Teaching yourself to fly cast
Part 1: Learning the Essentials with Bill Gammel.
Oh no, not another casting video! Yes but this one is a little bit different and it's also very good.
Firstly I should explain, for those of you who do not already know, that Bill Gammel is a highly respected fly fishing and fly casting instructor from Texas, U.S.A. and also a Member of the Board of Governors of the Federation of Fly Fishers U.S.A.
This video is different because it is not a list of instructions to stand this way, hold the rod like that, do this, do that and so on (although it does make suggestions where appropriate to help the caster decide for himself or herself). Rather, what Bill (together with his late father Jay) has done is to recognise and accept that there are differences in casting styles between individuals for all manner of reasons, and at the same time identify the common threads or essential elements which run through all good fly casts. Bill identifies these as the 5 Essentials; which after they have been carefully studied and fully understood will lead to a much greater understanding and appreciation of how fly casting works. Subsequent, correct application of these Essentials will help eliminate any problems and improve fly casting performance.
The video begins with a little bit of a history lesson and explains what led Jay Gammel and later Bill to look for and identify the 5 Essentials.
Bill goes on to explain that it is the line that is cast rather than the fly and stresses the importance of making the rod flex (loading it) and un-flex (unloading it) by stopping the rod butt at the end of the cast. He also describes and explains good loops, fat loops and tailing loops as well as suggesting different ways to stand and a number of ways to hold the fly rod. Although he makes these suggestions Bill encourages everyone to experiment and find the style they are comfortable with, an important fundamental of using the 5 Essentials as a basis for teaching being that it encourages a style-less approach.
The video progresses in a logical manner taking the viewer through a properly structured routine of explanation and practice in order that a proper understanding of fly casting and how it works is developed including how to control the size, shape and speed of the casting loops; essential if one is to become a good fly caster. Good fly casting is of course all about control.
Bill takes the casting instruction as far as the pick up and lay down cast and shooting line, which is enough to get anyone fishing. I assume that distance and the double haul comes in Part 2.
Throughout the video Bill does the casting demonstrations himself and it seems to me as if they have been filmed outdoors on a very dark Texan night because the background is totally black, although Bill appears to be standing on grass. The rod and line are white as is Bills casting arm whilst the rest of his clothes are black, apart from his hat, and the effect of this is to make the movement of the casting arm and the path of the rod and line very clear indeed, which is a great help to the viewer. Also included are some shots of Bill in various fishing situations, which add a bit of variety, and a touch of reality to the story.
There are a couple of phrases Bill uses that I particularly like, one is; “When you realise the relationship between the movement of your rod arm, and the path of the rod tip and the line, you are truly on your way to understanding fly casting,” and the other is, “Don't just practice, practice to be perfect!”
Bill has called this video “Teaching Yourself to Fly Cast” which suggests that it is for beginners and novices and I have no doubt that this was Bill's intention, but I think that it is equally useful to intermediate and expert casters and I would imagine that most individuals would benefit to some degree by studying what Bill has to say on the subject. As an instructor I found it especially interesting and useful because it made me look at fly casting in slightly different way and most definitely led me to a greater understanding of how fly casting works and which elements are fundamental to success and which are just variations in style.
If you would like a copy of this video, and I highly recommend it to anyone, I am not too sure exactly how you would go about getting it apart from contacting Bill direct through this site. It doesn't appear to be available through the FFF web site at www.fedflyfishers.org although the excellent booklet, by Bill and Jay Gammel, which I also highly recommend, “The Essentials of Fly Casting” is.
Bill's contact email is firstname.lastname@example.org