We have looked at the background mechanics of body rotation and torque, says John Holden. These are the exercises that let you feel the winding and unwinding process without the distraction of a rod. They highlight what happens naturally when the body rotates backward, then uncoils forward to the cast’s launch point and beyond.
Run through the exercises until you can clearly feel the tightness of the set-up position, the weight shift which triggers the cast and the feeling of acceleration and power as you drive through to completion. The rest is easy…
Good cast, bad cast
We’re almost ready to add body power to a real cast. But before explaining the ‘power clock’, I’ll show you the difference between a good cast fuelled by body rotation and a bad cast powered by, well, nothing much except hope.
Learning to spot the good and bad in other casters will help to refine your own style but don’t forget that when you are casting, feedback and feel, not mechanical analysis, are what you should be concentrating on.
The most noticeable feature of the good cast is the powerful set-up position, shown here with the sinker on the beach. Other than the obvious differences, a pendulum should look the same. My body is wound up, weight on the right leg, arms slightly extended to give a wide rod arc.
The cast begins with a smooth weight transfer and body rotation, bringing me naturally to launch point, which is almost exactly the same body and arm position as the beginning of our previous heavy hammering exercises.
The rod is compressing nicely even though my arms have done nothing but move automatically into hammering position. Torque has loaded the blank for me. My body continues to uncoil, accelerating all the way through to the final hammering action that whips the sinker away at high speed on exactly the right path.
Abad cast begins with my dumping the sinker on the ground, then shuffling into position. You can see that the set-up lacks any direction and sense of purpose, with little if any pre-loading. The rod arc is seriously restricted.
Without body torque to drive the action, it’s left to my arms to provide all the effort. At what should have been a power-laden launch point, the rod is too upright, too far forward and still virtually uncompressed. The rest doesn’t matter - this is a cast going nowhere.
SETTING THE ‘POWER-CLOCK’
The amount of body torque dialled into your personal casting clock, plus the layout of rod, leader and sinker, allows controlled amounts of compression to be built in quickly, slowly or anywhere in between.
These combinations of rod angle, drop and sinker position extract the best performance from an outfit. Arod that’s too quick and stiff can be tamed. Likewise, a blank on the slow, sloppy side can be livened up.
The power and speed unleashed by a good body action may require that you open or close the stance a little so that the hammering action is accurately aligned with the aerial target. By the same token, the target may also need some adjustment to match the increased power output and altered trajectory.
Body-driven casts tend to fly to the right of an arms-dominant action. You may also get the feeling of slightly premature release, which is nothing to worry about. Your previous style probably threw low and left with a ‘sticky’ release.
Imagine a clock face under your feet, with 12 o’clock pointing toward the water. Coil around until your body feels comfortably tight. Remember to lean slightly forward as you turn, so that your body weight slides over to your right leg.
This is your basic turn on a medium-power setting. Somehow, relate the position of your shoulders to the clock face. When I rotate to medium setting, which is my starting point for fishing casts, it seems to me that a line drawn across my shoulders would align with the 2 o’clock and 7 o’clock marks. That is, just short of square to the 6 o’clock direction. Exactly where your shoulders settle, or how you judge them relative to the clock, does not matter provided that your coil is nice and solid, and that you can dial in the same degree of turn from cast to cast.
Wind yourself up really hard. Where do yourshoulders point now? That is your high-power setting, which you will rarely need on the beach. To establish the low-power setting, uncoil a little from the medium baseline toward the launch point angle.
Between the two you will sense a torque load that feels reasonably powerful yet still retains enough free space to generate a handy amount of rod compression before the launch point arrives. This low setting is handy on a steep beach that restricts rod movement.
Go back to medium setting and drop the rod roughly into position for a ground cast. Waggle it around in a flat arc. At one extreme lies the maximum angle and arm extension of the South African cast.
At the other end of the spectrum is a comfortable and natural-feeling minimum angle, which for most anglers points the rod somewhere toward 7 o’clock. Here your hands are relatively close to the body. At the South African position, the arms are almost straight.
Body setting plus arm extension control the rod layout angle. The widest power arc is a combination of maximum body wind-up and the longest arm to rod extension. It’s pretty obvious how to set up the minimum arc. What isn’t so clear is how to control the middle angles.
Should you set up for an 8 o’clock rod angle by using medium body wind-up and a medium reach? High setting and small arm extension or low body power and long arm extension? Where should the sinker lie? What about leader drop? The options depend on what you aim to achieve and how that process must be controlled... of which, more later.
THE ‘POWER CLOCK’ IN ACTION
Good casts arrive at launch point with the rod under compression, powered by an unwinding body action. From then on, it’s a simple matter of hammering the sinker toward the aerial target.
These two off-the-ground casts show that there is plenty of room for personal interpretation of a style provided that the framework is sound. The semi-South African uses plenty of body rotation and an extended rod and sinker layout.
The high-inertia Easy Cast develops its power from less body rotation and a smaller rod layout angle with only a small arm extension. The sinker lies on the inside of the rod tip, almost under the blank.
Both casts arrive at an almost identical launch point where the blank is nicely compressing with arms and body in the vital heavy hammering position. All this happens while the body continues to unwind on automatic pilot.
There is no need to deliberately control the arm movements that lead up to launch point. Before you cast, remind yourself of what a solid launch point feels like. Then allow your subconscious to take over and make the necessary adjustments as the actual cast gets under way.
The South African cast uses a long rod arc and a low-inertia (low resistance) sinker position whereas, in the Easy Cast, the inside sinker position generates a heavy and immediate resistance for the rod tip. Along, slow build-up or a short, quick build-up - which suits you better? It is not a matter of good or bad but of personal preference and ability.
Find the set-up positions and tackle layouts that feel right and work best. Bear in mind that rod length, action and stiffness, sinker weight and leader drop all affect the way the rod is compressed at launch point and beyond.
To look through the whole range of articles in this series, click HERE.
Casting from the shore is one of those activities where, when things go badly wrong, your beach fishing session can soon turn into a real headache.
How often have you found yourself next to an angler on the beach only to watch him smoothly bend the rod and send a baited rig a long way out? When it is your turn it suddenly goes pear-shaped. Crack-offs, overruns, veering right or left or simply not far enough – it all adds to a bad day.
First, if you’re fishing a venue where long distance casting is vital for success and you can’t reach the fish, then you need to find a venue where you can.
Second, make sure that your rigs are easy to cast. Bait clips will help but you don’t always have to use them. Very long rigs and snoods can hamper casting.
Finally, before you cast ensure that your line isn’t wrapped around the tip. Get into the habit of reeling the rig to the tip ring and then dropping it slightly. If the line is wrapped around the blank, it won’t drop.
Ensure that you are comfortable. Being unstable or off-balance can be the main cause of problems. Most of all, don’t be put off by the guy who is casting long every chuck. These are the anglers who have many years of practice and experience behind them. If you put in the same hard work and effort, your day will come.
Using a casting instructor can iron out bad habits as well as helping boost your distance.
Why wind is a pain
Great advice for better casting technique
Casting into a head wind can be very frustrating for some anglers.
An onshore wind can create crunching waves on to the shingle and coupled with a hampered cast that drops your rig close to the shore, it is only a matter of time before your rig is washed back up the beach or buried in the shingle.
Ways to avoid this happening are first to reduce the number of hooks on a rig.
A two-hook or single clipped rig will cast better than a three-hook version. Keep baits small; large baits are more difficult to punch into the wind.
You can gain extra yards by keeping your cast low over the water. Sending a rig high into the wind will only see it slowed dramatically or even pushed back to you.
Finally, if the wind is so bad you won’t enjoy the session anyway it’s probably best to put the bait back in the fridge and wait until conditions are much more comfortable.
Combating a strong tide
Methods to stop your rig being washed ashore
Strong tides can be so difficult to fish that many anglers just pack up and leave.
After casting, some like to tighten the line into the spiked sinker and soon find that the fast-running tide pulls the rig from its hold. The rig ends up being dragged down tide, even with a fixed-grip lead.
One way to get more fishing time is to walk uptide, cast and then let out quite a large bow of line as you walk back. As the rig settles and anchors in front of you, don’t tighten the line because the bow will take the strain of the tide without dislodging the sinker. When a fish is hooked, the line should go slack as the sinker is pulled free. It may not be possible to use this tactic on a crowded beach, and casting short may then be the only solution.
How to get a grip
Time to bring out the rubber gloves
Q When I cast with a multiplier reel the line slips under my thumb. How can I stop this?
A Trying to grip the spool of a multiplier reel when casting with a wet thumb is difficult, but this is an easy problem to fix.
Many anglers like to use a small piece of bicycle inner tube fixed under the reel seat or coaster. Before casting fold it over the spool of the reel, and then use this to grip the spool with your thumb.
An easier solution is to use a simple pair of Marigold gloves, cut the fingers off and then cut 1in segments from them. Slide a segment over your thumb and leave it there while you fish. Each time you cast, this will aid in gripping the spool. If the ‘thumby’ tears, replace it with another segment that you have cut.
In the good old days most beach anglers fished with the reel around 26in up the handle then casters realised they could alter the leverage of the rod by casting with the reel ‘down butt.’ Casting coach John Holden explains what can be gained from changing reel position and why you might get extra yards
Clamping a multiplier to the bottom of the handle position makes a huge difference at the top end of my casting range, regardless of whether I swing the sinker or drag it off the ground. I would never have made a really big cast, yet alone won tournaments, with a reel in the normal high position.
I’m talking here about high performance, not necessarily what works best for fishing, or even what feels good. With sinkers up to 5oz and distances of less than 175 yards - 90 percent of fishing duties - it makes not a yard of difference to me whether the reel sits high or low.
Tackle operation is excellent either way, with the exception of surf fishing when the rod must be held for long periods. In those circumstances, the high reel is a much more comfortable option.
Without watching you cast or knowing where and how you fish, I cannot say whether a low reel would offer any benefits. This issue of where the reel should sit on the rod for maximum performance is so crucial that everyone with the slightest interest in good casting should run a few tests to find out. For some it will be a disaster; for most it will make little or no difference other than to widen the options. For the lucky few it opens the door to massive improvements... and greater distances.
What does a low reel position do?
Shifting the reel up and down a rod handle alters the geometry of the tackle system. In particular, the point where the leader connects to the rod - the reel position, of course - has a significant effect on how the blank compresses and how quickly it recovers.
The technicalities and mathematics do not matter a great deal. All you need to know is that a rod performs differently when the upper hand grips the handle between the reel and the tip, as compared to the conventional high reel set-up where both hands are below the leader anchor point.
A low reel position changes the leverage within the system. When you cast with the same amount of effort as when the reel was high, the bottom and mid-section of the blank bend more.
Today’s beach rods tend to be so stiff and long that the majority of anglers cannot make them work properly, dropping the reel to the bottom has obvious advantages. The rod that tears your thumb off with the reel high often becomes a pussycat when the reel goes low.
Extra good news. Getting the reel out from under your right thumb allows a much firmer grip on the handle and more powerful use of the right hand, right shoulder and the body as well.
Arms-dominant casters punch their full weight. Body-biased styles can rotate with full force without having the right-hand connection break down under heavy pressure, which is a common problem with fast rods and high reels.
Other advantages include the option to use a longer rod, cast heavier sinkers and generally to improve timing and smoothness. Sinker release tends to be cleaner, which reduces bait damage and irons out spool surge and backlash.
But can I cast further?
This is the key question for so many fishermen. Sound style, extra power and a rod that works more efficiently add up to more fishing range. At the other end of the scale, poor styles gain little or nothing in the way of distance. Apoor style is always inefficient no matter what tackle you use.
It is the reasonably good caster who has most to gain. The common combination of a slightly dodgy style and an over-long, stiff, quick rod makes fishing a stressful game.
Having mastered the basics, he can cast pretty well most of the time. Yet the confidence just isn’t there. He knows only too well that the slightest mistake will end in yet another snap-off. Heavy sinkers are out of the question... anything less than big brake blocks or maximum magnet setting means big trouble.
Dropping the reel to the bottom of the handle softens and slows the rod so that it becomes tamer. The improved leverage allows him to exploit the extra length. Once familiar with the new arrangement, he begins to enjoy his fishing. It would be unusual not to gain another 20 yards as well.
Re-positioning the reel
Controlling a reel with the left-hand feels strange and awkward at first. It is something you have to get used to. With familiarity comes confidence, and within a few weeks you will forget that there was ever a problem.
For test purposes there is no need to modify the rod handle. Most high performance rods have plain butts. Re-positioning involves nothing more than sliding the coasters closer to the butt.
On conventionally built rods, leave the screw seat and grips alone. Standard foam rubber grips are too fat to allow normal metal coasters to slide on, so clamp on the reel just above the butt grip with Breakaway nylon reel clips that come apart so they can be slipped around the handle. Avoid over-tightening, and set the reel on a single wrap of rubber tape for security.
If the experiment works, you can strip off the butt grip and install metal coasters or a screw reel seat. The original screw seat can be taken off, though the rod is more versatile if you leave it on.
