The Wave and the Spiral, apart from being useful to lift your fly off the water without creating waves, splashes and getting your fly completely soaked, also serve as a base for other casts like the Anchored cast.
Doing a wave cast is quite simple. Lift the rod and bring the rod tip high up and relatively slowly. Immediately afterwards move the rod 30 – 40 cm towards the fly to prevent dragging the fly towards you. Then move down delaying the descent of the tip with respect to the butt and when you have reached your side you will push downwards with the butt and then also with the whole length of the rod. This produces a wave which when it reaches the fly will cause it to lift delicately from the water. Immediately afterwards you should execute your backward cast to prevent the fly line and leader from hitting the water.
To execute the Spiral you must do a sort of wide circle with the tip of the rod moving it towards the direction of the flow and also in this case moving slightly towards the fly for approximately 30 – 40 cm to prevent dragging the fly towards you. This generates a large spiral that when it reaches the position above the fly, will lift it perfectly from the water. If you operate anticlockwise during the phase in which the tip is moving downwards, you will exert the greatest thrust.
The Small roll casts as the name indicates are small casts that follow the axis of the rod towards the fly after a drift and when the fly is no more than 3 – 4 meters from you. It is important that you cast parallel to the water to lift the fly better from the water, which instead of being presented again like in a roll cast will be immediately cast backward
When fishing and you have obstacles on your casting hand e.g. on the right if you are right handed (or on the left if you are left handed) and you cannot cast you have two possibilities – you either change bank or you change cast. Let’s consider the second choice – you will need to do a backhand cast.
There are two ways of doing a backhand cast: the classical one and the parallel one. The latter is more complete because as a backhand cast because it can be a base for other casts like the backhand mended cast.
The classical backhand cast is done by moving the rods from right to left by 90 degrees i.e. from a 45° angle during the normal cast to 45° on the backhand cast.
On this new plane of casting, the thrust will need to take place just before the rod hand reaches the left part of your chest which will also act as a stop for the rod. The 20 odd centimetres that separate your hand from your chest after the thrust will be used for a small but sufficient dampening. This serves to prevent a complete stop of the rod which could bring to a closing of the loop. The forward cast is then executed with progression again and will end with a thrust which is quite advanced and with the rod almost stretched in front to take advantage of the shorter space you have for acceleration. An important thing to consider is the use of the left hand which will need to be kept as close as possible to the axis of the rod to prevent wide angles between the fishing line and the stripping guide.
The Parallel Backhand
The parallel bank hand is a much more complete cast than the classical backhand. First of all the rod isn’t held at a 45° angle but rather the rod operates as horizontal as possible and with an inclination of about 30° with respect to the water. The rod operates above your head so that it can take advantage of more space than with the Classical backhand. This increased horizontal space will give more line speed with all the relative benefits. The angle of 30° will let you cast directly to your target by taking advantage of the force of gravity and the cast will be cleaner and more accurate. Also in this case the Thrust will take place almost at the end of the movement which benefits from the maximum excursion(span) of the arm. The left hand is held up high next to the rod to keep the line in perfect axis with the rod. In the back cast the Thrust should take place more or less above your head and will be followed by a greater dampening of the rod which will be more advantageous in terms of progression. The rod during the entire forward and back cast executes an 180° arch which goes to show that the whole casting space is used.
Among all the components that affect casting, the Thrust is perhaps the most important one.
It is this component that creates Energy, direction and precision. The Thrust can be defined as: “the precise instant during which the rod transmits a sudden increase in velocity to the line in a very defined space. The line goes forward over the rod tip and the loop is formed”.
In any cast, there are two Thrusts – a forward one and a backward one respectively in the forward cast and in the back casts.
Before the Thrust, the line speed must increase constantly and progressively. As a practical example let’s consider the rod which at the beginning has velocity equal to zero. This velocity must increase gradually to say 100 until a fraction of an instant before the thrust. Increasing gradually in tens that is from 0 to 10, then to 20, 30, 40 etc, until 100.
At this point the line must past over the rod tip. In this precise moment the line speed must increase suddenly and in a very short space. In this way, the rod tip, which until now was just dragging the line, will create a sudden snap and a forward increase in velocity thus creating the loop in front of the rod tip. This exact moment can be identified as the Thrust.
In the Italian style of casting, the Thrust is the second last stage of the casting procedure and we will analyze this concept in detail further on. In fact, in this technique there are no stops as in other classical casting styles and thus the Thrust can be identified as the final acceleration which is produced in a shorter and more concentrated space and is generated during a very short period when compared to the whole trajectory of the rod during the entire casting process. This brings you to execute the cast as low down as possible, that is with the rod almost horizontal to the water. This inevitably leads to a very tight loop.
