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Paul's Choice of Stroke
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Henning Lund writes...

Hi Paul,

I have just found your sexyloops website, and from what I can see, you have the best written casting instructions I have seen. I have been flyfishing to and fro for several years, but have never had any proper instruction and haven't really managed to get the casting to float. (BTW, I write from Norway, so forgive my somewhat limping 'fly-English'). I thought I'd try to follow your lessons with Karen and Steve to see if I could do something about it, and think I might be getting somewhere. However, it is always harder when no-one is around to instruct you and spot your faults.

Anyway, there is one thing in the basic cast that I am uncertain about, and I hope you don't mind me interfering with a question. That is the movement of the elbow, especially in the upcast. My impression from what you write, and from the couple of video clips I have seen on your site, is that the position of your elbow is pretty much fixed on the upward movement of the rod, and that the elbow is moved upwards in the drift after you have stopped the rod. Is this correct? Should I think about my hand moving backwards and upwards in a fairly straight line (I would guess that would make the tip of the rod describe a downcurve in stead of a straight line)?

A colleague of mine, who is a brilliant caster, says I have to use a bigger movement of the arm. His technique seems to have many things in common with yours (thinking down-pull and not push/punch etc), but he seems to have a fairly fixed angle in the elbow, moving his arm upwards and backwards rotating about the shoulder, so that when the upcast is complete his hand is much higher (above the head) than yours (level with the ear). Perhaps this is closer to the position of your hand after you have moved your elbow up during the drift.

Then, when you rotate the rod forwards, what is the fixed point of rotation, and to what extent do you open and extent your elbow during this phase of the cast?

I hope all this wasn't too confusing, and that you can be bothered to answer...

Kind regards
Henning Lund

PS I would love to get casting instruction from you in person, but you schedule doesn't say "Norway". We have some good fishing here, though....

Paul answers...

OK, well I've had to think about this one! I'm going to describe my casting stroke. It's not the only way to cast. It may not even be the best way to cast. It may not suit everyone; it certainly doesn't suit every rod. But what I can positively say is that it suits me! And although I am very flexible when it comes to instruction, this form of casting does suit most people I teach. I think that it is the most efficient style of casting. It is the stroke that feels biomechanically most comfortable. It gives me the most aggressive loop shape. It allows me to cast a long way with relative ease. And, it's relaxed.

The last point really gets me. If you're relaxed then you are going to 'feel' your cast. It will flow. This is flycasting. Smooth.

Oh and it's pretty sexy to boot :-)

Before I launch into a description of my cast I should point out that I am trying to achieve a straight path of the rod tip on both the forward and backcasts. This is so as to form a tight loop. Under no-wind conditions I will angle the backcast such that the tip of the rod travels upwards at an angle of approx 30 degrees to the horizontal, and then perfectly horizontal on the forwards cast. The reason for the upward angle on the backcast is so that it sends the casting loop at an angle upwards so that when it has straightened the loop will be perfectly horizontal (If I was to send the loop back horizontally, by the time it would have straightened gravity would have angled the line below the rod tip. Not good!).

I do a few things that are slightly different to many other instructors. I'll talk you through my stroke.

Firstly I'm into stance. This is a new thing for me. I always used to teach that you could stand any damn way you like. I mean this is fishing after all: you may end up sitting in a boat, crouched behind some brambles or hanging upside down out of a tree. In fact as this is fishing, you are bound to end up doing all of the above at some point.

But I now teach stance. There is a tendency amongst casters to use excessive body movement. Standing with the right foot forward (for right-handers) helps eliminate this. So I put my right foot forward. What I do next is very important; I put my weight on my back foot. This allows me to lean backwards into the stroke and eliminates a tendency to push the forward stroke.

The next thing I do is to slightly alter the way I hold the rod: I hold the rod with my palm bend backwards. This allows me to use forearm rotation within the stroke. Try this: hold your hand palm upwards and stick a rod (or a pencil) in your hand and cock the wrist so that the palm is pushed backwards (this reminds me of Spiderman BTW…). Now rotate the hand so that the thumb is at about 45 degrees. When I backcast I twist the forearm into the stop. I twist upwards, like a corkscrew. In other words the rod rotates (almost) perpendicularly around the elbow joint. This gives me an extremely narrow loop.

So applying this into the backcast, I make the lift by travelling forwards and upwards with the hand, I speed up slightly but only apply the power when it comes to flicking the line backwards. I do this purely using this forearm rotation.

You ask about elbow movement. I am not focused on the movement of the elbow on the backcast, apart from the early stages of the 'lift' when I move it forwards slightly. During the backcast itself I think about an upwards twisting hand movement. One think I don't do is to allow my elbow to track outside my shoulder. I do, however, make certain that the hand is slightly outside the elbow.

What the elbow actually does, is that it moves upwards all the way through the stroke. If you don't lift your elbow into the stop, you end up taking the tip of the rod backwards, or even downwards, instead of at an upward angle.

During the pause I drift. And far. I continue to travel upwards with the elbow. You must travel upwards with the elbow if you are going to travel backwards with the tip of the rod. The tip of the rod must track the flyline. I drift backwards to a position where the hand is behind the elbow. This means that I can lead with the elbow during the forward stroke. On a long cast (with a progressive rod – as opposed to a tip action one), I consciously try to flatten the rod on the drift so that it is almost horizontal.

For the forward stroke I pull the hand downwards. I use a number of analogies. Such as pulling the hand down a slippery pole to a point some 2-3 ft in front of my right foot. Or pulling a bell rope at an angle of approx 30 degrees to the vertical.

Once again I only think of the elbow at the start of the stroke. When I lead with it. After that I think 'hand'. If I think of the elbow at all it is to direct it towards the right knee.

The hand action I normally use is a stabbing action. 'Killing the beast' sort of thing. If I rotate the forearm (powersnap wrist movement) I cast with the tip of the rod. My stroke of choice though is to use minimal wrist movement on the forward cast and to concentrate on a forcing a deep bend in the rod.

On the forward cast I do not extend the elbow. Not at all. It feels somewhat primitive, but this style of casting utilises the tip of the rod in the backcast, and the entire rod on the forward cast.

I was hoping to take a video shot, but unfortunately I have chipped a bit of bone off my ankle (while running about over-enthusiastically). In a few days I'll be up on my feet again and should be able to shed further light on the style of casting I use.

BTW I do hope to be able to get over to Norway within the next couple of years. I keep planning trips over there, but they never end up happening!

Best regards

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