How to Cast, Metaphorically Speaking

Over the years and many casting lessons later I’ve started to collect the metaphors/analogies/descriptions used to teach casting. Some have been helpful to me, some have been humorous, and some just downright confusing. My new absolute favorites come from Argentine friends.  Here’s an example on presenting a fly. “Imagine the pizza delivery boy throwing a brick through your window instead of ringing the doorbell.”

Many single hand casting instructors begin with a rollcast, which comes back to haunt new double hand students later.   One guide told me that a rollcast is “throwing a punch,” something I personally have never done. Another said, “Just make a forward cast.”  It was a long time before I understood “translation to rotation.”

As for the forward cast, metaphors abound. “Imagine you are painting the ceiling and then flick paint off the brush.”   This will result in the caster raising his arm too high – nobody paints the ceiling with the elbow at shoulder height or lower, and definitely don’t flick paint off the brush, ever.  “Imagine you are hammering in a nail” really works better, because there is a more natural arm position and a definite stop in both the back and front of the motion.  “Throwing a dart” didn’t work for me, not being a dart player and having no idea of how to do that properly.   Stopping the rod tip high enough is a common problem.  “Stop at the trees” can work, but having a South American guide scream at me, “Stop before your tip” did not help.   Furthermore, the power snap has been described as “opening a screen door with your thumb”, but that’s not how my sliding screen doors work.   As for “drift”, most casters just say, “Do this”, when they demonstrate, as there seem to be no words for this.

The double haul can be challenging for many to learn.  It took me quite a while to get the timing right on the forward stroke.  Being told “it’s like brushing crumb off your shirt” still both fascinates and eludes me.  “Beat a drum” does kind of make sense to me now that I can actually double haul.  “Down-up” is definitely the motion, but when to down-up?

And, what is a “fluffy cast”?  I seem to throw a lot of them.  As for “no cast can be done too slowly”, that is simply not true.  I’ve had a frustrated spectator scream, “Line speed!” at me too many times.

Spey casting is a whole new world of descriptive language. “Shotgun lift” was useless to this city girl, but from my urban perspective I still did not understand if “up the parking ramp” is the sweep to a D-loop?   I liked but did not understand “around the martini glass.”  Or, “around the world.” Where are the corners when I am “cutting corners”?  One guide told me an instructor he knew would put a big sombrero on her students and tell them to sweep the rod around the sombrero.  Now that I can visualize. “Throw a frisbee behind you for the D-loop.”   I actually tried throwing a frisbee behind me to get the idea.   As for timing, “waltz two three” is a good idea, but apparently I am a very slow dancer.  I’m still trying to “stay in the box” and “trace a path on a wall” without “lashing”, “hooking”, or “dipping.”

Fly presentation and setting the hook descriptions are even more colorful.   As for waiting to set, there is the usual “God Save the Queen”, but one guide suggested “Don’t f#$k this up.”   From Argentina comes the example of poor fly presentation as “a wonderful Milanese dripping with grease hanging from a tree.”   And how about this one, of “a perfect fly that hits the water like a dog falling from the sixth floor.”

It never really helped me to have an instructor move my arms to cast, or put my rod in my sleeve, but it did help when a very tall man held his arms up above me and said to “cast between his arms.”  After all this time I now understand that I am just a visual learner.  Just show me what you want me to do and then show me what I am doing wrong, as I keep that pizza delivery boy away from my window with that Milanese and don’t let that dog out.