to Fly-Cast in a Weekend” can be downloaded from his website at www.inkwaziflyfishing.co.za . He is also available to run fly casting workshops for groups, clubs or fishing venues as well as offering personal tuition. Tim can be contacted on rolston@iafrica.com

 

 

More Casting About

December 9, 2015

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This is the second of a series of articles I have written for Vagabond Flyfishing Magazine , this one a little more detailed and focusing on essential elements of a good cast. You can’t escape it, fly fishing is about fly casting, or at least that is the starting point. So in the next few pieces for Vagabond I am going to be looking at some structure in terms of what makes fly casting work, what is happening when it is going wrong and how to fix it. So this and other articles on casting will also appear on The Fishing Gene Blog, for the benefit of those yet to discover Vagabond.

There are many different ways and styles of teaching (and thus learning) casting, but there are equally a number of indefatigable truths about what works and what doesn’t. Sure you might prefer to have one or other leg forward, or use your finger, thumb or palm of your hand on the handle, ( I have my own opinions, which I am not going to share here). You may like to have the rod at something of an angle or favour those which are faster or slower in their actions. But the mechanics of good casting are an absolute given. This isn’t art, this is science, fly casting is pure physics and as such obeys critical scientific laws which aren’t going to change any time soon.

Not that one need to take a scientific approach, just that the laws of mass, acceleration, energy storage, resistance and such will directly affect the result. I can’t change that and neither can you.

So what makes a good cast anyway?

The very simple answer to what could become a complex question is that a good narrow loop makes for a good cast. We aren’t going to concern ourselves at present with the idea that occasionally one might wish to throw a more open one, good loops are good casts. Practice getting good loops and you will by default have good casts.

Note: The “loop” is the rounded link between the two legs of the line as the line unrolls in the air, looking rather like the tracks of a tank in motion. The closer together the legs the “tighter” the loop and the better the cast.

So then, what makes for good loops?

The movement of the rod tip controls the loops, sure you can argue that the movement of your hand , arm or whatever control that tip movement but the line doesn’t know a thing about that. The line only knows what the rod tip does and follows suit. Move the rod tip in a straight and accelerating line and the fly line will unroll in a neat tight and efficient cast.

Move the rod tip in a convex path and you will have a wide and inefficient, wind resistant cast lacking momentum and carry.

Move the rod tip in a concave path and you will throw tailing loops, those annoying squiggles which catch your fly in the line and produce wind knots in your tippet.

And you may well then ask what makes straight, convex or concave rod tip paths, and the answer to that question is YOU!

When you cast, move the rod using your hand on the handle, you can effectively do two things, you can “flex” your wrist, (It is what casting instructors refer to as “rotation”) , and don’t be too quick to tell everyone that is bad, because it isn’t. Or you can move your wrist “forwards and backwards” which is what instructors call “stroke”. If you want to think of it like this, rotation is like flicking a marshmallow off the end of a stick, (speed). Stroke is like punching someone in the stomach (linear acceleration). A good cast involves both of these motions.

If you rely only on rotation, you will have a massively convex rod tip path, (less so if you are using a very soft rod). On the other hand, if you rely on only stroke you will not be able to achieve much by way of acceleration. That said the vast majority of anglers rely far too much on rotation and focus far too little on stroke.

Looking at rotation first:

If you simply move your hand forwards, as in punching someone in the stomach, should you move your hand 30 cm in a second for example you will move the rod tip 30cm in a second. However if you rotate your wrist by a few degrees of arc, (when you do this is important), you will move the rod tip considerably more than 30cm and in a lot less time too. Whipping out my rusty maths, a 30° rotation of a nine foot rod will move the tip 4’6”. It should be obvious that you cannot move the rod tip that far using only stroke, not unless you have very long arms.

It is perhaps important to make note at this point that when I say “move the rod tip” and “speed” I mean that the rod tip would move that fast were it not bendy. But of course the rod is bendy so instead of the tip moving rapidly to start with it stays relatively still and “stores” the energy that you have put into it, held back by the inertia of the line. It is this storage of energy as much as anything else that makes it possible to cast easily with a fly rod. “Rotation” of the wrist then is actually a critical part to loading the rod to best effect and all these dire warnings about “breaking your wrist” are so much hot air. You cannot cast well or effectively without breaking your wrist or rotating your wrist, the more important bit is how much and when you do this.

Stroke

Stroke is the linear movement of your casting hand to affect a long and straight rod tip path. Without stroke you will always have a convex rod tip path and a less effective cast as a result.

So in Image One,  below you can see the effect on the rod tip of only using rotation. In this instance the rod is imagined not to bend to clarify things. The more the rod would bend the less obvious would be the convex nature of the rod tip path.

Arc OnlyImage One
Images are copyright protected and generously provided from Tim’s latest book on casting which is still in the process of being completed.

StrokeImage Two
Shows the effect of only using stroke, again an imaginary unflexing rod.

Finally the combination of rotation and stroke as it occurs in a real cast (exaggerated). Initial rotation loads (bends) the rod, and accelerated stroke keeps the rod loaded and adds a little more bend and then final rotation adds even more bend to the rod until it is fully loaded. When at the far left of the image you stop or pause, the loaded energy in the rod launches the line in a nice neat efficient tight loop.

 

RealCast
Image Three
A combination of rotation and stroke, providing high line speed, maximum loading of the rod and a straight and accelerating rod tip path.

This is one of the reasons why attempting to “Throw” the line doesn’t work, as the caster you can only load the rod, in reality most if not all of the actual “throwing” gets done by the rod itself as it unloads. So if you are starting off or trying to improve your casting, the first thing to do is to look carefully at your casting, does it contain both rotation and stroke? Is the stroke long enough? It probably isn’t. Better still have a mate watch , because it isn’t easy to see for yourself, best yet, get some lessons.

To see a graphic illustration of the combination of stroke and arc in a cast take a look at www.inkwaziflyfishing.co.za the animated graphic at the top of the page illustrates the principle quite well.

In the next article we will look more deeply at that overall casting stroke, why the length of the stroke needs to change with line length and why if it doesn’t you will end up with tailing loops.

In fishing it is traditional to wish someone “tight lines” but here I think “tight loops” is a better “au revoir”

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Tim Rolston is a fly fishing guide, past World Flyfishing Championships competitor, captain and coach, an IFFF certified fly casting instructor, fly tyer and author. His book “Learn to Fly-Cast in a Weekend” can be downloaded from his website at www.inkwaziflyfishing.co.za . He is also available to run fly casting workshops for groups, clubs or fishing venues as well as offering personal tuition. Tim can be contacted on rolston@iafrica.com

 

 

Casting About

September 27, 2015

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Casting about.  (As published in Vagabond Flyfishing Magazine)  

This is one of a series of articles to appear in Vagabond Flyfishing Magazine in the coming months, a kick start really but one hopes worthy of a read. You can’t escape it, fly fishing is about fly casting, or at least that is the starting point. So in the next few pieces for Vagabond I am going to be looking at some structure in terms of what makes fly casting work, what is happening when it is going wrong and how to fix it. So this and other articles on casting will also appear on The Fishing Gene Blog, for the benefit of those yet to discover Vagabond.

