Peter Patricelli

What does an extra 10 or 20 feet get you?

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Posted (edited)

In a related thread, the discussion turn to the question of importance of distance casting was brought up by the OP who was embarking on the shift from fly fising for trout and gear for saltwater fishing to saltwater flyfishing. He said he was casting 60 feet in some venues but wanted more and wanted advice on improving his distance. Since there is honor among fishermen to never question estimated lengths....of fish OR casts.....let's accept that 60 foot figure at face value.

 

The 60 foot figure is quite familiar to me because that is classically where the trout casting, especially in the NE with smaller streams, works just fine with little emphasis on shoot, or double hauling. Given a 9' rod, a 9' leader, a few feet of overhang and a 30-40 foot head on a WF line....there is pretty much your 60 feet....with little to no shoot.

 

The discussion then went several directions. 60 feet (if the standard 60 feet)....really isn't all the bad, most strikes occur within that distance.....if one chooses their water and times carefully the fish will be right there. Attention to “fish-logic” and reading the water can make up for lack of distance. And, lessons are only going to get you another 10-20 feet.

 

That got me to thinking. The first thought I had was so obvious I had never really formalized it as an awareness......how often a fisherman will choose the water to fish based on their casting comfort. Lots of people having lots of fun who can't get much beyond 60 feet. Do the work of finding those places, the times and tides. Have fun.

 

And I realized I, and really everybody, does a version of the same thing: check out and concentrate on places that would seem to offer a good chance AT FISH THEY CAN REACH.

 

The second thought I had centered around that question......what is an extra 10-20 feet......achievable with a good double haul and shoot.....really worth? What does it “GET “ you?

 

The most simplistic and concrete answer to that starts with geometry. The area of a circle is equal to PI times the square of the radius. If one thinks as a fisherman, extra distance is not just 10 more feet, but the AREA that his casts can cover....which is ten more feet.....SQUARED......times a constant.

 

Soooooo, let's look at that. Say you are standing on a featureless open flat sight fishing ....looking in all directions.....and can cast 60 feet. One then can theoretically cover an area of 11,310 square feet. If one can cast 80 feet......that area balloons to 20,106 square feet......That is a 78% increase in area, very close to doubling your shots if the spotted fish are randomly distributed. I would add an additional factor. Without the funneling effect of current, cuts, distracting bait, etc., 99% of the time the first 20 feet or so around you is devoid of fish because they have already seen or sensed your presence and have shied off. That means you are surrounded by 1257 square feet of “dead” water. Subtract that from both the 60 foot area covered and the 80 foot area.....that becomes 10,053 and 18,849 respectively and you have realistically increased your active fishing area by 88%.

 

What about the more common scenario, standing or wading along a shoreline with lots of structure and deepening water, but with the shallower fishless (hopefully!) water behind you. Your fishing arc is reduced from 360 degrees to some arc lesser than 180 degrees.......say 1/3......60 degrees......30 degrees both right and left of perpendicular. The area now being fished is 1/6th of a full circle. How does that effect the advantage of an 80 foot cast over a 60 foot cast? The formula says that area is pi R squared x degree of arc/360. 60 degrees is 1/6th of 360 degrees. In this case I am not going to subtract the initial 20 feet because of the structure or depth which really allows for fish to get in quite close to you.

 

For the 60 foot cast that becomes 11,310 divided by 6 = 1885 square feet. For the 80 foot caster that is 3,351 square feet. That is the same 78% increase as for the original 360 fishing coverage.

 

The point is, in the real world, one's opportunity to put one's fly in front of fish in very common fishing venues increases with the SQUARE of the distance you can cast. That potentially translates into an almost doubling in opportunity regardless of the venue. If one searches out those fishing spots which present fish within one's casting distance, then the amount of qualifying water on the Cape also increases enormously.

 

So, for the trout fisherman looking to make the jump to saltwater flyfishing, the big learning curve is making the jump from false-casting presentation to (comfortable, efficient) double haul-shoot presentation......that 60 foot cast to a 70-80 foot cast. OR....get a double-handed rod.

 

Note there are some important corollaries to this radius squared reality. First, every foot further, since it is squared, potentially reaps huge benefits......in terms of water coverage......altho at extreme distances decreased fishability eventually reduces those advantages.

 

The second reality, which we all have experienced, if not appreciated, is that the basic energy involved in getting that extra foot, or five feet, or ten feet.....goes up by the SQUARE of that distance. That is because the distance killing drag of wind resistance goes up by the square of the velocity needed to reach that extra distance. It takes more energy to cast 80 feet than 60 feet......only IF one can cast 80 feet in the first place. If one is struggling at 60 feet to get further, then the inefficiencies involved are way beyond what three efficient 80 foot casts require.

