THE CASTING JERK
I have assisted many beginning casters in developing their fly casting skills. Recently a belief I have had about many instructional programs was reinforced, as I helped a student flycaster iron out some of his casting problems.
Almost without exception these students have a jerky casting style. Their motions are something like the following: Jerk up! and wait, for the back cast; jerk down! and wait, for the forward cast. The up and down motions are acceptable but the almost violent jerking motions are not.
As we should know, a well cast line should start the forward (or reverse) motion gradually. The torque applied to the grip, and therefore the rate of acceleration, should increase throughout the casting stroke. If done properly the tip of the rod will travel in a straight line from the moment the power stroke begins to the moment it ends and a well formed "tight loop" cast is the result.
A jerking action (early and rapid wrist rotation), on the other hand, applies maximum torque at the beginning of the stroke and is, naturally, followed by a declining rate of acceleration. The result is a rod tip that travels in an upward arc and places the fly line as well as the tip of the rod in the path of the leader and fly. Tailing loops, frequent wind knots and collisions between rod and fly are the results of this casting style. The only reason a collision or knot isn't produced almost every cycle is the up and down motion that is used with this jerk action cast. If pronounced enough, the up down motion will compensate for the upward arc of the rod tip.
My experience has been that it is much easier to teach a novice how to cast well than it is to convert a jerk action caster to a smooth one. Part of the problem seems to be that they developed this style while under the tutelage of a "famed flycaster" and they are reluctant to change the casting style - "don't confuse me with facts". In one case I helped a person, before "flycaster lessons", to cast a floating line reasonable well and to distance cast, with shooting heads, about 80 ft. I next worked with him after flycasting lessons and couldn't believe how much he had regressed. I tried to help him improve for five years to no avail. His maximum distance has remained about sixty feet and he spends over one half of his time untangling the line and removing knots - highly frustrating for him and his fishing companions. He sticks with the herky-jerky cast no matter what .
On the other end of the spectrum is a fellow, with a scientific background, who was having trouble with distance casting. The best he could do was an occasional 60 feet. After watching a while, and at his request, I explained the principles and how to achieve the required motion. As a scientist he understood the requirements and, in addition, he had good motor skills. Within three casts after our discussion he reached 90 feet and continued to cast 90 to 100 feet during that days activities. His flycasting instructor happened to be present at the time and, after seeing this happen, came over, with a look of amazement, and asked, "what did you do? what did you tell him ???".
The underlying idea leading to a good cast is to continually increase the force during the power stroke and to make a momentary abrupt stop before the follow through.
No matter where the power stroke begins it must continue until the rod tip is beyond the mid point of the casting motion. Any wrist snap and/or haul must be delayed until after the mid point, if tailing loops are to be avoided. The shorter the casting arc the easier it is to approximate a linear cast, so don't swing the rod any farther than necessary for the amount of line being accelerated - shorter is better. Short arc, tight loop; wide arc, open loop.
Lowering and raising the arm, in a forward and rearward arc, during the cast helps to linearize wide angle power strokes. Just lowering the arm will do the job but a wider loop will result - stop abruptly before the follow through for a tighter loop.
During the follow through and drift is when the leading line segment can be redirected to produce specialty casts that reach difficult lies or deploy the line for drag free floats.
A good rod properly matched to line weight (that doesn't neccessarily mean using the same line # as the rod #) will quickly damp out oscillations, producing no more than two noticeable undulations on the line. Drawing the rod back, slightly, at the end of the power stroke (before the follow through) can cancel even these oscillations.
Exceeding a 90° casting arc makes it almost impossible to produce a linear cast and is the cause of most casting problems for beginners and old-timers alike. That and applying a burst of energy at the beginning of the power stroke (let's call this the "Jerk" cast) account for at least 90% of the casting problems one might encounter. If you produce a lot of wind knots and have the fly colliding with the rod then the "Jerk" is the most likely problem.
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