Learning to cast left-handed and fly fishing in Russia

Learning to cast left-handed and fly fishing in Russia

Paul Arden | Saturday, 23 April 2016

This week's topic will be about learning to cast with the non-dominant hand. However before I launch into it, I've been asked if anyone is interested in fishing for the amazing Trout in the Kola Peninsular on the 2nd-9th August. The cost is £2100 for the week, not including flights to Murmansk. Depending on where you are in the world the flight should cost approx 6-800 GBP. Visas will be organised for you. This is somewhere you must fish before you die, and better sooner rather than later - just in case. I visited a couple of years ago and experienced the finest trout fishing I've had in my life. The average weight of the brown trout in this particular river system is 5.5lbs, they are native and look like leopards. One particular night I had my best night's trout fishing ever, and probably will ever have. After a two-hour spectacular Northern Lights show, that stopped me fishing, I had ten trout to the net, 8 on surface wake-flies. My last two fish took subsurface and the final fish of that incredible night has been my largest brown trout to date, 11.5lbs. So if you're keen to fish Russia please let me know as soon as possible, there are a very limited number of places and this could be a Sexyloops gathering like no other! Apart from the fishing, it's just amazing to be inside the Arctic Circle. And the one thing I remember most, was that when the wind dropped completely, you would hear absolutely nothing at all. I believe that this is the best trout fishing in the world.

You can email me on paul@sexyloops.com

So on to this week's topic, which is learning to cast with the non-dominant hand. I was asked on Facebook, because a friend has damaged his casting hand, and so needs to learn. But you shouldn't wait until you damage your's, because it's a handy skill to have1 I invested quite a lot of my time trying to learn this skill. It's been particularly useful in left-handed distance competitions between instructors. I can throw further back-handed with the right, than I can throw off the left, but I can still consistently throw over 100ft with the left hand using 5-weight tackle. Which comes in handy for beating Lasse and Bernd, I've since found!

It's something as an instructor I particularly think you should learn. I learned a great deal about how I cast with the right hand, when I started teaching my left. For example the "palm-forward grip" that I advocate for most fly tackle only came about because I was analysing my right hand in order to teach my left. Furthermore, when teaching a left-handed caster it's very useful to be able to cast left-handed with them.

Back in my rugby days I played No.8 and sometimes blind-side flanker. I loved playing open-side, but I was never fast enough over the first 5 yards to be good in that position. This often meant that I would have to make a late tackle, which was my speciality. Hit the fly half early on in the game, just to let him know you're around - no matter that the ball is half way down the pitch or out by the winger. Now what the hell was I talking about? Oh yes, I had excellent ball handing skills, throwing both right and left passes. And this is because I used to train every day with the scrum half - a mate of mine called "Boob". Boob was a very talented scrum half, now he learned to pass off his left hand by using his left hand for everything he would normally use his right hand for... drinking beer, wiping his bum and masturbation. What I did was slightly different... (phew)

I spent a great deal of time learning to throw stones using the left hand. There is a great similarity to stone throwing as there is to flycasting. So learning to throw stones is maybe the best piece of advice I can give you. But there is more...

Now my friend on Facebook doesn't have the use of his right hand to actively teach his left hand while holding a rod, but you might. If you do, then use Lee's Triangle Method (the free video on the App, and can be found on this exciting page ), but instead of making back and forward casts, make backcast with the right, backcast with the left, again and again and again, and then later, make forward casts with the right, forward casts with the left, again and again and again. Only once you've learned this skill should you try to completely aerialise the line.

Now you can use Joan Wulff's two rods, casts both simultaneously, or as in our friend's case, just use a real rod in your left hand - the Hot Torpedo is perfect for this - and an imaginary one in your right hand. In fact you don't even need a rod and can practise in the kitchen, while waiting for the kettle to boil, or indeed anywhere at all: in your office, in Mark Surtees' Bus, standing in the pub (put your drink down first). I had my palm-forward epiphany while sitting in front of the TV - and immediately had to go out and try it.

Of course if your right handed casting is crap then don't expect your left-handed casting to be any better.

So that's your basics. Then I would practice accuracy with correct body alignment, roll casts, and start to work on your presentation casts. Presentation casts will feel very foreign for a while. But at least your over-powered curve cast will be better off the left than a backhand over-powered curve which is a very difficult cast indeed.

The next trick is to learn the double haul. Now we go back to Lee's Triangle method and do exactly the same thing, forward casts only, or backcasts only, learning to double haul using the right hand. Many people find this very difficult to learn but the same process applies to learning it with the left hand and when you stop consciously thinking about the rod hand and start thinking about the haul, then you'll pretty much have it.

I think enjoying the learning process and the feeling of achievement learning this skill gives, really makes it a worthwhile exercise. It will be useful. I would have possibly won two world championships (certainly one) if I'd really mastered the 170 off the left hand, it opens up some new and exciting fishing opportunities. The hardest thing I find is not the casting, it's the line management and stripping with the right hand.

One final thought, for the more advanced casters. Something I realised when learning the 170/Stopless cast with the left hand was that I was struggling to keep body alignment while glimpsing the loop forming on the backcast. And I realised this is because I am right-eye dominant and my nose was getting in the way. I did some research after this and it's actually quite possible to teach yourself to be left-eye dominant. I considered wearing an eye-patch on the right eye to assist this. With my beard I think that would be a great look.

All the best to your left-handed casting. Any questions just drop me an email or post on the Board.


PS here are some photos from Russia.