Screw reel seats are a handy option for heavy-duty fishing rods where coasters fail to provide enough security. Although slow to use, a two seat arrangement is ideal when you want to cast with a low reel but prefer the greater ease and better leverage of winding in with the reel up high.
Coasters are particularly good for hard casting because you can use the screw cap of the rear clip as a trigger. This, coupled with the deep thumb grip on the spool that comes with the low set reel, almost eliminates spool slip.
My favourite for fixed-spool work is a normal screw seat rather than coasters or a zip-up slider. Acheap and extremely good option is to bind on the reel with a strip of rubber cut from an old bicycle inner tube.
Wrap a layer on to the butt, lay the reel in place on top, then over-wrap the lot, finishing off by tucking the last two coils under themselves. Now you have a secure reel and a comfy grip combined.
Incidentally, you can control a low set fixed-spool with your thumb. The picture sequence shows how to do that. Personally, I find this a much-improved way to cast hard with a powerful rod and heavy sinkers.
Butt rings and leader knots
Other than purpose-built rods, most beachcasters converted for low reel work need an extra butt ring, 30-40mm diameter, to plug the massive gap between the reel and the original butt ring. Thirty-five inches from the reel is about right for multipliers.
Fixed-spools need a little more, but nothing excessive. I don’t buy the theory that fixed-spool fishing rods must have a few very big rings. Normal ring spacing and sizes are perfectly adequate.
Limiting the gap prevents line from flapping in the wind, but that is only half the story. The extra ring helps control leader flow and prevents the leader knot from catching in the butt ring, which is a risk with both types of reel. You may also need to experiment with the leader length as well.
Afew inches more or less wound onto the reel often produces a much smoother flow. It also helps to reduce scratches on the right wrist or forearm caused by the flick Scratches low on the wrist point to a stiff rod action. Towards the elbow, the rod is soft. Ideally, you want nice neat scratches about three inches up from the wrist.
Modifying the cast
Shift the reel and the cast’s feel and timing will automatically change. The classic sensation is that of a squashy rod - especially if the rod seems over-gunned with the reel set high. Quick and unforgiving with a high reel often becomes more relaxed and forgiving with the reel low down. Despite the softer feeling you lose neither power nor tip recovery speed.
Even if the sinker drop from tip ring to trace is set the same as it was when the reel was high, the overall leader length is now increased due to the difference in reel positions. Those extra couple of feet may mean that the elasticity of the material becomes noticeable, which can be disconcerting because it seems that you are losing power. This is rarely so, and nothing to worry about.
If you prefer a ‘harder’ leader, switch to heavier line or a less elastic brand. Bear in mind that a leader needs a certain amount of stretch in order to buffer against mistakes. Non-stretch materials are a poor choice for casting sea weights, and sometimes risky because they lack any form of shock resistance.
The space between the reel and butt ring can be quite critical with both multiplier and fixed-spool reels. It's often necessary to add an extra ring to fill the gap, otherwise the leader knot will tangle in the original butt ring. A 30-40 ring taped on should do the trick,
The right-hand position
Right hand placement is something you must discover by trial and error. There is no single correct hand spacing for low reel casting. Hold the rod where casting feels comfortable and produces the best results. Your hand position should change to accommodate different weights of sinker, varying styles, leader drops and reel choice.
Roughly speaking, the ideal right-hand grip will lie between three or four inches either side of where the reel used to be before you switched it to the bottom of the handle. One position is unlikely to handle every combination of sinker, drop and casting style.
You are looking for a range of positions, each of them matching a specific set-up. To begin with, each must be found by experiment. In time, the process becomes second nature and you adjust the grip automatically.
Confused and frustrated with beach fishing? Caught in the trap of trying to fish with rods you can't bend? Getting little enjoyment from a sport that can offer you leisure, pleasure. fun and excitement? Then follow this series as John Holden slices through the rubbish and explains how to get the best from British beach fishing by being able to cast to reach the fish
WHO IS JOHN HOLDEN?
John Holden was a leading light on the UKSF casting circuit in the late 70s and early 80s. A great friend of Terry Carroll of Zziplex fame, he was one of just a handful of beach anglers who actually understood beach casting in relation to real fishing. John helped launch our highly successful Casting Instructor scheme and went on to write his highly acclaimed books Long Distance Casting and Beach Fishing.
Long casts are fuelled by a powerful arm and body combination, which can be summed up as turn-and-hammer. The series began by looking at the actions as separate issues before combining them into a simple action, which is good for over 125 yards with around 5oz of lead. Now it is time to turn up the heat using body action, says casting instructor John Holden
At our present level of beachcasting, which translates into 100-125 yards with bait, the differences between styles involve little more than what you do with the sinker prior to the turn-and-hammer sequence.
Assuming that beach conditions permit, the choice is yours: off-ground with an outside or inside layout, abbreviated pendulum swing, aerialised outswing - whatever you prefer within reason.
Before stepping up a gear into the world of high-performance casting, we must backtrack and dig deeper into the original exercises. They are perfectly sound even in their simplest form and many anglers need nothing extra.
But for intermediate and advanced casters, basics are just the beginning. In horsepower terms, the engine was a four-cylinder 1.6. The next steps replace it with a three-litre supercharged V8. To handle the extra power, we must also beef up the chassis and suspension.
Let’s begin with some work on the turn, which is the most important component for many casters. From the technical point of view it tends to be misunderstood and is therefore hard to perfect, especially if you don’t have the luxury of a personal casting coach.
What is turning?
Rotating the body backward and forward stores and releases energy in a process similar to winding up and releasing a clock spring. The advantages of body rotation for casting are more power, a longer, smoother arc for the rod to work within, and less critical timing.
The big muscles of the legs, torso and shoulders are very powerful but slow moving compared to the arms with their rapid hammering action. They only deliver maximum performance when used together in proper sequence. Poorly combined, they cancel each other out - all pain, no gain.
Turning the wrong way... and doing it right
The weak caster begins by facing away from the water. He drops the sinker on to the beach or sets up the pendulum swing angle. The rod is lifted into position. Then he turns his body away from the sinker and shuffles his feet until he feels most comfortable.
Finally he lets fly, losing half the arc by bringing the rod over much too high before slashing downward like a Ninja swordsman. Total disaster - a horror movie now showing on a beach near you. What went wrong? Note the set-up sequence - sinker, rod, arms, body and feet.
Here’s a better caster going through his routine. He looks out to sea, then towards an imaginary target in mid-air. He places his feet just so - no indecision.
He winds his body around, shoulders dipping a little, right leg slightly bent. Arms extend to put the rod on to the correct plane, dropping the sinker on to the sand or beginning the outswing. The cast comes around as smooth as syrup and away goes the sinker.
How the heck did he cast so far with no effort? Again, note the sequence - target, feet, body, arms, rod, sinker. He did it the opposite way around – so what’s going on?
With the body fully wound up, all you need to think about is shifting your weight on to the left foot and concentrating on the aerial target. The cast unwinds on auto-pilot, on time and in perfect sequence.
Torque - casting’s deadly weapon
The secret of effortless power lies in the relationship between shoulders and hips. In slightly amended forms this body torque generator is also the powerhouse of discus, shot, hammer-throwing, the golf swing and every other powerful athletic movement.
The essence of the action is that during the loading phase your shoulders rotate one way while your hips resist. The result, like wringing out a wet dishcloth, is a massive amount of torque (twisting action) stored between the two. Inject that energy into the rod, and the sinker zooms away.
Here’s an exercise that lets you feel how torque is generated and released. Stand facing a wall with your feet about a shoulder-width apart and your hips and shoulders parallel to the wall.
Cross your arms in front of your chest. Turn your shoulders as far to the right as they will go, allowing your body weight to drift on to the right foot as you rotate. Lean forward from the waist a little. This is important - resist the shoulder turn with your hips. Hold the hip line as close to parallel with the wall as you can manage.
Wind up nice and tight. Hold the position for a moment. Then without altering hips, feet or body weight, unwind your shoulders back the other way. Shoulders only, mind you. Legs and hips stay put. Body weight is still on the right foot.
You will notice an immediate relaxation as the system goes dead. Every ounce of power evaporates. Big mistake. A poor caster does precisely this every time he lets fly - dumps whatever torque he had managed to store almost before the rod begins moving along its forward arc.
Developing strong torque
My hips resist as the shoulders turn, generating and storing large amounts of energy. At the completion of the turn, my shoulders are at 90 degrees to the casting direction, while the hips have moved less than half the angle. The less the hips move, the better.
Here’s the right way
Set up in the fully-wound position again. This time begin the unwinding action by sliding your body weight - don’t rush - from right leg to left. At the same time, turn your head to look at a target in mid-air to your left. That is all you think about.
Go with the flow and let the unwinding process happen automatically. Feel the easy, powerful acceleration as your shoulders whip around, driven by a combination of unwinding and momentum.
As you become familiar with the exercise, increase the speed. Don’t force or try to control it though. Tell yourself that this time you want some extra zip. Wind up, release and let it happen. You should finish balanced on your left foot with your right toes just touching the ground.
You might even need to step forward with the right foot so as not to fall over. Despite all that power being released, you should feel little sensation of effort.
Smooth, controlled power will not develop unless you do the unwind on automatic pilot. Any attempt to tinker with the process by using conscious control - such as deliberately exaggerating the shoulder movement or pushing off with the right foot - will kill the action stone dead.
Did you notice that we have also cured a disease that affects so many casters - how to time the beginning of the cast? Timid ground casters suffer most.
They develop a hesitant twitch because they focus all their attention on their arms and the tackle. At best the cast begins with a snatch. In extreme cases they’re paralysed by indecision and cannot start at all.
Now we know the answer. When the cast is wound up and ready to go, forget about the rod, sinker layout and arm action. Pull the trigger by smoothly sliding your body weight back on to the left leg. Feel your weight shift.
Trust your body to do the job. Every link in the power chain – legs, hips, shoulders, arms, rod, leader and sinker – will move exactly on track, on time and in the correct sequence.
No body torque - probably the biggest mistake in casting
1. First the sinker goes into position.
2. Then the feet and body set up as best they can. There’s almost no body torque.
3. Without torque to provide both power and a wide arc, the rod must be brought through much too high using mainly arm power.
4. Lack of an aerial target coupled to poor rod action sends the cast low and left.
Unwinding in detail
Sliding your weight back toward the left foot causes your hips to rotate to the left, in the opposite direction to shoulder rotation. Torque increases momentarily, creating even more stored energy. But because your shoulders were already fully wound up, something has to give. The little bit of extra pressure generated by the weight shift and hip turn virtually forces them to switch into reverse and follow the turning hips.
Since your hips started first and continue to move ahead of the shoulders, torque remains stored even though the shoulders themselves are beginning to accelerate quickly. For maximum casting efficiency, the hips should lead the shoulders to the point where hammering begins. They will if you let them. You can feel the result quite clearly - the upper body stays loaded with power through and beyond launch point.
Notice, too, that when you unwind starting from the feet and hips, the upper body moves into the heavy hammering position from which it can drive forward. Again, the hips leading the shoulders produce the correct position perfectly naturally.
This method of unwinding which leaves the shoulders lagging behind for a fraction of a second, at the very beginning of the cast, also puts a caster in the highly desirable situation where the rod feels as if it is coming from somewhere behind his right shoulder.
This is the power position that casting coaches have been stressing for decades but which few casters ever achieve to their satisfaction. The behind-the-shoulder feeling is also a critical factor in pendulum control.
Besides boosting casting power it greatly reduces the likelihood of the sinker ploughing into the beach halfway around.
All this power and control can be yours only if you learn to wind up properly and release on automatic pilot. Otherwise you will struggle, regardless of style, tackle choice or how much you practise.
Feel the wind up. Trigger the cast by shifting your weight. Let your body move naturally into the fully-loaded launch position – and then hit it with your arms. You’ll find that the sinker accelerates like a stone from a tightly-stretched catapult.
How far should you turn?
When your body winds up efficiently, you become physically tight. To begin with it feels just plain wrong to cast this way. But tension is precisely what you want, because it is stored power. Learn to recognise it and enjoy the feeling.
When you unwind, your body relaxes as it uncoils and becomes smooth, steady and comfortable through launch point and hammering. Relaxation during the final stages of the cast means that the body is freewheeling at full power - the perfect way to maximise speed and to release every ounce of stored energy.
Set up incorrectly without pre-winding the spring, though, and not only is there little stored power but your body also tightens at around launch point. Just when you most need freedom of movement, the system locks up. Shoulders get way ahead of hips, wind up the spring in reverse and slam on the brakes.
When maximum range is the target, wind up as tightly as you can. For everyday fishing, dial in enough rotation for the distance you need or that circumstances allow. Controlling the proper set-up and release is easy once you have identified the full, medium and low settings on your personal power clock. We’ll look at that in the next feature.
To look through the whole range of articles in this series, click HERE.
Everyone has his own idea about what makes a good cast. One hundred yards is the dream for some; for others nothing less than 200 yards is acceptable, says our casting coach John Holden. At the opposite end of the rainbow are a handful of ever-hopefuls who would be over the moon with a couple of casts that managed to land in one piece
What I find most encouraging is the down to earth view of the majority of anglers I meet. Common-sense is the key. It is a huge mistake to imagine that everybody who picks up a beach outfit is hell bent on stardom.
