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Sunday, May 13, 2012

Technique Spotlight: Improve Your Casting By Keeping the Elbow Under Control

John Paine casting in the back of the shop.
John Paine demonstrating proper elbow position and a nice loop!

One of the great things about fly casting is that it relies on finesse and form instead of brute strength. If you are tired or sore at the end of the day, you may be expending too much energy.

After you learn to fly cast and master keeping a stiff wrist, the next step is power generation. You’re stopping the fly rod in the correct spot above your head on the forward and back-cast, but those loops are still wide and sloppy! A possible solution? Look at your elbow during the cast and take a tip for Joan Wulff, fly fishing luminary and wife of legendary angler Lee Wulff.

Fact: Joan Wulff cast 161 ft. in a 1960s casting tournament

We might be a little hazy on 1960s fly rod tech, but we’re pretty sure she wasn’t casting a Sage One rod with Generation 5 technology and a polymer-enhanced shooting taper with texturing to help it sail along. Nope, Joan probably actually knew how to cast, without brute strength, and without technology that we take for granted.

There is no better teacher when it comes to finessing your cast than Joan, and she hinges from the shoulder and keeps her elbow under control during short casts.

Joan Wulff's Dynamics of Fly Casting: From Solid Basics to Advanced Techniques
Joan Wulff's DVD is still one of the best. Call the shop to order.

Want to improve your casting?

We also offer private hourly instruction and in-depth intermediate class.

During relatively short casts, such as casting a dry fly on the Yakima, the elbow should finish bent and near the ribcage.  If you finish the cast with your arm extended out in front of you, elbow straight, you’re working too hard to throw that fly line 30 ft.! Take a break and let the rod do the work by hinging from the shoulder and finishing with your arm bent and nestled comfortably by your side. The motion is similar to pulling a string to gather up window blinds, or chopping wood with a hatchet. There are a lot of muscles to use to bring that arm down to a positive stop, and it takes a lot of casts to make them tired!

It’s only on the longer casts that the elbow comes off the ribcage at the end of the power stroke, when you truly have to reach to deeply load the rod.  But unless you’re hauling to a distant rise on Pass Lake or you really have to ply that far Skagit seam with an intergalactic laser beam, try keeping that elbow down and in.  You might be surprised how easy it really is to load that fly rod.