 

And beyond all of this very mechanistic approach, the cast dynamics necessary to move beyond that 50-60 foot barrier carry over to ability to deal with the challenges of wind, accuracy, etc..

 

In the final analysis, the point of all this is to have fun and enjoy oneself.....NOT to base that on numbers of fish caught (after at least ONE.....or occasionally) or distance one can cast. If all we wanted was fish, gear fishing is simpler, and nets or dynamite simpler still. But the point of this game is to BE IN THE GAME. No one fishes water that does not have fish. We have all chosen a self-challenging method that basically ties one hand behind your back and makes you stand on one leg. There are multiple dimensions within that self-challenge, and a fluent caster simply opens up for themselves many new venues or territories that fish frequent. It is worth the effort. Instruction is worth it.

 

Have fun out there.

Edited by Peter Patricelli

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Posted (edited)

Peter brilliant but you are doing my head in. The title suggested my initial response with ego trip.

If you are  a reasonable caster already then I will differ from you in that if you have aspirations to be world class distance wise then you are going to gain more than just 20 feet. After just 18 months of very intense learning from a great teacher this old boy is adding a bit more than 20 feet. Nothing magical or clever about it. You just have to be interested enough to get technically good. It took me 68.5 years to suddenly become obsessed with casting. I hope others who would like to do a bit better than bang average start way sooner.

There is absolutely no disadvantage in being able to cast well.

One of the best insults aimed at us fly boys came from a Frank Daignault who accuses us of selecting water and conditions that we can cast in rather than where fish are likely to be. This insult has never ceased to resonate inside of me and I thank Frank because it changed the direction of my  fishing life. In short I don’t choose a venue to match my ability I choose it for the best chance of a fish and I enjoy the challenge of trying to cope with the ocean when she is being rather belligerent. Of course I very often lose. It’s what a challenge is.

 

mike

Edited by Mike Oliver

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Posted (edited)

Mike,

You and I both know this is a lifelong passion of infinite complexity and depth, and the rewards are set only by each of us in our self-chosen goals.  However, God or Fate or Mother Biology has a sense of humor since our bodies do not grow with our experience.  Almost 50 years ago in a public contest with an off the rack, typical NW steelhead fishing outfit, 30' shooting head, 9 foot leader, yarn fly, mono running line, I threw a measured 137'.  Now, at 77, my arm strength has deteriorated to the point that I couldn't reach the basket for a standard basketball free throw.  Seriously?  In short, my days of finding MORE distance are over..

 

So....in the fading twilight......I CHOOSE to stick with SH rods and the unoperated shoulder-elbow-wrist that I first brung to the dance.  My distance, when it comes down to that, hasn't suffered as much as my loss of strength would predict, perhaps due to some real technological advancement in rods and lines....of which I take continuous glee in, the associated ad hype and ridiculous prices, mocking.  (I hope I never encounter another sentence that complex!)  Even if I DIDN'T lose 20 feet due to tech advancement, they still owe me more than 40 feet in promised, incremental, guaranteed gains.  But, before it is too late.....thank you.  But I'm still using $60 rods!

 

"There is absolutely no disadvantage in being able to cast well."

Amen

 

"Frank Daignault (who) accuses us  (flyguys) of selecting water and conditions that we can cast in rather than where fish are likely to be."

 

I think Frank missed the whole point of tying one hand behind your back and balancing on one leg.....while fishing.  I also think if he super-glued a fly outfit onto his hands and had to truly grasp that challenge he would be surprised at the productivity of some water that gear fishermen regularly eschew. Remember, it was only after 200 years or so of gear fishing that it took the transplantation of Florida-style saltwater fly-fishing to "DISCOVER",  in the late 1980's to early 1990's, the striper fishery (sight-fishing) on the flats of Monomoy!!  

 

It seemed odd to me to be actually defending the advantages of better/longer casting distance, but someone needed to say it.  Unless simple distance is the chosen goal, and for all of us who revel in immersing ourselves (up to the armpits.....or worse) to participate in the mini-dramas of the food chain in that wonderful, beautiful, natural world........even those of us who have stopped counting the fun by the numbers of fish.........AN 80 FOOT (OR BETTER) CAST COVERING FISH-HOLDING WATER STILL PUTS ME IN DIRECT TOUCH WITH 77-88% MORE OF THAT WORLD, MOMENT BY MOMENT, THAN A 60 FOOT CAST!  Those 20 feet are a quantum leap in what it opens up.  It is SO worth, to me, cheerleading that reality for young'uns like you and the infant trout fishermen still wet behind/under their waders wondering what the line holding hand should be doing during a cast.

 

For those still on the fence all I can say is.......do you remember how much fun life was before you discovered sex?  Well............

Edited by Peter Patricelli

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Posted (edited)

@Peter Patricelli

Very excellent and a lot to digest.

