In any sport, there are those athletes who can seemingly utilize the “last five percent” of their abilities. I’m not really talking about an exact number here, but rather the concept of what the last five percent represents. Practically speaking, it’s the difference between almost being able to cast a full fly line and getting into the backing every time. While you may never compete in a casting competition, that last five-percent can make for some tangible improvements on the water.
Having a rock-solid set of foundation casting skills is a prerequisite to exploring what lies beyond. Sloppy foundations will haunt you forever in fly casting. From that departure point, there are many avenues into the five-percent realm. If you can refine your control of acceleration and clean-up your tracking you’ll be ahead of the game. Precise hauling is another place to acquire slices of the five percent. Get the haul timing right and you may be surprised at how nicely your loops come together (and how far they travel). Shooting line with maximum efficiency (in both casting directions) can allow for extra distance with a minimum of false casting. Having the ability to Drift, Layback, and Thrust (among other skills) will absolutely make a difference in opening up that five-percent club. Learn to use your body as a tool for force input when necessary, and make those hundreds of dollars you paid for that rod give you back every dime. Use the wind if you can or work around it with intelligence if you cannot. And always keep the mind-set straight. No matter where you fish, your training is what will determine your success (and some luck--right, Paul?). Train improperly or not at all and you will have problems in any new environment. Train smart, and you will be ready for whatever comes your way.
In the book, Greased Line Fishing for Salmon, the late “Jock Scott” describes his friend, A.H.E. Wood, as using a wide array of the last five-percent skills to achieve startling casting prowess. According to Scott:
[With] the loose line in his [Wood’s] left hand, ready to shoot, he would fully extend his right arm, point the rod at the fly, and then pull it back with great power, swinging his body back in unison until his right arm was over his shoulder. While the line was extending behind he dropped his left hand, thus taking up any slack line which had bellied between the rod rings, and then made a tremendous forward drive. The right arm was swept forward in an absolutely horizontal plane, the wrist turning slightly upwards in order to maintain the vertical position of the rod as long as possible, to add to the power of this forward drive—and also its length—he brought his body forward, allowing it to swing with his arm, and, at the proper moment, released the slack line with his left hand. The result was one of the most astonishing exhibitions of shooting a line that I have ever seen…I feel sure, that few, if any, fisherman have equalled Mr. Wood in this part of the fly-caster’s technique.
Talk about using the last five percent! Scott also said that he had never seen Wood’s “equal in watermanship.” The last five percent. It may not seem like all that much, but it can mean all the difference.