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As a guide I estimate that over 80% of my clients could do few things more useful in, terms of improving their catch rate, than learning to cast more effectively.

Actually you can ask any guide, saltwater flats specialist, small stream technician, lake angler and more and the same frustrations will arise. Clients who spend the equivalent of Greece’s national debt on fly fishing trips don’t get the best of them because they can’t cast. Guides like me, will on occasion, spot a fish and never mention it to the “sport”. Because we already know that attempting to cast to that fish, under the branches and over a fast current seam is a recipe for failure and more than likely frustration too. Perhaps a professional faux pas but a pragmatic necessity on occasion.

Casting1_4Blog

I personally know people, people who I like, people I admire, who pontificate about cane rods, digressive or weight forward leaders, wild olive reel seats, hand crafted fishing nets, aerospace aluminium reels, Teflon drag systems, snake guides, the best time to visit Chile or New Zealand, and the wonders of CDC who couldn’t hit a bucket with a fly at five paces.

In some circles making negative aspersions about a guy’s casting is like telling him you know for a fact that he has a small willie and a number of other physiological problems which might only be solved with a visit to “The Men’s Clinic”… People don’t like to have it suggested that they can’t cast well, it is an affront; so guides tell them that “it is a bit breezy”, that “the Tarpon or Permit are difficult when coming down wind” and all manner of other excuses. (Bear in mind that a guide’s job is to put you on fish, not to teach you to cast and not to catch the fish for you). All this to salve the egos of anglers who, for the price of a couple of bucks on a lesson or two and a bit of practice could enjoy their fishing and become a great deal more effective at it.

My first question though, is why should so many anglers be poor casters? It never made sense to me that people who participate in a particular sport, a sport where casting is in effect an essential skill, fail to master it. One doesn’t carry on with soccer if you can’t kick a ball, or rugby if you can’t pass one, so why struggle with Flyfishing when you can’t cast? So here are some thoughts:

Firstly I think that there is a problem in that casting is really very unlike anything else we learn and doesn’t neatly slot in with other skills picked up as children. Children throw things, so when they take up cricket or athletics in later life throwing stuff is part of their nature. Sure they hone their skills but some of the muscle memory and understanding of throwing is already ingrained. The trouble is that casting isn’t throwing, much as some might try to make it so. Throwing actions and fly rods just don’t go together, (except when you heave the rod and reel into the water because you cocked up a cast at the fish of a lifetime).

It is frequently apparent at casting clinics that women don’t throw things as much growing up as their “Y” chromosome bearing, testosterone driven associates, and thus don’t try to “throw” their flies with the rod which in general makes women easier to teach.

Casting2_4BlogCasting Instruction can benefit even better than average casters. Here the elbow is too high, forcing a reliance only on wrist rotation and a complete lack of casting stroke, which in turn means wide loops and ineffective casts. 

Secondly many people make far too much of the complexity of fly casting, suggesting that it is “an art”.. Casting a fly rod is no more of an art than hitting a golf ball, shooting a bow, firing a rifle, riding a bicycle or touch typing. Fly casting is simply a learned skill, one that anyone can manage with the correct tuition and some practice.

That leads on to point three, practice.

Fly anglers for the most part never practice; somehow they manage to convince themselves that things will be different next time on the water. Perhaps that the wind will be kind, the fish will be within range… etc etc whereas they would be far better off to get out on a grass field and spend some time just casting and practicing. Golfers, hunters, snooker aficionados…all practice, in fact virtually every sport I can think of involves practice, but for some reason fly anglers imagine that doesn’t apply to them. Oh! and let me tell you, you CANNOT practice casting when you are fishing, it doesn’t work.  It is odd, but this lack of practice seems to be a universal truth. Then there is another aspect of practice – what to practice?

Golf SwingEven the best golfers practice, so why not fly anglers?

Most people “Learn to fly cast” from their buddies, fathers, uncles or such and to be frank, most of the “tutors” don’t really understand casting any more than their pupils. It is a bit like learning to drive with a relative, you simply pick up their faults and idiosyncrasies.

Having taught fly casting for a decade or more by now I recently undertook the IFFF (International Federation of Fly Fishing), Casting instructor course and exam. It proved to be a wonderful experience, allowing plenty of discussion and learning new things, as well as reinforcing others about casting which I had always held to be true. Mostly however it provided a standardized means of teaching casting with internationally recognized nomenclature such that all IFFF qualified instructors are speaking the same language.

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In a series of articles for Vagabond, I will be looking at some key elements of fly casting, some common faults and how to fix them and some understanding of what really happens when you attempt to throw a small twist of fur and feather on the end of a weighted line.

For now I would just suggest that it is worth considering the benefits of being able to cast well. Less tangles, less hook ups in the bankside foliage, less having the fly fall short of the fish of a lifetime. Less frustration, more enjoyment and more fish. Better control, better fly presentation, greater distance and more accuracy.  You will equally score points with your guide when he isn’t forced to return to his arboreal roots in an effort to reduce the carnage taking place in his fly box. I think that we could all agree that those benefits outweigh the trouble of some learning and practice.

Yes we have all heard the arguments that “The fish are often under the boat” or “close to the bank”, “The streams are small” , “you don’t need to cast a full line” or “I am a poor caster but I catch fish”.. Wonderful! but for the fact that if you can cast well you can present a fly both close and far. You can mend line to get a better drift, you can contrive to avoid the tangle of branches and the tug of wayward currents and you can cast wide and narrow loops at will, as the situation demands. In short there is no really good reason not to be able to cast well and a pile of excellent reasons for mastery. So I hope that you will read the forthcoming pieces, grab the nettle, and decide that now is the time to really get that monkey off your back and learn to cast effortlessly.

 

Tim Rolston is a fly fishing guide, past World Flyfishing Championships competitor, SA National Team:captain and coach, an IFFF certified fly casting instructor, a fly tyer and author. His book “Learn to Fly-Cast in a Weekend” can be downloaded from his website at www.inkwaziflyfishing.co.za . He is also available to run fly casting workshops for groups, clubs or fishing venues as well as offering personal tuition. Tim can be contacted on rolston@iafrica.com

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Various books, including one on fly casting are available for download on the website www.inkwaziflyfishing.co.za

and from on line book distributor “Smashwords”.

It ain’t that hard.

April 9, 2015

AintHardHead

Recently I sat in the car with an eleven year old fishing addict, driving him to the river for his first ever fly fishing experience. On the drive and whilst discussing his fishing pedigree I queried “so what do you know about fly fishing?” The reply was heartbreakingly simple and, as is oft the case with the young, poignantly reflective of a common misperception. “I know it’s very difficult” said Ben.

So the question really is “is that true?” I mean is fly fishing that difficult? Is it beyond the scope of mere mortals, harder than golf or touch typing or flying an aeroplane? Does it require mastery more acute than computer programming, is it more tricky than chess or harder to learn than Mandarin? I don’t think so and I believe that we all owe people like Ben, and his more aged neophyte buddies, the courtesy of encouragement and enthusiasm.

