Fresh grilse for Fabrice


Back from a fishing trip to Gaula river in Norway. No luck with the big salmon we were looking for, but a very nice trip to a beautiful river anyway.

Many thanks to the Norwegian Flyfishers Club for their support and kindness, they manage a beautiful and varied water.


One of the beats of the Norwegian Flyfishers Club water


Many thanks also to  my fishing partners Fabrice, Nathalie and Varo who have been a fantastic company; many lessons learnt from them.

Even without takes, casting a fly on Gaula in a beautiful summer morning is a privilege:

When a good loop isn’t enough

A nice and tight loop is normally considered the tell-tale sign of good casting control. However, in spey casting that is only part of the story.
Let’s take a look at the following example:

I was satisfied with the loops I was seeing, but subsequent analysis of the video shown a gross error that normally happens inadvertently: a slipping anchor.
Why is this bad?
– It detracts energy from the forward cast —but that is a problem only if your aim is maximum distance, not with an 18 m cast like this one.
– It may send the fly against the vegetation behind you and hook a branch, ruining the cast. It is a nuisance but without further consequences.
– If you are fishing a vegetation-free bank with a shingle-beach behind you things could get worse if you don’t care about your slipping anchor: your fly hits a stone and the hook looses its point… now you are subject to Murphy’s law.

Now the important thing is how to avoid it in practice. The reason for that failed anchor in the video above is a too inclined-up sweep; that leads to a too high apex of the V-loop, which amounts to a big angle between the water surface and the fly leg. The usual result is a fly traveling backward instead of rising up from the water to start its forward trip.

Sweep lower and back and, if the anchor is properly placed and long enough, it will work fine.

As an example let’s see a couple of casts at the same distance and with the same gear, but with a proper anchoring angle:

Pull Hard Whenever You Can!


Catch and release practices are being subject to greater scrutiny lately. And rightly so, for releasing a fish doesn’t necessarily mean it will survive if the angler doesn’t take enough care. I wrote something on the subject not long ago:

But in this regard of “releasing alive” there is a point that is missing in both old and new guidelines: sometimes (too many times, judging from what I personally see) the fish destined to be released is, in practical terms, dead before the angler touches it. That old “keep the rod tip up!” we heard so many times in those first fishing days, has the ability of killing as many fish as the neglecting angler-photographer.

There is no problem in shooting some pics or videos of a fish, provided that you bring it to the net quickly. The key is in using the rod properly by varying its effective length. By keeping the rod tip up we exert the minimum force on the fish and the maximum on our wrist. Changing the angle between the rod butt and the imaginary line which connects our hand with the fish, modifies that relationship of forces. I see too many anglers that don’t understand this basic concept.

The following video shows a 2.5 kg brown trout that fell to a #18 nymph on a long 7X (0.10 mm) tippet. Not a suitable diameter, I know, but I didn’t expect that size of fish; had I seen it I’d have resorted to a thicker monofilament. However, by pulling hard whenever I could, I managed to get the trout in the net without any damage, although I was rather “underpinned”. And believe me, that brown fought like crazy.

My point? Taking pics in a sensible way isn’t at odds with proper catch and release practices. It is what happens first what matters the most. So pull hard whenever you can —that is, when the fish stops after a run— decreasing tension when it speeds up again.

¡Agarra, ancla, agarra!

Si algo característico hay en el lanzado spey eso es el ancla; esa corta porción de línea que permaneciendo en contacto con el agua junto con el bajo y la mosca, permite la formación del bucle en D, justo en el instante previo al inicio del lance que va a presentar la mosca.

En cualquiera de los lances spey es recomendable evitar que el ancla se despegue del agua intempestivamente —lo que se conoce como desanclado. El ancla debe levantarse limpiamente del agua a medida que el bucle frontal avanza hacia el objetivo, idealmente debería hacerlo sin desplazarse hacia atrás. Los efectos de ese desanclado son negativos así que mejor cuidarse de él.

¿Se puede conseguir un buen lance a pesar de desanclar? Por supuesto que sí, aunque hay circunstancias —por ejemplo cuando queremos llegar lejos— en las que la diferencia entre un ancla que aguanta y una que no es notable; pero por otra parte, aunque el lance salga, el desanclado lleva aparejados otros problemas que conviene tener en cuenta.

Veamos los dos tipos de desanclado.