We dream about tournament records, buy rods that we know we’ll never bend, but we’re neither daft nor deluded. More tournament rods are owned to be bragged about than will ever be used day after day in the quest for monster distances.
Here in the real world, the most popular target is around 150 yards with baits. “If I could do that without too much effort,” one caster told me, “it would be the dog’s bollocks! I wouldn’t feel an idiot in front of my mates who can cast a bit.” Probably millions of beach anglers around the globe feel the same way.
Which of these casts is best? Two hundred yards over grass with a 150g sinker, 0.31mm line and no baits; casting 4oz the same distance on 18lb level line (no shock leader); fishing a cod beach at 150 yards with 175g sinker, 0.35mm line and a three-hook rig baited with lug, or one hundred yards into a headwind from a slippery rock platform, seven ounces of lead, half a mackerel, 35lb mainline on a big multiplier without magnets or brake blocks... and wet hands.
In the great scheme of things, they are all excellent. On a personal level, though, they are not equal. It is what casting means to you that makes the difference. For me, 200 yards level line is the most satisfying as a cast, pure and simple. Slinging a mackerel off the rocks would certainly be a bigger challenge, but as far as I’m concerned you can keep it.
Where does good casting begin?
The magic figure has grown over the years: 80, 100, 150, 200 yards. There is a balance to be struck. On the one hand, whatever distance makes you happy is far enough. On the other, most of us need some target in mind if only as a yardstick for charting our progress.
The big mistake for an angler - as opposed to a tournament caster, who is a completely different animal - is to focus on distance as the only factor worth talking about, and the only true measure of success.
Yardage does tell you whether the basics are right. About 100 yards suggests that you’re beginning to get a feel for the game, especially if you can average that without too much effort. Turning up the heat a little, around 150 yards is an excellent target for beach fishing.
This is equivalent to 175 yards or so over grass, and is long enough to prove that you really have mastered the basics of good casting. It also remains a realistic goal for an angler who lacks the time and maybe the inclination to dedicate himself to thrashing away on a field when he would rather be drowning baits. As a practical maximum fishing range it is just about perfect.
Fish are caught much further out, but on beaches world-wide those ultra-distance catches are few and far between. How many hours would you be prepared to devote to casting practice if the pay-off amounted to a handful more fish in a season?
Whatever the effort required to hit top distances on the beach, it is nothing compared to the demands of tournament casting. The biggest injustice ever done to tournament casting is to underestimate the sheer grinding slog of practice, practice, practice, day in, day out, year after year that leads to the top division.
World records are an awesome mix of talent and determination every bit the equal of Olympic gold, in field events such as hammer and javelin. Casting for long-range cod isn’t in the same league, not even on the same planet.
So why go through the agonies of comparing your efforts with tournament records, or struggle with the high performance kit that some match experts advise? Why spend a fortune in tackle and waste months on the field if the result is more distance than you will ever need for fishing? Go fishing instead.
But if you do get bitten by the casting bug, give it 100 percent even if it does mean ducking out of the odd beach trip in order to polish up your chances. Excellence always comes at a high price – and yes, it involves some difficult decisions. Learn the rules before you play the game.
Setting your personal baseline
Whether you aim to catch 80 yard flounder or be the first to 400, your starting point is the same: It is how far you cast now, full stop. This baseline average distance is neither good nor bad. It has no bearing on how far you are capable of casting. How far you are capable of casting has little bearing on how far you will actually end up casting. Lack of time prevents so many of us from reaching our full potential.
If casting is merely a tool for fishing, then you will be happy when you can cast far enough to achieve good catches, whatever that distance might be. For those of us who cast because we enjoy it for its own sake as well as for its angling benefits, casting is a game of unfulfilled promise.
No matter how far you cast, you always want a little bit more. Or indeed, a whole lot more. It’s up to you - far enough, or further. Choose the target that makes more sense to you.
Measure a dozen casts without baits. Work over grass if you can. Be sensible in picking out the casts to count: Ignore the occasional extra-long cast in the same way as you would reject those that fall far short. The average distance is your baseline.
If you use different sinker weights and outfits for various kinds of fishing, measure them individually. It is useful to see the difference between a baited rig and sinker alone. The key distance for all-round beach work in the UKis how far you average with around five ounces (150g) and line in the 15lb (0.35mm) bracket - the category of beach tackle likely to produce maximum control and distance for most anglers.
First goal - the same, but easier
Being able to cast 150 yards is the equivalent of sending a sinker 175 yards over grass
Begin your venture into better casting by doing your present distance with more control and minimum effort. Usually it is a matter of revising or radically altering some aspect of technique.
Compared to a thump with a low inertia sinker position, for instance, the Easy Cast and semi-South African throw the same distance with much less effort. We looked at those two methods last month. They are built on simple exercises from earlier in the series.
Thrashing for extra distance gets you nowhere. Better distance is the automatic by-product of casting properly. Aim for a straight, smooth and relaxed cast with plenty of height. Another tell-tale sign of good basic technique is sinker weight versatility. You should be able to throw four ounces just as comfortably as the usual five. Six or 8oz should not overwhelm the system.
The pressure and timing will vary between weights. That is normal, just as it is normal not to enjoy casting certain weights.
At this stage it is not a question of whether you like it, but whether you can do it. If you cannot, the foundations of technique are weak.
Easy work or hard graft
Brushing up on technique should soon have you achieving your original average with much less trouble and effort. Feedback from the rod will confirm that things are running much more smoothly now; and of course you won’t feel yourself straining so hard.
Had you been struggling to average 80-100 yards, this baseline distance should now be coming up with around half the apparent effort. Were you already on 150 yards, the reduction in effort will be less because your original technique was already quite sound. But you will notice a big improvement in control and timing. The quick, thrashiness should have disappeared, replaced by a smooth action that seems much slower.
Now you can afford to dial in a bit more power. Add a spoonful at a time, not a bucketload.
Provided that the technique stays sound, distances will creep up with no loss of control nor sense of wasted effort. Afew extra yards is a great result. Stop increasing the power when you feel the cast beginning to get ragged. Go back to the point just before that. Measure the average distance this produces and treat it as your new baseline.
Next session, put a peg in the ground about ten paces less than the new baseline. Now see how easily and smoothly you can land the sinker beyond the peg. You know that you can cast further, so this is a game without pressure. Develop that easy, relaxed action where the rod seems to be casting itself.
For the last few casts, raise the power a tad. If distances go up, fine. If not, no need to fret. Depending on many different factors, you might end session after session having cast very little further. This is where persistence pays off. Stay focussed on the basics, stay confident, and be patient.
The good news is that at some stage you will enjoy a sudden boost. Those extra yards come right out of the blue. It’s hard to say why distance improves in steps like this, rather than in smooth progression. One moment you’re on, say, 125 yards, next cast it has gone up to 140. The oddest thing is that nothing feels different. Better still, improvements gained this way invariably turn out to be permanent.
To look through the whole range of articles in this series, click HERE.
It was Les Moncrieff who linked distance beach casting to cod fishing during the 1960s that sparked the UK beach fishing revolution. His Layback method and reverse taper Springheel rod delivered 6oz or 8oz of lead and a big hook-load of bait way beyond the 100 yard mark, which he regarded as the minimum distance for successful codding, says John Holden, who sets the casting scene which has lead to today’s stalemate...
You can imagine what an influence Les’s articles and demonstrations had on cod anglers who were hungry for information about anything connected with long-range fishing.
Enthusiastic about all kinds of casting, Kent-based Les was hugely encouraging to up-and-coming tournament casters like me, helping us to develop rods and casting methods that smashed record after record.
Stiff butted rods and the pendulum cast is a by-product of his pioneering work, though he was personally none too keen on either.
Ironically, it was Moncrieff’s success as a teacher that eventually helped to kill his own Layback system. The style was still as effective for long range codding as anyone could wish for, but it could not cut it on the tournament field.
It is sad that fishing rods came to be judged by their tournament casting performance, but that is life. The demoli¬tion of Layback casting by rigid rod handles, fast tips and pendulum casts was completed by the early 1970s.
The arrival of carbon fibre technology then brought us to the current state of affairs. Some say that we have reached the ultimate in rod design and casting techniques. Others, more sceptical perhaps, suggest that perhaps some aspects of fishing have been spoilt by an over-emphasis on casting.
Fast pendulum rods thrash the older rod designs over grass. But, compared with Layback and other older methods, what are the benefits of the latest kit if your casting ability is less than expert? Obsolete as they seem, reverse taper rods and even the Layback style deserve a second look.
With the majority of beach anglers still unable to cast anywhere near as far as they would like - and only a tiny minority able to reach Moncrieff’s own distances of 40 years ago - can the sport afford to ignore any system with a track record for delivering excellent distances and all-round fishing ability?
If you have trouble casting, would a slower rod and Layback-type cast add many yards and be more pleasant to handle? It would be easy to create an improved version of the Springheel action. The reverse taper design is capable of being developed way beyond that.
Other candidates for revival
Massive distances and heavy artillery do not tell the whole story of beach fishing as it evolved from Moncrieff to Mackellow, from relaxed efficiency to athletic powerhouse. Dozens of new ideas came along, mostly disappearing within a few months unless they helped in the quest for more and more distance.
Twenty-five years ago, there was a great interest in light tackle as well typified by the old Angling magazine’s campaign to bring greater finesse to sea fishing. The full story is best left to the anoraks.
Two anglers do deserve a special mention, though. In an attempt to inject a more sporting flavour into cod fishing, the late Ian Gillespie of Breakaway Tackle and Southend tackle builder Bill Roberts came up with the lightweight Cod Pole series of beachcasters.
Even in 5oz spec these rods were so light and flexible that you felt that the blanks could safely be bent into a hoop. For their time they were of relatively quick action. Despite their flimsiness by today’s stan¬dards, Cod Poles delivered excellent beach distances, easily topping 150 yards.
All models made fishing hugely enjoyable because they were designed to do exactly that. Casting performance was set at “far enough” because anything more would jeopardise the rods’ other characteristics and was wasted on the beach anyway.
Nothing compares to the sheer joy of hooking a 4lb or 5lb fish on a Cod Pole. Few of today’s carbon rods rival the balance and precision of that old all-glass blank with its wire rings and minimalist handle fittings. ‘Bare Bones,’ they called them back in the glory days.
Again, it is well worth asking: Is the Cod Pole merely a footnote in angling history, or could it be resurrected as a serious player in the beach game?
Fashion is a much stronger driving force than necessity. These old rods were highly successful fishing weapons. They died because they became old hat, not because they failed to perform excellent service on the beaches.
Modern versions would be even better. Their deliberately limited performance - if you call the best part of 200 yards limited - means that they are particularly suited to practical beach fishing where 150 yards is more than enough for most people.
My view is that if the Layback or Cod Pole systems were invented today and marketed as ‘easy cast’ products, they would take the market by storm.
Pendulum casting a soft rod
Almost every rod on the market has a stiff handle and fast tip. To pendulum cast them for fishing (as opposed to tournaments), the sensible way is to build the power slowly and smoothly.
This avoids pre-loading the blank too soon in the casting arc, which is a fatal error for all but the strongest of casters. A modestly pre-loaded rod given a distinctly late hit when the arms flick over in a whip¬like action produces excellent fishing distances with the least fuss. Slow build-up, late hit is the winning formula.
Pendulum casting a soft butted rod that way gives poor distances and a plague of backlashes. This is the basis of the well known ‘fact’ that you can’t pendulum cast a soft rod at all.
So why did Cod Poles and similar old gear still produce their best performance with a pendulum style? The short answer is that it was a different version of the cast.
A soft rod pendulum needs a radically different energy flow, almost the reverse of fast rod recommendations. This is achieved by first setting the drop length and swing angle to produce high sinker inertia at the beginning of the cast. A fast rod loaded like this will make a reel spin rapidly, often out of control.
Then build the power quickly and early using shoulder rotation so that the blank is almost fully loaded at the point when the arms turn the rod over. There is no powerful late flick.
With this variation of pendulum casting, there is no need for the arms to do much more than guide the rod while it unwinds almost of its own accord. Early build up, no need to hit.
It is the big distances tournament casters have clocked up that has driven the rod building market with the result that expensive super-fast rods have become the 'must have' accessory on the beach. Wrong!
Discovering your own casting style
Casting is nothing more than applying a certain amount of force to a rod as it travels along a pathway of certain length and shape. Energy is drawn from the caster, stored in the rod then released to propel the sinker into the sky. Sounds complicated. It is simple if you know what goes on when your rod begins to bend - and we’ll be looking into that next month.
There are a few points you should be clear about before we start to analyse casting tech¬nique. As a prelude to mastering any particular style you will need to discover the force pattern and rod path that suits you as an individual.
That knowledge will point you towards a suitable style or styles to practise. It is an unfortunate fact of life that there will be some kinds of cast at which you will never be able to excel. The good news is that at least one style will be absolutely right for you.
