Accuracy comes from the rod tip. A good fly caster feels the tip working and flexing. That feeling travels down the rod blank, into the butt section and under the cork, providing the fisherman a tangible connection from his casting hand to the fly. His offering of furs and feathers is sent on a proper course because he has full control over the rod tip. The best casters will tell you they are casting the last twelve to twenty inches of the rod — not the whole thing.
So it’s the small, minor movements that make the difference between hitting the center of a seam at thirty-five feet, or hitting the edge of it. What’s more, that’s the difference between catching a trout, or striking out and wondering if there’s any fish holding under that seam in the first place. Accuracy matters. And more than anything else, it’s the fine motions of the rod tip that determine our fate.
I say fine motions. They are slight. An extra inch drifted to the side, just after the power stroke of the cast, may well end up pushing the fly an extra foot to the right, as the slight motions of the rod tip are amplified over distance.
Likewise, the movements of the casting hand are amplified at the rod tip. Watch your rod hand move during the cast. Now watch how much further the tip moves at the end of the rod. An inch of extra motion from the rod hand results in perhaps a foot of extra throw at the tip, and long rods amplify this even more.
So then, it takes slight rod hand motions to move the tip, and the end of the rod determines the course of the cast. How can we keep the rod hand motions slight enough? How can we keep them crisp enough to build speed without moving the hand too far?
With the hand on the cork, squeeze it at the end of the power stroke. At the stopping point on both the backcast and forward cast (ten and two) squeeze the cork handle.
This small squeeze packs a big punch. Casting is most effective with small and crisp motions. And there is power in the squeeze as the rod tip is forced to flex and accelerate even more. Then it abruptly stops.
Let’s try it. Just to see what a squeeze does to the tip, stand with your rod tip held straight up. Now watch what happens when you squeeze the cork. The tips flexes. Squeeze the cork by pushing the thumb forward and pulling the fingers back (assuming a thumb on top grip), and watch how the tip is forced forward with just a squeeze. It’s subtle, right? But that’s exactly what we need from the rod tip. Remember, an inch or two of motion at the rod tip results in greater distances at the end of the line.
Variety is the spice of . . .
There are a couple of different ways to hold a fly rod, and there’s diversity even within those two types. I won’t try to cover all of that here, and I don’t need to. Think about squeezing the rod, and you’ll have it within a few minutes of casting.
Squeezing on the forward cast is different than squeezing on the backcast. Think about it — but not too much. The squeeze on the backcast is more about the index finger pulling up and the heel of the thumb pushing down (again, assuming the thumb on top grip).
These variations become natural if you are tuned into the rod tip — if you are feeling the rod tip, controlling it and imagining which way you intend for it to flex next.
Like so many things in fly fishing, you will learn easily if you believe in your instincts as the teacher.
Grip and Release
Last thing here: It’s important to relax the grip after each squeeze. Hold the cork firmly enough to maintain control, but relax the muscles of the hand and forearm after each squeeze. And now, you’re ready for the next squeeze.
This simple technique provides the accuracy and power needed for next-level fly casting. Good luck out there.
Fish hard, friends.
Enjoy the day.
T R O U T B I T T E N