Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Strong Fulcrum Two Hand Casting

Many two hand casters are afflicted with a serious disease that limits their ability to cast tight loops that finish with the leader having enough transferred energy to completely unfurl and pop forward.  The root cause can come from a pre existing condition that is not covered by their health insurance plans.  It is based on many years of single hand fly casting.

Singlehandcastitis can now be controlled and used only when wanted.   It will take a bit of work, but in the end will get you to kick the single hand casting memory habits of push and squeeze.

Let’s for a moment talk about how we have been taught to make tight loops with a single hand rod.  The principles of constant acceleration with a straight tip path to an abrupt stop are the corner stones of using the forced turn over style that is most prevalent in our teaching.  We place a very strong emphasis especially on the word “STOP”. 

At the time of that abrupt and squeezing hard stop what can you imagine happens?  The rod is in full bend and because there can be no such thing as an exacting stop, we do our best to anticipate the almost stop.  Techniques like squeezing and pushing with the thumb are explored.  All to get the line moving over the tip to launch the loop.  Joan Wulff says that we should release hand pressure immediately after, what she calls, the power snap stop.

So, at that very moment after we have used a forced turnover stop technique, when the rod achieves being perfectly straight as it moves forward, what then happens?  It moves in the opposite direction and counter flexes.  The amount of counter flex is determined by a few factors.  The weight and length of line out the tip, the recovery rate or action of the rod, the amount of push performed just prior to the stop and the grip firmness of that stop all play their parts.  Fast recovery rods will counter flex less but the other factors are all causes of greater counter flex.  What then happens to the shape of the loop at the moment of launch?  Launch being the moment of loop formation that has sufficient energy to pass the line over the tip top and move forward.  What is the result of counter flex?

If we were to make a video of a caster from the side we could see the effects in slow motion when making different casts under the situations listed above.  The experiment of what will cause the rod to have the greatest counter flex could be achieved.  This is a worth while study at your next get together or clinic.

There is another factor that can sap the energy of our line.  In addition to the natural atmospheric condition at the moment the hard stop will cause our rod, lever acting as a spring, to vibrate back and forward.  The tighter we hold the grip the greater the effect of vibration.  The quickest way to damp the rod is to let it go.  The way to create the greatest vibration is to hold tight.  Each time the rod vibrates backward it pulls the line backward.  This creates shock waves and is a loss of energy .

Let’s assume that we are making a longer cast using a medium action single hand rod  and utilizing a hard stop and a hard thumb push with just the amount of translation, forward movement, rod arc, casting stroke and rotation that will keep the line from making tailing loops.  This will be a cast using forced turnover that is of good quality and as tight as possible for that technique.  When the rod goes into counter flex what then becomes the tip path?  In our slow motion video you will see that it becomes substantially convex.  Convex to the point of forcing the line leg to move down causing a serious dip in the line.  The harder the stop and squeeze the greater the downward tip path.  This shape is called a shock dimple.  The reason it works is because the downward movement of the tip clears the path for the loop to form and pass over the tip top.  Controlling that shape, as well as it’s size,  is possible by slowing down, tip manipulation and changing the abruptness of the stop to as light as possible for the amount of energy needed to launch the line.  In single hand casting there is but a short distance between thumb and pinky placed on the grip.  Try making short casts with body translation, moving back and forth,  and then only rotate the rod at the end of the stroke by using a pinky pull.  Yes that’s right, it can be done with a grater amount of line that you might think.  Pinky pull with no thumb and index finger pressure needed.  You will also want to make a slight downward movement of the rod grip at the same time to allow the line to move over the tip.  I now also move slightly to the opposite side.  Watch the loop shape.  If you are like most of us you will now see the tightest wedge shape loop you have ever cast.  You have now positioned the fulcrum for your lever at a point on the rod grip and not at your wrist.  Is this a practical way to cast a single hand rod?  Possibly not for all of us.  But what about if you could expand the limits of a single hand rod and achieve this when using two hands.

I learned Pull Rod Straight from Al Buhr.  He noticed that I was using excessive and premature rotation of my top hand and gave me the information needed to help me.
Let’s start from a perfect key position for this discussion.  Key position being the place where top and bottom hands are perfectly ready to start our forward translation of forward stroke movement.  At this point our top hand will be to the side of the top hand ear and the bottom grip will be in front of the top of the middle upper part of your abdomen.  Bottom hand will be forward. Remember we are in key position having circled up our D loop and under continuous tension and rod bend and moving without pause into the forward stroke.  Now, move both hands forward together at the same speed.  What should be happening is that the rod is achieving a butt style full length bend through the grip. 