We shall be looking at ways to make you more aware of this interaction between a caster and his tackle. Pendulum and other sinker-swinging methods are quite critical in their demands for correct flow and cast ‘shape’, but all styles are affected to some degree.
You really do need to discover your own natural flow and timing. The wrong choice of method and tackle might well see you fighting a losing battle no matter how hard you try.
For all levels of beach fishing, the two main options for working a rod efficiently are ‘arm casting’ and ‘body casting.’ Most casts are a combination of both actions, but one of them will tend to dominate the other.
Arms-dominant casters load the rod slowly and finish with a whip-like action. They do well with stiff butted, fast tipped rods; the slow build, late hit formula.
Body casters exploit a powerful but effortless body rotation and shoulder action that can extract a wonderful performance from softer, slower rods.
This does not mean that body casters don’t use their arms, or that arm casters don’t rely to some extent on body rotation as sources of power. What counts is the natural balance of one action to the other. Get the balance too far wrong and you will end up.
Six key casting points you must consider
● It is a myth that you can’t pendulum cast a soft rod.
● Soft pendulum rods need a radically different energy flow.
● Load fast rods the wrong way and they will rip your thumb off!
● Remember there is a casting style right for you.
● Arms-dominant casters load the rod slowly and finish with a whip-like action.
● Body casters exploit a powerful but effortless body rotation and shoulder action. quick tips
To look through the whole range of articles in this series, click HERE.
Confused and frustrated with beach fishing? Caught in the trap of trying to fish with rods you can’t bend? Getting little enjoyment from a sport that can offer you leisure, pleasure, fun and excitement? Then follow this brand new series as John Holden slices through the bullshit and explains how to get the best from British beach fishing by being able to cast to reach the fish
Who is John Holden?
John Holden was a leading light on the UKSF casting circuit in the late 70s and early 80s. A great friend of Terry Carroll of Zziplex fame, he was one of just a handful of beach anglers who actually understood beach casting in relation to real fishing. John helped launch our highly successful Casting Instructor scheme and went on to write his highly acclaimed books Long Distance Casting and Beach Fishing.
This new series aims to strip casting to the bare bones, throw away the bits that no longer relate to beach fishing in the 21st Century, then rebuild what’s left into a simple, but power-packed, system of achieving all the distance you will ever need to catch fish.
For newcomers and inexperienced anglers confused by tackle, tuning and casting styles, I’ll present step-by-step methods that not only get the job done but also form a rock solid foundation for more advanced casting.
For the person who already casts a long way, there will be plenty of information and tactics to squeeze out those vital extra yards on the beach and in the practice field.
I shall also be rocking the boat, for it’s my intention to wreck some of the misconceptions about casting and tackle design. That we’ve been doing things more or less the same way for the past 30 years doesn’t mean there is nothing more to learn. Mistakes were made along the way, for which we are now beginning to pay a heavy price.
Despite the excellence of today’s tackle and the mind-blowing tournament results, is the angler on the beach well served by tackle designers? On average you are so limited in casting power as to stand not a hope in hell of consistently delivering bait much beyond the 100 yard mark.
Exactly what can a 13ft long range match outfit do for you? Is pendulum style the only way to go, or should he choose a less demanding method, more in keeping with the time he can spare for practice?
By kitting yourself out with a rod that he can bend and a reel that behaves itself, and re-focusing on what actually counts in the mechanics of hurling a rig out to sea, you’d soon have 20, 30, 50 extra yards on tap.
Cost is not a deterrent: the lowliest beachcasters from back street China deliver 125-plus fishing with contemptuous ease almost regardless of style.
Good casting from the beach - obviously not by tournament standards - is straightforward and quick to learn once the key steps are clearly spelled out. A fat wallet is more likely to hinder you than to help.
Why can't I cast?
I don’t claim to have a miracle formula for teaching people to cast a long way. After 30 years of running clinics and seminars all over the world involving getting on for 200,000 people, I have seen most of the problems. Actually, there are very few.
The question always thrown at me, whether in English, Spanish, Italian, Danish, French, Japanese or a dozen other languages, is always the same: “I have good gear, I’ve read the magazines and watched the videos, I practise regularly... so why can’t I cast?”
Reasons for casting poorly are simple and commonplace.
The ‘secret‘ of success? Basics. Adapt those into an individual casting style that works best for you. There is no THE in casting style: no THE pendulum, no THE South African, no THE anything else. Every caster differs in physique, timing, co-ordination and dedication; no two casters are ever identical even if they’re using the same principles.
Develop your personal variation of those themes, and if the basics are correct at least one of them will deliver everything you could wish for. Incidentally, it’s well worth bearing in mind that rebuilding a weak cast usually means forgetting unnecessary details.
Here is the list of major headings. We shall go through each topic in depth as the series progresses...
● Body ‘engine’ is lacking
● Wrong method for the individual
● Over-gunned rod and over-tuned reel
● Preoccupation with reaching a certain distance
● Fear of letting fly
● Paralysed by irrelevant information
Where have the fishing rods gone?
I am lucky to have the experience to adapt to almost any length, action and stiffness of blank. But if you present me with an armful of assorted beach rods - such as you might find in any reasonable tackle shop - the odds are that half are so vicious and stiff that my fishing would be ruined.
A few are so over-the-top that I can’t cast them. Most of the rest are on the well hard side of muscular - usable, but lacking in finesse. Maybe three out of 20 models have what I’m looking for; increasingly, they are found at the lower end of a manufacturer’s range.
I’m not saying that these modest beasts are the right choice for everyone. For one thing, I have never liked super-powerful rods for general fishing. One hundred and fifty yards with baits is usually more than ample. On the rare occasion when I do need greater yardage, out comes a tournament-grade pole - and to hell with its drawbacks. Nasty rod plus fish always beats nice kit and nothing.
I do not need a blank that starts coming on song the other side of 225 yards; I don’t want a rod that feels like a scaffold pole. I much prefer a fishing rod that peaks over grass at around 200 yards, feels distinctly soft at 225 yards, yet is sweet-acting all the way down to sub-100 yard fishing ranges.
When did you last read a review that mentioned a rod’s useful minimum distance? A blank’s overall power band is what counts on the beach, not its top end performance alone.
Why is it fast becoming difficult to track down a rod that blends all-round practicality and sweet handling with a stiffness/action nicely balanced to realistic fishing distances with 150g, my favourite weight for medium-heavy work? Why do the manufacturers assume that I want to use a big pendulum cast and a long drop?
It is far more sensible to deliberately limit a non-specialist beach rod’s maximum range in order to build in user-friendliness and angling versatility. To design rods for general sale on the basis that distance is the only factor worth considering merely underlines a lack of imagination and, worse, remoteness from the real world of angling.
The risks of being over-gunned in the rod department are much more critical for beginners and those less-able casters who have yet to develop the timing and power to master anything more than a bread-and-butter beach stick.
Isn’t it plain daft to produce mass-market rods that actually block anyone’s chances of learning to cast properly? The vital question is not how many anglers benefit from powerful rods. It is how many newcomers does beach fishing lose because they were sold such inappropriate gear that they soon gave up in frustration.
It would be more rewarding for us lesser mortals to choose from a much wider selection of rods, none of them brutally over-gunned. Some all-rounders, others geared to options of casting style, sinker weight, type of reel, species of fish, nature of beach and other practical criteria?
‘Bad’ casting can come good
There are interesting choices to be considered for casting technique alone. Pendulum isn’t the only serious style, nor is it always the best. For many anglers with limited opportunity and no enthusiasm for serious practice, it is truly the casting style from hell. Only a tiny minority would suffer if aerialised casts suddenly disappeared.
Off-ground and other non-swing methods excel on almost any beach, offering effortless, impressive distances with minimal bait damage. This is not a criticism of pendulum casting, which in the right hands and at the right time is the supreme method of blasting a sinker out of sight. But an all-rounder it ain’t, other than in the shortened fishing version.
The latest materials can be fashioned into rods that were impossible to make even 10 years ago. Rods, for example, that deliver excellent on-beach distances using ‘wrong’ casting styles such as a left-hand dominant swipe. With suitable gear plus a bit of reel re-tuning, this and other methods written off 20 years ago as disastrously awful are worth a second look, especially if you lack the time to practise or cannot be bothered.
Such rods are not available because there is currently no demand. There will be no demand until anglers realise that such options do exist.
The argument for change broadens to include the wider world of beach fishing.
It is no longer realistic to suppose that today’s objectives are the same as they were when the current chapter of sea angling began some 30 years or so ago.
That being the case, a re-examination of tackle and tactics is inevitable if we are to make the best of what fishing remains around our coastline. Innovation will also inject a great dose of fresh interest and pleasure into the sport. Time to wake up and see what we're missing.
How we got here and what we forgot along the way
Modern beach fishing is rooted in the late 1960s when the cod boom and its demand for long-range casting destroyed the old ways of thinking. New tackle and radically different ideas drove a 6oz sinker and a hookful of lugworms way beyond the dreams of old timers who dibbled their baits a little way out from the water’s edge.
The personalities, the methods and the products that powered the sea fishing revolution are well documented and lead directly to the modern tournament and beach scene. It’s a logical progression of technology and technique keyed exactly to catching fish, you might think. Half right. We’ll be looking at another aspect of the story in the next feature.
To look through the whole range of articles in this series, click HERE.
Smacking the lead sinker like you hate it is no way to gain fishing casting distance, says coach John Holden, who underlines the fact that a whole basketful of facts lead to that sweet cast that sees the lead sinker heading out to sea in a graceful arc
There are three areas to work on in order to extract maximum power from a pendulum cast, body coil, arm action and sinker arc. It is the correct balance and blend of these elements that shapes the overall style and determines how well it works.
No two casters are identical in technique, though all of the good ones follow a general theme. Advanced casts - of which pendulum is just one option - are highly individual so you will not find a blueprint for your own personal style in a casting textbook.
You must develop it yourself or, better still, with the help of a casting coach. If you choose the coaching route, pick a man with a good track record. Nobody teaches successfully at this level unless they can cast well themselves.
There are plenty of coaches who can talk the talk. But in this case you must have somebody who can properly demonstrate the techniques.
Remember that as any big cast develops, it always becomes a balancing act between power and control. Power is what most anglers concentrate upon because they think it is the secret. Most casters who fail to perform as well as they would like to, have power to spare. What they lack is the ability to control that power. Thrashing gets you nowhere until your technique is picture perfect, and even then it makes very little difference. On the other hand, that little bit of difference could just be enough to set a new record.
Why big casts go wrong
The big defects in pendulum casting are incorrect body wind-up, poor sinker swing and failure to achieve a solid launch point. Looking back at the fishing version of the cast, you may think that this sounds familiar. You are right. The mistakes that ruin the smaller cast will do the same to an advanced style but they’ll do it big time.
The advanced pendulum technique is simple in principle. Wind up your body and take your arms around as far as they will comfortably stretch. Make a big swing on a long drop. Unwind smoothly and at the same time guide the rod down and around so that you arrive at launch point. Then just hit it right through. The key to success is a solid launch point; otherwise, most of the effort is wasted and all the problems appear.
The wind-up for a full pendulum swing needs be little more than you use for fishing. Provided that you wind up properly, there will be plenty of torque available to drive a lead weight well in excess of 200 yards.
How far you can wind up is another of those personal issues that shape a style. Abigger rotation has obvious mechanical advantages but also suffers a downside. By over-winding it is all too easy to lose that vital coil-spring effect.
Recall the sequence we used in the early exercises: stance, weight transfer, and the feeling of the shoulders turning while the hips resist the movement. That is what generates power.
Over-turning begins with a poor stance - usually too close to the line of cast – and ends with the hips following the shoulders rather than planting themselves solidly. This is a low torque setup with no chance of driving a big cast.
The second drawback is that because your stance is too closed, the cast begins to lock up when it should be freewheeling through launch point and into the final hammering action.
Step into action
The only way to gain a great deal of extra rod arc without losing the spring-like effect is to introduce a step into the cast. The caster sets up with his back to the target so that he can take the rod around through a full 270 degrees.
He makes the pendulum swing. As the sinker comes down and the power stroke begins, he steps around and forward so that his hips twist ahead of his shoulders to produce the necessary body torque. The cast finishes with the usual drive through to launch point and beyond.
This is demanding, high-octane stuff, even for tournament casting, and it’s definitely not for beach fishing.
In the fishing cast, the arms hold the rod in front of the chest as the swing takes place. The right arm must not lift upward and backward to make the inswing. The left hand does the work so that the right hand stays on plane as it unwinds.
We break both these rules in big-swing pendulum casting. Think of it as deliberately disconnecting the arm action from the body action. In other words, the arms and the rod go well to the right of the chest even though the body wind-up is much the same as in the fishing version.
Set up for the fishing cast then increase the rod arc by taking your arms as far around to the right as feels comfortable. Lift the rod a few inches until the right hand is between shoulder and head height.
Make the outswing in the same fashion as before by pushing the right hand out and slightly down. The swing angle as seen from above will obviously be greater than in the fishing cast which aims the out-swing somewhere toward seven o’clock on the casting clock face. The big swing is more toward nine o’clock.