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It bothers me that there is a level of self aggrandizement here that is unnecessary and unwarranted, counterproductive and negative in the extreme. Why on earth wouldn’t we wish to encourage people like Ben to get out there into nature and benefit from the same level of enjoyment and healthy recreation as us? Is it so important that we portray this egotistical value of difficulty as though in some way it is a badge of honour? Are we all so frail in our sense of self that we need to pretend that what we do is incredibly tricky and best left to us supposed masters of the art?

What do I risk by encouraging Ben and his fellow beginners? What threat do they pose? None that I can see. It matters not if these newbies aren’t exceptional at our sport to start with and it matters less if they get really good at in time. Would any of that demean me? Would it affect your fishing in any negative manner?

I have a sense that fly anglers are unique in this sense, kite boarders, golfers, judo black belts and others are wont to suggest , when discussing their chosen passion, that you should “give it a try”. So why not us? Why do we almost universally appear to pretend to hold the moral high ground, to suggest to people that what we do and love doing is beyond them?

Why should it be that we imagine that whacking a golf ball is a skill, touch typing is a learned behavior but that fly casting is an “ART”? What an absolute load of tosh, fly casting is no more an art than hammering a nail into a piece of wood, it is a learned skill that can be mastered by anyone.

Animated Casting Gif

In fact there is the rub, when people suggest that fly fishing is “difficult” what they are usually referring to is that they think, or have been told, that “fly casting” is difficult. Firstly that isn’t true and secondly for those of us who have moved on, fly casting is simply the starting point. The real trials come later, the mental agility, the deceptive bent, the understanding of natural behavior and an “intellectual curiosity” which leads to total immersion in our chosen sport. Fly fishing rapidly becomes more of a mental pursuit than a physical one but one has to start somewhere.

I would be the first person to tell you that flinging a woolly bugger into a small pond isn’t what I consider to be flyfishing, but hell it isn’t a bad place to start for people like Ben so why should we discourage him with negative perceptions and ideas of complexity?

What would happen if we started every enquiry of the young with “Oh it’s difficult”. Dad I would like to learn to drive a car.. “oh son that’s very difficult”. I should like to learn to surf, kite board, play squash, learn computer programming, chess, or whatever “Oh son it’s very difficult”.. How much of that comes from a desire to prove that we are better, special, more important?

People like young Ben have already mastered at least one language, understand stuff about computers, the ozone layer, physics and biology, have physical skills in terms of kicking footballs, doing flick-flacks, throwing cricket balls, jumping skipping ropes and more. Why on earth should I be so arrogant as to imagine that he can’t learn how to cast a fly and catch some fish in the same way that I have learned to do?

I have of late been party to a number of social media “Posts” suggesting that there is a great deal of skill and difficulty in what we fly anglers enjoy. Sure you can keep learning, only a fortnight ago I learned a lot more about casting from Master Casting Instructor William van der Vorst, than I had known previously. I have fly fished for over four decades and still gain knowledge from my clients, instructors, friends and the fish themselves but I would have to admit that I have enjoyed forty years of apparent relative ignorance without harm.

In an age when I strongly believe that we should be doing all in our power to encourage people to be out in nature, to be reflective in terms of its wonders and simply “Get out there and enjoy it” we seem to be hell-bent on discouragement.

So perhaps, next time someone asks us, we should tell them that fly fishing is fun and it ain’t hard to learn. That it is within the mental and physical scope of anyone capable of walking and chewing gum. What would we all lose if we did that? More to the point what would we gain? People who were passionate about our rivers, our oceans, our natural world? People who would fight against dams being built, who would concern themselves with overfishing, fish ladders, privatization of waterways, pollution, abstraction and any other of the ills that tend to damage what we care about. People who would fight the good fight and in looking after the fishing perhaps be better custodians of the planet than we have been. The future of our fishing and for that matter our planet, lie in the hands of people like Ben and it is our responsibility to encourage him and his fellows.

Let’s call a spade a spade, flyfishing isn’t hard, it may be tricky to master, it might actually be impossible to master in the sense of uninterrupted success, but it isn’t hard to start and it is a hell of a lot of fun learning as you go.

Animated Casting Gif

I would like to think that if young Ben ever gets to the point of catching more fish than me, casting further than I can, tying better flies than I do I shall have the good sense and common courtesy to sit back and say “wow, well done Ben”.. I ask you, what would I lose were that to prove to be the case?

Learning to flyfish isn’t beyond anyone if they want to learn and I hope that more fly anglers will take up the challenge of encouraging beginners, young and old instead of pretending that it is all too much for the common man to master.

 

FlyCasteBookFB

A number of informative books on fly fishing and fly casting from the author of this blog are available on line from www.inkwaziflyfishing.co.za or from Smashwords, Barnes and Noble and other on line retailers

Books on disc can also be obtained from www.inkwaziflyfishing.co.za and Netbooks/Stream X

Casting About

August 12, 2014

 

 

Well this past weekend saw me at the Lifestyle Fishing Expo up in Johannesburg, doing some casting demonstrations and hopefully helping some people improve their casting. Casting seems to be once again something of a hot topic in these parts, with discussion, and of course the accompanying disagreements, being traded to and fro on the local social media. In particular the pages of the Cape Piscatorial Society’s Facebook page.

David Karpul set the whole thing off debating the wisdom of over or underlining rods with different lines and anyone who has read much of my opinion on line ratings, casting and the vagaries of the AFTMA system (read: https://paracaddis.wordpress.com/2012/03/15/an-aftma-fairy-tale/ ) knows that it is something that I find both fascinating and annoying in equal measure.

However the discussion did bring to mind a recently discovered quotation that roughly stated was; “The difference between an argument and a discussion is that in an argument we are trying to decide who is right, in a discussion we are trying to discover what is right”. I rather liked that quote and bearing that sage advice in mind I thought perhaps some further discussion was perhaps in order.

To suggest that I have all the answers to the woes of fly casting would be a gross exaggeration, but I have spent quite a bit of time experimenting, discussing and even writing about it, particularly when it comes to trout tackle. I can’t venture too much of an opinion on double handed salmon rods, switch rods, the snap “T” and such as apart from anything else there is nowhere in these parts where such tackle or casting technique is really warranted.

Fly casting and the discussion of fly casting seems to be beset with myth, opinion and to be frank downright lying more than most pursuits, although I suspect that similar argument ensues amongst golfers discussing their swing. You should be equally be aware that all of the stuff below is, strictly speaking, “opinion” some might be my own self constructed “myth” but I will try to draw the line at actual fibbing.

Style:

To me, a certified non-golfer type, even I can see that Tiger Woods, Ernie Els and Greg Norman do not swing a golf club in the same way, that is what my friend and exceptional fly casting instructor, Peter Hayes would call “style” and style denotes one’s own individual interpretation, methodology of doing something, like casting a fly rod or swinging a golf club.

Style potentially causes a lot of trouble because that is where much of the debate comes from. Style appears to offer a different way of doing something, but when you get right down to it style is simply an individualistic means to an end, it doesn’t really offer any particular insight. One may remark on the variations of style between Tiger Woods and Ernie Els for example but one couldn’t argue that they are not achieving pretty much the same thing. That is to say that when the club head hits the ball it is, in both cases, doing exactly the same thing, so style to my way of thinking is something of a Red Herring and shouldn’t be confused with the “right or wrong” way of achieving a goal

So anyway, for what it’s worth, my thoughts on a few “topics” related to fly casting.

