I may have made a mistake some years ago when I wrote that Lefty's 5 Principles were bollocks. In my defence bollocks isn't such a bad thing – I often “talk bollocks” myself, for example, and enjoy it very much – and the “dog's bollocks” is generally considered to be as good as a thing can get. For instance I've often called the AAPGAI the dog's bollocks and nobody has ever complained, not once.
However quite a few Americans didn't understand the term and thought I was being negative about Lefty's 5 Principles and a few of them wrote to me asking what “bollocks” meant exactly. So let me put the record straight: “bollocks” means “really rather excellent”.
So for example, if you were visiting a friend in London and they had just cooked you a first class meal, and they were to ask you what you thought of it. You would be perfectly right to say, “It was bollocks; thank you very much.”
Now in the first part of Lefty's 5 Principles I deconstruct each principle in mechanical terms. All of which I disagreed with, you'll remember. However, I have since changed my mind and now agree with them all. In this particular analysis I will attempt to review Lefty's 5 Principles in terms of flycasting instruction and the message that they convey.
Principle number 1: The longer you move a rod through an arc, the more it helps you make the cast.
Excellent. In other words Lefty's talking about the effectiveness of the long stroke over the short one. Which is undoubtedly true – just watch Rick Hartman cast for example. Rick's a pretty good caster and his stroke is so long he has to step forward just to keep up with it.
Principle number 2: You must get the line end moving before you can make a back or forward cast. And on the backcast, the end of the line must be lifted from the water before making the cast.
Of course! Otherwise you'll have slack line somewhere in the system and as our friend Bill Gammel explains, in the most exciting part of his video, that's “when loops start falling from the skies”. And that's the last thing you'll want. What Lefty is really saying here (for the technicians, who struggle with simplicity) is to gently pick the the line up before you accelerate into the backcast and then drag the line forward before rotating the butt at the end of the stroke.
And if you didn't understand that last statement just wait until the FFF Definitions Committee has come up their definitive list – then it will be complete bollocks.
Principle number 3: The fly is going to go in the direction that you accelerate, then stop, the rod tip at the end of the cast.
Yep this is a good one – not because it's true – because it's not – but because it stops you thinking about your hand or the loop and directs your attention to the most important thing of all: the rod tip. There are three points of focus: hand, tip and loop. Actually there is a fourth: your feet. Not because your feet are important, but because that will stop you worrying about the other three. Oh and there's a fifth: the target, and the path you want to lay the line upon to reach it.
Thinking rod tip, however, as you accelerate is great teaching. It may in fact be the dog's bollocks.
Principle number 4: The size of the line loop during the cast is determined by how fast and how far the rod tip is moved (combined with a quick stop) at the end of the cast.
This is actually the secret to loop control. And no, I can't describe it either. But I do know what Lefty's attempting to convey here. Technically it's not true, but it's a feeling. If you can feel Principle Number 4 then you're a pretty shit-hot caster. Lefty's in control of the rod tip and that works for me just fine.
Principle number 5: You cannot move your rod hand well behind the body if you begin the cast with the thumb positioned on the top of the rod. You must grip the rod in the normal manner and then rotate your thumb about forty-five degrees away from the body.
Lefty's changed that one apparently, but I still agree with it. Not because it frees you up to reach backwards, which it does of course, but because it gives you the control needed for Principles 3 and 4.
Lefty's teaching is about giving the 95% of anglers out there who are crap casters – and who will always be crap casters – because they don't practice – four key areas to think about which can help quick-fix their faulty casting while on the water (forget the fifth; Lefty has). In sequence they go, be smooth, remove slack line, track straight and apply power with control. These 4 Principles may not be the cure perhaps, but they are patches. For most people that's all they'll ever want and in that respect they are truly excellent.