If 270 degrees feels natural and does not destroy your body coil, that’s fine. Otherwise stay within your comfort zone which for most anglers lies between eight o’clock and 8:30pm.
The sinker peaks on its out-swing exactly as in the fishing cast. The inswing is produced by a combined push out with the left hand and a smooth pull in-and-up with the right. The right hand goes back to its starting position or may even drift a little farther back behind your head.
The sinker peaks on the inswing, also as before. You feel the pause and your body says, “Go.” The body unwinds and the right hand comes down and around, the arms moving slightly quicker than the body (which they will do naturally if you allow them to).
This way, the arms and body arrive together at launch point, with the right hand - and thus the rod as well - exactly on plane. This launch point, or heavy hammering position, is common to all casts - the big and small pendulums, the South African, the Easy Cast. In fact, all forward facing styles.
Then you hit through to the target with the familiar hammering action. Even more so than the fishing version, a big pendulum should feel SLOW.
The big swing for beach fishing is an extension of the abbreviated pendulum style we looked at earlier in the series. There are only two changes to think about. The body wind up (pic 1) is a little more than before, but the arms and rod are set up much farther around to the right (as the caster sees it). I make the outswing then the inswing which takes the sinker high to the inside behind my head, allowing the right hand to drift back and upward a little (pic 2). When the cast begins (pic 3) my body unwinds as my arms drop the rod on to the correct plane, which automatically brings the entire system to launch point (pic 4). Notice how compressed the rod is at launch point. The cast ends with the usual hammering action and followthrough (pics 5 and 6).
The fishing cast’s swing does little more than aerialise the sinker, so that when the main cast begins the sinker falls from the top of the in-swing to a position inside and behind the rod tip arc. As the rod accelerates, the sinker and leader are drawn smoothly into proper alignment, ready for launch point.
The big pendulum swing does much the same thing but over a far longer path, which allows time and space for extra power to be generated. The outcome is that caster, rod, leader and sinker arrive at launch point not only in precise alignment but with the sinker moving fast and the rod blank already quite heavily compressed. Owing to this greater speed and stored energy, the cast feels that much ‘tighter’ as it approaches launch point.
Feedback is better so that you can really sense what’s going on. Timing is not only less critical but tends to be self-correcting as well. You can hit through really hard without much risk of a backlash even with a quick reel.
The key to this happy state of affairs lies in the cast’s setup. At the moment the power stroke begins, the sinker must be in a position that allows it to come around on the right arc. If not, it will fight the rod and the caster all the way.
This is why you must experiment with body coil, arm position, swing angle and leader drop to find a combination that feels good and gets the sinker to the correct spot at the top of the in-swing. Rod length, blank action, sinker weight and other variables come into the equation. It is not an easy state to achieve, and I will not pretend otherwise.
Big swing casting demands intelligent practice and months of hard work. The only shortcut is proper coaching, but even this isn’t a five-minute exercise. In this article I have given you the bare bones of the system.
Later we shall look at variations on the theme, such as arm and body dominance, flat and steep angles, and whether the sinker should hover at the peak of the inswing or go right over the top.
These are all-important issues at the higher levels but they are not critical during the learning stage. Think of the big swing as an extension of the fishing style and you won’t go far wrong. The simple casts and the monster tournament field swings are the extremes of a range of options. You can choose how far to take it.
From the fishing point of view, the middle ground certainly makes sense. A moderately extended setup and swing will generate 200-yard-plus power with relative ease but without making massive demands on caster or tackle.
Dry-run practice. Here’s an excellent no-sinker drill to help you feel the big swing action. Wind up (pic 1), shut your eyes and make an imaginary swing. Feel how your right hand naturally drifts back and up on the inswing. Unwind in slow motion, dropping the rod on to the proper plane (pic 2). Feel yourself arrive at the familiar launch point (pic 3). A proper cast looks slightly different but don’t worry about that. Get the feeling right and the technicalities will take care of themselves.
Did you know that your beach fishing rod ‘talks’ to you? We bet you have stood on the beach belting the crap out of it... and not listened to a word it has said to you. Beach casting coach John Holden has walked you through the key exercises leading up to making a real cast and now urges you to listen for when the rod tells you to: “Get ready... now hit it”
THE 'ENGINE' of good casting is a turn of the body combined with a hammering arm action. The body turn alone is very powerful; so much so that during a big cast the right shoulder must move into a heavy hammering position to prevent the arms from being overloaded in mid-cast.
Imagine a video of a cast running in slow motion. The style does not matter. Freezeframe the cast a split second before the hammering begins. Notice how the rod is already nicely compressed and on plane. Nearly all the drive is coming from body rotation. The caster's right shoulder has moved in behind the rod and is just beginning to push.
As well as generating power, the body has also become a stable platform for the rod to work against. When technique is right, the body easily resists heavy rod pressure. During a bad cast, the body collapses when the rod begins to wind up hard and generate power.
The moment when all these desirable factors come together is the cast's 'launch point.' All good casts arrive at this solid, power-packed position. You can tell when launch point has arrived, because rod feedback tells you so. The rest of the cast is automatic; an effortless surge of arm and body power rockets the sinker away.
Launch point is a moment within an action. It is a position that you move through, not to. Keep everything flowing smoothly. The mechanical action is pure turn-and-hammer - it does not suddenly become a highly skilled technical challenge because you use rod and reel instead of an old broomstick.
If the cast goes wrong, put down the rod and go back to the previous exercises to refresh your memory.
A word on timing. Launch point is not a split second event that demands lightning reflexes. It contains width of movement, and allows a lot more time than you might imagine. The rod will tell you all you need to know. Learn to communicate with it.
Feedback from the blank, mostly through your right hand, tells what is happening throughout every cast. It's as if the cast speaks to you. "Here comes the rod... get ready... now hit it!"
Casting style and final launch point
From launch point onwards, all casting styles are virtually identical since they use the same shoulder thrust and hammering arm action.
The goings-on that precede the launch point are very different. Consider the major differences between a simple off-ground style and big pendulum sweep, for example. It is what happens before the launch point that makes a casting style what it is.
A casting style doesn't automatically have a solid foundation and launch point. This must be carefully built in. Without that vital moment when everything comes together, you are sunk regardless of whichever style you attempt to learn. A tournament pendulum style without a rock-steady launch point is like a racing car without an engine. It might look great, but it won't get far.
Conversely, almost any old cast that allows you and the rod consistently to arrive at a sound launch condition is very likely to be highly effective. Never a tournament winner, but still a very powerful fishing cast at the very least. A gentle flick from a solid launch point is virtually guaranteed to fly at least a hundred yards.
The really good news is that when proper power flow and launch point have been established, you can easily drop that 'engine' into any style that you fancy - pendulum swing, South African, aerialised ground cast, tossback, zoom cast, easy cast. Any cast.
The only significant difference between them is what precedes the launch point. During those first moments of a cast there are only three things you can do with the sinker anyway - swing it, hover it ordump it on the ground.
Discovering your personal ‘launch point’
Now we start casting for real, beginning with two exercises based on the usual turn-and-hammer theme. Both are excellent casts in themselves, simple yet powerful, versatile and well capable of throwing baits more than 125 yards.
The aim is to become familiar with rod feedback and launch point. Ignore distance at this stage. These exercises answer the two most important questions in casting. What does a good cast feel like? How does that feeling differ when a cast goes wrong?
Don't despair if you make few good casts at this stage. Even if you were to make a complete hash of everything, you would still be able to feel what is going on. At this stage, learning to feel is the critical issue. Listen to what the rod is saying to you, even if you don't yet know what it all means.
I cannot over-stress that the absolute bottom line in good casting is learning to work by feedback and feel, not by analysing movements and techniques. If you're unsure about the mechanics, re-run previous months' exercises. They are nothing more than simple, natural actions. Turning. Hammering. Feel them, then reproduce those same feelings with your own rod.
If your cast feels good but tends to fly to one side or at the wrong height, correct it by shifting your imaginary target around. Recall, too, that release should be automatic. Don't hang on to the reel, or let go early, in order to force a correction. Play around with stance as well. Alter your foot position to correct sinker direction. Experience the differences in feedback that open and closed stances produce.
Concerning target position. During previous exercises we drove the hammer-head directly at the target. When you use a rod there needs to be an element of aiming-off, similar to how a rifle shooter aims slightly outside the bull to compensate for wind drift on the bullet. We'll get into the technicalities later on, for this involves tackle choice as well as casting style.
For now it is enough to know that you must aim the force of the cast at one spot in order to make the sinker go somewhere else. For most casters, channelling the cast's energy towards a target slightly to the right and elevated at about 40 degrees will produce a straight cast with plenty of height. But do be ready to experiment. Your choice of rod alone may call for the target to be shifted up or down in order to produce the correct trajectory.
Launch point exercises
During the heavy hammering exercises you can find in our previous article hereyou felt the weight bearing down on your right hand as you held the sledge hammer in the start position. The action began with a solid push with your right shoulder to get that weight moving. Then your arms swung the hammer-head through to the target.
The moment in that exercise just when the shoulder push begins is a very good approximation to the launch point in a real cast. The feeling is almost identical.
To reproduce those equivalent feelings with rod and reel, it is obvious that we need a means of compressing the blank so that it gives the impression of being heavy. It is the bending of the blank against the resistance of the sinker that does the trick, and there are two ways to achieve this pre-loaded state.
One uses a relatively small arc of rod movement against a high-inertia sinker layout. The other pulls the rod against lower inertia, but pulls through a longer arc.
If you haven't guessed, these are the respective dynamics of the inside-layout ground style - sometimes called the easy cast – and the simple ground cast based on a shortened South African set-up.
You won't generate much heaviness in the rod with these exercises, but there will be more than enough to produce the distinctive feeling that says you have arrived at launch point. There is also enough power on tap for a 150 yard cast, by the way.
You could be tempted to handle this modest weight with arm strength alone. Don't! Use the sledge hammer technique where the righthand moves toward the shoulder in order to support, then drive, a heavy load.
Swing the big hammer a few times to check out that vital feeling and shoulder movement. It is essential to build the correct action into your casting at this early stage if you aim to graduate to high power off-ground and pendulum styles.
"Holding a fixed-spool reel properly helps you to feel the rod and increase control. Protect your finger, lock the spoola nd support the reel stand between your fingers. This improves grip and allows a cleaner line release."
To look through the whole range of articles in this series, click HERE.
ENDLESS effort with only a scorched thumb to show for it. Style after style analysed in huge detail. Wads of cash poured down the drain on every new rod and reel that sparkles in the local tackle shop. Then practice, practice, practice.
The reality of casting for so many beach enthusiasts is that nothing ever works. They are not being greedy or over-ambitious; an easy 100 yards or so would be just great. Casting records now top the 300-yard mark, but for tens of thousands of beach anglers 150 yards is still a dream beyond reach.
It is the quest for the Great Casting Secret, with its emphasis of learning more and more about less and less, is what really does the damage. Paralysis by analysis some call it. We fill our heads with so much b******t that eventually the whole system clogs up.
Efficient casting is simple. I do not mean that pendulum casting or any other advanced method can be mastered in a few minutes. Two hundred yards is never without effort. Yet down-to-earth, practical casting that puts baits way out into fish territory can be achieved not only with ease, but also by using a whole raft of style options.
Good beachcasting - casting that works well enough to do the job you want – is simple, not because good casters are highly intelligent, super-athletic people, but because every efficient method is based on natural body actions.
The key word is natural; these motor skills are inborn. They are part of your biological toolkit. You don't have to learn them using step-by-step instructions, any more than a baby needs to read a text book before it can learn to walk.
Practice makes these innate abilities better, faster, stronger. But the basic system is already in place and works perfectly well. You just have to find it and apply it.
A casting method that doesn't work merely confirms that you are not exploiting the abilities you were born with. So change it now. Otherwise, you could practise for the rest of your life without gaining a single yard more distance.
When a casting method fails to deliver, the normal reaction is to dig ever deeper in search of some vital piece of information. Forget it, rooting around in the technical details gets you nowhere. Instead, put your brain out of gear for a while. Above all, learn to get out of your own way.
ARM AND BODY ACTION REVISITED
Casting is a combination of arm and body action. The obvious question is how should a caster use their arms and body?
The usual answer involves a lengthy breakdown of the casting action. Shoulder rotation, weight transfer, rod angle and arc, left arm moving this way, right arm pushing up there... complicated stuff.
Off we go to practise, then, head filled with instructions. Got the knee right that time... whoops, forgot about the left hand. Try again. Better rod angle. Shame about not letting go of the spool, though. Suck fried skin from thumb, re-tie shock leader, try yet again.
Here's another way. Write down everything you know about arm and body action in casting. If you have been casting for a while it will be a pretty long list.
Now tear it all up. Everything on the arm action list is replaced with the single word HAMMER. The entire body action list condenses to TURN. Turn and hammer, that's all you need to think about.
Of course, you already know how to do those two actions - natural, aren't they?
Two exercises for you. They're not proper casting, not practising, nothing to do with distance or any particular style. Simply play around with the ideas, and see what comes up.
