Common Casting Errors

    1. By far one of the most common faults we as instructors see with novice and intermediate casters is the tendency to stop the back cast too late in the casting stroke. The result is a non or wide open loop with the propensity to direct the rod leg of the loop towards the ground. When you begin to appreciate the necessity for a good back cast to “set you up” so to speak for the best forward cast possible, you begin to realize just how damaging a poor back cast is to your forward cast. For starters you waste much of the forward stroke in taking up slack created resulting in lack of distance on the forward cast. With proper direction and loop shape, you are in a much better position to make the most of your forward stroke and use of your haul in acquiring the distance you require.
    2. Another common casting error is a situation in which you anticipate the forward cast and bring the rod forward prematurely after a back cast has been made. While waiting for the line to fully unroll behind you, you (as I said before) anticipate the forward cast and prematurely reposition the rod tip forward robbing the forward cast of the necessary stroke length needed for the forward cast. This is called “Creep”. Because of the shortened stroke length, the caster then overpowers the cast and creates the “beloved” Tailing Loop. While we are all experts at creating these tailing loops, they rob the caster of accuracy and tie knots in our leaders.
    3. Most casters use far too much effort in making the cast for the distance desired. It's is true that you need to have enough speed or power generated in the cast to keep the line airborne and fully extend without dropping to the ground, however, when you practice I would encourage you to see just how little effort is required to achieve the distance you are casting. SLOW down the tempo of your false casting as well. You will find that you won't tire as easily and suddenly the “SWISH, SWISH” you used to hear when false casting isn't there anymore. Let the rod, not your brute strength make the cast.
    4. This next casting error is a “cancer” to good casting technique which infects the newcomer and experienced fly fisherman alike. All too often we get in a hurry, feel we don't have to follow proper protocol, simply don't pay attention to what we are doing, or simply don't realize what we are doing or its' significance. The virus I am talking about is starting the cast with the rod tip too high . It permeates the cast without many of us realizing it, much like a “cancer”. Why is this such a problem? When you begin the cast with the rod tip in the 10:00 o'clock position, for example, the line immediately travels towards the caster drooping below the rod tip. This incorporates slack which must be removed prior to the beginning of the power stroke. It essentially robs you of potential stroke length that should be used for more important things like casting more efficiently.

      Now go outside with your rod, put out a comfortable length of line with a fairly straight layout in front of you, hold the rod tip within inches of the ground or water. Yes, I wrote “inches” not feet. This is critical. Now remove any slack in the layout and perform a pick up and lay down cast. Repeat this maneuver until it becomes automatic. Practice this maneuver in your dreams. See yourself making the perfect pick up. Then practice it one more time.

    5. When we get comfortable casting longer lengths of line, there is an insidious casting fault that is sometimes difficult to self diagnose. A close observation on the part of the caster or observer often reveals that the fly leg and the rod leg are not parallel . Efficient loop formation requires that the two legs be parallel. This offers the least amount of wind resistance as the loop travels down the line. Distance and accuracy suffers.

      As we increase our stroke length to accommodate longer lengths of line, a couple of sinarios can occur. Often times we twist at the torso causing the rod tip to travel off the intended track traveling in a semicircular path. This twisting can, also, occur because the caster is attempting to watch the loop unroll behind him. A simple remedy assuming no physical impairment is to follow the loop while turning or tilting the head, not twisting at the torso.

      Another cause of the rod tip traveling in this semi circular path causing unparallel loops is your hand grip. There are benefits to a hand grip which utilizes a thumb on top, however, when we lengthen the stroke length, we are limited as to just how far we can move the rod back in a straight line without twisting. Changing to a “V” grip will allow you to travel a longer stroke length without twisting.

      Now pick up your rod, once again, and get your favorite casting buddy and have him/her to observe your casting. Are your back loops parallel? If not, diagnose the problem and take the steps to correct it.

    6. For lack of a better descriptor, I will call this next faux pas a faulty casting technique. Everyone does it at some time or another, but I can't think of a good reason why, only excuses as to why we perform this maneuver. The technique involves the pick up. Those of us who know better sometimes simply get in a hurry to reposition the cast (excuse no. 1) or try another spot (excuse no. 2) and we boldly and much too quickly RIP the entire line off the water possibly spooking every red fish in the shallow pool we have tried so desparately to approach as quietly as possible. It only takes a fraction of a second to gently lift the fly line off the water up to the leader butt/fly line connection and then start our power move resulting in very little water disturbance and a beautifully formed back cast. Ripping the entire line will more than likely cause a lot of water disturbance along with unwanted shock waves in our back cast's rod leg waves robbing us of a nice set up with which to make the forward cast. Accuracy thus suffers. We may have to false cast on more time to get the accuracy we desire which in itself rob us of the time we were trying to save by ripping the line off the water in the first place.