The loop: The crux of good and efficient fly casting is the creation of a narrow, stable and small loop in the line. Whether the loop comes from the efficiency or the efficiency comes from the loop I couldn’t tell you, I may need to go to college and get a degree in physics before I could argue the point but I do know that you never see an effective cast that doesn’t include a neat, tight loop in the line.

Line speed: You quite obviously can’t cast, throw or hit anything particularly far, accurately or well without speed and momentum. That a fly cast doesn’t look like throwing something, and I always tell my pupils that “you are not throwing something” , the truth is that from a physical perspective that is exactly what you are doing. You are adding speed and thus momentum to the line such that it carries the fly with it. One thing that you are not doing is throwing the fly.

Fly Casting v Bait casting: Bait casting is easy to explain, you have a distinct mass (The bait, sinker or whatever), with a defined weight to it which in the process of the cast is a constant; it never gets to weigh more or less. That isn’t true of fly casting where the amount of line out of the rod tip determines the mass you are casting and therefore the dynamics change constantly. This is one of the reasons that many bait and spin casters struggle to master fly casting, because the same principles don’t apply. Not only that but once you let a spinner or sinker go it still pretty much weighs the same, but for a nominal amount of nylon that it is taking along for the ride. With a fly cast the effective moving mass of the line changes constantly as it unfurls. Such that as the cast progresses through the air, more and more of the mass that you initially cast is now static, that isn’t the case with a nylon line with a weight at the end. Thus if there isn’t something (like a leader and fly) to slow the line down as the effective mass decreases the speed will increase, which is precisely why without a leader on the end your line is liable to flip violently or even crack like a whip. It is also why fly lines are tapered, to slow them down as the cast progresses.

The “River Runs Through it Myth”: Well that is what I call this little bit of casting legend. There is a scene in the movie where the children are supposedly taught to cast using a metronome. This is an impossibility unless you only ever cast exactly the same line exactly the same distance. A fly rod and line are in effect their own metronome, the tempo changes near constantly as the amount of line paid out changes, you simply cannot cast and count the rhythm it won’t work.

The Casting Clock Myth: Admittedly the source of this myth, and it is for my money, one of the biggest hindrances to casting effectiveness for virtually every angler who has ever been introduced to it, was a very limited view of casting portrayed by English gentry with stiff upper lips and a book tucked under their arms.

It suggests that a rod when used to cast a fly, moves in the same manner as the hands of a clock. It is patently untrue, the rod cannot move in an arc like a clock and provide the right sort of action at the rod tip to produce a proper cast. That the clock system is still used as a teaching tool is an affront to anyone who actually has any understanding of what makes a cast work. The only proviso would be that the “softer” the action of the rod, the more it deforms during the cast the more you might get away with such an action and of course, surprise, surprise, the idea of the casting clock came up back when rods were heavy and soft and deformed a great deal more than their modern counterparts. My personal view is that if anyone tries to describe fly casting to you with the immortal words “between 11 o’clock and 2 o’clock” or anything similar, run.. run and don’t stop because you are heading down a cul de sac from which many fly casters never actually escape. The action of a fly rod during a proper cast doesn’t follow the image of clock hands, it simply doesn’t.

The movement of the rod tip: Using once again the example of hitting a golf ball, it is obvious that the only actual influence the club head can have on the ball is the moment, a tiny fraction of time, when the club is in contact with the ball. All the wiggling, fiddling, scuffing and such that we see most golfers undergo really only helps with consistency, it doesn’t and quite obviously cannot, have any influence on the ball. In the same manner the key to a fly cast is the movement of the rod tip. Certainly there may be a whole lot of stuff going on with your hands, body or whatever, you can wiggle, wriggle and stand on your head if you wish but as far as influence on the line is concerned the only thing that matters is the movement of the tip of the rod. As mentioned, style may vary but the line goes where the rod tip sends it and the effectiveness of any casting stroke is entirely dependent on the movement of the rod tip during the cast.


Things that affect the movement of the rod tip: So what can affect the movement of the rod tip? Obviously the way that you move the rod handle is one, the weight of the line, the flexibility of the rod, the amount of line out (and therefore the weight), the timing of the stroke, the inclusion or not of a haul, the direction of the wind, the length of the rod and would you believe the density of the line, because denser (sinking lines) travel through the air faster than less dense ones.

If you wish to effect a quality cast you need to consider those variables:

The flexibility of the rod first: For a good, fast, accurate cast you ideally want a nice tight loop and that is formed by moving the rod tip during the “Power Snap” of the cast in a straight line. One can easily imagine that were the rod not to flex at all then it would be very difficult to accelerate it in a straight line, not impossible but tricky. Were the rod to be as flexible as a stick of licorice, well then again it would be difficult if not impossible to move the tip in a straight line. So the ideal is somewhere in between those extremes. As the rod tip bends under load it effectively shortens the length of the rod, the more stress on the rod tip the more the bend that occurs and the shorter that it becomes. That compression and shortening are what make fly rods cast well, because much of the work in “drawing” a straight line with the tip of the rod is done for you as the rod effectively gets shorter and then longer again.

 

RodFlex

As the rod flexes under load it effectively shortens, the tempo is slower but the rod tip moves further in a straight line which implies that the actual tip speed is not necessarily slower, at least to my mind.

 

The amount of line out: As touched on previously, the line has mass, the more line outside the rod tip the more mass and the more mass the more flexing of the rod (as a result of inertia which is in itself a function of the mass). So the bending and unbending of the rod will be more extreme the more line you have out of the tip. The more the rod bends and unbends the longer the tip can travel in a straight line whilst the rod itself is being rotated.

The timing of your casting stroke: If your timing is perfect you will have maximum force flexing the rod, with a less effective stroke the amount of flexing of the rod will consequently be less and the shortening and lengthening of the effective length of the rod will be different. If the rod doesn’t bend sufficiently it is very very difficult to draw that straight line with the rod tip that you require to get a good cast.

The inclusion of a haul: If a perfectly timed stroke gives maximum force and bending of the rod then a well- timed haul will add even more force and more flex. The rod will bend even more and the effective shortening and lengthening of the rod will be more extreme. This is one of the reasons why single hauls don’t work well, you get maximum flex of the rod in one direction, say the back cast and then if you don’t haul on the forward cast you can’t match the flex and the cast becomes ineffective.

The direction of the wind: Well again obviously the wind is going to have an effect on the line in the air for starters. But if the wind is directly behind you then it will slow down the back cast much more than on the forward cast for example. Once the momentum of the line has been burned off through wind resistance it is going to be more difficult to complete a good cast. Ideally for the best cast you still want some momentum in the line when you switch direction from forward to back cast or vice versa.. (if the line is moving away from the caster then the rod is flexing not only as a result of the inertia of the static line but also the momentum of the line in the opposite direction)

The length of the rod: At one level at least the fly rod is a lever, the longer the lever the greater the leverage and all things being equal the faster movement of the rod tip for a given movement of the handle. Of course if the leverage disadvantage becomes too great, such that you are unable to move the rod quickly then the advantage is lost. The very simple reason why most very long rods are double handed. That also happens to be a large part of why is easier to cast prodigious distances with double handed and switch style rods. Twice the power input (Two hands) and more leverage..

