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Intended Tip Path and the Five Essentials

It was Wild Bill Gammel who first came up with the Five Essentials of flycasting making a logical and effective approach to problem solving the cast. The curious thing about the Five Essentials is that even now they're often not fully understood by instructors. The Five Essentials are a construct. It goes like this: The Straight Line Path of the rod tip is an action in itself - Tracking - and a result of the other four, which are proper application of force, proper size Casting Arc, proper timing and the elimination of slack line. The way I see it, and I know Bill sees it the same, is that the Five Essentials are a filter that you can apply over any straight line cast.

However there is a problem - apart from not understanding that the five essentials is a construct - and is that there is the belief amongst many that the SLP is in fact the ideal tip path, which it most certainly isn't, because if your tip path really was perfectly straight then the line would pile into the rod tip. In fact it doesn't even have to be perfectly straight for a collision to occur. The tip path on a well-executed straight line cast is slightly domed and often at the beginning - we know this from high speed video analysis. What is true of course is that as the tip path becomes more convex the loop widens.

There are a couple of interesting things related to this. The first is that Lefty teaches casting a tight loop by asking the student to try throwing the line into the rod tip - a trick which can work wonders. And the other is that the old mantra that the line goes where the tip of the rod goes is only partly right; some of the line goes where the rod tip goes, but not all of it. For example there are many instances when the tip path during the casting stroke will form a transverse wave in the line - for example as in a curve cast and/or tailing loop and some of the line, or maybe even most of it, goes somewhere completely different!

While it's useful to teach the SLP as a theoretical objective that you don't quite want to achieve, like marriage, it's probably more useful to think in terms of the Intended Tip Path. This shift in analysis allows the construct to apply to all casts, not only straight-line tight-looped ones. For example dome the tip path for a more open loop, or even a collapsed presentation cast. Curve the tip path in the horizontal plane either during the Casting Stroke or else through forward and back targets not being aligned to throw curves. And so on. In fact every "€ścast" fits Intended Tip Path. Your Intended Tip Path may be a close approximation of a SLP for a tight loop, which is what this article is about.

Another very interesting thing about this model, is that while we teach matching the Casting Arc to the bend of the rod for the approximation of a SLP, many - if not all - distance casters use a far wider Casting Arc than is physically possible for the rod to even remotely come close to an SLP. How does this work? Mostly it comes down to line carry. Even although the tip can pull down three or even four metres of line away from the casting direction the remaining line is travelling straight and given sufficient line carry and speed the loop will pull tight. The wider Casting Arc works in our favour here because it allows us to apply more total force to the line.

Now all of that's very well in theory but theory is not the same as practise. There are a number of methods for teaching someone to throw a tight loop. One is Joan's circles, eights and straights - which should be pretty much self-explanatory. Mel had a technique where he used to teach making a rod bounce by flicking the rod without the line strung up and then applying this feel to the cast (I think he was teaching pull-back, only we didn't know it as that then). A really good drill, especially for experienced anglers who're coming to their first lesson, no doubt after twenty years of fishing, is to cast with a short length of line outside the rod tip - no more than 7 or 8 metres - and ask them to cast as narrow loops as possible with absolute minimum power, perhaps trying not to get the loop to unroll - easy with a wide loop, harder with a tight one.

But perhaps the most effective method, especially for backcast problems is to use the side cast, standing such that you are casting across the front of your body, placing the line on the ground between Casting Strokes - just as we teach the Double Haul. Set the wind from behind and ensure the caster is casting using his forearm and not just flopping his wrist. One of my UK friends, FFF MCI, Lee Cummings places two rods on the ground to set up a triangle which is in effect a visual representation of the Casting Arc and after the student has mastered the idea of stopping the rod in the right place, ask the student to face the forward target and slowly pick the triangle up and tilt as necessary.

Incidentally I've really been switched onto starting out with this method after Lee told me that he was generally teaching the Double Haul in the first lesson and having experimented with it I can understand why; if you start someone out side-casting using his triangle, then it becomes simple to return to this method for teaching the Double Haul, because they've already mastered the rod portion of it. I particularly like Lee's approach of numbering the arm actions: 1 - haul on the backcast. 2 - reposition the line hand. 3 - haul on the forward cast. 4 - reposition the line hand. Teach 1 first, when that works then 1 and 2 and so on.

To teach the variable Casting Arc, there is no better method than Bill's "one foot at a time drill". Start of with a short length of line, false cast using increasing speed, as speed is increased widen the casting arc to keep tight loops. Then decrease speed, narrow the casting arc, place down the line, lengthen it and start again.

A method of teaching a tight loop roll cast that I recently came across while travelling Australia was from Brian Henderson, MCI. With seven or eight metres outside the tip and on the water, he asks the students to try flicking as tight a loop down the line towards the line end, just concentrating on throwing as narrow a loop as possible to a target. Then as this ability is reached, add some body, beginning the Casting Stroke with a small amount of Drag and finishing with this same small flick.

For straight tracking there are several drills - casting in front of mirrors, rod butts scraped along walls, dropped backcasts along a straight marked line, even pointing laser lights along a ceiling! - but another trick I find that works well is to ask the student to pick up from a slightly extended forward position and to simply start the stroke by pulling the rod directly away from the length of the flyline; this exaggerated straight lift seems to assist in straightening the backcast. For a student learning distance casting the answer is to pick targets both behind and in front, and to look at the targets before casting straight at them. For this to work the student has to get out of the habit of watching the loop fully unroll. It can help at first to allow the line to land between Casting Strokes to give the student time to locate the target.

Paul Arden
June 2011, first appearing in the Loop


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