You can do these exercises with an old broomstick or a piece of metal tube. Four feet long is about right. Don't use a rod butt. That would be too much like casting, which is exactly what we must avoid at this stage.
Your stick should also be light - a couple of pounds at the very most. This is to be strictly lightweight hammering. Driving nails, not breaking concrete.
A visual target is essential as well. To begin with, stick a piece of paper on the wall, just above head height and a foot or two to your right.
The picture sequences say it all. The two actions are nothing more than what you see. Turn. Hammer.
Hammer away at the target as if you were driving a nail into its centre. Notice how your arms work together quite naturally, perfectly in unison, sharing the effort. Look at the target. I mean really concentrate on it. Feel how the energy is automatically channelled slightly upward, straight toward the bullseye. Feel - that is the key word.
There is no right and wrong. It is not casting. It is hammering, and everyone knows how to do that.
Now turning. Put the stick under your right arm, trapping it lightly against your chest. Put your left hand in your pocket. Turn away from the target. Turn as far as you can without strain. Then turn back, accelerating comfortably. As soon as you start unwinding, turn your head and get your eyes focused back on that target. The stick will end up pointing toward it.
The feeling is of smooth rotation. You can sense that it is a very powerful action involving both muscle power and body weight. Do not force it. No need to analyse. Turn at whatever your natural speed happens to be. Fast or slow, it does not matter.
Think TURN away from the target, TURN back. You know instinctively that this would be the ideal way to sling a bagful of bricks at a target. It is a natural action, after all.
But if I were to say that it is also the way to put enormous power into a cast, then of course your brain might kick into gear. What does he mean by turn? How far? How much should my right knee bend? You know how it goes. So I won't mention casting. Chuck bricks instead. Feel it.
NOW SHUT YOUR EYES
Take the target off the wall. Shut your eyes and try the exercises again. The hammering and turning will feel less precise when your eyes are not locked on a target.
Keep them shut. Draw a target in your mind's eye. Imagine that target being stuck on the wall where the real one used to be. Then, with your eyes still shut, repeat the exercises. Now it feels okay again. You have a clearer sense of direction, something to focus on.
To make life even more difficult, open your eyes but focus them on the section of stick between your hands while you hammer, and on your right elbow during the turning exercise. Not so good is it? It somehow kills your natural flow.
HAMMERING. How does it feel if the right hand does most of the work? Or the left hand dominates? How does the feeling change if the target is moved down to shoulder height, or lifted a yard above your head. Farther to the right or left?
Draw a line on the floor at right angles to the wall and directly below the target. If you stand with your toes on or parallel to that line, we call the stance closed.
When the angle between the toe line and target line grows, we call that opening up the stance.
Notice that when your stance closes too far, your body gets in the way of the hammering action. During the turning exercise, a closed stance makes it easier to turn away, but blocks the forward turn.
You can feel the inherent loss of power and sense of direction.
A stance that is too open (toe line approaching a right angle to the target line) somehow reduces the accuracy of hammering, nor does the action seem so effortless.
The same over-open stance restricts your turn away from the target. As a result, the forward turn feels inefficient.
Even though you are making no effort, you can sense that this is no way to generate power anyway. Hurling a bagful of bricks would break your back because an overly-open angle puts enormous stress on the lower spine.
Switch attention to your legs. What happens to your weight when you turn away from the target? How does your right knee react as you reach your backward limit? Now turn back toward the target. What happened to the body weight? Where does your right heel naturally finish? How do these feelings change when the stance angles are made more open or closed?
Re-run the hammering exercise. Shuffle your feet around until the stance feels right. Notice the angle between toe and target lines. For the vast majority, the angle that best suits hammering is the same as, or very close to, the stance that allows the easiest, widest and potentially most powerful turn. It is a slightly open stance.
So roughly where do you think a caster might place his feet relative to the casting direction in order to make best use of his body and arms? Quite right. It's natural.
WHY IS THAT TARGET SO IMPORTANT?
WELL, It's all to do with biomechanics and spatial awareness and psychology and self-hypnosis and, maybe, whether your mum dressed you up in girlie clothes when you were a lad.
There we go again, analysing and making it all so difficult. Fact is you perform best when your eyes are locked on to an external target, real or imaginary. This is a critical step in excellence in many sports, such as cricket, golf, clay pigeon shooting. Kestrels use the same system.
Ask someone to throw a tennis ball at you. Your eyes naturally lock on to the ball. Your hand grabs it automatically. Next throw concentrate your gaze on the palm of your catching hand not on the ball. Not so easy to catch now, is it?
Hammering, turning and casting a fishing rod are equally improved by your focussing attention on an external target. Who cares why? It works best, and that's all we need to know.
To look through the whole range of articles in this series, click HERE.
So you want to be a competent caster? The first thing you need is a broomstick with a nail in the end, and a piece of string with a tennis ball hanging off the end. Sounds crazy? Not if you want to learn how to cast baits to the fish, says casting guru John Holden
THE SIMPLE, natural arm and body actions of Turn and Hammer exercises contain the key movements from which every good casting style is assembled. They generate the powerful engine and smooth transmission that underpin big pendulum swings and relaxed ground casts alike.
Efficient casts are built from common components even though the 'shapes' of the various casting styles vary. At the moment we must concentrate on building the mechanical foundations that are the secret of success.
Continuing on the theme of basic power generation, let's add a couple of variations to the exercises which began in THIS ARTICLE...
TENNIS BALL THROWING
For this you need a stick about four feet long, a piece of strong cord and a tennis ball. A broom stick is ideal. Drive a headless nail into one end to form a spike about two inches long.
Now tie a loop in one end of the cord and a tennis ball to the other. The ball should hang about two feet below the loop.
If it doesn't feel right or release cleanly, adjust it up or down a little.
Now re-run last month's Turn and Hammer exercises. The only change is that the stick and ball replace the lightweight hammer. The hammering action is exactly the same; the idea is to play around and see what happens. This is not casting, remember.
A target is essential. You can fix a real one to an outside wall and aim at that. Better still, imagine a target in mid-air. Play around with different target heights and directions. High and low. Left and right. Alter your stance from closed to square to open in relation to the target.
Focus on the target - begin just above eye level and a little to the right - and flip the ball towards it. First attempts will be wayward. Don't worry. Hammer away smoothly and stay focused on the target.
Relax and let it happen - soon the ball will be hitting the mark most of the time. This is your body's subconscious self-correcting process at work.
SEE AND FEEL WHAT CHANGES
But these exercises are not really about distance and power. Trying to hurl the ball further and further does more harm than good. It will be far more valuable to see and feel what changes occur in the ball's flight path as you experiment with different ways of turning and hammering.
Lessons learned here help define the correct framework and mechanics for proper casting.
They also show which variations on the turn and hammer themes happen to suit you best - such a stance, target position, arm action and weight transfer.
Try hammering with the arms a) in unison - the natural hammering action, b) left hand dominant and c) right hand dominant. Use varying amounts of body turn. Shift the target around. Wherever it is, aim straight at it.
See how the ball's flight path varies according to the changes you make. Feel that some set-ups are comfortable, others cramped, powerful or weak.
Notice that the ball’s release point is always automatic but alters in step with the changes you make to hammering, turning and target position. Left to its own devices - which it should be - release always occurs according to the laws of physics.
TAKING THE RIGHT TURN
TURNING calls for a slight alteration: as you coil into the backward turn, lift the end of the stick a couple of feet so that the cord remains looped on the nail. Then as you turn forward, add a little bit of arm action - down then up - to sweep the ball through a shallow U-shaped arc. Power comes from the body turn; the arm does no more than guide the stick and ball.
Rather than think about technique, turn smoothly away from the target. As you turn, imagine your body coiling like a spring. As you swing forward, concentrate on feeling the ball release. Coil and release. Backwards then forwards. Feel the ball escape and fly towards the target. As with hammering, let accuracy develop in its own good time.
Run both exercises with as many variations as you can think of. See and feel what happens. These are not exams, so there is no right and wrong. No good and bad. The objective is to learn about your body's natural power and control systems.
Hammering will certainly show you how a simple arm action can send the ball a long way. Were you to repeat both this and the turning exercise with a 5oz sinker, you might be surprised to find that an effortless flick achieves 75 yards or more.
Please be careful if you do switch to a lead weight. You need a lot of safe space in front and to the left and right.
The turning exercise should be especially impressive if you have not been aware of the importance of body action in good casting. How can such a simple, easy swing produce so much power?
YOU MIGHT recall that earlier in the series, I pointed out the tendency to become over-analytical about casting techniques. Avoid falling into that trap here. All we're doing is blending the simple, natural Turn and Hammer actions into an equally simple, natural mixture. There are no hidden extras.
Pick up your lightweight hammer and set yourself up ready for the Turning exercise (see here). Identify the target and turn away from it to produce the spring-like body rotation.
Instead of tucking the hammer under your right arm, hold it in both hands and extend it back a little as I'm doing in the first illustration. Note that both arms are held relatively straight and comfortably away from the chest.
This is an important technical point that we shall be looking at in the next issue when I show you how to generate and control plenty of casting power with little apparent effort.
Think: Where is that target? Begin uncoiling on the forward turn, keeping your arms relaxed in front of your chest. Get your head around and focus on the target, exactly as before. Keep turning, and when it feels right, hammer the target. Let me repeat that: when it feels right.
Avoid measuring off a certain arc of body turn before the hammering begins. Don't try to work out how your arms move from in front of your chest into the ready-to-hammer position. Just let it happen.
Think Turn... and Hammer. Notice the timing. One... and two. Not one, two. Stay focused on the target. Like the separate turning and hammering actions, the combined flow is a natural, simple action.
Play around with the exercise, dialling in the familiar variations of left and right hand emphasis, different stance, and shifting the target. Now you can add high and flat rod arcs as your body uncoils - from side-swipe to over-the-top.
And yes, this is a proper casting action at last. It is actually a pretty good one. By all means try it with rod and reel, but don't get serious. Mess around instead. Feel what happens to your body and tackle when you make the moves, good and bad. Every rod gives important feedback about what's going on. Few casters ever get the message.
STAY SWITCHED ON
It is important to underline the issue of release timing which these exercises illustrate so clearly.
A successful caster must be wideawake to what's happening beneath the surface of his technique. He needs to develop and tune his method and tackle to allow for the fact that sinkers, like tennis balls, have a mind of their own about precisely when to escape skyward.
To get the best from any cast - distance, control, accuracy - it is vital that arm and body actions, rod loading and reel response are synchronised to trigger an automatic sinker release at the point in the casting arc which puts the sinker on the right flight path.
Trying to control a cast, by hanging on too long or letting go too soon, is a serious but common mistake.
Damage includes loss of distance, burned thumb, leader knot catching in the rings. Strong leaders snap like cotton. Heavy sinkers are impossible to cast.
Big trouble lies in store for the caster who tries to release the sinker by deliberately timing the letting-go point. The correct method here is to pre-programme the cast for automatic control.
Do that, and the cast will tell you - by feedback and feel - exactly when to let go. Then the letting-go process rapidly becomes subconsciously automatic as well. The good caster never gives it a second thought.
Pre-setting the release not only maximises power and control. The sinker's flight path then becomes a diagnostic tool, pinpointing the areas to look at when things go wrong.
For example, a low, left pendulum cast suggests a lazy left hand or incomplete body turn, the two often going together.
To look through the whole range of articles in this series, click HERE.
Turning and hammering are the mechanical basis of powerful casting. These simple, natural body actions are as relevant to tournament work with the advanced pendulum styles, as they are to an offgrounder that lobs sinker and bait an easy 80 yards, says Britain's top casting instructor John Holden
DON'T be fooled by different casting styles, rod design, reel tuning and a hundred-and-one more technicalities. All good casting uses a spring-like turn of the body, blending into a hammering arm action. Minor variations apart, that's all there is to it. Simple, powerful and natural.
I don't blame you if you find it hard to believe that casting can be so easy. Like all technology-based sports, casting becomes as complicated as you care to make it. But this article is about everyday beach work, not breaking records. It focuses on how to be successful on the beach.
If tournament casting is Formula One, then fishing at 100 yards is driving around the town. A cool 150 yards with match tackle is comfortable cruising on the motorway.
At this stage in the series, we are still learning to pass the driving test. The Turn-and-Hammer exercises covered so far contain every mechanical step needed to generate more than enough power for a wide range of beach fishing.
Nothing more is needed to drive baited tackle a respectable distance. Before moving on to 'proper' casting, though, we need to finish building the foundations. Our basic exercises are good for distances over 125 yards, but fall short in one vital respect. They collapse when called upon to handle and control a great deal of power, such as you might use for throwing 8oz of lead into a gale or driving 150g towards the 200 mark.
The original Turn-and-Hammer exercise now needs a small modification to make it produce full power. Most people can get away without this extra step for casting moderate distances, but it is a must-have before advancing to any style that uses a big rod arc driven by full body rotation.
Heavy hammering - feeling the load
Power build-up during a hefty cast makes a rod feel heavy in your hands. It appears to increase in weight because it is storing energy. The weight and tension reflect the blank's compression against the sinker's inertia. During the final stage of a cast, the feeling you should get is of taking hold of that load and driving it skyward.