Density of the line: Because of the loss of momentum due to wind resistance more dense lines, which are consequently thinner, tend to move through the air faster and lose momentum less readily. If you think of the weather maps that indicate the temperature and then also say what the temperature will actually feel like based on humidity and wind chill then you can think of dense fly lines in terms of something like “Rated as #8 weight, feels like #9 weight”. Dense lines feel heavier and cast differently to the same mass of the less dense floating lines. You could well make the argument that a rod that casts a #6 floating line best may well benefit when using a fast sinking line to having that line downgraded to a #5.. Which you will note is a further limitation of the AFTMA system purely relying on a given mass of line.

The AFTMA system:
Much as the AFTMA provides a framework far better than that which preceded it there are massive gaps not least of which in that whilst the line weights are fairly well accounted for on a scientific basis the rods are measured in purely subjective terms. Whether it is possible to be more exact I am not sure but , as the teachers used to write on my school reports , there certainly is room for improvement,.

So what about under or overloading rods with different lines then?

Firstly you can’t really under or overload them, there is a number written on the rod based on the rod manufactures view of what line is “ideal”, but what is ideal? Casting short, casting long, with a tail wind a head wind what, a floating line or a fast sinker? There is no ideal, the AFTMA rating is little more than a guideline, particularly these days.

A heavier line with the same amount of line out will flex the rod more, will decrease its effective length more and apparently “slow down” the action of the rod. A lighter line will do the opposite. So if you like to aerialise a lot of line on average you would be happier with a lighter rated line and if you like to make short back casts and snap the line out there, well a heavier line will be more the ticket. The trouble with that argument is that the taper of the rod may well not be, let’s call it “linear” in that as you apply more force, more weight or more speed, the rod will flex more and bring into play parts of the rod which were previously effectively inactive. You might well argue that if you put on a heavier line then you are not actually casting with “the same” rod. I could potentially make the case for a nine foot rod being a fast action 8’9” #3 weight, or an 8’6” #4 weight or a slow actioned 7’9” #6 weight. With different line weights the rod will flex differently, will have a different “effective length” during the casting stroke and will flex in different ways depending on where in the blank the flex is occurring. However it seems highly unlikely that an increase in line weight, or (the same thing) and increase in the amount of line out of the rod tip will not make the rod action, the metronomic timing, slow down. To me that seems assured.

Rather like the leaf springs on a car, without load only the first spring is bending, put in a couple of bags of cement in the boot (trunk) and more springs will be responding by flexing and unflexing.

The extremes: So taking the car springs as an example, if there is no weight on the springs they don’t flex at all, whilst on the other hand if you overdo the sacks of cement and exceed the capacity of the springs to absorb any more stress they equally will not function. It is for exactly this reason that leaf springs in a car provide compounding resistance as weight increases and the same reason why fly rods are tapered, offering more flex and greater recovery as the degree of bending increases under the influence of more force.

Limits: Within the limits of no flex and maximum flex you can actually cast virtually any line on any rod. With no flex it is difficult as the rod isn’t offering you any storage capacity in terms of the energy that you put in, with maximum flex you simple cannot get more out of the rod and it will either fail to spring back with any speed or alternatively it will break.

The average caster:

For the average caster, the ability of the rod to store and then unload energy, transferring it into momentum in the line is what makes casting possible. Without that effect, rather like a capacitor storing electrical energy, your timing has to be near perfect. It is of course possible to cast a line without a rod at all, but that leaves very little room for error in your timing. So rods that flex, what many manufactures and anglers refer to as “slow action” (apparently a dirty word in fly fishing these days), are in fact much easier to cast for most people. It also happens that good casters can make them work as well as quicker actioned rods anyway. In my opinion very many people would cast better, be far less frustrated and less tired if they used rods which flexed a bit more easily. It is for precisely this reason that many people, anglers and shop assistants alike “overload” rods, changing their action to a slower one which more people can make work. In fact from what little I understand about golf the same holds true for golf clubs where a more flexible shaft as part of a golf club will provide easier driving for the average golfer.

In case you think that this cannot be true I want you to look at the embedded video clip of: Johnny Dieckman the 1959 world fly casting champion.

In particular take a look at a couple of things, firstly the classical “clock hands” rubbish at the beginning and then the form that he used later for distance. You will notice that with more line out of the rod the rod is moving over a far wider arc, no clock hand movement there!! Then note the flexing of the fiberglass rod. This guy is casting further than most people will ever manage even though he is using what we consider to be primitive tackle and that rod couldn’t be considered anything like a “fast action”.  (This wasn’t the video I was looking for of Johnny, there is another out there somewhere but this will suffice to show the points I wanted to make.) The loop shown in the video isn’t particularly neat or tight but you can see that the rod tip is traveling in a pretty straight line when the power is applied and that equally the incredible flexibility of the fibreglass line doesn’t stop the caster from achieving that form.

CastPlasticPipeThe Author casting a length of plastic electrical conduit at the DuToit’s Kloof Expo

Not long ago we experimented casting a #5 weight line with a piece of white plastic electrical conduit in the region of 8ft long. Obviously there is no taper, the walls are the same thickness throughout the “blank” and compared to a fly rod the stuff is heavy and flexes even without a line threaded up the middle. Guess what? We could cast it and in fact could cast it reasonably well, achieving distances of about 20 metres and getting loops that weren’t bad.

LTFC

In the end for most of us the actual mechanics of it all are less important than teaching ourselves to cast effectively and you don’t need a degree in physics to be able to achieve that. My book “Learn to Fly-Cast in a Weekend” provides sixteen simple exercises that you can practice in the garden or on the local sports field which will build muscle memory to the point where you can cast effectively. It has worked for hundreds of anglers and there is no reason to doubt that it may assist you. You can obtain a digital copy of “Learn to Fly-Cast in a Weekend” from Smashwords, Barnes and Noble, or Kobo,  as well as from my own website at www.inkwaziflyfishing.co.za. The book can also be purchased on disc from www.inkwaziflyfishing.co.za , Urban Fly Fishers and Netbooks/StreamX

In Search of the “Silver Bullet”

August 1, 2014

SilverBulletHead

In search of the silver bullet:

Over some 45 years of fly fishing , including guiding anglers from around the world and bouts of frenetic competitive angling there is a theme which crops up all the time. The constant striving for some magical edge, some mythical silver bullet that will provide more success and more fish in the net. The search for the magic fly, the effortless casting rod, the super clear high contrast polarized glasses, the higher floating fly line or the superior taper that will allow greater accuracy and distance when flinging your chosen twist of fur and feather.

You may well think this theme is reserved for the “weekenders”, those anglers who view fly fishing as a getaway pursuit to occupy their spare time. That they would be more prone to this affliction than the serious competitive angler or fishing guide, but alas, even the most competent aren’t immune to the allure of a quick fix.

