This has been an interesting series, we've mainly concentrated on presentation casts, but from time to time we've thrown something a little bit different at you. This one is going to be different too; it's about grips.
How you hold the rod, believe it or not, is important. Because how you hold the rod determines how you use your wrist, and that's all part of the Big Scheme. The traditional method of teaching grip in the UK is to “shake hands with the rod handle and put the thumb on top”. We don't do that, Charles and I, not with trout rods at any rate, and that's because we know something better.
With the heavy rods of the past, or with saltwater/pike gear the following may not necessarily apply; casting with the thumb behind the rod can be used to achieve one particular objective – no wrist movement. Some people even teach this and with powerful tackle, the sort that tries to pull you off your feet on the backcast, the wrist may not be strong enough. That bit was there for completeness. Good these columns aren't they?
I want to give you an analogy: throwing a stone.
I don't know if you've ever thrown a stone before, but one of the keys to success is letting go with the palm facing the target. It's quite natural, and man has been doing it for a long time, thousands of years at least. Of course some people may tell you that throwing stones is nothing like throwing flyrods, and for them it isn't; that's why they make it look so awkward.
Throwing flyrods can be exactly like throwing stones, with one notable difference – you don't let go. It can also be a bit like chopping wood, or ringing bells, but we won't go there.
Casting with the palm facing the target allows for a crisper, more controlled wrist movement. It doesn't have to be much, in fact my wrist movement is tiny, but it is crisp and the best casters have the crispest stops.
You can try this yourself right now, and without a rod. Reach out to shake hands and then make out you're holding a rod with the thumb on top. Wiggle the thumb up and down: not very snappy. Now rotate the hand through about 60 degrees (count them) and wiggle your hand up and down. This should be much snappier and this discovery will fill you with excitement.
Both the V-grip and “Chinese” grip lend themselves well to this style. As does the “crooked thumb” but I'm the only person in the Universe who does this. The V-grip is a bit like the thumb-on-top, but rotated inwards around the handle so that the thumb is “around to the side” a bit. Competition casters sometimes use this grip. It's quite good and I like the fact that the forefinger and thumb are opposite each other.
The Chinese grip, and I call it that because Simon Gawesworth calls it that, and I've never heard anyone else give it another name, although I doubt that they do it in China, is where the thumb is initially on top, but then rotated around so that the reel points out to the side. If the rod is spined and if it makes any difference, then you shouldn't do this – but it hardly ever is and it almost never does. Many casting instructors consider this to be a fault, but I like to live on the edge sometimes.
It is possible to cast with the finger on top and still lead with the palm (incidentally if you're having floppy wrist problems, casting with the finger grip will fix them immediately). When side casting, I'll sometimes use this grip with a little elbow rotation instead of wrist snap.
It's funny how far you go when you break things down.
This was one from the Get out of Jail series in Fly Fishing and Flytying magazine.
Further reading: some hippy weirdo discussing different grips.