Fulcrum Fly Casting
Fulcrum Fly Casting
Spey Casting is a product of technique and understanding. It is not a product of strength or power. Also, people will often refer to a particular “style” of casting. There is a big difference between a “different style” and bad casting mechanics. Throughout the time I have observed and taught individuals and I can say that mostly all the faults I see are symptoms related to a common theme. I intend to share with you my observations as an instructor. I will attempt to cover the most common frustrations and how to recognise them. I say most common as it would be foolish of me or anyone to say they can identify and include every fault and its solution as that is just not possible.
However, as mentioned before I can share with you my observations throughout my experience as a Fly Fishing Instructor.I have taught and mentoring many individuals and take confidence in the fact that I have seen more than enough times the same symptoms caused by the same common problems.
When we are fishing we have to make alterations all the time to accommodate any changing circumstances.
These include anything from varying winds, bank side obstructions etc. but most importantly the equipment we use will often be the main factor which dictates how we will cast to form an efficient loop. Efficient loops are the essence of Fly-Casting and I always strive to cast as neatly and efficiently as possible. However when we are using sunken lines and large flies, for example then alterations in our casting movements - acceleration, power application and stop will be required. This is necessary to cast an open, more practical loop with the desired line speed, however the principles of using the most efficient leverage remain the same. I am often hesitant and mindful when talking to a beginner or student who may be preparing for a certified instructor exam, as Fly-Casting is such a subtle subject and the things we often try and avoid may be completely inappropriate for one instance yet completely necessary for another. With so many variables in such a subtle subject, it is impossible to cover every aspect and possibility therefore most of the content I write about is the ability to create tight loops with minimal effort.
I use a particular Style of Fly-Casting called Fulcrum Fly-Casting. It is mainly an economy of effort style of Fly-Casting for practical fishing.
I first had fly-Casting tuition with Peter Anderson at the age of twelve and since then I have put his teaching into practice to complete many Fly-Casting exams and compete successfully in tournaments worldwide. I now spend my time mentoring and provide fly casting tuition near Glasgow in central Scotland to those wishing to improve their skills or become a fly casting instructor in central Scotland.
Fulcrum Fly Casting Style
There are many practical elements that make up Fulcrum Fly-Casting, however the key point and overriding principle is economy of effort by using efficient leverage and the rods own loading and unloading properties to our fullest advantage. One of the things we must understand is that Fly Casting efficiently is very reliant on rod tip speed. A term used by Robert Gillespie is “rod tip turnover speed”. Most of the energy created during fly casting is due to efficient leverage this is best achieved by guiding and steering the rod with the upper hand with the majority of power and speed coming from the bottom hand. We can also create effective angular change of the rod without the need for exaggerated movements.
If the bottom hand is preceding the movement of the top hand, even in minimal movements, we are achieving the foundation of the most effective rod loading and angular change required for tight loops and maximum efficiency during the casting movements.
A two handed rod works by “Fulcrum & Leverage", the upper hand being the point round which the rod will be levered. We are able to change the angle and reposition the fulcrum to assist in necessary directional stroke length and available rod arc during the casting movements, resulting in a more efficient bend in the rod over a short distance when appropriate. The lower hand provides more efficient leverage when rotated and moved around the upper hand as it is further from the tip. If we were to always use the top hand as our primary source of power during any accelerated movements, the lower hand would then become our pivotal point, resulting in less effective rod loading. If the top hand is travelling faster than the bottom hand while trying to cast tight loops, then you are not bending the rod effectively and will be more than likely over rotating the rod unnecessarily. The bottom hand applies the power and majority of the speed but keeps top hand resistance at almost all times, except for the initial part of an overhead cast.
Counter flex and rod rotation
The ability to judge the point of maximum rod tip deflection is vital when casting efficiently.
Excessive rod tip counter flex will have an effect on the lower leg of the casting loop which can rob it of speed and energy. Counter flex from the rod tip can pull the lower leg of the loop downwards, however if done correctly this should be minimal and the rod will pull the lower leg of the loop back upwards as it recovers. While using shooting heads this is not as critical due to the reduction in mass at the rod tip and hinging effect of the lower diameter running line, also we do not have the luxury of using a haul to counteract this as with single handed rods. It is however still important to keep the rod in the correct plane of movement with the appropriate power application allowing the tip to unbend or deflect in the same direction as the intended flight path of the loop. This helps channel all the energy in the one direction. If the rod tip unbends excessively to the inside or below the flight path of the line, then it can be counterproductive and inefficient. Power and speed application cannot be excessive and has to be in the correct place terminating in an efficient stop.
Controlled Body Movement
Any rotational or back and forth movement of the upper body during casting starts at the ankles! It is very easy to snatch or jerk the arms but it is not as easy to jerk the upper body as any significant movement is often reliant upon weight transfer and is naturally more progressive. It does not take a qualified eye to see how much smoother casting can be with correct use of the body. Fly-casting with efficiency requires controlled movement and repositioning of the body. These are essential for effective stability, weight shift and rotation. We are able to achieve the desired motion by keeping our movements compact and controlled. Fly-Casting efficiently requires ordered sequences of movement with the upper body, shoulders and arms moving in harmony and in response to the movement of the lower body and legs.
Stop and Block
One of the most critical things in fly casting it to use the rods action to its full potential by stopping it effectively. As the lower hand is the most effective lever, it must be stopped effectively to flip the rod tip over at the fastest speed in time with the upper hand. If efficient rod loading is a prerequisite to an efficient cast then efficient rod unloading is also a fundamental requirement. Many people try to stop the rod using the upper hand only allowing energy to escape from the bottom of the rod rather than being concentrated at the tip. Blocking or stopping the lower hand firmly as the rod comes to a stop transfers energy and speed to the tip of the rod and finally to the line allowing maximum efficiency. You cannot stop a two handed rod with one hand. The stop is a very critical part of the cast, straight line paths of the rod tip do not automatically give us tight loops. Controlled speed at the rod tip combined with an efficient stop results in more speed in the line. The line can only have the desired shape when it has efficient speed: less speed, less shape.
Any efficient cast requires the correct amount of acceleration and appropriate speed which is applied at the correct time. Compact movements can be perfectly adequate for most shooting heads and medium Spey Lines. Tournament Spey-casting however requires a larger casting arc and maximum stroke length which allows much more time to apply force over a longer straight line path. We have to maximise on our range of movements by increasing the movement or stroke length with the upper hand over a longer distance, helping us to create momentum in a much longer line. This also requires a lot of body movement and the upper hand will extend further forward than in than would be expected in normal casting style. However the principles remain the same and an efficient stop will be required to maximise line speed.