Learning to Double Haul
Learning to double haul
Before learning to double haul it is very important that you have a good grasp of the basic overhead casting technique and can consistently cast efficient, well-formed loops as detailed in the over-head casting section. Effective double hauling has a huge effect on loop control and given that loop formation and control is the essence of all good Fly-Casting it is an essential technique to learn.
A double haul requires two separate hauls (pulls), one on the back cast and one on the forward cast. It is important to understand that the acceleration or pull on the line will similarly correspond with the acceleration of the casting hand in the final part of the cast. As a result the haul can also influence the rod tip path and therefore cannot be sudden or erratic. The main function of the haul is to generate speed in the line allowing much more control and versatility. There have also been numerous discussions on whether or not the haul aids rod loading. I believe that the haul has two effects; increased loading on the rod and to increase line speed. However, I also believe that this is variable and we can influence one, more than the other depending on when and how we apply the haul. It is possible directly influence the size and shape of the casting loop with our haul.
The biggest obstacle for someone learning to double haul is building up the coordination and familiarity of the movements. I often explain to students that although I understand these movements and can perform them automatically, if I swap my casting hand I am almost back to square one as I have not sufficiently practiced these now unfamiliar movements using my left hand.
Double haul exercises for learning
There are several helpful methods I use for teaching the double haul which are a combination of visual, verbal and practical exercises.
Double Haul Exercise 1 - Start by performing side casts on short cut grass with around 3 rod lengths of line. I always advise to use only the casting hand to perform an individual cast at a time on either side, allowing the line to extend onto the grass. By doing so we can observe the formation of the loop and whether or not it extends correctly. If the loop on either side is open or in any way misshaped, then this must be corrected using the appropriate acceleration and power application before proceeding. This exercise helps us to refine our power application and stop as each casting movement has the added benefit of being clearly visible. When these movements can be done effectively we can then introduce the use of our hauling hand.
Double Haul Exercise 2 - Start by pinching the line between your thumb and forefinger leaving enough line to make the haul, and with both hands together. As we make one individual side cast we can pull smoothly and progressively on the line in the last half of the movement. The most speed in the hauling movement should correspond with the power application and stop. As the loop extends the hauling hand is fed back up sympathetically towards the casting hand in a smooth manner. Care should be taken at this point not to do this quickly as tension and efficiency could be lost, minimising slack is vitally important.
We can let the line straighten and touch down on the grass as it allows us to make sure our hands are now in the correct position and both together. It also allows us to make sure there is no excessive slack. Also if the loop has now opened up you are probably making the haul throughout the stroke, save the speed for the very end. We can repeat this process on each side and observe the loop formation and hand positions as we do so. If there is a problem in forming neat loops revert back to exercise 1 using only the casting hand making sure there are no obvious faults that need to be corrected. This process can be continued, building confidence and familiarity in the movements with a gradual increase in pace until we can complete a sequence of casts using the haul without the line touching the ground. We can then raise the angle of the rod as confidence builds in the hauling movements to around 45-dregrees as we aerialist the line back and forth.
Double Haul Exercise 3 – As the rod is now almost at the casting position and we are able to perform the double hauling movements we can introduce another verbal aid. During the casting movements our hauling hand will be traveling in a down and up movement. It is helpful to mime the words down and up in the latter part of the back and front movement to help timing and co-ordination of the hand movements. It may take some practice but time invested in this movement will be time well spent, you only have to learn it once.
Learning to double haul effectively also requires the use of controlled drift after the stop. This can be done on both the front and back casts, but initially on the back is sufficient. Drift is a controlled under powered movement just after the stop in the same direction as the unrolling line. It has various advantages including acting as shock absorber on the rod tip, minimising line sag, increasing available stroke length etc. It can be used in various forms to optimise any of the above.
When we have gained suitable confidence in double hauling we can replace the words down and up with down up drift.
Double Haul Exercise 4 - Another method for learning to double haul and coordinating the movements is pantomiming the movements with the use of some large elastic bands, which can be joined together and attached or looped to the bottom guide on an old rod butt. These can then be cut at the appropriate length where the two hands are positioned together. While miming the casting movements a haul can be made using the band. The added benefit with this movement is that the band will always remind you to return your hands together after each haul. It can also be done at home and is a valuable teaching aid to learn the appropriate movements.
Double hauling for extra distance
For me double hauling is mainly about line control but obviously it is a valuable tool for adding extra distance. I am by no means the finished product and I would not call myself a distance caster with a single handed rod. However, I have spent time on several occasions and received instruction from people like Tim and Steve Rajeff and Jay Clark in the USA. I particularly admire Steve Rajeff’s compact casting style as he watches for the perfect back loop, each casting stroke gradually increasing in speed until that moment of perfection. I can still remember almost losing my rod rings when I asked Steve’s opinion on a particular 7wt line profile sample I had. The backing knot disappeared up through the rod at such a speed as the line disappeared across the ponds at the Golden Gate club. Steve handed me back the rod as he said “I think you have a pretty good line there”. Steve then advised me to position my hand and arm in the delivery position with my elbow just slightly placed to the side and ahead of my hand. He explained that in order to be efficient I had to find the most natural and comfortable position for my casting arm to deliver maximum power. He then asked me to haul using around 60ft to 70ft of line and observed my movements. He immediately pointed out that my back haul was shorter than my front. I had not realised this previously but could immediately see what he meant. He advised that by using a very crisp stop and firm wrist on the back cast helped to minimise wrist/rod rotation, which prevents opening up the rear loop. He also explained the importance of the back cast when making a really long front cast and that many people do not practice their back cast enough. A very good forward cast is always the result of a good back cast and it is often neglected in practice. I then observed Steve’s casting movements as he explained that he raised the rod upwards on the front cast as well as the back cast after the stop to prevent line sag and to maintain a tight fast loop. Each back and forth cast he did was gradually getting slightly faster and he was using slight controlled upper body rotation. He also intentionally dropped the back loop slightly before drifting back as his hauling hand came up higher for maximum effect. On the final delivery he extended the casting hand and used a very long but late haul combined with the forward movement of his upper body. He stressed the importance of stopping the rod as firmly as possible to create maximum energy transfer and releasing the line immediately. The advice I received has been invaluable and it has made me more aware and observant when i am instructing. I would advise anyone to invest the time and learn the double haul if it is a skill they do not yet have.
I along with many others would be more than happy to cast properly and neatly to a distance of 80 or 90 feet which is more than adequate for any fishing situation.
Andrew Toft is based in Kilsyth near Glasgow and offers single handed fly casting lessons to advanced level. If you are interested in learning to double haul or would like to book a fly fishing lesson please contact Andrew here.