Relax, Balance, Control

balanced reel

We usually say about masters in any discipline that “they make it look easy”. Probably it isn’t just that it looks easy, I have the conviction that they look so relaxed because… well, they are totally relaxed.

As my fly casting mentor likes to say, a long cast starts in the tip of the toes and ends in the finger tips. Less extreme casts have less body parts in play, but share some important trait in common: good form requires to be as effortless as possible.

In everyday trout fishing casts, our main engine is a combination of arm, forearm and hand. That is why fly casting manuals recommend to apply force with the hand only at the end of the stroke: just around the stop.

Closing your rod hand tight only at the right moment, and for a brief time, makes a lot of sense. Open and close your rod hand while holding your forearm with your other hand, and feel how many muscles get tensioned by that simple exercise. This offers an explanation for that ache starting in the neck and going down the back, so many of us feel after a long day on the river.

I have no idea about biomechanics, but my gut feeling tells me that muscle tension and accuracy are rather incompatible. Just another good reason to train the closing-opening of the hand during the casting stroke.

But truly relaxing the hand is pretty much impossible if we departure from an inadequate starting point. Every time I see someone casting with his reel parallel to the casting plane, I know that things aren’t as effortless as they could be. They say that a picture is worth a thousand words, so if it is a video probably even more.

I must confess that just making a few casts with the rim of the reel facing the target felt totally uncomfortable, as you have to constantly force the rod to keep the reel in place. The same goes for an overhead cast, as we normally make them with a slight inclination to the side.

One day this Autumn I handed my rod to my guide and asked him to show me his long nymphing approach in a particularly deep run. I immediately noticed how he got the reel in the “hanging”, relaxed, position. I asked him why; “balance” he said. A much more concise way of conveying the same idea.

12 comments on “Relax, Balance, Control

  1. Philip Bailey says:

    As an instructor of the Italian style under Massimo Magliocco, keeping the reel facing the target (explained as in the same axis of the cast) is a critical element. However, letting the reel ‘hang’ as shown in the video should not alter the technicality of the cast as long as the tip of the rod stayed within the defined axis and plane. I am going to try this with our style to see what happens.

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  2. Marc Fauvet says:

    very nice article, Aitor !
    one i completely agree with and have been advising now for several years.
    “don’t fight gravity !” seems to get the point across easily.
    another slight advantage when casting off the side with the reel pointed down is the fly line slides a little easier through the rod guides as there’s little to no line/rod blank friction.
    cheers and thanks again for all the good stuff,
    marc

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  3. Angus McLeod says:

    I find that the twist of the wrist required to bring the reel towards the forward position, if done as distinct “snap” and as part of the stop, helps to produce an extremely tight loop.

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    • Aitor says:

      Most probably it turns a loop that opens in a (more or less) vertical plane into one that opens laterally. A lot of tight loops are just a question of point of view.

      But it could also be that this turn helps to direct rod rebound more in line with the line trajectory.

      An interestng filming project, by the way.

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  4. Chris Morris says:

    Great article Aitor!

    I started bringing Kid’s “Javelin Foam Rockets” like the one on https://www.amazon.com/S-Worldwide-Rocket-Javelin/dp/B000IEN8W0 to teach a relaxed grip in my distance classes.

    It’s very difficult to throw the foam javelin far with a death grip and there is no loop to watch. Plus people start to laugh and relax a little.

    Thanks,

    Chris

    Like

  5. Malik says:

    Hi Aitor,
    Very interesting post. I tend to consider that as long as you don’t grip your rod too tight and you feel confortable with it, the grip is a rather stylistic topic, each of the manners you hold your rod having of course some pro and cons. Personally, I always adapt my grip style to the type of rod I’m using and my grip differs constantly according wether I’m casting a 7.6 rod line 3 or a 9 feet rod line 12 and sometimes even according to the cast i’m doing.
    In the Italian style, where we use generally light reel and short rods, I think that gravity is not really a big issue with regard to the stability of the reel ; whatever the so called “wrap around grip” (impugnatura avvolgente) we recommend in the Italian style, which consist in wrapping a part of the reel with the casting hand, is a good way to maintain the reel in the same plane of the cast and facing the target without any discomfort or using a stressing force. The wrapping of a part of the reel offers also a good support point when you wish add some light effects as clock or anti-clockwise rotation to your cast during the MPA before the formation of the loop in order to obtain curves and other trick cast.
    Best regards and than you for your blog which is a constant source of inspiration to me
    Malik

    Liked by 1 person

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