This short article has recently appeared in Fly Fishing and Fly Tying magazine as part of the " Get out of Jail" series. Although this column (which I write with Charles Jardine AAPGAI) is really about presentation casts, it has been so successful that it was decided that we should expand its scope. I include it here because I think you should read it! :-)
This one is a little different from all the others in as much as it's one of those secrets behind the effective use of all the others and we haven't told it to you yet. The very fact that we have decided to explain it now is merely an indication of how nice we are as people and is in no way representative of our teaching methods. Charles, it should be said, requested that we do this one last May, but I felt that the timing then, was not yet appropriate and besides this piece requires technical writing and I haven't been in a techy mood for years.
First I'll explain what the drift is, why you should use it every single cast and why it has been included in our get-out-of-gaol series. And then I'll get a bit techy-like.
In a simple overhead cast there are three things you can do during the pause between the 'stop' in the backcast and the start of the forward stroke.
The first thing you can do is nothing; simply wait for the loop to straighten out and then commence the forward cast when it does so. This is acceptable and the basic cast as initially taught.
The second thing you can do is to 'anticipate' the forward cast and creep forwards with the rod tip. This closes up the forward stroke and is unacceptable: it's a fault. Many otherwise good casters do this and some even make it look good, which doesn't help.
The third thing that you can do is to drift backwards with the rod tip after the 'stop'. This is called the drift and guess what? It's the subject of this jail-break.
Why you should drift
Drifting backwards attains a number of desirable objectives and eliminates some interesting problems. Learning an effective drift will instantly turn a competent caster into a good caster.
Drifting facilitates better timing allowing the loop to fully straighten out on the back cast.
It cushions the rod tip, taking out those nasty wiggles created by a hard stop/poor quality rod.
It takes out excess energy. There is a misnomer that the backcast loads the rod for the forward cast. This is not true; the backcast positions the line in such a way that we can make an effective forward cast. Some casters believe that they should wait until they feel a 'tug' on the backcast before starting the forward stroke. You don't want this either. That tug is pulling the rod tip backwards and therefore downwards, leading to an uneven path of the tip and an associated tailing loop.
Even a fully straightened out loop can have energy. That is the energy that pulls the rod tip back and it's a bitch to control (See? Told you this was going to get techy).
Drifting puts you in a better position for the forward cast. Most backcasts are merely tip bending affairs, the aim of which being to stick anything between eight and eighteen yards of line in the air. The forward cast is a different kettle of fish altogether, the aim of which often being a butt-bending 40-yard explosion. Backcast – small stroke, forward cast – long stroke. In order to facilitate this, you will find it necessary to relocate the rod tip during the pause. Sounds like a drift to me.
A good drift also gives you more time. Ever wonder how some casters appear to have more time than others? This is because they do. At the time when most casters are starting their forward cast, good casters are drifting backwards.
Why we have included it in this series
Drifting has one more effect. Since it allows us to commence the forward cast with the rod angled further backwards, it allows us to make more of the forward stroke behind us, which in turn allows us to stop the rod earlier on the forward cast.
And this gives us more room to play with for creating slack line.
I see many anglers struggling with slack line casts, struggling to find time and room to create slack. This is because they have finished the forward stroke with the rod close to the horizontal. A much better scenario is to finish closer to the vertical. Drifting allows this.
Tips on how to achieve this
A great description of the drift movement is to 'feel' for the loop straightening on the backcast with the rod tip. Don't be too hasty to get back there. It is not a sudden double movement; it is a subtle feeling movement.
It is important that the rod tip tracks the fly line. In order for this to occur the drift is also an upward movement. Many casters do this better when the emphasis is on the 'up' and not on the 'back'. I'm one of those actually.
When it goes wrong
It normally goes wrong for one of two reasons. The first is that the drift is thought of as a powerful exciting event. It is not. It is subtle; like a summer zephyr.
The second is that the caster thinks he has done it, but in fact hasn't and has indeed lost all timing. At times like these, it can help to put yourself in a field and break the cast into all of its' components, allowing the line to land on the ground on the backcast.
When it goes right
Something very subtle happens; you go from being a mechanical scientific flycaster to a fluid smooth feeling flycaster. Be warned however; you might find yourself taking off your shoes - these things start to become important when you enter the world of feeling.
That was the article... this is the movie...
Several things feature largely in this movie. First up is the interesting although not (it later transpired) completely unique start. Second is the hat. However this movie does reveal a good drifting technique - which is good because that's me casting. Slow the movie down and watch the movement of the hand after the 'stop'. Note how it moves upwards and tilts backwards. This movie was shot during a course in Germany. We are currently working on better ways of presenting this information and this *will* dazzle you...