Fifty Fly Fishing Tips: #28 — Ten and Two

by | Feb 4, 2018 | 3 comments

I’ll admit it. I came to the fly rod by way of Brad Pitt. When I heard Robert Redford’s overwhelming and compelling voice-over, it was too much to resist. Because one afternoon in 1992, while browsing the VHS titles at the local rental joint, I was drawn in by the cover photo of a man in brown pants and a wide brimmed hat, standing on a sunbathed, midstream boulder and drawing artful shapes with a fly line. I watched the tape five times in a two-day rental period.

“The Movie” gets a bad rap in the industry. It’s cliche. But  dammit, it’s also a gorgeous film with a great story that matches or even exceeds the power of Norman Maclean’s classic novella.

Sure, I had fished a fly rod before ‘92, but I’d done so sparingly. Without much success, I kept going back to my strung minnows on a spinning outfit. You see, no one had really taught me to cast a fly rod. No YouTube video was out there to show me the basics, and I hadn’t learned much from the few Field and Stream articles about fly fishing.

But Maclean’s intro to A River Runs Through It changed all that. From this one piece of film, with Redford’s majestic speech carrying all the poignant melancholy that one voice can hold, I learned how to cast a fly rod from a Panasonic VHS player.

Ten and two. That’s the base. And it’s at the core of everything I know about fly casting.

. . . If our father had had his say, nobody who did not know how to fish would be allowed to disgrace a fish by catching him. . . . And, if you have never picked up a fly rod before, you will soon find it factually and theologically true that man by nature is a damn mess.

. . . Until man is redeemed he will always take a fly rod too far back, just as natural man always overswings with an ax or golf club and loses all his power somewhere in the air: only with a rod it’s worse.

. . . Power comes not from power everywhere, but from knowing where to put it on. “Remember,” as my father kept saying, “it is an art that is performed on a four-count rhythm between ten and two o’clock.”

. . . My father was very sure about certain matters pertaining to the universe. To him, all good things—trout as well as eternal salvation—come by grace and grace comes by art and art does not come easy.

— Norman Maclean, A River Runs through It

 

I guess I’ve taught a lot of people to cast a fly rod by now. (I’m happy to say that most have stuck with it.) And the assured weakness of every new fly caster is those stops at ten and two. It’s a counter-intuitive motion, I suppose. It’s easier to teach the skill to a kid who has no fishing experience than it is to break the habit of a gear angler who wants to sling the rod forward and point to the target in one flowing motion.

The stops at ten and two are important. And the acceleration between ten and two is just as important. Given those mechanics, your cast has definition and direction, power and accuracy. Without those mechanics, you’re kinda just pissing in the wind and hoping for the best.

Every Style?

Yes, every style of fly fishing. I use the ten and two principle to cast dry flies, tight line and indicator nymphing rigs, streamers and wet flies. And yes, it’s the best way to have control over the Mono Rig that I talk so much about on Troutbitten. Definition, direction, power and accuracy. No matter what rig you’re using, it comes from ten and two.

Photo by Zach St. Amant

Adjust and Refine

Ten and two is the base for your casts. Of course, different styles, different fly sizes and weights, line types, lengths and more require refinement of the casting stroke. Weighted nymphs insist that you pause a little longer at each clock position before accelerating to the next. Heavier streamers may need more open loops by drifting the rod a little further past those clock-face positions. And a tiny Trico Spinner on the end of a long 6X tippet may demand a crisp, tight stroke that stops hard at ten-thirty before drifting the rod down and parallel with the water’s surface.

Whatever the adjustments (and there will be many), the base, the place to return to, is ten and two. It all starts from there.

It is an art that is performed on a four-count rhythm between ten and two o’clock.

Remember that, and you’ll cast like Brad Pitt.

 

Enjoy the day
Domenick Swentosky
T R O U T B I T T E N
domenick@troutbitten.com

Share This Article . . .

Since 2014 and 600 articles deep
Troutbitten is a free resource for all anglers
Your support is greatly appreciated

– Explore These Post Tags –

Domenick Swentosky

Central Pennsylvania

Hi. I’m a father of two young boys, a husband, author, fly fishing guide and a musician. I fish for wild brown trout in the cool limestone waters of Central Pennsylvania year round. This is my home, and I love it. Friends. Family. And the river.

