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Why we need to practiceGround rules and targetsThe Dry-Fly EventThe Trout-Fly EventThe Bass Bug EventThe Angler's Distance Fly EventThe Single-Handed Distance Fly Casting EventWhy we need to practiceGround rules and targetsThe Dry-Fly eventThe Trout-Fly EventThe Bass Bug EventThe Angler's Distance Fly Event




LESSON SIX: The Angler's Distance Fly Event

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Why Distance? Okay, we've practiced casting to targets, and hopefully we've had a chance to make some accurate casts to fish, too. Good! Now we're going to advance to the distance events. While accurate casting is the more important factor in determining fishing success, we've all experienced times when we needed to cast an extra ten feet or more to reach a feeding trout, a tailing bonefish or a bass tearing up a school of fleeing minnows. Putting extra muscle into the cast isn't going to do it, if the timing is missing.

A lot of anglers can cast 45 to 50 feet without employing the single- or double-haul casting technique. If you want to make longer casts or if you want to make 50- to 70-foot casts with less effort and more grace you must learn to double haul.

In this lesson, we're going to analyze and practice the Angler's Distance Fly Event. I advise that you take an advanced casting course-one that heavily concentrates on the double haul and is taught by an experienced double-haul instructor-or perhaps you have a friend that has mastered the double haul and is willing to teach you. If these options aren't available you may want to study books and videos by Joan Wulff, Mel Krieger, Lefty Kreh and others. As I've explained previously, this is not a how-to-cast series of lessons; it is a symposium designed to get you to practice more and to make practicing fun to a point where you look forward to it.

THE TACKLE: If you're fishing a brushy stream or a small river you're not going to need very long casts and a No. 3 to 5 fly rod is fine. But if you are going to fish a big steelhead or salmon river, or bonefish flats, or chuck a fly at a tarpon a long distance away, you must use a heavier rod. This event is designed for heavier tackle. Also the accompanying suggested equipment conforms closely to the American Casting Association (ACA) tournament rules, and I know that some of you will enjoy this event and eventually may want to compete in tournaments. Bear in mind, you can use just about any balanced fly equipment except delicate, light fly rods for this event, but again I suggest you try to come close to the following gear.

The Rod: A 9-ft., graphite calibrated for a No. 10 shooting head is ideal.
The Reel: A single-action fly reel that has sufficient capacity.
The Line: This gets a little tricky. You want a shooting head (No. 10) between 28 and 31 feet in length that weighs no more than 310 grains.
The Running Line: Use a monofilament that's .015" in diameter or thicker.
The Leader: Nine to 12-ft. leader tied from hard or stiff mono that tapers from .026" to about .014."
The Fly: Attach a brightly colored No. 10 or 12 fly (but be sure to remove the barb and point for practice) or simply tie on a small piece of yarn.

WHERE TO PRACTICE: This event is best practiced on land. It's easier to pick up the line off the grass than water and you can easily measure your casts. Today, most distance casting tournaments are held on athletic fields. You'll need ample open space, to accompany your back cast and long forward cast.

TARGETS: None. This is a distance event. You need to make a distance-measuring device of sorts, unless you happen to own a 150-ft tape. Here's an easy way to do it: Take an old fishing reel with at least 150 feet of 15- or 20-pound monofilament. Carefully measure out 75 feet, tie in a piece of colored yarn with a loop knot at that spot. Then measure out another 25 feet (the 100-foot mark) and put a different color yarn. Do this again at 125 feet. If you feel very confident and are a very skilled caster, tie one on at 150 feet! Good for you!
Before you begin to practice your distance for measurement, stretch out the measuring line and place visible markers at each increment (75, 100, 125 or more feet). A marker can be just about anything that's visible: colored cloth, sticks into the ground, or even your hula-hoop targets that you've used for accuracy.

You need one more thing: A simple scorecard. Record your longest casts every time you practice so that you can gauge your day-to-day improvement. Before casting distance, limber up a bit with a few stretching exercises and a few short and easy casts.

HOW TO CAST THE ANGLER'S DISTANCE FLY EVENT: Nothing complicated here. Step right up ladies and gentlemen and let 'er rip!!!
Okay, okay. So you got the line tangled around your neck, and you tried to put too much oomph into your cast. Let's back off a bit. Let's take it e-a-s-y.

First, you need to know the double haul. You must understand the principle of the double haul in order to attain distance. And you must practice it. As mentioned above, take a lesson if available or study a casting video or a casting book. You can practice the double-haul casting motion even without a rod or reel and expert casters often recommend it. Kids practice "air guitar," right? So why not "air casting?" (Hint: Don't practice "air casting" in a supermarket, or during intermission at a concert, or while listening to a less-than-inspiring sermon. Not everyone understands the double-haul motion or what it's for. If you insist on practicing the motion in public, take along the butt section of an old fly rod. People will then know that you're a fisherman and not pay any further attention to you.)

