Hello Again Everyone,
I CAN'T BELIEVE IT'S JUNE ALREADY!! Run off is winding down, stoneflies are popping, and It's warming up nicely. I hope you are all out getting in some fishing. This quarter's newsletter addresses a topic that I hear about all the time---bad habits in fly casting. Some casters know they have them, some don't. Some have learned to compensate, some haven't. Some fly fishers just tell themselves and others that casting is just plain hard, but I catch fish, so what's the big deal? I say, get some help and you'll have more enjoyment and opportunities. Bad habits are not that hard to identify and fix. We are fortunate in Colorado to have many FFI Certified instructors and 4 or more Master Certified Instructors. Surely one of them can help you improve! If you have any questions for me regarding fly casting and fly fishing, please feel free to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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UPCOMING EVENTS AND INFORMATION
Contact me for more details about any of these at email@example.com
Create your own event: I love teaching groups! Put together a presentation or clinic for your group! It can be a fishing group or a group of interested people that don't fish yet! I can help you tailor instruction to your group's needs.
30 with 3 lesson packages: I am now offering 3 one hour lesson packages for $150---a $30 savings. This will make a great gift for someone, including yourself! Times and location will be scheduled individually.
Fly Casting Fundamentals Class: Six one hour lessons comprise this class designed to help the caster achieve at least Bronze level fly casting skills as outlined in the FFI Fly Casting Skills Challenge. This can be done on an individual basis or in a small group. The price is $300, the same as for 5 lessons, which is a $60 savings. Great for beginners, novices or those just trying to improve their skills!
Video Casting Analysis: If a picture is worth 1000 words, a video is worth far more. You will see things you had no idea were occurring with your casting motion and learn how to correct them. Define and rid yourself of bad habits! Clients will be given practice methods to improve their cast. The minimum time needed for this is 90 minutes and the cost is $80.
Casting Instructor Certification Mentoring: Instructor certification from the FFI is an accomplishment that will help you become a better instructor as well as caster. Let me help you understand the expectations of the exam and become a better caster and teacher! I mentor exam candidates and administer exams, so I understand the tests and what it takes to pass. Most importantly, it will help you be the best teacher you can be in all phases of fly fishing.
BAD CASTING HABITS: How did I get here and how do I get home?
Learning how to cast correctly from the start is not hard, but learning how to cast correctly and unlearning bad habits at the same time is hard. Having bad casting habits is akin to being lost. One wanders around, looking for the correct direction or path, not sure what to do. But worse is that I see people doing the same thing over and over and hoping for different results. Sometimes they try something a bit different and it may work, but it's often only a temporary fix and does not work in all situations. Most commonly casters just try to cast harder and faster. Here are several ways fly casters lose their way and how they can get back home.
"I don't know where I'm going." Most students I ask can't define what their objective is other than catching fish. In order to do this, we must get the fly in front of the fish, and in order to do that we must be able to cast a good loop. Your objective is good loop formation, which means a casting loop that is 4 ft. or less top to bottom leg with a relatively straight top leg. This loop is what takes the fly to the fish. That loop is your objective!
"I don't need a map or compass." He or she just started walking, or in this case, casting. The beginning caster relied on intuition to learn to cast. Fly casting is counter-intuitive. They are lost quickly, often without knowing it! These are usually either frustrated students or those that think they cast well but don't. The most common manifestation here is an underpowered back cast followed by a compensatory, overpowered forward cast and roll casts that are more roundhouse swings than casts. For some, once they discover indicator nymphing, they never try to get better. They may miss out on a lot of fun fishing opportunities, like fishing small creeks or salt water. Instruction starts from the beginning with the basics of loop formation. It's actually fairly easy to fix and students are amazed that they can achieve good casts relatively easily. We spend a lot of money on the fly rod and line, why not learn how to use it from someone who is certified to teach it?
"All I know I learned from YouTube." I've never had a student say it this succinctly, but it's pretty evident from talking and working with them. These individuals are often confused because they've been listening and watching many different people tell them how to cast. Those folks may say the same things using different words or analogies, and it starts sounding like different instruction. (Worse yet, I've seen a few video demonstrations that are flat wrong!) The student then gets many different maps for their journey, some they understand, some they don't, some they think they understand but don't, and some maps are incorrect. There are a few good sites out there for casting instruction, such as the new FFI Learning Center, but not many. (My definition of a good instructional video is good quality audiovisual, explanation that is concise and precise, the demonstration is easily seen and matches the explanation, and the casting performance is good.) Even so, keep in mind that a video cannot give you feedback about your cast. These lessons are a bit more challenging because often the student has to break through a belief system and casting habits that they've adopted. Although it is true that in the end we are all self-taught (I can't cast for you!) consistent, proper guidance along the way is helpful.
