January 05, 2012
By John Randolph
Performance Fly Casting, Stackpole Books (Headwater Books), by Jon B. Cave, ISBN-13: 978-0-8117-0734-3, softbound, 131 pages, with illustrations by Joe Mahler.
There have been many excellent books on fly casting but nothing quite like this one: It's short, superbly illustrated, easily understood, and strangely shaped: 9" X 6", just right for illustrating long casts and tight loops.
Jon Cave is a longtime Florida fly-fishing guide, the author of Fly Fishing Odyssey, and a professional fly-casting instructor. He lives in Oviedo, Florida. I have fished (Loreto, Mexico) with Jon Cave and can attest to his casting skills: He knows how to cast tight loops and sling long lines. Yes, I said "sling," because that's what great saltwater casters do. They reach back, open the casting arc, load the rod deep into the butt by quickly and progressively speeding up the stroke in plane, then stopping the rod, following through, watching a tight loop accurately knife through the air and unroll toward the target, lowering the rod gently toward the surface and letting the fly drop in front of a tarpon or bonefish.
All of these techniques are explained by Cave (and illustrated superbly by Joe Mahler), including the pluses and minuses of the three critically important grips used in professional-level fly casting (he prefers the thumb on top grip—light, as though gently gripping a small bird--as do most professionals).
Cave explains proper stance (and improper), the vertical and tracking planes (strengths and weaknesses), rod angles and their importance, how to accelerate (speed-up-and stop) the cast, causing the rod to load progressively to the stop, relaxing the arm muscles immediately after the stop to dampen rod-tip recoil.
Keeping the rod in a straight plane during the cast and keeping a tight line system throughout the cast are emphasized strongly by Cave throughout the book. And he demonstrates how opening the casting arc is critical in saltwater flats and all distance casting. He explains why shooting line on the back as well as the forward cast can reduce unnecessary repetitive false casting. He demonstrates how proper hand/elbow positioning next to the body in the casting stroke can create straight tracking of the line or, if done with the arm extended away from the body can, can cause an unwanted left hook (for right-hand casters).
Eliminating slack in the fly pick-up off the water is probably the most common error experienced fly casters make in preparing for their next cast/presentation. Cave shows how to simply lower the rod tip to near the water and slide-lift the fly from the surfaced into the back-cast, with the power-snap occurring just as the line has been completely lifted off the water and the fly slides alone on the surface.
Cave's explanation and illustration of the single and double hauls are important for all fly casters from advanced beginner to expert and his explanations of cast-killing "creep" can hinder even experienced casters.
The Cave casting instruction and the Mahler illustrations are reminiscent of Lefty Kreh's illustrated instructions. However, there are important differences in style and definition of terms between the two instructors. Nevertheless, John Cave has much to say that can help all of us, from beginner to expert.