Analysis, What are your loops telling (screaming at) you?
When you first string up a fly rod and make those
first tentative swishes you usually have no idea of the swearing and frustration
that is soon to follow! The vast majority of fly fishers are self taught by gradually
adapting those initial swooshings into something resembling a cast.
Having been swooshing for about an hour and failing
miserably to reach the 10 meter mark the average beginner starts to increase the
power and is already sliding further down the route to despair.
There is a technique that we instructor dudes use
to read your loops. It's the basis of most of the analysis we do. It goes something
1) Watch the loop find the fault
2) Watch the
rod to see what its happening
3) Watch the hand to see what it is doing to
4) Fix the hand
5) Which fixes the rod
6) Which fixes the
First of all, if we go back to our purple faced
beginner with the cloud of blue air drifting off downwind and ask him a question.
"If you were casting a 12 gram weight, on 3 lb line, 10 meters, how much power
would you use"? After he's caught his breath he may well suddenly realise that
He could quite possibly cast a 6oz weight to Holland with the power he's using.
Next time you are out casting bear that in mind. 10 yards of 7 weight fly line
weighs 12 grams. How much power are you using? How far would your 12 gram spinner
So, back to these loops. Just watching the shape of them can
tell you everything you need to know IF you know what you are looking for. If
you know what you are looking at and you know what causes it you can work backwards
and fix it. This is the primary reason most fly casters are stuck at their present
level. They have no idea what to do to change what they have.
Let's do something about that.
Loop Size is due to path of the rod tip. Simple as that. If the
rod tip moves in a straight line, the loop will be narrow. If the rod tip moves
in an arc, the loop will be open and wide. So to make a narrower loop make the
rod tip travel straighter. How do we do that? Well if we break down the casting
stroke (the distance the hand moves) into 2 pieces we can change each piece
independently. Lest call the distance the hand moves part 1(stroke) and the turnover
of the rod part 2 (arc). The longer we make part 1 before we make part 2 the straighter
the path of the rod tip. Easy Hu? The shorter we make part 1 the more open the
loop will be. This is also the same as lengthening the stroke the more line you
have out of the tip and just by making part 1 longer will reduce a lot of tailing
loops. This can be seen in the picture below.
So, now we know what controls loop size we can
change the loop size whenever we want! How handy is that?
Now that you
are all back from rushing outside to try it, grab a coffee and we'll do the next
The pointier the point the harder the
stop. If the radius of your loop point (which is independent of loop shape by
the way) is larger than you would like, stop the rod harder. Or in other words,
make part 2 above faster. It's as simple as that. Oh, and don't forget that armed
with the information above you can now throw narrow loops with a round point or
wide open loops with a pointy point.
Next let's look at loop speed.
Fly casting loops can be viewed just like the volume on a stereo. We can
turn up the volume and cast the same loop at three different speeds. Slow, medium
and fast. Being able to change between the three, at will, is more useful than
you think. By making your loops at volume 1, the slow speed and then increasing
the last one to volume 2 for the shoot (and changing nothing lese) you line will
fly out. When it gets wind, move the volume to level 2, Medium speed loops and
then increase to level 3 for the shoot. Simple as that. This way you don't get
all of the problems of changing the last stoke on the shoot that are so common.
So now we can cast any shape loop with any shape point at any speed we choose
and vary the speed up or down as required. Well done!
Next let's look
at some particular problems and how they show up in the loop.
that have a loop that looks like this:
1) Have two applications of power. The point at
the top (A) is the point from the rod stop and the second point (B) is caused
by the peak power of the haul. This shape loop is a sign that the haul is too
early. If you have loops this shape, back or front, simply delay your haul so
that both applications of power merge and form one point. The haul will feel heavier
and will really feel sweet.
2)The next loop is caused by a good hard stop but
is a sign that the caster is gripping the rod too hard throughout the stroke.
Relax the hand and finish the stroke with a Squeeeeeze
and then relax. The loop should smooth out.
Next we have the good old
tailing loop. This can be caused by several reasons but the vast majority are
uneven application of power (the rod not accelerating smoothly) or too short a
casting stoke for the length of line outside of the tip (see "Part 1" above, just
make it longer). remember, its impossible to make too long a stroke, but you can
make too short a stroke.
All tailing loops are caused by a concave path
of the rod tip during the loop, this can be caused by 5 things. As long as you
are smooth and have a long enough casting stroke, most of them will sort themselves
If we next look at a compound fault. And pull it apart.
Here we have a loop with several faults but you should now be able to figure out
what causes each of them.
Ok, the waves are caused by the caster gripping
the rod too hard. Fix: Squeeze the cast to a stop.
The loop has two points
so the hauling timing is too early. Fix: Delay the haul.
The loop has a tailing
loop and because the loop is wide we know that there was not much of "Part 1"
and too much of "Part 2" from the earlier section. This means this tailing loop
is caused by too short a stroke for the length of line outside of the tip. Fix:
Make "Part 1" longer increasing the length of the stoke. There are hundreds of
other smaller effects to look out for but those above should be the most common
Once you know what affects each part of the cast you can change
it at will. Have a play with your casting and see what happens. If it's no better
I'll see you in the casting section of the forum.
See you in the Forum
Hutchinson is a qualified instructor with the FFFE and FFFUSA and runs saltwater
fly fishing Mullet with www.corporateflyfishing.com He
is a member of the board of the British fly Casting Club and has fished extensively
in many saltwater locations and specialises in saltwater fly fishing for Salmon