Tue 7 Sep 2010
The third lesson in fly casting is the double haul. Its purpose is to increase fly line speed and thus momentum, so the fly line casts farther. The aim is to put your fly 80 feet from your feet, but great casters can exceed 100.
As we discussed last week, the line’s sweet spot – that two inch magic marker stretch – is pulled within the rod guides and then you begin. From the water, line is lifted up with increasing rod speed and the line hand tugs and returns to the rod after the line is in the air. The purpose here is to increase line speed when it can accept it – in the air; and, to decrease raking fly line over line guides and thus ruining a line before its time.
Get into the habit of visualizing your fly line going up and over the tip of your rod on the back cast, to the two o’clock stop. This helps ensure you give enough power so the line/fly does not collapse behind you. It also helps set up the line for being returned 180 degrees forward, and thus conserving the energy put in the line. It is straight back, straight forward, or the fly will not cast as far as it could and will land where you do not intend. Visualize, or simply turn and look at, the line straightening out completely, behind you, horizontal to the ground. If you cast forward before this point, you will snap the fly off your tippet.
Now the forward cast begins. With the extra running line managed in your hauling hand as described last week, the rod hand begins the forward stroke, applying increasing pressure to ‘load’ the rod. Since you returned your hauling hand to the rod in the back haul, it is available to do the second haul on the more important forward stroke. During forward loading, the hauling hand gives a tug away from the rod and returns to the rod.
The rod tip moves forward in a flat trajectory with increasing speed. That ensures that line is casted forward and horizontal to the water. Then it settles quietly and the fly touches down. If the line and fly splat or drill the water, your rod tip is moving down at the end of the forward stroke, before the ‘stop’ at ten, instead of horizontal to the water. In dry fly fishing, after the stop, and the fly line moving forward, you bring the tip back up and the fly will land first and softly.
Visualize that rod tip moving forward horizontally. The most common problem is the angler, concerned the cast will fail, puts too much energy into the forward cast with the rod hand. This results in tailing loops and the line wraps up in itself, gets ‘wind’ knots and lands in a mess. Work on your forward cast at a shorter length, say, 50 feet until you get the timing down. This takes a couple of years. The aim is finesse, not strength.
The long term goal is to cast the fly in one back, or false, cast, and one forward cast to 80 feet. Along the way, as finesse improves, there are two little additions to the story. First, occasionally you want to do a second false cast. On the second back cast, you let a couple feet of running line loose from your hauling hand and then power forward. This extra line adds momentum and thus you cast farther.
The other tip is a fine point. On the back stroke, tip the rod tip a hair to the outside – as little as six inches – at the end of the stroke. Before the forward stroke, you bring the rod tip back vertical above your head, and then move into the forward cast. Hence the line is not moving directly ahead, it has a very subtle serpentine in it, and thus does not tangle in itself. This little trick will avoid hundreds of tailing loop messes in even one season.