Summary on how to execute the Thrust
Remember that the Thrust is proportional to the loop and always bear in mind that:
a) The Thrust must never be the last component of the casting procedure but the second last one. There must be no stop between the Thrust and the vibration dampening process which is the final action.
b) It must be preceded by a constant acceleration of the line.
c) Just before the Thrust, the rod must be almost unloaded, that is – it should just pull the line. It must then pass over the tip of the rod and form the loop only in the instant the Thrust takes place.
d) The Thrust should be executed as low down as possible, that is with the rod at a 45 degree angle.
e) Its execution
In this whole context, the rod plays a very important role because in order to get line speed with light lines and long leaders, you require a rod that will respond to stresses. Many years ago when I began analyzing all the details of the casting technique, there were very fast rods with an extremely rigid butts which would generate very tight loops that served no other purpose because when something more was required from the rod, it would give very little energy back. Today rods are made with different concepts. The materials have changed and the rods are more efficient in general and are more adaptable to the various casting requirements, though maintaining the fast action which is fundamental. The rods in order to be considered valid for our technique must have a progressive action.
A very important component of a modern rod is the butt. When you push on it with the palm of your hand, it should yield with a little difficulty. When casting the weight of the line out increases gradually and the butt accumulates and then gives back that Energy progressively. In other words, the butt loads in function to the weight of the line in every phase of the cast – increasing or decreasing.
There are some casts like the Parallel cast and the Superimposed cast that to work well need a good strong butt section on the rod, although a good butt section is also of fundamental importance in those casts that require a good tip action like the angular cast or the totally under the tip cast. Final considerations regarding the rods. Lately rods are produced in no less than three pieces because this makes them more practical when travelling. As far as short 7 foot 6 rods, it is preferable to choose light ones with the shortest and least bulky grips and single foot guides are preferable to snake guides. My personal opinion is that it is better to have less contact with the line and therefore less friction. Furthermore, single foot guides only have one wrapping while traditional snake guides have two which tend to stiffen the part that is wrapped. If the stiffer parts are added up, this amounts to about 20 cm and this can change not only the action of the rod but also the way it responds to casting.
For longer and more powerful rods, things are different because the power that the rod has makes the guide elements less important.
The way you grip the rod may seem a secondary issue but by gripping a rod in a certain way rather than another can make casting easier or create problems. There are two practical ways to grip the rod. I would exclude the index finger grip, because the index isn’t the strongest finger. The thumb is and it should always be opposed to the other four fingers. With this assumption, let’s say that it is always better to keep the thumb on top of the grip and the four fingers underneath. The classical grip is valid as long as the hand is held as low down as possible in contact with the reel.
If the rod is held too far up on the handle, you will have unwanted bending of the wrist especially in beginners. Then there is the so-called “wrap around grip” or Italian grip that is very similar to the classical thumb grip but the hand is wrapped around the reel. This grip helps to increase contact with the rod and facilitates the dynamics of certain styles – especially the faster ones.
When casting, most fishermen look at their lines with the corner of their eyes to see how the loop is going.
It’s a sort of, let say professional deviation because a good loop with the other two parts of the line perfectly parallel is synonymous to a good cast. But how is the loop formed and is it so important?
Let’s start by saying that the loop can be defined as the “motor of the cast”, that is the point where all the Kinetic Energy is concentrated and the tighter it is, the more energy is accumulated and the faster the line speed becomes.
The loop is formed by the Thrust in the instant that the line passes over the rod tip. There are two loops in any cast – one forward and one backwards but the most important one is the forward one because it’s the one that will drive our fly to its target. There are a few theories on the formation of the Loop. One says that the loop is given by the difference between the highest point and lowest points reached by the rod tip during all the casting phases. In my opinion the correct one is “the difference between the highest point and the lowest point reached by the rod tip but only during theThrust” and the smaller this size and the tighter the loop.
Acceleration means increasing the casting velocity gradually starting from a hypothetical zero velocity and accelerating by ten imaginary units at a time to ten, twenty, thirty and so on until you reach 100 which is the beginning of the Thrust. From 100 to 150 the casting space will be very short and in this brief space the loop is generated.
But everything must be carried out harmoniously and progressively. There should be no abrupt movements better known as whipping movements that give rise to the so-called tailing loop, where the loop folds over the line and which prevents you from fishing. How many times does it happen even to expert casters that the fly hooks onto the connection between line and leader? This is the main result of a tailing loop – the loop closes upon itself and part of the line and the leader pass under the line and once it opens again, the fly hooks the line.
There is a saying among fly fishermen that “you cast more with your left hand that with the right one” and for me there is a lot of truth in this.
The left hand plays a very important role in all casting styles and in particular in our style it plays an enormous role. In our technique it can be used in three ways: a mini double haul (which should not be confused with the traditional double haul), a constant traction, and the hand kept still.
So why is the left hand used in three different ways? Mainly because not all fishermen have the same style or the same sensitivity.