Groups of fly anglers, when put together on a stream, lake or indeed in a car park are far more prone to discuss their fly boxes than their time on the water. Comparisons of rods, leaders, hooks and such are far more probable to become topics of conversation than simply fishing more or God forbid actually practicing, and I can’t help but wonder why that should be the case.

Certainly it is common cause that we as human beings are rather likely to look for the easy option, and the advertising pages are filled with ”get rich, thin, fast, sexy , fit or beautiful easily” sorts of promotions. It seems that despite ample evidence of rowing machines tucked away under the bed, exercise bikes hung in the garage roof, or for that matter, hoards of fly fishing gear stacked away in the cupboard, we can’t help ourselves.

BurnFat

The appeal of a quick fix is somehow wired into our DNA, and to a point that isn’t a bad thing. No doubt the underlying motivation of the industrial revolution was the innate desire amongst us to do things quicker, more efficiently and yes more profitably too. We seem driven by the “out with the old and in with the new” mentality that assumes that there is always a shortcut or a quick fix, and to be honest much of the time it works. It is a level of progress that to a degree aids us all, but our love affair with apparent “progress” doesn’t come without a cost.

Frequently, to my mind it is a hidden price, not that obvious, a subtle loss of value to many things that in the end stifles us, takes away our pleasure, diminishes us in a way that we don’t really recognize but of which, at some visceral level, we become aware.

Fishing Rods

You don’t need to learn to type anymore, you can just buy voice recognition software, you don’t need to work on your golf swing, just get the latest “Mega Wallop Driver”. Why chop a carrot when you can buy them frozen? Why make a dress, knit a jersey, why cook when you can eat out? Don’t feel like practicing your fly casting? No worries, just chuck some more money at a fancy rod and the latest hi tech fly line.

We are inundated with excuses to avoid the hard work that generally results in success in many things, athletes are tempted to dope rather than to train more, the overweight are conned into swallowing the pill rather than going to the gym and who isn’t at least curious about all these messages that suggest you can become an instant millionaire through “Forex trading” or some equally inane promise of success without effort?

It all seems great, until one recognizes the illusion of it all, not least because the true pleasure of success, of achievement, is in the effort that it takes and the journey that it requires. There is little value in being good at something if everyone is, and not a whole lot of pleasure in achieving a “goal” that another person obliterates moments later with some new-fangled technological wonder.

Wild Rainbow

It seems to me that one of the underlying causes of our affliction with this mentality is that it is easy to sell. Far less troublesome to tell people that the pill, the bike, the golf club, the fishing rod or the washing powder will elevate them to God like status overnight than to suggest that perhaps they put in a bit more time at things.

In fishing, one of the generally accepted measures of success is the size of the fish that you catch. As a rule bigger fish are older and we at least imagine them more wily. So we expect them then to be harder to catch, demanding of more skill, and value such catches more highly as a result. But along comes the marketing department with their quick fix mentality and you have waters stocked with tailless trout, beefed up in stew ponds and as naïve as the rector’s cat. None of us actually believe that capturing such a fish is on a par with a wild trout of similar dimension, no matter how hard we try to fool ourselves.

TailessTrout

No; fly anglers, just like everyone else; do actually recognize that the true pleasure, the real value of aspiration lies in the journey, in the individual skill involved and that comes from practice, from time on the water, of making your own decisions and trusting your own thoughts.

As we approach a new river fishing season here I know that within months I shall be with clients on the stream whose single greatest limitation will be their casting skill or lack thereof. I shall try to encourage them to practice, to spend a bit of time on the lawn with a rod in hand, to understand the principles of good technique, but most of it will fall on deaf ears. I can’t compete with the glossy paged brochures with the promise of instant gratification wrapped up in the latest technological advance.

Of course I am equally unable to escape from the reality of it all, instead of the catchy “Learn to Fly-Cast in a Weekend” title of my book, which let’s face it does offer at least the allure of instant gratification; I could have called it “Improve your fly casting with hours of effort”.

I suspect that one can easily recognize the flaw in that suggestion. Truth be told it doesn’t take hours of graft but it demands at least some level of dedication. All I will say is that with or without that book, whether you take advice from your mentor, guide or highly esteemed fishing buddy, practice is what counts and in the end the true pleasure of fly fishing is the journey to success. The effort required to move towards, first competence and hopefully in time expertise.

So as you prepare for the forthcoming river season try to avoid at least some of the pitfalls of the Marketing department and the instant gratification societal model and think a bit about actually getting out on a lawn somewhere and putting in a little bit of effort. In the end the rewards will make it all worthwhile, of that I am certain.

FlyCasteBookFBLearn to Fly-Cast in a Weekend, is available on line from Smashwords , Barnes and Noble or Inkwaziflyfishing, of course it works better if you actually go through the exercises within it, but gratification although not instant is easily within reach.

It’s Complicated

July 4, 2013

Complicated Head

One of my favourite writers is Bill Bryson, he has that ability to make complex things simple enough for the average person to grasp. Who can have read “A Short History of Nearly Everything” without walking away with a better grasp and greater appreciation of the world and the people who have shaped our understanding of it? It’s a trick to be sure, to be able to do that. To make it as entertaining as Bryson, well that really puts the cherry on the cake but I am finding that making things simple is actually pretty complicated.

So to me fly fishing is actually pretty simple, or as one wag commented in mid international competition, “Come on Tim, just chuck em’ out and pull em’ back”, it certainly isn’t rocket science and I have over the years become more and more enamoured with the idea of trying to make learning the disciplines associated with fly fishing simple for the average bipedal hominid to grasp. But apparently making things simple is a complicated affair.

It is an oddity that in many fields of endeavour one sets off on a path and becomes diverted. Many fly anglers have become more focused on casting, fly tying, photography or whatever than they have with actually catching fish.  For my sins I have become rather obsessed with writing about it all, you may or may not think that is a good thing, I am not entirely sure that I know if it is either.

But much as one lesson in fly casting leads on naturally to the next, one fish leads to bigger fish, more fish, specific fish etc so everything seems to be in natural progression. Things started off with little more than a reasonably regular newsletter, then a website, then a blog and books and then electronic books. In the midst of all this I had to learn to use computers, teach myself to type, learn graphics programs, wriggle my way around international taxation requirements, get (would you believe) an American tax number, and a whole lot more. All supposedly such that I might get what I thought were some fairly simple messages across.

 BooksHeaderThe graphic images have all been updated on the site.

Now I have just updated the www.inkwaziflyfishing.co.za website once more, this time incorporating a book shop. But it’s complicated, when I left school nobody had a computer, in fact the hospitals in which I worked didn’t have computers and even had they been available it wouldn’t have done a lot of good, I spent the first year of my working life heading to the laboratory on a bicycle, where was I going to put a desk top computer, even if one had been available?

cheaterOliveThe Fly Images have all been updated.

Later those hospitals had computers, massive things that required reinforcement of the floor if you were anywhere above ground level and housed in an air-conditioned room with “Computer Room” stencilled on the door along with grave warnings that mere mortals should “Keep Out”. Nobody needed to worry, the bloody things terrified most of us and the inner workings of bits and bytes were so far beyond us that we still did most of our calculations with a pencil.

