Wrist / no wrist

Wrist / no wrist

Paul Arden | Sunday, 25 June 2023

I’m still down in KL having my truck snakehead wrapped. It should be ready later today. I thought I’d talk about something that isn’t well understood in flycasting. And that is the use of the wrist.

It’s unfortunate that flycasting body movement is still rather poorly analysed and taught. It’s not uncommon for instructors to concentrate on the rod or loop and teach only that. Allowing the caster to develop his or her own body movement. Which can be fine of course, and aspects of this approach I agree with, but if you look at the vast majority of fly anglers they exhibit very poor body movement and so it doesn’t come naturally and needs direction. And to do that we use drills.

The story gets more complex from a coaching point of view because there is sometimes confusion as to what good movement should even look like. And if you take the wrist in particular, this innocuous linkage receives a lot of criticism. Some instructors teach “no wrist” as appropriate technique, despite the fact that they probably use it themselves. Others teach “some wrist” or a “two finger gap” between rod butt and forearm. It’s all rather misunderstood.

I believe that there is a proper technique for fly casting and within our technique boxes of Closed Stance Accuracy (CS) and Open Stance Distance (OSD), that is to move the body and to transfer momentum up, from lower in the body, ultimately blocking or braking movements in turn and finally allowing this momentum to shift to the wrist and, therefore, to the rod and ultimately the fly line itself.

So let me tell you why that is good and why it is very different from how most untrained and even some trained casters perform.

When you take rod and line repositioning moves out of the overall stroke package, you are left with the initial part of the Casting Stroke which gets everything moving and the later part of the Casting Stroke which “turns the rod over”. That’s how I break it down.

The longer the cast, the more we get everything moving, the more weight shift we put into the body, and the greater is the body’s momentum. We then stop motion from the ground up, in turn weight shift stops, body rotation stops, the forearm brakes and this momentum is transferred to flip the wrist over. The effort on the part of the caster is not driving the rod, it is instead, stopping various body parts from moving, in sequence, and the wrist is allowed to flip over naturally (flexion/extension of the wrist is essential, meaning grip is a key component). That involves far less effort than you trying to turn the rod over by using the forearm. If your forearm is getting tired when casting, this is why.

And the result of this stopping sequence is that when the rod is turned over it is faster, there is less effort on the part of the caster, and it can often do so through a narrower arc (because we have eliminated the forearm rotation from the rapid part of the casting stroke). Consequently higher line speed results, tighter loops and no tired forearms.

That’s why I think there is “proper technique” and that, within these particular packages (CS/OSD), this is it.

Now there are times when we don’t do this. In fact there are times when, even within these techniques, we don’t do this. For example target accuracy forward cast, when hovering the fly, most of us don’t do this. Backcast yes. 170 backcast we don’t do this either, because then we don’t turn the rod over with the wrist, but instead we use forearm extension – in this particular case we use body momentum to transfer to the opening of the elbow. So the wrist flip sequence is not always present, for various reasons, but as a foundation stroke and for most of our fishing casting, this is the “easy” way to cast – and I believe that anyone who hasn’t learned it yet, would be very well served by doing so.

If a technique change results in dramatically less effort, higher line speed and tighter loops, then I think we can justifiably call this “proper technique”. As a coach we look at the caster’s patterning. We take all the skin and bones away and look at the sequencing of movement. That is one of the things we are analysing when we study you.

I have a bunch of drills and exercises to teach this. Talking of which, I am going to build an organised section in the Sexyloops flycasting video manual devoted purely to Drills and Exercises. There are a few videos on SexyloopsTV YouTube already but I’m going to do them all starting next week. At a rough guess I have around 100 drills and exercises. Teaching for me is mostly about creating drills and exercises for the student. I see a drill as isolating and developing a specific movement component or pattern and an exercise as developing the complete cast with changing parameters.

I have put up a few block (or brake) and flip drills in the past. Once you have learned this you need to learn to control the flip but that comes after you have learned to put it in!! Time your haul to occur with the flip, play around with rod angles and positioning of the flip, drive through the shoulder or at least have the ability to do so, position an imaginary backcast bell (target) in the air directly behind you, lift predominantly using the shoulder and not the elbow, and you pretty much should have a first class backcast.


Ok that’s all from me today. Have a great weekend!

Cheers, Paul

PS bike fit was transformative!!