El desanclado que se produce mientras el pescador realiza el lance delantero. El ancla patina hacia atrás, generalmente al final del golpe de lance o, incluso, cuando éste ya ha terminado. Es lo que yo llamo ancla patinada. Un ejemplo:

  • El ancla patinada siempre desperdicia energía: nosotros queremos que la mosca despegue del agua y se desplace hacia adelante, hacia el objetivo; sin embargo con el desanclado la mosca se desplaza hacia atrás, y entonces:
    Va en sentido opuesto al que buscamos
  • No se mueve sola, alguien debe moverla, el pescador, que desperdicia parte de su energía en desplazar la mosca —y todo el ramal inferior del bucle en D— hacia donde no debe.
  • Cuando la mosca endereza su rumbo y comienza a dirigirse hacia su objetivo, está más lejos de éste que en el caso de un ancla que aguante: hace falta más energía para mandarla a su destino.

Aquí se explica todo esto:

El desanclado que se produce durante el barrido para formar el bucle en D. Es lo que yo llamo ancla volada, para diferenciarla de la patinada.
En este caso no se desperdicia energía en el lance delantero, incluso éste resulta más eficiente pues, a diferencia de un spey, ahora tenemos un lance oval en el que estamos impulsando la totalidad de la línea hacia adelante, no solo la parte de la línea que conforma el ramal ramal superior de la D.

Pero, si un ancla volada puede resultar en un lance más eficiente, ¿por qué evitarla? Por dos motivos principales:

  • Si estamos pescando con un espacio limitado por detrás un ancla volada puede mandar la mosca a las ramas que se encuentren a nuestra espalda.
  • Si, en cambio, el espacio que tenemos detrás es amplio y limpio —por ejemplo un pedrero— corremos el riesgo de que la mosca toque inadvertidamente en una piedra y el anzuelo pierda su punta. Ocurre, y cuando lo hace no nos damos cuenta.

El siguiente vídeo muestra anclas patinadas:

A todos los pescadores les patina el ancla alguna vez, no es ninguna tragedia, pero en mi caso tengo la sensación de que esforzarme en hacerlo perfecto es la única manera de que me salga medianamente bien.

Sweep, Loading… Unloading II



In the first article of this series we studied how the setting of a V-loop doesn’t put any load in the rod. The momentum of the line travelling backward is transferred to the water, without affecting the rod tip. In many spey casting technical works we find another purported source for that mythical rod pre-loading: the rod motion from the tilted sideways position at the end of the sweep into the more vertical position suitable for starting the forward cast, a maneouver also known as circling-up. A quote from the internet about this circling up and its consequences puts things in perspective:

It is intended to transfer the rodloading created during the Sweep, on through to the Forward Cast, in a continuous, uninterrupted fashion… no stopping of the rod, no load-unload-load action… thereby maintaining continuous loading of the rod.

As H.G. Wells wrote: It sounds plausible enough tonight, but wait until tomorrow.

Will tomorrow be able of invalidating plain logic?

As we have seen in the first part of this study rod bend comes from a force. After the sweep is finished the line moves on its own backward; the rod pulls on the line making it turn and a loop is formed.

– Well, for that to happen the rod has to exert a force on the line, and the line exerts the same force -action/reaction- on the rod in the opposite direction, right?

– Yes, of course.

– So the rod gets loaded, right?

– No, slo-mo says it doesn’t and so does physics.

Let’s take a look to the equation for force:

F = m.a

What this equation states is that force is directly proportional to mass (weight in layman’s terms) and acceleration (change in velocity). The bigger the mass the bigger the force needed to accelerate it; the bigger the acceleration the bigger the force applied. So for a force to be increased we could increase m, a or both.

So what happens to the mass of the line and its acceleration -and consequently to force and then rod load- in those two phases of spey casting known as sweep and circling-up?

During the sweep we are applying force to the whole length of line at play in order to form a loop; during circling-up we exert force only on the short piece of line which is actually turning around in the loop front, the part of the line changing direction but not on the rest of it. During the sweep we are pulling on a much bigger mass.

What about acceleration? During the sweep we have to accelerate the line significantly to form a loop; when circling-up the rod is not accelerating anymore, for the caster moves it to the key position leisurely, without the intention of applying any significant force. During circling-up we are pulling with much less acceleration.

The logical conclusion? The force bending the rod on the sweep is comparatively big and decreases hugely when the sweep ends. In fact the force exerted on the rod by the line during circling-up is so low that the amount of bend left is irrelevant. Some video to clarify things:


The following pictures correspond to three frames taken from the video above: they show both the difference in the mass the rod is pulling on, and the difference in rod bend between the sweep and the circling up.