 

Here are some thoughts.  

 

Regarding casting lessons and practice:

1. We should strive to be the best casters we can and no matter the final measured distance, casting practice and lessons will make us  better and more efficient and therefore better casters.  Fly fishing is largely comprised of casting and requires much more physical effort compared to other angling disciplines.

2. Casting with better mechanics and less effort has utility/value.  Increasing Casting distance has utility/value

 

Regarding of square footage of coverage notes:

1. For my style of fishing the value of square footage is only useful when searching for fish.

2. Most spots I have dialed in pretty well and the strike zones are often 3x4 meter targets and sometimes can be only a half hour window.  If the fish do not strike in those zones the probability of catching a fish in transit anywhere else drops to a very low number.

3. Radial square footage may matter more searching  in low current, but for swinging flies I find there may only be a sweet spot of about 20 degrees.  Shortening the cast or physically moving is what is still necessary to optimize presentation angle.  The square foot advantage is relative, but not if it distance void of structure/fish.

 

Longer casts:

1. longer casts do have utility but only if fish are located at that distance.

2. longer casts make presentation more difficult. Line Drag / mending / fly contact / fly visibility

 

I realize tenkara is not a favorite topic in the flyfishing community.  I have been exclusively targeting trout with a fixed line flyrod for about seven years.  There are a short list of river types that I would  favor a fly rod and reel.  Most freshwater flyrodders simply cast over or wade through some of the prime lies in the river.  I would say 90% of freshwater flyfisherman do this.  It is mostly because they favor the desire for a long cast over catching fish or just don't know any better.  I would say the number would be less in the salt.  Perhaps 30% mostly because most salt anglers seem to be more educated.  That said, I have learned with the constraint, I can be very productive and do not use my casting distance ever as a handicap.  99% of successful fishing is tied into our powers of observation, improvisation, and creative problem solving.  Using our legs to move can be a powerful tool. Yet I often see a fellow fly angler or two set up shop in a spot and not move an inch for hours....every cast is a full long cast.  “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.”   Sometimes a short cast is what we want and need.  Sometimes moving just a half dozens steps up or downtide. 

 

BTW.... I realize that you and others know this stuff.  But out on the water it is evident that not everyone knows these things.

 

 

Edited by puppet

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When I'm not wading a trout stream I do a lot of fishing from shore on small ponds and streams. It has been my observation that 90% of the fishermen I see start by casting as far as they can. They apparently think that there are more fish against the far bank than along the near bank -- and it doesn't matter which side of the stream they're on, they always cast to the far bank. I think it must be a guy thing.

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9 mins ago, smath said:

It has been my observation that 90% of the fishermen I see start by casting as far as they can. They apparently think that there are more fish against the far bank than along the near bank.

The paradox .....

Shore fishermen cast as far out as possible.

Boat fishermen get as close to shore as possible.

If we some how meet someplace in between... it's a lot of trouble dodging casting plugs and smack talking between both parties.

 

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Posted (edited)

Peter thank you for bestowing the title of young onto my 70 year old head. I feel a real inner glow warmth.

You know me well as a contrary Bastard and I am going to travel that path again.  Men of course never decay in their minds. Old ones still think they are gods gift to young beautiful women. If you are filthy rich this can be true even.

Paradoxically as I have aged my cast has improved radically and I am so fortunate that my shoulders and arms are in very good condition. Hard to get my own head around this. I have aspirations to venture into the realms of competition fly casting. Reality will probably strike at the first event. LOL. Agree totally that gear has little bearing . Never more so highlighted  when I cast a TFO 8 wt Professional series rod. Very inexpensive but cuts the Mustad. Sadly in spite of that I am addicted to rods and blanks. Every man as  Clint Eastwood says has his weak points. Technical ability and attitude when it gets tough is the great differentiator as most of us know. I never cease to be amazed by the only can cast 60 foot brigade who so stoutly defend their position. I can’t help it but to be bang average in a sport I love when I could do better with some endeavour is not in my DNA. I am not a flat earther.  
For those with less ambition totally understand but then please don’t try  and sell me and others that it is not necessary to go a bit further.  Bit to me like smokers encouraging others to stay with the habit.

oly

Edited by Mike Oliver

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Fifty years of throwing and teaching boys and young men, the art, science and bio kinetics of throwing baseballs above 90 MPH, has blessed me with an appreciation of those who strive and teach others to fly fish with the proper mechanics for distance and presentation, so as to enjoy this great sport to its absolute potential.

     During individual and team practice I've asked many players " Is it fun to lose?" They always say "NO" "So then we will practice to Win"

Distance matters and practice does not make perfect, PERFECT PRACTICE MAKES PERFECT.

Keep up the great information, Men and THANK YOU to the present, and the greats of the past who have led the way.

