What's that ticking?

What's that ticking?

Tracy&James | Thursday, 27 September 2018

The second Jersey BFCC meeting is due to be held this weekend, with the casting competitions on Saturday. All the usual events will be cast; trout distance #5, trout distance #7, sea-trout distance ST27, single handed T38, salmon overhead S55, double handed T120 and trout accuracy. There was some concern over the availability of the club’s S55g outfit after the rod was broken during the Game Fair at the end of July, however it’s now been received back with a replacement section. Before every competition I have to check over all of the gear, this essentially means replacing the leaders (usually just the tippets), re-tying the fly (egg yarn), cleaning and lubing the lines as well as checking the rods for any issues – guides and joints etc. (the T120 requires a regular top-up of candle wax on one loose connection).

During the check-up prior to heading to Jersey (we’re on the Ferry tomorrow morning, desperately hoping it’s going to be calm despite the windy conditions forecast) I decided that I’d re-make the join in the T120 line between the belly and the tip (the tapered tip is supplied separately from the main line – or it is with the lines the BFCC owns).  I’d previously made up this joint a couple of years ago and I’d done a pretty poor job of it, however, despite it being lumpy and ugly, it was strong so lasted the course of many competitions with many casters.  During this time damage built up in the line – the T120 goes so fast that if the leader hits the fly line it is often cut to the core (if the fly line hits the caster then it can result in some impressively painful welts).  As I was changing the tip, I decided that I’d remove this damage at the same time, knowing that this would shorten the line but not being too concerned as I had lengthened it considerably when I’d added the tip the first time.

I did a much better job of the join this time (even if I say so myself) and to make sure it was up to the task I took the outfit out for a test cast.  It was immediately evident during this test that I was casting 25-30ft further than I had done all year.  I used to be reasonably successful with the T120, recording a number of wins and ‘placings’ at BFCC comps and having a practice PB of a few centimetres short of 80m (over the current record, but achieved in a very high wind, the like of which we never seem to get on competition days).  Then it all went pear-shaped for me when the competition for the British Championship started; I think my best result was a third followed by a fourth, and this led to me losing out to Matt Tonkin over the course of the season (Matt had a similar ‘bogey’ event in the accuracy, but came good at the last meeting of the year).

I’d had my suspicions that the drop off in my performance with this outfit was due to the alterations I’d made a couple of years back, i.e. lengthening the line.  The practice results with the line now back to nearly its original length (I think it’s still a foot or two longer) seems to confirm this.  The reason behind this is, I believe, ticking.  Although subtle, I think any disruption in the fly-leg can ultimately cause a distance cast to crash and burn.  By subtle, I mean that I can’t see anything wrong with the loop whilst casting – I just get to see the disappointing results as another cast dumps short of 200ft.  What I do know is that almost everyone I’ve watched cast this event ticks, and I’ve watched lots (I believe at the ICSF, competitors stand on a raised platform to avoid it).  The notable exceptions, at the BFCC, are those who have a flatter style, more typical of surf-casters.  The ticks I see range from the fly momentarily kissing the grass through to the tip of the fly line and the whole of the leader being dragged for some distance.  Obviously no tick at all is the ideal.

What I find interesting about the T120 and the propensity to tick is that I use much longer shooting heads for the salmon overhead S55 event with a rod that is 2ft shorter – and this doesn’t tick.  As such I’m of the opinion that my ticks with the T120 are caused essentially by ‘over powering’ the back cast, resulting in the line tucking.  This, added to the ‘dangling-end’ effect means that more of the leader is touching down than is good for the cast.  I also think this is why flatter casting strokes can be surprisingly effective – the tuck and dangling ends are no longer heading vertically towards the ground, they’re rotated to the point that ticking may be avoided altogether.

I know that shortening the line is just a sticking plaster to cover my poor technique at this point, however I’ve now got something to build on.  The difference between throwing a tight back-cast, that doesn’t start to sag under gravity, and over-powering the T120 outfit is pretty small, but one that has a big impact on the ultimate distance cast.

Having said all that I’m obviously expecting a seasons best in the T120 competition in Jersey on Saturday.  If not then I will be sulking next week and Tracy will write the FP.

Have a great weekend, James.