Style is Substance… Sometimes

Tim Rajeff during a masterclass in Germany

I perfectly understand why getting deep into casting mechanics is regarded as useless by a majority of fly fishers. But, that sound casting mechanics is equally rejected by such a big percentage of casting instructors is another matter entirely. Calling yourself a master and, at the same time, avoiding getting deep into the nuances of your trade seems rather weird to me.

On the other hand, some of us find casting mechanics not only fascinating, but —and this is key if you are an instructor— an indispensable tool to use in our teaching.

The following clip shows my mate Bernd Ziesche (Master Casting Instructor by the FFI and AAPGAI) when he visited me long ago for some casting courses. The day before our first course together, we were talking about casting mechanics and shot some slow motion videos; like this one:


When, four years ago, I showed this old video on a fly casting forum thread to illustrate a point, it immediately prompted replies along these lines —all quotes are verbatim—:

“…terrible cast…”

“…biomechanically very inefficient…”

“…never even seen anybody roll cast like that…”

“…terrible loop creation, very restricted casting arc…”

“…it [probably] tailed…”.

“…inefficient stop too…”

“…does he look balanced or comfortable at any point during that cast? Buggers going to fall in!

What I see is a very long backhand roll cast, that, although I don’t remember exactly, it reached about 20 meters. Not an easy task, and, IMHO, almost impossible to do with what Al Kyte calls elbow forward style (up-down or pulling style depending on the author). Exactly the style those commentators had in mind, and the only one they saw as acceptable.

At times, style and substance are the same thing. A good grasp of casting mechanics gives you the clues to know when they merge and, consequently, the ability to percibe when changing your student’s style is the sensible thing to do.

But what advanced casting mechanics tells us is that, for the same distance:

  • Overhead cast and roll cast strokes are different.
  • That, as explained in the article linked above, the reason for that is that the line layout of a roll cast doesn’t allow us to apply as much force as with the line configuration of an overhead one.
  • That we have to compensate for that by means of increasing stroke length.
  • That styles are interchangeable… but only to some degree, and not in all cases.

At times, style and substance are the same thing. A good grasp of casting mechanics gives you the clues to know when they merge and, consequently, the ability to percibe when changing your student’s style is the sensible thing to do.

4 comments on “Style is Substance… Sometimes

  1. Joe Jordan says:

    Raising the rod high over your head gives you a longer lever and casting arc. Wouldn’t this increase wear on the shoulder over time? A longer fly rod with a two handed grip should give you the same distance and save that shoulder for old age.

    Like

    • Aitor says:

      Casting angle is the same, but yes, raising the rod high isn’t a good idea.

      Like

      • Joe Jordan says:

        I also noticed that the caster bent at the waist and appeared to throw his upper body into the forward cast. This is not good for the lower back. Raising the rod high over your head gives you a longer lever and casting arc. Wouldn’t this increase wear on the shoulder over time? A longer fly rod with a two handed grip should give you the same distance and save that shoulder for old age.

        Like

      • Aitor says:

        You are right: for the same casting stroke angle, the longer the lever the longer the arc described by the rod tip.
        That is why I never use the term “casting arc” for the amount of degrees that the rod is rotated during the casting stroke.

        Like

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