Back to casting. You will note that the shooting head must be beyond the rod tip (known as "overhang") during your false casts, and this takes a little experimentation. If you have about a foot of line beyond your extreme pull on the double haul, that's a good starting point. You may have to let out a little line or take some in. It takes some adjustment, and competent casters constantly adjust the amount of overhang.

You will find that the narrow loop, timing, trajectory and equipment determine the distances, but wind conditions are also very important. Even an almost imperceptible breeze can alter your distance positively or negatively.

Unless you are a very experienced caster, take your time and don't try to throw the cast into the next zip code. Work on timing, on a comfortable casting stroke and avoid hitting yourself on the cast. Work on preventing tailing leaders.

I don't know why it is, my friends, but it seems that an angler may spend hours developing a golf swing or putting, or working on an explosive serve on the tennis court, or shooting clay targets, but, for some incomprehensible reason, many feel that casting shouldn't require much practice and should almost be a birthright! Not so. Casting requires as much practice as learning to hit a baseball, playing the piano or any number of thousands of activities. The more you practice intelligently, the better you become. Oh, you'll have your good days, and the bad ones, too, but practice develops consistently.

So you practice and practice, and maybe you've become a little discouraged at times, but listen to what I've preached ad nauseum and practice some more. Keep it up. One day, soon, you're going to get off that cast that just sails and sails, and goes so far that it will give you such a high, that you will always remember that cast. That is, until you make an even better, longer cast. Keep track of your scores and you'll notice the improvement. Your improvement will fuel the desire.

Important: After you warm up, limit your distance casting to about five minutes, as it is very tiring on certain muscles and you will slip into bad casting habits that are hard to correct. Suggested schedule: Five minutes of continuous distance casting, relax for ten, then cast for another five minutes, then go home and drink a glass of orange juice and tie flies or whatever. After doing this for several sessions you can increase the casting time by a couple of minutes.

What is great about this casting game is that you can practice it just about anywhere and at any age unless you are physically challenged in later life. There are guys in their high 70s and lower 80s who can cast further than some of the experts half their age. Why is that? Because they understand the principles of the casting and timing and continue to practice.

WHAT ABOUT DISTANCES: Again this is subjective, but here are some benchmarks:

60-70 feet or less: Good going. It's a start.
70 to 90 feet: Consider yourself a fairly good caster (you are throwing a heavy shooting head which, for some people, is harder to cast than a lighter outfit with a standard fly line).
90 to 110 feet: You've learned the double haul well and with more practice can develop into a very good distance caster.
110 to 125 feet: Superb. With a few tips you could move up into the next bracket.
125 or 140 feet: See what I mean, about getting a high when you uncork a long cast! Great isn't it? You bet!
140 or more feet: Okay, okay you're a tournament caster. If you aren't a tournament caster, you're one heckuva good caster and definitely ACA National Casting Championship material!

WHAT DISTANCES DO THE "BIG BOYS" CAST IN THIS EVENT? Steve Rajeff (in my opinion, the world's best all-round caster ever), cast 190 feet in an ACA National tournament. In the 2002 ACA National, Rene Gillibert cast 190 feet to tie Rajeff's record. Rene is not a big fellow and relies on perfect timing. These casts defy the law of physics! The line is basically a 10 weight shooting head but cannot be less than 28 feet or more than 31 feet. To put things in perspective, Steve's and Rene's casts were almost 2/3rds the length of a football field! And again these casts were made with basically a steelhead outfit.

Tom Gong, cast 164 feet for a National record in the Senior's Division (over 60 years old) while Alice Gillibert threw a fly 137 feet to set the Ladies' record.

What's amazing about these scores is that the average fisherman has no idea of how far he is casting. Unless they actually measure the distance with a tape, most anglers greatly overestimate their casting distances. Secondly, the distances are determined where the fly lands and not how much line goes through the guides. Sometimes a caster can get 150 feet of line (head and shooting line) beyond the rod tip, but if the end of fly line and the long leader do not straighten out and fall back, say, 20 feet or more, well, then that's a 130-ft. (or less) cast.

HOW DOES THIS EVENT RELATE TO FISHING: Easy: Any time a longer than normal cast is necessary. In addition to the above-mentioned steelhead, salmon, bonefish and tarpon fishing, this event teaches us how to apply line speed, develop the double haul and timing so necessary to deliver bulkier fly patterns, bass bugs and other air-resistant lures to farther destinations. Furthermore, it's fun. When that line goes and goes and goes, and you've just made the longest cast of your life, you are awe struck. That is, until the next week or the following month…when you make an even longer cast.

Next Lesson: the single-handed distance fly event (in which some anglers casts over 200 feet consistently!)

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