When people talk about casting by feel rather than as a step-by-step sequence, this is one area to which they refer. It is hard to describe, but crystal clear when experienced. Casting pendulum style, I feel the blank 'tighten' just after the sinker begins to accelerate down from the inswing and into the main power arc. Halfway around, tightness becomes a moderately heavy weight balanced between my hands.
I push that weight forward and upwards using body rotation, then flip it over in the final push/pull arm action. Getting the right feedback from the rod is all I think about. Muscle memory takes care of the step-by-step mechanics of the process. I never give a passing thought to technique.
The drawback is that in order to feel the weight and learn how to handle it, you must first be able to cast well enough to produce the necessary rod compression. Another Catch 22 situation.
Let's fake it instead. Make a second hammer, heavier than the first. The weight should be sufficient to make arms-only hammering difficult. The idea is deliberately to overload the system. A sledgehammer is the perfect tool. Seven pounds is a good starting point.
Swing that hammer slowly
A word of warning, especially if you have been casting pendulum style for some time; swing that hammer slowly. Rest between blows. Do not fight your body's natural reaction to the heavy load on the arms. In other words, do not struggle to retain the normal 'shape' of your casting style.
Warm up with the lightweight hammer, using the original hammering exercise rather than the combined Turn- and- Hammer featured last month.
Arm action only. Now pick up the sledgehammer and try to move it in exactly the same way. You might manage a few arms only swings if you are strong. More likely you will struggle - and that is exactly what you want to happen.
Before making the next swing, hold the hammer steady for a few seconds in the starting position. Feel and listen to what your body tells you. It knows exactly how to handle the extra load, if only you let it. Your biological machinery is already programmed to solve the problem.
Forget about casting, and allow your body to adapt itself.
As you lift the hammer into the normal arms-only starting position and focus on the target (a foot or so above eye level and to the right), the weight becomes uncomfortable.
The right arm responds by bending at the elbow, bringing the hand towards the shoulder.
The left arm prefers to stay fairly straight; it might even extend a little more than normal. If it wants to, let it. The shoulder dips a little and the body rotates into a semi-coiled position. Body weight favours the right leg.
Now the hammer is supported more on to the shoulder and chest; a far stronger platform than the arms. The body is coiled under and behind the downward force. Notice how much more comfortable and powerful this feels.
The hammering begins, perfectly naturally, with a relatively slow, powerful shoulder push that drives the weight forward and upwards towards the target. Once under way, the hammer feels lighter as it gains momentum. Now the arms can do their work in the normal manner.
Of course it is awkward at first. If you have been casting the wrong way for years, then it might feel very odd indeed. Practise will strengthen the muscles and develop greater speed, but there is nothing new to learn in the mechanical sense.
If you do run into trouble, chances are that your mind has switched into casting mode. You are consciously analysing and tinkering, which kills the natural flow. This isn't casting. It is swinging a heavy hammer. All you are interested in is feeling the weight.
Power without the pain
Heavy hammering is the glue that bonds the turning and hammering phases of a powerful cast, building and controlling great power with little apparent effort. A shoulder push, or something very close to it, is featured in most powerful off-ground and pendulum styles.
It is not an action that needs particular emphasis in everyday beach fishing with sub-6oz tackle or where distances remain below about 125 yards. However, even in those circumstances it still makes casting more relaxed and less prone to errors in tuning and timing.
The Back Breaker sequence shows what happens when the sledgehammer is swung without proper use of the body.
Beginning with my right arm too straight and held too far from my body, I'm already fighting the weight.
It's a real struggle to get the hammer swinging. Halfway through the action, something has to give. The strain becomes too great, triggering a selfprotection mechanism.
My body allows itself to be pushed off line to the left, away from the hammer, avoiding the pressure. If this were a real cast, the rod would immediately decompress, dumping the sinker low and left. The reel would surge towards backlash; even if I could bring it under control, distance would be poor.
That was the good news. Far worse is the risk of back injury. Hard casting with straight(ish) arms and powerful body rotation puts enormous strain on the lower back.
The longer the rod, the greater the damage.
There are big casters – pendulum mostly - whose arm strength is so great that they can control a rod this way. Yet in almost every case they eventually develop back trouble, sometimes so serious that they must stop casting. The irony is that the error that leads to injury also robs them of maximum distance.
At lower levels, too, back trouble and improper load control go hand in hand with poor distances. Again, the pendulum caster is most at risk. The most common error in pendulum casting is cutting the corner – coming off the pendulum swing by lifting the rod around high and abruptly on straight arms, then hitting hard. It's a spine crusher, and never produces decent power.
Many styles, one foundation
The Body Rotation sequence shows the common ground between casting styles. Begin with the off-ground cast on the right; work back to the full pendulum. Notice how each cast builds on the one before.
The South African cast is a body extension of the simple ground cast. The fishing pendulum uses the same body rotation as the South African, but holds the rod higher. Further extending the arm lift and body turn produces the full or tournament pendulum set-up.
Run through these set-up positions with the sledgehammer, finishing each one with the usual Turn-and-Hammer action. Notice that each style flows into the heavy hammering position at some point during the forward body turn. Your right shoulder moves naturally behind and under the load as the rod comes around. The exact point at which this happens alters with the style.
The pressure also grows with every increase in body rotation. A full pendulum generates a lot of mid-arc 'weight' that must be properly controlled.
A big cast with a stiff, fast blank demands that you grab the rod by the scruff of the neck and give it a damn good thrashing. It is the mishandling of this mid-arc pressure that condemns so many casters to failure.
Try the exercises again using straight arms and without the sense of getting your shoulder behind and under the load. Feel how the system loses power and causes the spine to be shoved off line, transferring pressure to the lower back. Do these tests slowly so as not to hurt yourself. Back sufferers would do better to skip this one.
A casting action that incorporates the natural heavy hammering stage is easier, far more powerful, more controllable and forgiving. Getting your right shoulder behind the rod is the secret of being able to use big sinkers and long rods. Done properly - naturally - it makes casting ten times easier and is your insurance against back damage.
The simple off-ground in action
To look through the whole range of articles in this series, click HERE.
Mark and Gary Poole were hooked on pendulum casting from the moment they saw Richard Holgate's baits fly way out to sea. Like most top anglers in the area, Richard considers pendulum casting the best way to catch fish from the shallow beaches of Essex, Suffolk and beyond.
Pendulum casting was born and raised on the beaches of East Anglia. Its bloodline is a fusion of casting and fishing. It is not, and never was, a pure tournament style...it was developed to deliver cod baits big distances and was spawned out of a necessity.
There is something special about swinging the lead that tempts and tortures in equal measure. For every fisherman who masters pendulum casting, a dozen fail. The trek from first hesitant swing to majestic, full-flowing pendulum is long and demanding for even the most talented.
For many, the Full Monty is an impossible dream. So in these days of ultra-long rods and out-of-the-can expertise - meaning thump it as hard as you can and let technology do the rest - why would Mark and Gary bother trying to learn?
Mark discovered one big advantage the first time he fished with Richard. He baited up, clipped down the hooks and laid the lead weight on the beach to cast. The baits came unclipped the moment the leader went slack.
Crafty tactics or PVA string can overcome ground casting's defects, but swinging the lead - thus keeping rig and leader under tension - is the professional way to do it.
Besides, ground casting is difficult from many of the best fishing spots in the area. A pendulum swing guarantees a clean launch even if you're fishing on a narrow esplanade with your back to a beach hut. A short rod used with a modest drop and abbreviated swing needs less space than a long rod powered by a mighty thump.
To appreciate the full appeal of pendulum casting, it's necessary to understand that the cast itself is part of a complete system of fishing. After 40 years of experiment and refinement, the cast itself and the tackle to do it are honed close to perfection.
For example, the 12ft Flick Tip Richard Holgate uses much of the time is rooted in the massively successful Cono-flex Cod glass and semi-carbon rods of yesteryear, which themselves were inspired by the revolutionary Abu 464.
Materials may have altered, boosting performance along the way, but the key features remain: shortish, quickish, adequately stiff low down, nicely sensitive at the top. Such rods wind up easily, throw a long way, keep the baits on and handle the fishing side of things beautifully. Reels, lines and rigs are closely matched to the rod.
The result is a highly effective long-range package arguably without equal in the history of beach fishing. You need look no further than Richard's impressive track record to see proof of that. Put simply, this style has been catching fish and winning matches year in, year out since the late 1960s. Can there be a more compelling reason for Mark and Gary to accept the pendulum challenge?
GETTING INTO THE SWING OF THINGS
RICHARD'S off-ground method, which we looked at last time, is designed so that the swing can be added easily. Only the first part of the cast changes; the power arc is virtually the same whether the cast begins with the lead sitting on the beach or hovering in mid-air.
The beauty of off-ground casting is that when things go wrong with their embryo pendulum style - as they will - the Poole brothers have a solid off-ground foundation to fall back on.
Without that safety net there is a strong chance that problems in the swing may spread to infect the power arc as well.
Should things turn wobbly, one or two ground casts will get them back in the right groove. Beginners often find that alternating between off-ground and pendulum casts is excellent practice anyway.
Had you dropped in on their lesson, you may have been surprised by the lack of detailed instruction. Richard dispenses with theory and cuts straight to the chase. "Swing the lead out, then bring it back on the inside. As the lead reaches the top of its inswing, unwind your body and cast, just as you do off the ground," he urges.
Setting the sinker drop to a shade over two metres, he swung the 150g lead through a gentle outward-then-inward arc, turned and swept the cast seaward. "Now you do it." Which they did...more or less.
More or less is good enough to begin with. It takes a while to get used to pendulum work, mainly because it is so different from the thumping style with which 99 per cent of beach anglers begin their career.
Early attempts to cast with a swinging lead are mostly about coming to terms with an alien concept. To add to the joy of it, pendulum casting has a couple of nasty traps for the newcomer. Almost everyone gets caught.
How do you make the lead swing? Accuracy and rhythm are not the issue at this stage. The headache is how to make the damn thing swing at all. As Richard demonstrated, powering the swing is easy when you know how. Simple technique and plenty of confidence are the key ingredients.
Stance, body wind-up and rod angle remain the same as for ground casting. They'll alter in time as technique matures, but to begin with the Poole boys should work on the old foundations.
Next is sinker-drop. As a rough guide, it should be about two-thirds of the rod length. Experiment a little to find a length of drop that seems to suit, then stick with it for a while. Leave the finetuning until later.
GO ON, GET RECKLESS
WITH these basics explained Richard moved on to the swing, which starts with the rod almost vertical and the sinker a little above eye level. In this compact form of pendulum casting, the outswing is created by a firm push of the right hand.
When the lead weight reaches its peak, a downward push of the left hand, plus a hint of right hand lift, bring the lead back to form the inswing. If the sequence goes wrong at any stage, stop and start again.
Richard's everyday style with its abbreviated swing delivers all the distance he needs with a Flick Tip rod and 150g tackle. Having seen him in action, the boys already understand that a well crafted but restrained swing is more than adequate most of the time, demands nothing exotic in the way of tackle, and is just about as effortless as long range casting can be.
The boys need to keep reminding themselves that a simple style done well outguns a poorly controlled mighty swing. Biting off more drop, swing speed and body rotation than they can chew would be the quickest route to pendulum hell.
The second common problem is to lose confidence and bottle out when the lead reaches maximum height on the inswing. This point in the swing should trigger a smooth, relaxed transition into the main part of the cast during which the rod and lead must trace a path that flows down and around before accelerating up and away. Instead, the caster panics, snatches at the rod, completely loses the power arc and ends up making the dreaded overhead thump. More care and control would seem to be the logical cure. In fact, it usually pays to get reckless.
The flattish, rotary action that Richard taught the boys helps to avoid this serious error which pendulum experts call 'cutting the corner'. Body rotation naturally produces wide arcs and a long acceleration path for the sinker.
Timing is far less critical; a rotary path also self-corrects for quite big mistakes by bringing the caster, lead and rod into the proper relationship with each other as power and speed build up. The result is a lazy-looking action that generates an awful lot of power - and gets clean away with errors that may otherwise have exploded the reel.
By the end of the session Mark and Gary were doing quite nicely. Their casting was inevitably ragged and inconsistent, but already you could see the right shapes and rhythms starting to gel. Under Richard's guidance they are on track towards the beginnings of a technique capable of being developed into the full pendulum swing.
Technically, these advanced, powerpacked pendulum styles are just an extension of the compact version. The power source is the same throughout: body rotation, the athletic motive force that drives discus, shot and hammer throwing.
But for now the target is a comfortable fishing range of 125 metre or more. If they work at it, they'll be there sooner than they think.
1. With the rod almost vertical and sinker a little above eye level, push the right hand to create the outswing
2. After the lead reaches maximum height on the inswing, the rod and lead trace a path down and around...
3. ...before accelerating up and away. Body rotation naturally produces wide arcs and a long acceleration path for the sinker
4. The rotary path allows power and speed to build up, giving a lazy-looking action that generates lots of power before you release the line
KEY STEPS IN PENDULUM CASTING
1 Use a rod that you can bend easily - not too stiff, not too long.
2 Work comfortably within your limits.
3 Learn to control the swing process.
4 If the swing is somewhere on plane and high enough to allow time for
the power arc to begin, it will do for now. Perfection comes later...or never.
