Nowhere in the world of sending a fly out there with a line you can find rod load being more glorified than in the spey casting scene. Everything seems to gravitate around that. If the cast is good it is because the rod was properly loaded. If it went wrong… well, sure it is due to the rod not having enough load or unloading prematurely.
Sometimes it is possible to get more clues from the analysis of a bad cast than from a perfect one. That is the case with the casts depicted here. The video and pics show a pretty common occurrence that will be used to point out some keys of spey casting mechanics. Take them just as a brief introduction to following articles which will get deeper into that subject (slow motion clips and some not-that-heavy-physics included).
The scenario is the forward cast of a spey characterized by some kind of V-Loop that we will call 7-Loop (thanks to Simon Gawesworth). An extreme 7 for that matter.
Let’s say that you set a nice V-Loop, make the cast and present the fly on target.
On the next cast you manage to get a 7-Loop and the fly falls short of the target on top of a heap of line and leader. That is just one of the possible outcomes of that loop configuration -as it is a fat loop, a tailing loop or even the three of them combined- if the caster doesn’t compensate his stroke to adapt. Even if he modifies his stroke successfully the 7-Loop is still inefficient due to the amount of wasted energy.
The following gif made from a couple of pics from a still camera will shed some additional light.
We could look for an explanation to the inefficiency of that 7-Loop in the gif above in the usual way, basing our analysis in the behaviour showed by the rod. It would go along the following lines.
What happened to this cast?
- Hmm, probably the rod didn’t get loaded… but I see a pretty good bend, though!
- However, is that a properly loaded rod? Who knows? I, for one, don’t have a clue nor have met anybody capable of quantifying whether a given load is enough for a given cast or not. If only because you can make a cast to the same distance with the same rod and line with rather different loads.
- Well -you say to yourself- it could be that the rod got unloaded prematurely due to the anchor slipping… but the loop’s rod leg looks pretty straight, whereas the rising tip of an early unloading would have set a wave in it!
As shown here:
Hmm, we are not getting very far with that approach.
So let’s address the issue from a different standpoint, forgetting the rod and putting the accent in the line.
From the gif above we can quickly draw some visual clues:
- A totally ineffective anchor due to the angle of attack.
Only part of the leader is in contact with the water, moreover the angle at which the loop pulls on the anchor makes the latter specially prone to slipping. See how at the end of the stroke the apex of the loop still hasn’t moved forward due to the slipping anchor! In fact it moves a little bit backward! It is a perfect case of a loop propagating but not traveling (but that will be the subject of another article).
- The amount of line in the rod leg of the 7-Loop.
The length of line in the rod leg at the start of the stroke is very very short. The longer the piece of line we propel during the casting stroke (the “live line” so to speak) the more efficient the cast:
The reason for that inefficiency has already been covered in this previous article. You can also relate it to the case when we rush the forward stroke of an overhead cast and start it with the line still half its way backwards.
So, compared to a proper V-Loop configuration, for presenting the fly at the same distance a 7-Loop:
- Will ask for a higher rod butt acceleration, as a way to give enough momentum to the comparatively shorter length of “live line” we propel during the stroke, to carry a comparatively longer length of “dead line”. That is the reason why the “dead line” to “live line” ratio is key regarding efficiency: the longer the live line the better.
- Anchor slipping wastes energy: the line moving backwards goes in the opposite direction of the target, and it doesn’t move by itself so it detracts from the energy needed to move the line forward.
Obviously the longer the cast the higher the impulse you need, which may result in a bigger load, but load is a byproduct of our force application to give the line enough momentum. It really isn’t our goal.
Given that the function of the casting stroke is to give enough velocity to the line in the right direction, it is better then to shift our focus from the rod -which says very little- to the line -which speaks volumes.