Not so long ago endless debates about the pushing versus pulling casting “styles” were the norm. Currently it is a much rarely discussed subject, though it keeps appearing now and then. That issue always was the source of many doubts, the following is my take on a it.
Mel Krieger’s concept of a “pulling” stroke as opposed to a “pushing” one wasn’t intended as a way of telling apart two different casting styles, it was coined to describe any good casting stroke whatever the style used. For him the reference wasn’t the line but the rod: pulling the rod versus pushing it. In that regard, if you rotate the rod at the start of the casting stroke the rod is in front of your hand for the rest of the motion, so you are pushing it. Conversely, if you leave rotation for the end of the stroke the rod travels behind your hand, so you are pulling it. In summary, you should “pull through” when using an “elbow up-down” style, as much as when using an “elbow backward-forward” one.
Pulling was the term Mel chose to convey the idea of leaving for the end of the stroke as much of the rod rotation as possible. So –using two other Mel’s concepts– “pulling” isn’t a style, it is substance; “pushing” isn’t a style, it is a fault.
The gif above shows the paradox posed by the interpretation of “pulling” as just an stylistic issue: Mel himself is showing what he meant by “pulling through” while performing a cast that some instructors would still define as “pushing”.
Better to let Mel explain himself about the “pulling” concept, and what the gif above is showing (bold is mine):
“In the pull through casting stroke, the casting hand precedes the rod tip through most of the casting stroke and the turnover and stop take place only at the end of the casting stroke… Lay out 70 or so feet of fly line on a lawn behind you, fly rod pointing to the fly, and throw a javelin, turning the rod over only at the very end of the throw. You may be pleasantly surprised with this extreme pull through casting motion.“