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60 feet is a good cast with a fly rod …is 80 feet better , absolutely … the one problem with any type of casting is what you think you throw and what you actually throw , what are you throwing wft, sinking tip etc… and in what wind/weather conditions … practicing correctly is key and measuring your distance accurately will some times be a humbling experience or a holy c h I t , I casted that far moment … 

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Peter, I totally agree. But I like to think of my task as consistent successful distance. The primary goal is to keep that fly in the water. So I aim for that distance I can successful cast again and again while doing the minimum falsecasting. It's about 65 feet of fly line iwth floater and 75 maybe 80 on good day with intermediate line.  

 

I second what Puppet said about footwork. Have to keep moving. Using a spinning rod you see it time and time again the fish are there but they are concentrated to one part of a spot. You can find them fast with spinning gear and plugs, in right conditions, but with a fly rod it take a lot more effort to cover many types of water. Talking places where fish can hold all over...from right in front of you out as far as u can cast. That sort of deal. 

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I love reading these types of posts- makes me feel like the true amateur at fly fishing I am, be it salt water for stripers/blues or fresh water for trout/smallmouths or when I run into them, my favorite carp. 90 percent of my fishing is done in Jersey.  As  a avoid amateur I will toss in my 2 cents. 

 

I would say 60 feet standing on the beach, dealing with waves, wind, different weight rods, floating or intermediate lines, big bunker flys or poppers is about the best I can do, cast after cast, never mind also dealing with spin guys on my right/left and this past fall standing behind me tossing plugs over the top of my head with me looking back and saying I need to be able to cast backward where you are standing could you move? The fish will be moving to the left or the right so no need to be standing right behind me. I can throw further in backyard, generally 80 foot depending on fly being used, without a lot of effort, but in the real world of fishing off the shore in Jersey 60 is about the best I got, cast after cast- I have managed to hook up with other fly fisherman this year and its been enjoyable fishing with them as they have thoughts and ideas on fishing/casting/flys etc that give us the best opportunity to catch fish but even though they are superior casters, the distance difference is minimal. They do seem to do it with less effort and I know that by this time ever year, my right elbow is barking from the repetitive  motion of casting. 

 

As far as freshwater, there is no river in Jersey other then the Delaware where a long 80/90 foot cast is going to get you anything. I think taking the time to move into the correct position, without disturbing the water and keeping casts at the 20-40 range seems to work a whole lot better and if  fishing nymphs almost no casting works better. 

 

In the end I spend a lot of time learning the beaches and local salt water rivers I fish- where the sand bars are, how the jetties/groins move current, where in the rivers, hard sand meets soft sand/mud and how that then drops off into deeper water, through all the tide and moon phases, some places just fish better on different tides, incoming/outgoing and some holes hold fish for different portion of tides then others. If i could toss a fly 90 or even 80 feet as easily as I can the 60 feet I would admit that would open up more water to cover/explore.  I fish because I enjoy being outside, i enjoy the smell of the ocean, the flow of a river and what nature will surprise me with by being a part of it, being with friends and the enjoyment of  a nice fish caught, landed, released and talked about later, being with my sons and debating should we fish here? or there? can we wade the river up to that area? or go downstream and finding new places.  All of this is my mental break holiday from real life and the competition of real life and I completely understand others who want to push the limits of their abilities to  cast and to learn how to cast for the shear enjoyment of taking on that learning curve and achieving it.  I completely respect that.

 

Its not for me as when I am standing on a beach or a river waving a stick I am looking to be detached for a few hours from being an adult and enjoying just being a kid again without any worries or concerns. 

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11 hours ago, TopStriperAngler said:

 Using a spinning rod you see it time and time again the fish are there but they are concentrated to one part of a spot. You can find them fast with spinning gear and plugs, in right conditions, but with a fly rod it take a lot more effort to cover many types of water. Talking places where fish can hold all over...from right in front of you out as far as u can cast. That sort of deal. 

As a spin fisherman I would consider this point ^ as perhaps the most important part of the distance question. I know it might be considered blasphemy to pick up and actually use a spinning rod but by doing so a fly fisherman would actually find the locations  or location within a location where striped bass hold…and take. Then at least you’ll know what kind of distance cast is required to work that area.  Of course you can also do this by observing where other spin fishermen catch. 
Not to sound like a defender of Daignault but he was a trailblazer by using a fly rod during a time and place where NOBODY would even think or consider using it.  He saw the potential when striped bass were sipping sand eels in the first wave and the throngs of spin and conventional casters could not get them to take.  Using a half dozen saddle hackles on a hook put him in pay dirt so to speak.  Frank was at an advantage as knowing the waters he fished and knew what kind of flycast it would take to effectively fish it.  Great discussion even for a spin fisherman like me. 

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