Why is this important?

Fly rods are designed to taper from a thick butt section to a thin tip.  The more mass an object has the greater the amount of energy that can be transferred to an object.  Hence to butt bend the rod is to use the portion of the rod that has the ability to then transfer greater energy through the length of a tapered rod to the tapered line.  Does the energy pass from the butt to the tip?  Sure it does.  But the efficiency of a greater mass receiving and then transferring energy to a lesser mass is greater than the amount of energy that can be accepted in the lesser mass and then transferred to the line mass.   Tip casting is fine and I do it all the time.  Forced turnover is fine and I use it all the time as well.   Using the “flip the tip” exercise is a great way to have our students move line over the tip.  The key factor is to choose the way we move line and do it that way when we want to.  The greater the amount of line out the tip the more reason to make a strong, not tight, fulcrum at our top hand.  The greater the amount of line out the tip the less amount of top hand push and hard stop should be used.  

This butt bending movement should be performed with limited to no rotation between bottom and top hands.  Scissoring top and bottom hands is not desired.  I practice pantomime from the key position to presentation over and over again to get the movement fluid. 

There is another key position to talk about.

This position is the one that comes at the moment the forward stroke has completed forward movement of both hands.  It requires us understanding what a strong fulcrum is and why a strong fulcrum is necessary.  As our bodies have certain muscular structure so do all the muscles in our bodies have certain positions where, when flexed, those muscles will be at their pinnacle strength.  For the upper arm during a casting stroke that will be when the elbow is at a 90 degree angle and the elbow itself is close to our core. 

A Strong Fulcrum

If I were to place the butt of my rod in the palm of my up facing off hand and move only the top dominant hand forward and back where would the fulcrum be?  In the palm of my bottom hand.  Yes?  Look at the shape of the tip path and the shape of the loops that this creates.  Like a rainbow and severely convex and surly not tight.  Then let’s make the top and bottom hands scissor equally forward and back.   The 50/50 standard of top and bottom hand power.  Look at the shape of the line.  Still very convex with large loops.   Now keep the top hand as still as possible and only move the bottom  hand as power placing the fulcrum solidly in the top hand and using the bottom as all the energy.  Yes? 

Try this experiment. 

Stand in a doorway and straddle left and right of the floor door jam.  Now place your dominant hand at eye level in front of your face.  Push on the door jam.  Then move your feet to a position side to side and forward and back and find where you can exert the greatest amount of force from hand to jam.  The conclusion you will come to is that it will be straight from your shoulder, your elbow pointing down with the angle at 90 degrees.  It will also be the same position if you get someone to push on the back of your hand as well.  Exactly where you what the fulcrum to be when two hand casting.  Exactly the height and distance from your body that is the set up for the bottom hand pull.  The top hand is now a strong pivot point fulcrum.  The D loop is the resistance and the pull can be performed.

Now we are making that strong rod butt bend and moving forward with top and bottom to this exact point and we cease forward movement.  Not with an extra push or flick or tight extra squeeze but with a shoulder and elbow and wrist that is in their strongest of strong positions.  We then notice that the pressure point of the rod in our top hand is not in our fingers but solidly into the heel of the hand.  This is the pivot point.  This is the creation of the strong fulcrum with a pivot point for maximum strength.

Note that the butt of the rod is still in front.

The next thing that happens is making a seamless, without pause, bottom hand pull.  This pull is not to add excessive power.  If you pull too hard you will make tailing loops and cause line crash.   It is not meant to further bend and therefore possibly collapse the tip of the rod and it is not to be very long and abrupt.  This pull, heading in the direction of your off hand side hip can be as short as two inches.  It could be a bit longer when greater line lengths are out the tip.  This pull will have your core and shoulders and arm flexing tight.  What is intended by the pull is to pull the rod into a straight position that will have the effect of limited counter flex and vibration.  It will have a natural downward movement allowing the line to move over the tip.  You will notice issues in your loops that are the same as when top hand uses forced turnover if you are pulling too abruptly and too much.

The “Pull Rod Straight” movement has become another part of my cast scripting.  It now falls in between forward stroke and presentation.  I can alter the way my leader straightens with ease now and full well use this style as often as possible.  It has taken a long time and many pantomime and practice sessions but my muscle manipulation is now becoming more important than memory.  

Am I completely cured?  Like any recurring problem, Singlehandcastitis can rear it’s ugly head, but I now have an understanding for why it does and I can stop it from happening on the very next cast.


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