LESSON SIX: The Angler's Distance Fly Event
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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 ABOUT DISTANCES: Again this is subjective, but here are some benchmarks:
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.
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.
the single-handed distance fly event (in which some anglers casts over
200 feet consistently!)