Learning the Over Head Cast
Learning the Overhead Cast
with a double handed rod
Although not a Spey Cast the Over Head is still an essential skill and very useful. Fly fishing instructors will often use the Overhead Cast while teaching the principle technique in effective two handed casting. It helps us understand correct use of our hands and appropriate power application and loop formation.This can be most helpful when learning to Spey Cast correctly. For the purpose of the following description I am going to be writing about casting tight loops. Tight loops are often the most desirable, but not always. If preparing for instructor certification then you will be advised to practice efficient loop control but it is equally important to have the ability to make the suitable adjustments to influence loop shape and speed.
The overhead cast is also a good place to start while observing our particular technique. The ability to make adjustments and influence rod tip speed and travel while opening and tightening up the loops is a very good indication that an individual has overall control. The style of casting that I use for overhead is, as usual, the continuous motion Fulcrum Fly-Casting that I use for all efficient casting.
When we are overhead casting we need to consider a few main points.
Correct use of our hands and body.
Our acceleration is compatible with our line length and rod arc.
Power and speed applied in the correct place.
Our stop is efficient and suitable for the desired loop form and line speed.
It is often said that you can cast a tight loop using a dominant upper hand or lower hand. I am not saying it cannot be done, to a point, but it’s certainly not the most efficient. Many of the students I teach or have taught have been preparing for instructor certification and one of the first tasks is the overhead cast. It is easy to see why they find it so difficult to control the line due to the dominant use of the top hand and an ineffective stop. This is mainly due to poor co-ordination and more often it is due to constant top hand pushing and pulling of the rod. Not only is the rod tip likely to be travelling in a more convex path, the acceleration throughout the casting movements remains almost at the same pace with little change at the final stage of the cast. The stop is often very inefficient, excessive rotation opens the loop and control is lost.
If however the movements / acceleration were correct and the rod was stopped and blocked high and firm as mentioned previously, using both hands in the very last margins of the cast, then rod tip turn over speed would be immediately faster and more precise. Also, we would now require, and be able to maintain less rod arc than before and subsequently reduce excessive loop opening, rod rotation. A tighter loop would begin to form, faster line speed would be evident. Ironically the speed of the casters movements would also slow down as the faster speed in the line would be easier to control as the loop unrolls back and forth in the air. It has now become efficient.
The Overhead Cast - Stance
There are many small details that make overhead casting efficient and effective but one of the first considerations as with all other casts is our stance. I always choose and advise others to place their leading foot forward on the same side as they are casting from, if possible. This means that we can maintain alignment and control upper body movement; it helps reduce any unwanted or excessive body rotation, most of all it is efficient. It is absolutely necessary that we adapt our arm and body movements for efficient rod loading and to direct line momentum effectively. Our movements are also very important for weight shift and, I believe that it contributes significantly in effective stroke length and acceleration. We only have to hold the rod in the casting position and observe the tip while moving our hands slightly up and down and moving our body back and forth. Even by moving and rotating our hands a very small amount, in time with the fluent movement of our body, it is clearly evident how much movement we can gain at the rod tip. On that point, it is surprising that many people don’t realise that the casting movements on the overhead cast with a two handed rod are very much upwards and downwards with most of the rotation in the final phase of the cast. This is similar to the way that we rise up and down with a single handed rod while arielising a medium length of line. The principle is exactly the same, if anything more pronounced with a Spey line due to the profile and weight characteristics. It does not take a trained eye to see how much smoother casting is with correct use of the body.
Initial Tip Casting Exercise
Aerialising a short to medium length of line while side casting is a good way of observing how our acceleration /stop and resulting rod tip speed effect our loop form. I remember Peter Anderson telling me how he used to ask students who attended his casting coarse on the river Spey during the 70s and 80s to arielise the line back and forth with the rod canted at around a 45 degree angle to the water’s surface. This was a good indicator of how the individual was able to create effective tip speed and line control. It would be quickly evident if the individual was applying excessive power with his top hand as he or she would be unable to acquire the desired line speed and loop shape.
The initial lift As we prepare to make our back cast or “up cast” the top hand accelerates smoothly as it raises along a straight line incline with the fastest speed applied only as the rod reaches the vertical position at the final phase of the cast. This is followed with both hands squeezing the rod momentarily to provide a very firm stop; this produces the desired rod tip turn over speed which will result in line speed, which is mainly a product of a very efficient stop. The correct acceleration and firm stop reduces rod rotation and the tip unbends just under, or close to the straight line travel of the rod tip. We can then relax our hands a little and let the rod recover correctly.
Drift At this point we must introduce drift. Drift is very important and is an underpowered movement in the same direction as the cast as the line extends or unrolls in the air. There is mainly transitional drift in two handed casting where the hands rise on a steep incline after the stop as we do not want to drop the rod tip down behind. Drift does a number of important things if done correctly, it helps maintain tension as it helps raise the lower leg of the loop, it also acts as a shock absorber on the rod tip as the line straightens on the back which minimises any abrupt tug on the rod tip. Also it allows us more available movement and contributes to available stroke length and rod arc. This is done as the line is unrolling in behind but drift is not only restricted to the back cast as it can be used effectively both during the back and forward cast. It is at this point we may or may not choose to “slip” some line between our rod handle and fingertip to momentarily extend the line that we are controlling in the air to find the optimum spot. This is can also be done on the back cast during the drift in preparation for the final delivery. This helps maximise line length and the subsequent controlled impact produced upon the rod tip as the line straightens produces maximum potential..If done correctly it is a very useful skill in achieving distance.
Forward delivery As we have drifted upward on the back cast the initial stage of the forward movement will then be on a decline with both hands dropping in a downward and forward movement before blending into an accelerated rotational movement. This helps track the rod tip near to a straight line path. Maximum speed should be applied at the final phase of the cast followed immediately but momentarily by “stopping and blocking the rod” using both hands. If done correctly you should feel a slight kick in the lower section or butt of the rod after the stop. This is a sure indication of energy traveling back down the rod blank as it recovers quickly due to the effectiveness of your stop.
It is worth mentioning at this point that many of the modern Spey lines profile and characteristics mean that most of the weight is concentrated near the rear of the line and therefore near the rod tip. While I have always favoured this type of design while Spey Casting it does tend to drop a little while overhead casting, most lines do. The reason being is that the heaviest part of the line with the most mass is practically stationary in the air if we do not slip or extend. As 50 or 60 feet of line straightens out behind in the air then during this time the line belly has begun to sag. As we make the forward movement the line will be pulled forward at an angle possibly 30 degrees lower than it was. Therefore although the line will most often drop, good loop formation and control significantly reduces this.