 7.  Another faulty technique is what is termed the “two stage” pick up . A beginner will often times begin raising the rod tip from the water to about the 10 o'clock position and then hesitate for a brief second and then resume his/her pick up. That brief hesitation or pause will allow the fly line to drupe instilling slack into the fly line and robbing the caster of some stroke length needed to perform the back cast. Once the cast is initiated, there should be a gradual but increasing acceleration up to the point where we perform the abrupt stop.

 8.  Sometimes a caster will add an additional “ twitch” to the end of the cast just before the stop. This added burst of extra power (I assume in an effort to get just another foot or so of distance) only results in the rod tip dipping in it's forward motion and more than likely causing a tailing loop. Remember, the speed/power applied to the cast is gradually increased up to the point where we come to an abrupt stop.

9.  I am often asked “Is proper to watch the back cast?” To my beginning students, the answer is a resounding “YES”. To my intermediate casters, the answer is again a resounding “YES”. To my advanced students, the answer is, once again, “YES”. There are few exceptions where one wouldn't look or be comfortable not looking. There is much discussion right now among many Masters and Master candidates as to what is required on the Master's examination. I believe the bottom line is this. For most casters, it is the opinion of this author, that it takes years to develop your skill level to the point that you can routinely cast with the back cast loops appearing to be of similar size to the forward cast without having to look at those back cast. For distances under 45ft, this should be a skill Masters have developed. Over that distance, few can control those loops rearward of their earlobes. We a caster has progressed to the point that he/she is attempting mends or going for accuracy, I would not look backward but concentrate on the task at hand.

10.  The net net is this. When practicing, unless you have someone critiquing your loops, don't be afraid to look. How else can you know if your timing is correct and what your loops look like? There are cues which help you with this dilema. A “cracking” sound indicates you are coming forward too soon. A “tug” on the line indicates you are too late with the forward cast, but only slightly so. Feeling a lot of slack on the forward cast would be an indication that you waited much too long. These help with timing but do little to help with the size/shape of the back cast loop. There is a faster and better way to develop good timing. LOOK at the unrolling line to see how the loop is progressing.

11.As you are learning the sound, feel and look of the cast, use your ears to hear the cast, your hand to examine what feelings are transmitted through the handle to your rod hand or line to your hauling hand, and eyes to see what is happening to those loops. Watch those loops tighten up. There are negative issues which arise when one turns their head and/or body to view the back loops. More on that in an upcoming issue.

12.  One of the frequent faus pas I have experienced with newcomers is the desire to practice too much at any given time while casting too fast without thinking about what they wanted to accomplish. Make your casting sessions short (10 to 15 min.) with slow, deliberate cast giving yourself time to think about your goal between the cast. If you make nice loops which approach the intended target, make the next cast identical to the one preceding it. In other words, practice making perfect cast. Don't just cast badly over and over.   By practicing y ou are trying to develop proper muscle memory which can only be done performing the mechanics necessary to make proper loops slowly and one after another. Now, go out and practice for 15 min. performing only 30 cast as best as you can thinking each cast through.

13.  Beginning the cast with SLACK in the layout.  This problem is almost universal in novice casters, however, it plaques the intermediate caster as well.  The novice may simply forget to remove the slack honestly since he/she is trying to work on 5 other faults at the same time.  Sometimes we think we are in a hurry to make the cast and just don't want to take the time to roll out a straignt layout or strip in the slack.   Or you're the intermediate caster who feels like he/she can make up the difference with a new technique, the double haul they just learned.  What they don't realize is they are simply covering up their faults and creating bad habits which some insturctor will have to recognize and correct for them at some later date when they get frustrated that they just aren't casting as well as they should be for all the practice they are putting in.  They forget to practice the basics and get the SLACK OUT!

Keith Richard, MCI

More to come on Common Casting Errors. For now, pick up your rod, go outside and check out your cast and see if you suffer from the above afflictions.