Format_BookFormat_CDFormat_DownloadNew buttons have been created to assist with navigation and book orders

Now I have become overwhelmed by this tidal wave of complexity, in this recent little jaunt, apart from updating graphics and modifying links (I only hope that they are all working), I have even been forced to dip an intrepid and quivering toe into the murky (at least for me) waters of HTML code. I didn’t set out fishing so that I could learn the vagaries of Hypertext Mark Up Language, I just wanted to catch a few fish and perhaps help a few other people do the same. It is, as said, all a bit complicated.

PreviewBookPreview images of the books have been added along with an entirely new Bookshop section.

Anyway, with some good fortune perhaps there won’t be too many complaints and I shan’t receive and overabundance of sniggering emails pointing out broken links and incorrectly rendered graphics.

This whole “Making things simple” thing is becoming too complicated for my rapidly aging synapses. When I started fishing I only owned one rod, I used to phone my fishing buddy Johnny Hallet from a red British Post Office Telephone box about half a mile down the street from my house to make arrangements, it was most useful because you could check the weather on the way down the road.

The phone had a dial not push buttons, never mind touch screens. We fished three methods, Fly, Spinner and worm and catch and release hadn’t even been thought of. Now I can cast my plans on Twitter, Facebook, eMail or Smartphone, I have to choose which rod to take with me, what lines, even which digital camera for that matter, and I can get an hour by hour prediction of the weather before I leave without so much as opening the curtains. Some colleagues will use GPS on their way to the water, some souls, ( of in my opinion questionable ethics),  will use fish finders to try to locate the trout. When did it all become so complicated? It used to be simple, you would go out, sometimes catch some fish and sometimes not, now each escapade takes on the dimensions of a military operation.

Format_DownloadYou can even order and download pdf versions of my books direct from the site if you wish.

Having said all of that, I am rather proud of what has been achieved with the website, you may wish to have a peak at it on the link http://www.inkwaziflyfishing.co.za I think that it is pretty neat to be honest, in essence it is as simple as things get, just an array of zero’s and one’s apparently, but darn it seems flippin’ complicated to me.

Bookshop_WordsBookShopHeadThe “Bookshop” provides links to download books as well as to all the other places they are available including Netbooks, Barnes and Noble, Smashwords, Sony and Kobo

A Universal Truth

January 16, 2013

UniversalHead

The more things change the more they stay the same. Or how to call a spade a shovel.

Odd how things happen, a few days ago I was on the water with a beginner fly angler; at least I knew he was a novice and more to the point so did he. We had done some casting practise on the lawn prior to departure for the river but it was going to be tough.

The water hereabouts is now low, possibly not at its lowest but getting that way, the sun is in its zenith and the temperatures are soaring into the upper twenties. (That’s Celsius for those still living in the dark ages and measuring things in pints, gallons, miles and Fahrenheit).

All in all, tough fishing, and added to that every one of the beautifully spotted and elusive trout inhabiting these waters was born in the stream. They have seen every manner of fly and presentation and have been annoyed over and over in the course of the season by myriad anglers,  they have PhD’s in poor presentation and artificial flyrecognition. They will spook if a cloud crosses the sun, a dragonfly flits over their lie or a leaf falls from a tree  It isn’t the place to be taking a novice; actually it isn’t the place to be taking anyone who wants to catch lots of easy fish. Right now the streams are tricky. There are big fish to be sure but even the tiddlers can be heartbreakingly difficult to tempt- TOUGH.TOUGH TOUGH    .

Still we had been trying to put the trip together for the better part of a year and various commitments, combined with high water, low water, weather and such had meant that now there was a window of opportunity and we were going to take it. Come hell or low water.

It was of course no surprise then, as we worked upstream, spotting the occasional fish holding languidly in the low flows, that most of the time a wayward cast would send the fish running in panic.  The flat water was simply impossible and even for me with a 20’ 8x leader I wasn’t getting near anything so we focused on the moving stuff, the shade of the trees and such in an effort to give ourselves some slight advantage. Under these conditions the trout hold all the cards, it is an education and it can be fun with the right mind-set, but it is dastardly tricky.

I have fished in Wales, France, New Zealand, Spain and England, on waters ranging from rapid and slightly turbid freestone creeks to glassy chalk streams, there is nowhere (with the possible exception of a few waters in France) where the going is so technically demanding.

I am not talking technical in terms of selecting the right fly, any decent guide, fly shop or even someone with a smattering of entomological knowledge can pick out a fly most of the time. No the key is “Presentation”. Presentation, presentation, presentation, and whilst that might mean a whole heap of different things in different circumstances you absolutely have to be able to cast.

ElandsTroutThis guy may be small, but he knows more about fly presentation than most anglers

In the end we prevailed, the client got his fish (his first ever trout on a fly, and isn’t that a moment to savor), we landed a few more with tricky throws under the bushes and he had a great day, apparently enjoying the wonder of it, the sight fishing and the “heart in the mouth” moments of throwing a fly over a paranoid schizophrenic trout, with ADD and OCD all rolled into one.

ElandsTrout2

 Gavin’s first ever trout on a fly, caught in the hard school and aren’t we glad we did that casting practise?

The real key however was that he knew he was a beginner and so did I, the trouble comes from those who aren’t so aware of their limitations and to be honest that is most anglers.

I estimate that over 80% of the clients I guide suffer the greatest limitation in terms of their ability or inability to cast well enough. Sure they can put it out there on the lawn when the breeze is cooperative, there is no intervening herbage and the target is somewhere near the rose bushes.

On the river with one cast, a nasty downstream breeze, clear water and a target about the size of a fleas wedding tackle the game changes. Nobody gets that right all the time but the better you cast the more chance that you have.

So I was most interested to be put onto a lovely piece of writing by a client and friend Jonathan Meyers, the post is from a blog called “The Trout Diaries” written by Derek Grzelewski, you will note that I have added it to the blog roll because it really is worthy or your time to read.

The Essence of Fly Casting – The Trout Diaries Blog..

TroutDiariesImageImage courtesy of “The Trout Diaries”.

I shan’t steal the thunder, you can go and read it but it seems that other anglers and, at least honest guides, recognise the exact same failings. A quote from the piece, and a reference to guide and tutor Stu Tripney “People often come to me psyched up for big trout and action-packed fishing,” he told me. “I look at their casting and say: ‘well, I can take your money, drag you around the river all day and show you the big fish but, casting like that, you haven’t gotta show to catch them.”

When you get right down to it, for all the fancy tackle, the aerospace reels, the dainty and complex flies and leader formulae that look like something from a quantum mechanics equation, if you can’t cast well enough you aren’t going to catch many trout and you sure as eggs aren’t going to catch the tricky ones. (which frequently but not always also equates to the big ones).

To hear that other guides have the same problems made me feel a whole lot better, and I frequently tell myself that I am fortunate that I am at least not asking someone to hit a bonefish at 25 yards on a windy Seychelles coral flat.