"I attempted more than I was capable of." This is a big one! I suspect it usually starts early on in one's fishing career and gets perpetuated. For example, the fly fisher goes on a trip that requires casting to 60 ft. when they are only capable of getting to 40 ft. Casters start overpowering their cast and wide loops and tailing loops occur. Application of power becomes uneven instead of smooth. Many add a little punch near the end of the stroke that usually doesn't help and often causes a tailing loop. Since this compensation occasionally works, it gets adopted as part of their cast. Power never trumps technique. It's better to reposition yourself to get closer to the target or simply pass the target by for that particular trip. After the trip, go to the park and improve your technique while challenging yourself 1-2 ft. at a time. Don't be afraid to ask for help from an instructor; I can get most casters to 60 ft. without double haul.
"It's so windy!" Need I say more? Wind is our nemesis, but I'm convinced it's mostly due to the mind games it plays with us more than anything. Casters get freaked out and start making overpowered casts with wide or tailing loops, or both. The results are not pretty! I tell students that the best and first way to deal with the wind is to become a better caster. Better loops do better in the wind. The second thing I tell them is that, with the exception of safety, ignore the wind. We can't control the wind. We can control where the fly should be (downwind when casting) and loop formation. Just cast! There are days when the wind will make some casts impossible, but you will experience fewer of them if you improve your casting.
"I read the map and memorized the route, but got distracted and made a wrong turn." The other thing that plays a mind game with us is the act of fishing itself. I have had students who cast well at the lesson, and then cast poorly when they get to the water. Many times they don't even know it's happening, they just see poor results. Unfortunately, they may conclude that lessons didn't help. In reality, their bad habits or intuition are so ingrained that when they get to the water with the "stress" of having to hit a target, the old habits come back. I'm forever telling Certified Instructor candidates and now all my students "don't cast one way when you fish and another way when you practice." If you do, the lessons will never help because you are not using new skills when you need them most. Pay attention to loop formation (and therefore technique) all the time. A cast is not good because it is pretty, it is good because it is effective, and it so happens that good looking loops are the most effective!
ASK THE INSTRUCTOR
This is a common problem and the first thing I do is commend the client for noticing them. Many don't see them and then wonder why they are getting "wind knots" on calm days. Wind knots are casting knots and not caused directly by the wind. Here's the synopsis first:
But, what is a tailing loop? This is when the top leg of the loop is not straight and dips below the bottom leg of the loop, often tying a knot in the leader as the wave, or dip, progresses down the top leg in loop layout. They can occur on either the back cast or the forward cast, and can be seen anywhere in loop layout---beginning, middle, or end.
The root cause of tailing loops is a dipping rod tip path during the casting stroke. The line does what the rod tip does. If the rod tip dips anywhere in the casting stroke, the top leg of the loop will dip. If it dips enough to cross the bottom leg a tailing loop is seen. If the top leg dips but does not cross, we call that a tailing tendency.
About 80% of the time tailing loops are caused by uneven power application during the casting stroke. The caster puts a spike in power during the stroke, causing extra bend in the rod momentarily, which creates the dipping rod tip path noted above. Since the line does what the rod tip does, there is a resulting dip in the top leg of the loop. A tiny dip may cause a tailing tendency, a bigger one will yield a tailing loop. See my Spring 2018 newsletter for a discussion of obtaining proper power application.
About 20 % of the time, the tailing loop is caused by too short of a casting arc for the amount of line past the rod tip and the associated bend in the rod. The casting arc can be shortened in two ways, from the back or from the front. If one stops short on the forward cast, a tailing loop will occur. If one "creeps" the rod forward before starting the forward cast and while the back loop is unrolling, the casting arc is again inadvertently shortened and a tailing loop results. Of the two, creep is far more common. The cure for creep is to watch at the hand at the back cast stop and make it stay there until it is time to initiate the forward stroke. Do this several times with eyes open, then several times with eyes closed so you start developing new "muscle memory". Some instructors advocate using something called "drift", but many of us find that this requires explaining a new concept and movement to the student. This is harder than just having the student stop and freeze at the back cast position until ready.
How do I recognize casting my casting mistakes and how important is it?
If you have read what precedes this question above, you have an idea of the answer. Awareness is half the battle. The resulting casting loop tells the caster about the casting stroke that created it. Observing the size and shape of the loop is how we recognize casting errors.
You will never fix a problem you don't recognize as such, so recognizing casting errors is imperative if you want to improve. At first, strive for a loop that is 4 ft. or less top to bottom leg with a relatively straight top leg, at every distance and every speed. The loop shape and size tells you what happened to rod tip path during the casting stroke. The loop described above requires a straight or flat rod tip path during the casting stroke. The three major variables affecting tip path are rod arc (the angle through which the rod butt moves during the stroke), quantity (how much) and quality (rough or smooth) of acceleration, and the abrupt stop. You, the caster, make the rod tip do what it does by manipulating these variables.