The sweep applies significant force to the whole line. The rod is bent.


End of the sweep. No force applied to the rod or the line. Note how the line has lost tension and the rod is straight.


An instant during circling-up. The rod is pulling only on that piece of line inside the red circumference, so there is no appreciable bend in it.



More video:


Is it that important to be aware of these intricacies? It is, in my opinion, if only for one reason: if you train or fish focusing on getting some impossible pre-load, you won’t be paying attention to the things actually defining spey casting efficency, namely: minimum anchor, maximum live line in the V-loop, all that aligned with the target and as close to the forward rod tip trajectory as possible.

Sweep, Loading… Unloading I


Always shrouded in the mist of mystery, when popular casting mechanics focuses on spey issues it seems to enter the realms of magic.
It doesn’t help that the various styles of spey casting seem to compete in presenting their respective approaches as if they were different techniques, instead of just adaptions to some particular conditions.
Fortunately spey is spey, and physics is physics, and the latter governs the phenomena involved in the art of throwing a line with a pole in exactly the same way, whatever the brand, length or taper of your rod and line, and the waters and fish you are after, be it in Scandinavia or in the Pacific North West.

One concept is common to some of those schools, though: that efficiency in spey casting lies, in good part, in some kind of pre-load of the rod prior to the start of the forward cast.

An excerpt from a highly-regarded book will clarify this point:

With the fly/leader anchored to the water surface, the momentum of the forming “V” loop reloads the rod 180 degrees as a reaction.

So when the anchor touches down and the V-loop forms the rod gets automatically loaded. Apparently as the line is traveling backwards it will pull on the rod tip forcing it to bend. Pure logic, isn’t it?

The problem is that physics has the annoying habit of defying what at first sight looks like common sense. The good news is that high speed cameras, and a basic knowledge of Newton laws, help to open a more clear window into reality.
So in order to shed some light on this issue I did set up the following scenario:

  • Scott STS 7’6”#3 rod rigged with a #8 Barrio SLX line (equivalent to an AFFTA #10 one).
  • Line configuration in front of the caster similar to a perry poke with my right foot stepping on the line tip.
  • A sweep to set the V-loop.
  • Without a pause the rod is lifted up to the starting position for the forward cast in a continuous motion, and is stopped there.

Here you are:

An analysis of the casting sequence shown above is in order:

I start the sweep by accelerating the rod butt; I finish the sweep by decelerating the rod butt; as soon as the rod butt speed decreases, rod unloading starts.
Take notice that when I reposition the rod for the forward cast there is no load left in the rod.
After that the V-loop is fully formed and the line gets tight. That tension in the line loads the rod, right? Well, no, as shown by the video above the tight V-loop against the rod doesn’t put a bend on it.
Does it sound strange? Well, in fact basic physics tells us that it couldn’t be any other way. To understand this we have to look at the reason for rod bending, that is, force.

The sweep applies force to the rod, and the rod applies force to the line. Newton taught us that forces always come in pairs, it is what we know as action/reaction. So the rod applies a force to the line and the line reacts applying the same force to the rod in the opposite direction. Flexibility makes the rest.

The caster finishes the sweep by ceasing applying force; no force, no bend; the rod unloads itself. It is capital to take into account that the rod doesn’t need to be completely still to unload, that process happens before: as soon as the caster decreases rod butt velocity the rod unloads. Motion doesn’t necessarily mean force, only accelerated motion does mean force; a decreasing rod butt velocity means that it is not being accelerated anymore, and when acceleration disappears force disappears as well. In summary, a complete stop is not needed for the rod to unload.
At some point in the unbending process the line overtakes the rod tip, and the rod tip pulls on the line forcing it to turn around: a loop is born.

Back to the line in course of crashing against the water: it gets anchored and gets stopped.

What has stopped it? The water (in the case of the video above my foot).

Where does the fly leg momentum go? Obviously to the water, so that force of the crashing anchor is applied to the water, not to the rod!

An old slow motion video showing rod load when anchoring on water:

And another one:

But don’t take my word for it. A very easy experiment for you:

Rig a rod with line and leader. Lay the line in a perry poke configuration like that in the video. Take the end of the leader between your fingers. Make a sweep. Do you feel anything in your rod hand? Do you see any sudden loading? Where do you feel the tug of the line when it gets tight?