More from this Category

Acquire Your Target Before the Pickup

Acquire Your Target Before the Pickup

Accuracy. It’s an elementary casting principle, but it’s the hardest thing to deliver. Wild trout are unforgiving. So the errant cast that lands ten inches to the right of a shade line passes without interest. As river anglers, our task is a complicated one, because we must be accurate not only with the fly to the target, but also with the tippet. Wherever the leader lands, the fly follows. Accuracy holds a complexity that is not for the faint of heart. But here’s one tip that guarantees immediate improvement right away.

Dry Fly Fishing — The Forehand and Backhand Curve

Dry Fly Fishing — The Forehand and Backhand Curve

Learning to use the natural curve that’s present in every cast produces better drag free drifts than does a straight line.

It takes proficiency on both the forehand and backhand.

I’ve seen some anglers resist casting backhand, just because it’s uncomfortable at first. But, by avoiding the backhand, half of the delivery options are gone. So, open up the angles, understand the natural curve and get better drag free drifts on the dry fly . . .

Thoughts on Rod Tip Recovery

Thoughts on Rod Tip Recovery

Rod tip recovery is the defining characteristic of a quality fly rod versus a mediocre one.

Cast the rod and watch it flex. Now see how long it takes for the rod tip to stop shaking. Watch for a complete stop, all the way to a standstill — not just the big motions, but the minor shuddering at the end too.

Good rods recover quickly. They may be fast or slow. They may be built for power or subtly, but they recover quickly. They return to their original form in short order.

Here’s why . . .

Fly Casting — Shoot Line on the Back Cast

Fly Casting — Shoot Line on the Back Cast

For better casting, for more options after the power stroke, for more available adjustments regarding where the line will end up, shoot most or all of the necessary line on the backcast. And if you’re really good, do it with no extra false casting . . .

Here’s how and why . . .

Bob’s Fly Casting Wisdom

Bob’s Fly Casting Wisdom

In my early twenties I drove a delivery van for a printing company while finishing the last few semesters of my English degree. Life was pretty easy back then, and I spent much of my leisure time playing guitar and fishing small backcountry streams for wild trout. It was a tight-quarters casting game. And making the transition from the five-foot spinning rod of my youth to a much longer fly rod gave me some trouble. Until, that is, I received one of the simplest and most transformative pieces of fly fishing advice . . .

Fly Casting — Don’t Reach

Fly Casting — Don’t Reach

Whenever we learn a new skill, our tendency is to exaggerate the motions. Beginning guitar players, for example, arch their last finger joints too much, desperately straining to keep their fretting fingers away from the neighboring strings. Eventually, experience teaches a more relaxed approach, and music begins to flow from the instrument.

Curiously, there’s a connection between fly rodders and guitarists. Somehow, there’s a similar draw. I know a lot of artists who can both sling a fly line and strum a six string. And fly anglers have the same trouble as guitarists — we try too hard at first. In fact, even experienced fly casters start reaching with the casting arm when presented with a new technique.

So don’t do it. Don’t reach on the forward cast. When the backcast ends crisply, the forward cast begins. And when the forward cast ends, the arm should be in a natural position — not stretched out and reaching for the target. Here’s why . . .

What do you think?

Be part of the Troutbitten community of ideas.
Be helpful. And be nice.

3 Comments

  1. I agree with the recommended cast of between 10 and 2. I taught myself to cast with the help of Joe Brooks book, Trout Fishing, which has terrific illustrations on various casts. Later, I tried to learn the Lefty Kreh method of casting, which obviously works for long distance and big flies. But for me, personally, it messed up my casting. Ten and Two. If you want to get super technical, Joan Wulff’s fly casting book will keep you busy for many a year.

    Reply
  2. I learned to cast from Fly Fishing Strategy by Swisher & Richards. Reaches, mends, etc I picked up here and there from Mel Krieger, Lefty, Joan Wulff and a couple of hands on one-on-ones with an instructor. And I’ve amassed a bit of a collection of casting books which I largely read for self-diagnosis if I’m having a problem or trying to solve one.

    Reply

Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Recent Articles

Recent Posts

Pin It on Pinterest