5 Timidity kills pendulum casting. Better to be reckless.
6 Build on simple, solid foundations.
7 Stick to the basics until you're confident.
8 Then explore the possibilities.
9 Aim to be the best caster you can be, but accept your limitations.
10 Commit yourself to putting in the necessary time and effort.
In part two of our feature on beach casting, our casting coach and expert sea angler, John Holden, explains how you can cure off-ground headaches by aerialising the lead weight rather than laying it out on the ground.
The easy cast is simple, powerful and a good allrounder for most flat and sloping marks. The weight and rig normally lift from the ground with hardly any dragging. But like any off-ground cast it is of limited value or useless on weedy ground, rocks and in surf.
Another complaint is that ground casts do not handle clipped-down rigs very well. The moment the rig touches the ground the clips release the baits prematurely because the leader slackens. Experienced casters keep the lead on the move so that it barely touches the beach before being powered away. This useful trick still doesn't address the issue of needing somewhere fairly clean and unrestricted to lay out the cast.
All of these headaches can be instantly cured by aerialising the weight rather than laying it out on the ground. This is not real pendulum casting, which even in compact form uses a generous out-swing and inswing to lift the lead weight well above head height before the power arc begins. Think of it as a re-positioning of the weight to a spot in mid-air just above its normal ground layout point.
Starting a cast with the lead in midair worries newcomers far more than it should. It must be difficult to control any aerialised method, surely? Well, yes and no.
It is necessary to co-ordinate the lead's hovering at the peak of its inswing with the beginning of the main power arc. You need to watch the swinging lead carefully at first, but practise lets you feel the moment that the lead stops climbing.
Pressure on the rod tip falls slightly at that point, almost as if the lead has disappeared. For the experienced caster this feeling is the red 'go' signal that triggers the main part of the cast.
Learning to swing a lead is easier with a disciplined A,B,C sequence of outswing, inswing, cast. If anything goes wrong - no matter how little or how early - stop, then start all over again. Short drops cause more trouble than long ones, so if anything err towards a little extra. Longer drops slow the swing and make timing smoother; swing direction and height are easier to control.
Once you get the hang of swinging the lead accurately, you will be free to experiment further with drop length and angles to find the combination that gives smooth, easy power.
Confidence is at least as important as set-up and control. A less than perfect swing carried out with confidence outperforms perfect technique ruined by hesitation. Commit yourself.
Make the swing and then cast without worrying about the result. Accept that everyone makes lots of mistakes at first.
The new cast and the off-ground version share many key steps, including aerial target, stance, body rotation and rod angle. Run through the ground cast a few times to get yourself back in the groove. Marking foot and tackle layout positions is a good idea, so that you have some handy references from which to work.
It may help to lay the sinker on the beach before lifting it into the start position, shown here. I'm using a lead drop of about half the rod length. Most beach rods including the long ones do well with 4-6ft of drop. Having prepared the reel, and pre-set my stance and body wind-up, I raise the rod tip until the lead hangs about 2ft from the blank, then push it away to begin the out-swing. The push is slow but purposeful.
I've aimed the out-swing to the right of the line on the sand that marked the off-ground rod angle. The lead tends to drift to the right of the rod, passing roughly over the original lead layout point. Aim somewhere in the general direction. I'm using a tennis ball to make this demonstration clearer, and you may find it helpful at first because it slows the flow and forces you to make a positive swing.
When the lead reaches suitable height on the out-swing - head height or a little below - push down with your left hand to reverse the action. The inswing naturally tends to steer itself to your right and well clear of the rod. Seen from above the caster, the rod angle on the inswing would be about the same as it was on the out-swing, both being roughly aligned with the mark on the beach.
Experts keep the swing low to maximise the rod's power arc, but this demands perfect timing and swing control. For now, keep the inswing fairly high so that the lead peaks somewhere between waist and shoulder height. Just as the swing approaches its limit - and anticipating the hovering point can be tricky until you get used to it - smoothly and relatively slowly drop the rod tip by raising the butt cap with your left hand, as I'm doing in the photo.
The right hand can stay where it is. Its natural reaction is to drop a few inches, which is fine, but don't push down deliberately. Drop the tip too low, and you risk driving the tip and/or the lead weight into the ground.
As your left hand rises, the rod tip begins to compress against the resistance of the lead which is now hovering in mid-air. Turn your head and focus on the target. Unwind your body then hammer the lead up into the air, exactly as in the off-ground style. The natural reaction is to bring the rod around much too quickly and fiercely in order to prevent the lead weight from hitting the ground. Strange though it seems, the best way to keep the lead airborne and on track is to slow right down.
The follow through is the same as before except that you may notice that the rod has come through on a slightly shallower plane. This is a natural and correct response to the aerialised lead position, which makes the cast's power arc flatter and slightly U-shaped compared to the off-ground cast's more upright lift off and power stroke.
THINGS TO THINK ABOUT
Because of the changes to lead position, timing and power flow, the start of the aerialised cast will not feel the same as that of a ground cast.
Rod compression, for example, starts as early as it does in the offground version, but the feeling will be of a flatter launch that flows more around the body before veering towards the familiar, natural rod angle during the fi nal hammering action. These changes are subtle and best left to take care of themselves. Avoid side-arming the cast or forcing it towards the vertical, and the action will flow smoothly.
If swing control and timing are difficult, chances are that you are rushing, which is almost always due to lack of confidence. Slow down, relax, lengthen the drop a little, use a tennis ball if it helps, and above all remember that there is no rush to start the power stroke. A well positioned lead hovers for what seems ages, allowing a slow, steady start to the main part of the cast. The power flow itself should be about half as fast as most beginners imagine.
JOHN'S PROFESSIONAL TRICKS
Aerialised and pendulum casting styles tend to aggravate multiplier spool slip and backlashes. The reel may even twist on the rod handle. These annoyances tend to disappear when the style improves, but these tricks may help at first.
1. Cut a one-inch wide strip of inner tube and thread it under the coasters before attaching the reel, which should now be far less prone to any twisting out of place when the rod comes under pressure.
2. Sandwich the end of the rubber between your thumb and the spool for a slip-free grip and painless release. Trim the strip to extend just beyond your thumb when you grip the reel spool.
3. Suffer from backlash? Tighten the drag until you get a feel for the cast, then back it off to give the usual hint of free-play on the spool. If control is a problem, cast against a lightly set drag. Use your oldest reel, though!
Missed part one of this series? You can read it HERE.
You can't catch sea fish unless you can beach cast properly. But you don't have to use gut-busting sea fishing tackle, be built like a man-mountain or use space-age tackle. In this new belt and braces series, John Holden explains why simplest is best and 150 yards with a baited hook isn't beyond the skills of most beach anglers. Go on, give it a go. You know it makes sense!
This series is all about discovering easy ways to master the key steps in successful casting. It is not about high performance casting techniques and specialist equipment. Can I hear sighs of relief? On the other hand, even the little off-ground cast we start with is easily capable of throwing baits more than 150 yards. In other words, distance is not really an issue.
Get the basics right and you should be confident of casting plenty far enough, smoothly and effortlessly, to catch fish from many shore marks, most of the time.
Rather than discussing casting theory and tackle choice, I have boiled down the techniques to a handful of key steps. These will extract great results from a wide range of tackle, from budget rods and fixed-spool reels to top-end beachcasters and CT reels.
Avoid rods clearly beyond your current ability, which means being sensible about length and stiffness. Use a 5oz or 150g sinkers, which has proven to be the optimum lead for beach fishing.
Other than the common-sense issues of suitable shockleader, a metal clip to connect the lead weight and safe knots throughout, there is nothing more to add.
The most important step in casting is to build solid foundations. That is most easily achieved with a ground cast based on limited body rotation and modest rod and sinker angles. No other style is simpler or more predictable.
And to the benefit of raw beginner and experienced angler alike, every important step can be pre-set, so that the casting action itself becomes almost automatic. Fishing is more enjoyable when casting takes care of itself.
This ground casting style is known as the Easy Cast or Brighton style. The lead weight and shockleader are laid on the ground somewhere under the rod tip rather than extended away as in other ground casting methods.
It's a highly efficient cast even though it is compact. Its strength – or secret if you like - is that it guarantees to get your rod tip bending early in the casting action.
Be in no doubt that the Easy Cast is an excellent and practical fishing method in its own right. Despite the simplicity, it is definitely far more than a practice exercise.
This little off-grounder is in a class of its own for learning the key steps found in all the more advanced casts, such as the pendulum, and it is often the only style that some fishermen may ever need.
KEY STEPS TO BETTER CASTING
● Pick a spot in the sky where you want the sinker to go, then take up a natural stance relative to that target.
● Check the sinker drop and prepare the reel.
● Turn away from the water, lay out the sinker and set the rod position.
● Turn back to the sea and focus on the mid-air target.
● Feel the compression building in the rod.
● Flick the rod over with a fi rm hammer action.
● Hold the follow through until the rig hits the water.
The length of shockleader outside the rod tip when the tackle is set up ready to cast is called the drop. Drop is not critical on the majority of beach rods casting about 5oz of lead, but half the rod length is a good starting point. It is important to use the same length of drop each time. Measure the drop against a reference point on the rod blank.
Rushing the start of the cast is a common problem. If it affects you badly, try pushing the lead weight into an old tennis ball. The extra weight and bulk encourages a smooth, steady action. A ball is easier to retrieve if you're practising on grass.
The proper stance
Proper stance is vital to successful casting and there's no magic involved. The final stage of the cast is to punch the rig towards an imaginary target high in the air. The action is a simple push-and-pull with the arms, exactly the same as swinging a big hammer.
Have a couple of practice swings before making a cast. Aim at an aerial target and you'll find that the stance takes care of itself. Your feet will settle in exactly the right place. As in most aspects of casting, what feels right generally is right.
I cannot over-emphasise the importance of cast-to-cast consistency. Your actions are bound to vary at first, but the set-up itself can be pre-set. How the cast is set up largely determines whether or not it will be successful.
Sinker drop, stance, rod angle and the point on the beach where the sinker is laid must be consistent unless you choose to alter them. Even then it is best to make only one change at a time. If it helps, mark your feet, rod and sinker positions in the sand. In time you will be able to set up the cast by feel alone.
Look out to sea and visualise a target at about 40 degrees elevation and just to the right of where you want the rig to land. Settle your feet in position relative to the target, check the leader drop, set the reel for casting. Now turn away from the water and drop the weight on to the beach on an inside layout just to the right of the rod.
Don't use too much body rotation and there is no need to take the rod too far around. Now run through three checks: The rod tip should be low to the ground, left elbow held fairly high and, importantly, create a mental picture of where that target is in the sky behind you.
Trigger the cast
The casting action, which everyone new to the game automatically assumes to be the difficult part, is nothing more than a natural reaction to all the preparations you have made.
Trigger the cast by turning your head and focusing on the aerial target. No need to rush. No need to think about what your body and the tackle are doing. Just turn your head and look up into the sky.
Slow and smooth
Although your arms and the rod have done very little, the rod tip has begun to compress against the lead. You feel some resistance and, if you rush, it may be enough to catch you out. That's why the action must start slowly and smoothly.
By the time your body has unwound from the set-up position and your shoulders have almost turned to face the sea, the rod will feel surprisingly tense and heavy. The rod is loaded with energy and almost ready to fire the tackle. Concentrate on that target in the air. Feel the resistance of the rod. Automatically and at exactly the right moment, your arms will start to push and pull to flick the rod tip over.
Just let it happen
There is no need to consciously time the arm action or to control it. Just let it happen. The feeling should be just as if you were swinging a heavy hammer. This may seem far too simple, but that's the way it is.
Good casting is simple and the actions are all natural. Releasing the reel is automatic as well. For the vast majority of anglers it just happens at precisely the right time regardless of whether they use a fixed-spool or a multiplier reel.
The target is 100 yards but it could be 150!
This simple casting style easily throws a bait more than 100 yards. With practice, 150yd is well within its scope using the basic layout.
Extending body rotation, rod angle and sinker layout boost the potential towards 200yd for the caster who opts to make the Easy Cast his main style. Be in no doubt that this is a very powerful style. Don't let the simplicity fool you.
There are limitations, some of which make ground casts of any kind unsuitable. The most serious drawbacks are lack of rod tip clearance and no clean lift-off point for the weight.
Rocks, weeds and swirling surf are obviously far from ideal spots for ground casting. Annoyingly, clipped down rigs can be difficult to use because the hooks unclip when the tackle is laid out and the shockleader slackens momentarily.
At this point the pendulum style may seem an attractive proposition. But what if you don't have the time to learn it, don't have suitable tackle or don't fancy the idea of making a big swing anyway?
An attractive solution might be to stick with the Easy Cast's simple, fluid action, but clean up the beginning of the cast so that the rig hovers in mid-air rather than lies on the beach.
To read part 2 of this beach casting series, click HERE.