Pretty much any time I want to change something with my casting stroke I start off with a shooting head. In my mind there are a number of advantages to doing so; firstly (and perhaps most importantly) it prevents me from wrecking another good line (this can be expensive when you consider the MED) whilst making the inevitable mistakes that come with trying something new. Secondly, it fixes the carry to a pre-determined length so I don’t have to question how much line I’m aerialising, which to me is vital to gauge how things are going. For example, my ‘starter’ #5 weight shooting head is equivalent to a 65 foot carry (head + overhang + distance to line hand), my next one up is equivalent to an 80 foot carry – beyond this I typically (but not always) switch back to a full line. The third advantage is the haul feedback, obviously this is good even if the preceding stoke wasn’t perfect.
I began at the weekend with the ‘starter head’ and a rod that is softer than my normal competition one. Things actually started off pretty well. To be honest the main changes are nothing that I don’t already play about with when practising, for example when I get a bit bored I’ll sometimes have a shoot-out between open-stance me and closed-stance me. (Actually, open stance-me and closed-stance me have very different characters and there’s a fair bit of sledging that goes on between the casts – I’m not sure if this is normal?). Moving the ‘starter head’ around is pretty easy and my tracking and loop speed both appeared ok, so I was reasonably content when I finished the session due to the appearance of a blister. This didn’t really concern me as I’d also changed my grip so I reasoned that this was perhaps to be expected. In hindsight I should have taken this as a warning of either overdoing it, over-gripping or both.
Filled with enthusiasm I went out to practice again the next day, this time with my finger taped up (the one next to the little finger, middle joint). This time I took the 80 foot equivalent carry head with the same, softer, rod that I’d used previously. As before, this went pretty well; the tracking was a little more difficult but the wind was very swirly to the point where it was impossible to determine whether there were any real issues. My line speed was acceptable, maybe better on the backcast than on the forward and my loop shapes were generally good, although I did think my forward delivery needed work on the trajectory.
My problems came after I got home however. At some point I moved my arm and had the feeling of hot skewers being rammed through my elbow. I’ve never suffered from tennis elbow before but have read up on it occasionally as it tends to get mentioned in casting discussions now and again. Obviously Dr. Internet was my first port of call which tends to suggest the prognosis is medial epicondylitis otherwise known as golfer’s/pitcher’s elbow. So ice packs and Voltarol is where I’m at for the next few weeks. The level of pain was a real eye-opener for me (although this has already calmed down considerably), to the point where I couldn’t envisage being able to cast a fly rod at all with it. As such I really need to make sure I’m fully recovered before our Bahamas trip this year where I’ll be expecting to cast every day for over a month. In the meantime it’s back to the fly tying.