Loading the rod is of vital importance to good fly casting. Good casters simply load, or bend, the rod more than poor casters. This loading causes the catapulting effect that propels the line forward and makes the whole thing look effortless and smooth.
Without the bending the rod works like a windscreen wiper simply swiping backwards and forwards. Much effort is expended by the caster for little gain. You won't want to persevere with fly fishing if you do it like this.
For good rod loading you need to consider the following points so take a rod out on the water and go through the following exercises. Don't ever practice on the grass - it doesn't have the same effect and it will take ten times longer to learn.
Fly rods, because of their nature (long fine whippy things) don't like being bent suddenly or instantly. They work better as catapults if the bend is put in gradually. Think back to using a sling shot as a kid. You pulled the rubber bands back slowly and as far as you could before you let fly. You didn't pull back at a hundred miles an hour. A fly rod is no different the prebend needs to be applied in a gradual manner until it peaks.
To understand this principal start with just 10 feet of fly line on the water and your rod tip level with, or in the water. In this static position the rod is not bent, the water is floating the line. Now lift the rod slowly until two feet of line is hanging from the rod tip. Stop here and think for a while. The rod tip starts to bend ever so slightly because the weight of this two feet of line is no longer supported by the water but by the rod. Continue the lift and stop when four feet of line is hanging from the rod tip. Think again. The weight has increased even more, so the bending effect must have also increased. Continue the lift and stop at six feet. Use your brain again. The weight of line hanging from the rod tip is even greater. Continue to the full ten feet. Now the entire fly line is supported by the rod, none of it is floated by the water. All of it is in the air. This is now the maximum bend that we can apply to the rod by the line weight alone. This is what I call "prebend'.
Rate of Prebend and "Waterfall" effect
Applying this maximum prebend at a constant rate is extremely critical. If the prebend move occurs too quickly it is ineffective and the line noise as it leaves the water scares the fish. Try it now by casting say, 30 feet, then quickly rip into the backcast as fast as you can. Hear how the line tears or rips as it leaves the water. This absolutely scares the fins off fish. Avoid it at all costs. Similarly it is ineffective if it occurs too slowly or in a stop start manner. You really need to "peel" the line off the water at a constant rate. I can't stress this point enough.
The waterfall effect ensures that the prebending occurs at a constantly accelerating and smooth rate. Cast a little further out , say 30 - 40 feet. Now watch the point where the flyline first touches the water after leaving your rod tip. Watch this "joining point" as you start moving the rod into the back cast. See how it travels out away from you towards the end of the line or leader. Try it a few times and watch the joining point travel away from you carefully. When you get the lift off speed right you will see a little triangular waterfall, perhaps an inch or so high. Keep this waterfall running the entire length of your fly line at a rate that you can see it with your eyes. When the waterfall reaches the leader (not before), snap into the back cast. Once the rod is properly prebent it doesn't matter how hard you apply the power (better more than less). The trick I guess is knowing how hard to pull for the given length of line and wind conditions - only practice and perhaps tuition will tell you this bit If you lift off the water too quickly you will not see the waterfall. If you lift too slowly the waterfall will not form - get it right and see the difference to your cast.
Right angle load application
Everything bends best, or most, if the load is applied at a right angle to the lever. This is a fact of life we cannot change. This applies to fly rods too. Never apply power to a fly rod until the waterfall reaches the leader and the line is hanging at a right angle to the rod. At this instant the rod is fully prebent, the line is all off the water and it is at 90 degrees to the rod. At this point it is imperitave to have the correct grip as I discussed in my first lesson on "Grip'. Go back to it and read why. Try something else for me. Pull your line back in to 5 feet and repeat the cast, adhering to the rules above. See how the line is at a right angle when the waterfall reaches the end? Do it again at 15 feet, again at 25 feet, again at 35 feet and so on. Cunning isn't it? These rules apply no matter what length of line you cast.
Back cast and Forward cast
Snap into the back cast when the waterfall reaches the leader, wait for the line to straighten behind you and push forward with your knuckle. Track the rod tip in a straight line and push smoothly without trying to belt the cover off it. It's a bit like golf. The less you try on the forward cast the better it works - it's all in the loading of the back cast.
There is really much more to it than this and if you have any trouble at all, you really should think about booking into one of our casting classes. There is no substitute to being badgered for a day by me.
Peter Hayes" TASMANIA's PREMIER FLY FISHING GUIDES AND INSTRUCTORS Check out our new web site at www.flyfishtasmania.com.au Or phone 6259 8295