Fly Fishing Casting - Longer Hauling For Longer Distance
Improve your casting skills with Randall Kadish
If you're a fly fisher I'll bet this sounds familiar.
You're reading the water of a fast, wide river. Finally you decide: cast your streamer to the long seam behind the fallen tree. But you're too far away; so you wade away from the bank. The current is deep and fast. Its engine-like thrust nearly knocks you down. You regain your footing and say to yourself, no trout is worth risking serious injury for.
So you return to the pages of the river and search for other targets.
What else can you do?
Buy a longer rod?
That will help.
But the expense!
Besides, how much longer do they make fly rods?
So instead of a longer rod why not use a longer haul? And just think: if you become good at long hauling, you'll be great at short and intermediate hauling.
Finally, don't worry if you once tried long hauling and your casts, like mine, filled with slack and often just collapsed. Hauling defects, I've learned after hours and hours of trial and error, are easily corrected. Here's how.
WHAT IS A HAUL?
I'll begin by asking: what is a haul?
Simply put, it is the act of casting a fly line in one direction and then simultaneously pulling down on the line in another, and therefore dramatically increasing the tension between the line and the rod tip.
Since the increased tension loads (bends) the rod more, when we abruptly stop the rod at the end of the cast, the tip recoils longer, faster and more powerfully. To take this definition even further: the haul is, in a sense, a reflection of our power snap.
And what is our power snap?
I'll define it as the second part of the casting stroke. In the first part we begin the cast by slowly accelerating the rod. (This part of the cast is often referred to as the loading move.) In the second part we rapidly increase acceleration, then reach the maximum speed of our casting stroke. Let me digress.
It is a well-known principal of fly casting that if we want to increase the length of our cast, we must also increase the length and acceleration of our loading move, our power snap and our haul. However, if you ever watch long-distance tournament fly casters you'll see that during their power snaps they actually move their hauling hands faster and longer than their rod hands.
HOW LONG AND FAST?
So how long and how fast should you haul?
Let your loop tell you.
A wide loop means you hauled too slowly. (The heavier your fly the faster you'll have to haul.) A tailing loop means you hauled too quickly. To be more specific: if you want to make a long-distance presentation cast you'll have to accelerate your haul fast enough so you finish with your line hand behind your front thigh. (For maximum distance let go of the line.).
To help me increase my acceleration, I like to pretend that, instead of hauling, I'm holding a football upside down and throwing it behind me as far as I can. Other casters pretend they're punching something behind them. But unfortunately there are other causes of tailing and wide loops.
As you probably know by now, if we apply too much force too
early in the cast we will tail our loop.
Therefore, we must begin our downward haul and our power
snap at the same time.
(We'll have to move both hand backwards during our back-cast
loading move. This will seem difficult at first, but with a
little practice it will become second nature.)
Downward Backcast Haul
Downward Forward Cast Haul
Backcast Drift & Upward Haul
But what if we continue our haul after we stop the rod? We'll weaken our cast and make it very difficult to execute our upward haul without adding slack. (More about the upward haul below.)
To help me stop my cast and rod at the same time, I like to visualize a loose rope connecting my rod and line hands. When I stop my rod I imagine the rope completely tightening and stopping my line hand. So now you have it: the basics of the long, downward haul.
WHAT WENT WRONG?
Then where did we go wrong?
Probably in our upward haul (giving line back). As soon as we finish our long, downward haul we must immediately give line back at the same speed the line is unrolling.
If we give line back too quickly and don't feel tension on the line we'll add slack and weaken our cast. (We can often remove the slack by moving our line hand passed our rod hand and then, on our next cast, hauling faster and longer than we normally would.) If we give line back at the correct speed but still add slack our cast probably is under powered.
But supposing we give line back too slowly, and cannot get our line hand up to our rod hand before the fly line unrolls? We'll probably commit one of two serious, hauling defects:
1. We begin our forward cast by moving our rod hand before or faster than we move our line hand. Therefore, the slack line between our hands decreases the line-tension on the rod tip and keeps the rod from fully loading. Our cast is full of shock waves, or so much slack it collapses!
2. We manage to move both hands in-sync, but since we started the cast with our line hand too low, we can't extend our arm far enough to execute a long haul. Our cast is weak and our front loop is wide.
To help get our line hand up to our rod hand it's important we remember:
1. If we shoot line, we should simultaneously move our line hand upward.
2. If we false cast into wind, we should shorten or eliminate our haul.
3. If we begin our downward haul with our hands at the same level, but finish the cast with slack between our hands, we should slow down our haul and speed up our casting stroke.
HAULING AND DRIFTING
To make a long-distance presentation cast we have to drift the rod back after our last back cast. (We do this by keeping our elbow in place, and moving our rod hand back to our rear shoulder, and then breaking our wrist and lowering the rod to about two o'clock.)
However, if we execute an upward haul and a drift move we may add slack to the line. To prevent this, some casters finish their drift move, then begin their upward haul. Other casters do it the other way: haul first, then drift. From my experience, both solutions increase our risk of not being able to move our line hand or our rod into the proper presentation-cast position before our back cast unrolls.
So instead, I prefer to use a little more power on my back cast, then if I have a good, tight loop, I simultaneously haul and drift as slowly as possible.
GETTING THE LINE TANGLED
Finally, there's another problem plaguing long haulers: executing a downward, back cast haul, then giving line back and getting it tangled around the rod butt or a piece of clothing. Here's two easy solutions:
1. Execute our downward haul away from our body, at an angle of about thirty degrees to the water; so that at the end of the haul our line hand is at about eight o'clock in relation to our rod hand.
However, to lengthen our haul, we'll have to execute it at a steeper angle to the water; so in that case:
2. Begin the upward haul by moving our line hand away from our body.
MAKING THE LONG, LONG BACKCAST
You'll have to end your forward, false cast with your weight on the ball of your front foot and with your casting shoulder well forward. To do this, speed up and lengthen your forward casting stroke.
If you get a tailing loop, slow down and shorten your haul.
If you have trouble stopping the rod abruptly on your back- cast, slow down your casting stroke and speed up your haul.