GameON

When you have got this in your sights can you make the cast?

Truth be told, the money you might spend on a rod, a guide or a fancier fishing vest might well be better invested in some quality fly casting instruction, but beware there are still plenty of people out there who profess to be able to help you and can’t. There are still videos suggesting you should use “The clock system” ( a pet hate of mine), and there are still those who suggest that you should hold a book under your arm, or similar rubbish.

Thanks to Jonathan for linking me up with Derek and his lovely blog, thanks to Gavin for allowing me to shout at him on the river and on the lawn, it proved to be worth the frustration for both of us.

Finally thanks to Stu, it is so nice to know that I am not the only one out there preaching the message and trying to politely call a spade a shovel.

Of course if you are interested in my opinion on how fly casting works and you would like to have some exercises to do which will help you make that trip of a lifetime more worthwhile you can download a copy of “Learn to Fly-Cast in a Weekend” from Smashwords. It won’t cost you more than the price of a few flies and not only might it help you but I think that it might well make the life of your next guide a lot easier too. Even if you don’t appreciate it, he probably will. 🙂

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Casting 1,2,3,4,5

October 26, 2012

Engrams, natures little shortcuts.

For committed readers of this blog you will know that I have been intimately involved with fly fishing and in particular fly casting for some years. Indeed I have published a book on the subject “Learn to Fly Cast in a Weekend”. Which in its original format is out of print but which is equally well still available as an electronic book. https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/132809

There are numerous references in that book to the way that we learn things, we would love to imagine that it is all intellect and skill and such, but mostly it is just about practising, and perhaps more importantly practising correctly. How we learn to do stuff has become something of a fascination for me, not that I am in any way qualified to investigate it, just that it is of interest and it seems to me that much of it is actually the same as you were told as a child. The same way that you learned your times tables, or how to write or drive a car or cast a flyline.

The modern world of instant gratification would have you believe that there is a “quick fix” to everything, “lose your belly fat in five days”, “Speak another language in a week” etc but life suggests that isn’t the way to go. So why call a book “Learn to Fly-Cast in a Weekend”. Firstly because beginners actually can learn to do that, for the simple reason that they don’t have to “unlearn” anything.

Now it so happens that I have recently set about trying to learn something new, some years back I taught myself to touch type, it is going pretty well, whereas it started at about ten words a minute with a lot of mistakes it is now sitting closer to seventy words a minute with reasonable accuracy. How did I achieve that? By simply sitting down every day and bashing away on a keyboard with an electronic tutor making the most mind jangling noise each time I hit the wrong key. It is tremendously frustrating stuff, and equally very effective.

For some bizarre reason though I never did teach myself to use the number keys, which by default equally means the #%^)(*& and stuff that goes along with them. So I would have to look down at those keys each time, rather spoiling the effect.

It’s not unlike having to look down to pick up the line at the end of each cast, if you do that you will by now be aware that it will cost you some fish, because you weren’t ready.. bad habit.

So I decided it was time to put that matter straight and am busy bashing away once again, warning bells ringing in my ears as I try to train my muscles with new Engrams. Engrams are those highlighted and stored pathways between the brain and the nerves and muscles that provide, over time, shortcuts to actions. They are the things that allow you to change gear with your stick shift, put a cup to your lips without spilling coffee down your front or indeed hit the “P” when you want to on a keyboard. In time they may be the things that allow me to hit the 123456890 keys too, but those pathways are still in the baby stages and currently being laboriously hot wired into my nervous system through constant repetition.

Why discuss typing practise on a fishing blog? Well because the process is exactly the same if you are learning to cast a fly rod. Repetition works, it is the only thing that works, you simply cannot learn to fly cast properly without practising. More to the point practising the correct thing, (it is a sneaking little caveat to engrams, if you practise the wrong stuff you will get shortcuts to the wrong stuff.) A classic case of Garbage in Garbage out.

Now back to the typing, you see because I neglected to “do the numbers” at the same time as I did the rest of the keyboard, the numbers don’t have allocated shortcuts,(engrams) not only that but because I was looking down at them I was using any random finger that happened to be available at the time. So in fact they do have engrams attached to them, just the wrong ones and that is where a heap of the frustration comes from.

Now that I am trying to learn to do it properly I have a double problem, not only do I have to teach my little finger to reach to the far left to hit the “1” key, but I have to train my index finger to leave it alone. My index finger keeps sending messages back to my brain along the lines of “what happened? you used to let me do that, why can’t I do that anymore, and what’s so special about your pinky anyway, he never did any work for the last ten years”

The analogy with fly casting gets stronger, many of us get to cast well enough to catch a fish, in some places that doesn’t require a whole lot, and then we stop. We carry on fishing; we ingrain those bad habits and fix those erroneous engrams into our nervous systems. Even fly casting tutors have them in some instances and in the worst case scenarios they are so ingrained that the tutors will try to teach you the same thing.

Because I neglected to finish the whole course when I first set out to learn to type, I now have to go through the entire process again, not only that but I have to “unlearn” all those bad habits that have accumulated as a result of my neglect.

There is only one way around it, to sit down, make a concerted effort not to go back to what I was doing and go through the pain of getting it right. I have one advantage, I got it right before and I know that I can again; it is simply a case of repetitive practise.

Interestingly enough, you can’t really practise typing by just typing, you don’t apparently pay any price for your mistakes and you don’t get anything much by way of feedback. In fact most programs automatically correct your errors before you even notice them. The same applies, at least to my mind, to casting, you cannot practise casting when you are fishing. Firstly you will get away with things often enough not to notice and secondly you are not focused on the casting but on the fishing, much as when typing I am focused on the language not on the right keys.

If you are not happy with your casting (and don’t feel bad, by my estimates at least 80% of fly anglers aren’t really that happy with theirs) there is a solution, it is possibly slightly painful or if not actually painful, at least a tad uncomfortable and frustrating. But you can make a decision, as I have with my typing. You can either live with the way that it is or you can change it. It doesn’t take much, some understanding of what you are trying to achieve, the right practise exercises to follow and some diligence.

The Holy Grail at the other end though is that once you have mastered it you won’t ever have to look back. It is a choice, it is a choice that I would recommend that you make and if you want some help my book “Learn to Fly-Cast in a Weekend” provides 16 exercises to follow that will provide you with the framework for your practise.

To give you some hope have a look at this 1234567890 !@#$%^&*() 🙂 see and that after a week of practising, I promise that I didn’t even have to look. 🙂

Where I live the fishing season has recently opened in other parts it has just closed, in either case, it is the perfect time to sort out your casting, and I assure you that it really is well within your grasp, it just takes a bit of practise. Today I still have to focus on reaching that “6” because it isn’t quite ingrained yet, but I could probably hit the darned thing with a fly from twenty yards, because I have put in the work on that front..

People always tell me that “If you aren’t getting the results that you want you have to change the things that you do”.. that applies to fly casting as much as anything else, and as said, if you take the trouble to go through the process properly once, you will never have to do it again. It is what allows me to type this blog post in little more than 20 minutes and what will allow you to spend the rest of your life enjoying your fishing without worrying about your casting.. In the end that has to be worth the effort.