Mini double haul
For those who do not feel the tension in the line, a mini double haul helps a lot. It is also useful in certain styles like the totally under the tip cast.
When you begin the backward cast, you will carry out the first mini traction downwards and just before the loop opens, our hand will have moved towards the stripping guide.
Without stopping, you will carry out the second mini traction at the same time as the forward cast begins.
Left Hand kept still
Those who are more skilful, will usually keep the left hand still because they manage to keep the right tension with line speed and timing. One must be careful during the forward cast when the left and right hands get close to each other. This causes a loss of tension. Everything will be compensated by the velocity of the stroke and the line control.
When the left hand is kept still, it should be kept around the belly in both the forward and backward strokes. The advantage is that you do not have to haul constantly as in the mini double haul while maintaining a good tension in the line.
Some casting styles like the parallel or the superimposed casts require a constant traction by the left hand.
Constant traction is a great way to use the left hand in certain specific styles. For example the parallel and superimposed casts work better with this method of tensioning the line.
The hand will exert a constant traction on the line in such a way that the tension increases as the stroke progresses. You start by pulling down as soon as the back stroke starts and without stopping the left hand will continue until it is the moment to thrust.
One thing is common to the three methods – a constant tension in the line between the left hand and the stripping guide.
In other circumstances the left hand has another role, that is not to keep the line in tension but it can serve to achieve other desirable results.
Let’s consider the superimposed cast. If you purposely release your left hand early, the result will be a drag free cast, if you release it a little later your fly will go under overhanging bushes delicately, landing like an airplane.
The fly line speed cannot ignore the space used to cast. In other words, the more space you have to carry out the entire cast and the more acceleration you can produce.
This will yield a faster line speed. Casting with light lines, you have a small mass to cast and the space in which your cast takes place becomes important and so a vertical over the shoulder cast can limit your results.
So going down to thirty or forty five degrees increases the space in which you are casting. This is because the way we are made physically prevents us from using the whole casting space to a maximum and so going down to thirty or 45 degrees increases this space considerably. We should not forget that an inclined plane of casting can create problems with respect to the relationship with the axis. This is because the force of gravity can and will have more of an effect on the line.
The leader is an element of extraordinary importance which is not completely appreciated for the enormous advantages you can have in fighting drag. The loops are micro perfection loops that are used to join the various parts of mono when making a knotted leader. Let’s get things straight. Starting from the principle that in order to fight drag, apart from specific anti-drag casts, it is also necessary to have a specific leader with certain characteristics regarding length and the kind of taper, the more rigid the leader is and the more difficulty you will have to model it. Recently in relation to this, the concept of “many knots” (more knots = more rigidity) has been demolished. Today self made leaders tend to have a maximum of 4 knots and an attempt has been made to tie less voluminous knots. Then very elastic monos were used but in my opinion all this was not enough. One more step was missing in order to make the leader more supple and which would adapt to the superficial currents, in the case of the dry fly and to the underwater currents in the case of the nymph. So on which element of the leader could I work to achieve these results? I had the idea to connect the various sections of mono not with classical knots but by means of micro perfection loops. I have no idea if this method of joining monofilaments for leaders has already been used by others, but the fact remains that I have never heard of anyone else. A leader made with this system may seem useless but you really need to try it out! The big problem with drag arises not so much in rough waters but rather in calmer ones where it’s important to reduce the wake effect caused by the fly and by the tippet. In these calmer waters, there are micro currents which are invisible to the naked eye but no less treacherous.
These micro currents are usually generated by rocks which are 50 – 60 cm under the surface and the water seems to flow down quite normally and in places where you would normally cast without considering the consequences. In other words, strong currents are easy to see while these minor ones are not, especially to the untrained eye and it is on the latter ones that a looped leader comes into use and can be more productive than a normal knotted leader. The micro loops act as hinges and hold very well both when setting the hook as well as during the traction when playing the fish. The instructors of my school and I have tested these leaders and have never had any problems. In the beginning we had some understandable doubts which were: would the leader be strong enough, would there be sufficient transmission of energy, would they be accurate? The doubts were slowly dissipated and this gave me great satisfaction. So they hold well; there is no collapsing effect in the transmission which in theory we should have had due to the hinges. Our biggest doubt was accuracy – but even with this we had no problems as long as the tension during casting is kept constantly which by the way is a problem even with classical knotted or tapered leaders, if the tension during casting is lost, the whole structure collapses. So once our doubts had been dissipated we started evaluating which advantages we could get especially regarding drag. We tested both classical leaders and looped leaders in the same conditions and got some extraordinary results especially in those conditions with the treacherous micro currents and strange surface tensions. I take this occasion to thank my friend Massimiliano Nucci who is a FFM instructor and expert in knots for the technical support he gave me during trials. In conclusion this leader could revolutionize the concept of the leader whose importance is equal to that of the casting technique in fighting drag.