SOME ADVICE ON CASTING
Beach casting destroys the myth that sea angling is not physical, energetic or sportingly skilled. A myth so often believed by the novice angler whose arrival with a beachcaster on the shoreline in winter can be a horrendous shock if the wind is blowing. Would you attempt a full size golf course as a total novice golfer without lessons? Of course NOT, then my first piece of advice for the beginner is to get casting lessons because simply throwing money at the best fishing tackle is only a small part of the solution.
Distance casting has been hyped up over the years and some of the elite casters may be to blame for making even the practical casting distances seemingly out of the reach or mere mortals. The truth is that modern fishing tackle, like golf clubs, has evolved and can be a great equaliser for increasing casting performance. However, a rod and reel will not do the job completely for you and no amount of money will put yards on your ability, but a suitable outfit can ensure that you start on the right foot and are able to perform to your potential. Beware of being outgunned by tournament distance exaggerations and myths, especially that you need is a stiff, powerful rod, you will still need the shoulders and the skill to get the best from it. Liken a beachcaster to a bow and arrow. If you cannot pull the string back the arrow goes nowhere, if the string is sloppy and easy to pull back its potential is limited. What you want is a rod that YOU can bend and get the most from.
Let’s look at practical casting distances – Tournament distances have extended past 300 yards in recent times, but these distances are only obtained by a few top casters using a plain lead with a following wind, no bait, no tackle and so have limited connection with fishing!!!! However, lots of the proficient casters can put a baited hook close to, or over the 200 yard mark. Most untutored novices can’t make 80 yards at their first attempt. In purely practical terms a cast of 80 to150 yards with a baited hook enables the angler to catch fish from a majority of venues.
As a last resort, choice of venue is always a way around a lack of casting range with deep waters piers, harbours, head lands and rough ground all venues that can produce fish to a shorter cast.
THE CASTING STYLES
There are a number of casting styles and they totally relate to the power input and resulting distance. At the top of the distance ratings is the powerful pendulum cast which is a crucially timed power cast involving swinging the lead in an arc to increase initial compression in the rod. Timing and power are important to this cast and like the best golf swing not all can reach this standard.
The OTG (off the ground) cast is a more controlled, smooth cast producing long distances. Timing is important, but less difficult to master and most beginners find casting off the ground, an easy starting point. There are a range of others names for this casting style which launches the lead from a standing start.
The overhead thump is the most basic style used by lots of novices without any coaching at all, it’s like throwing a stone and comes naturally. In all cases the correct tackle is paramount for the maximum distance, but gradually in recent years longer lighter rods have increased the distance potential of this style simply because a longer rod is a longer lever.
It’s essential when choosing a rod to still remember that you can still be over powered by too much rod length and just like a pendulum rod can be too stiff for the angler to bend a long rod can be too heavy for the caster to move through the casting stroke with any speed!
The distances that fish can be caught are between a few yards and hundreds of yards and whilst in most cases a good cast (100 plus yards) will put you amongst fish, on occasions some species are almost close enough to touch. Using casting to your advantage includes knowing when to cast short or long, as well as controlling an ego that wants to show others how good a caster you are!
Being able to cast more than 100 yards is a big advantage, especially during winter when weather conditions are severe. Powering a lead into a head wind and past the turmoil of the waves enables you to continue fishing in the most extreme conditions.
Around the Country there are lots of casting instructors, some give their time free through the local angling club, some charge for tuition. Check out your local club or tackle shop. Some of the national sea angling magazines also operate a casting school via a list of casting instructor and they are worth checking out.
PRO CASTING TIP
Check that line is not wrapped around your rod tip or intermediate ring before casting, this is a common cause of casting snaps offs on the beach.
The first essential of a beach casting outfit is a Casting Shock Leader. This is a strong section at the beginning of the line to take the shock and strain of casting. Lines used for long casting need to be thin and are not sufficiently strong enough to take the strain of casting a 6oz lead. The consequences of the line breaking and the lead flying off are too horrendous to contemplate and so a casting shock leader is an essential to all sea casting.
Casting shock leaders have shackled UK shore fishing for several decades and are partly responsible for the many snaggy beaches around our coasts, some anglers are now arguing that shock leaders can be dispensed with safely provided a set of common sense rules are followed, others argue that all casting requires a shock leader. On the Continent the necessity to use fine lines in order to catch fish has negated the use of heavy shock leaders and the anglers have been sensible enough to organise themselves to do this safely! However, before you rush off and dump or reduce the breaking strain of your casting shock leader, remember you need to appraise each casting situation individually. For all types of power casting, or any casting with a multiplier reel, a shock leader is essential because the risk of a snap off is increased.
The casting shock leader, whilst often being seen an essential of the shore angler, is one of the most off putting aspects of sea angling for many beginners. It’s fiddly and complicated to tie in the first instance and if its lost first cast lot of novices simply carry on without out it. However, NOT using a casting shock leader is in jumping up and down territory for the Health and Safety conscious sea angler. A shock leader is also always advised for novices simply because of their lack of casting experience and skill which makes their casting potentially more hazardous.
The easiest knot for tying a leader is the Uni leader knot. OK it’s not the strongest, but it is accepted as the best compromise because it sits on the reel neatly and doesn’t cut thumbs or catch on rod rings when cast.
Stronger, but more complicated to tie is the Bimini Loop leader knot
Tapered shock leaders are another option – they are more expensive to buy BUT offer a smaller knot because the leader and main line diameters are the same and tied with a double blood knot this allows the leader to flow off the fixed spool reel spool smoothly. A tapered leader can also be tied onto the main line more easily and quickly on the beach.
Another solution to leader loss, often used by rock anglers, is to do away with the shock leader completely and increase the main line strength/diameter. Although a thicker line will catch more tide and not flow off the spool so easily or cast so far, it does offer a greater element of safety. 25lb to 30lb mainline is capable of casting 4 to 5oz with an overhead style with a fixed spool reel safely and from rough ground the advantages of not using a shock leader are that by using lighter hook snoods tackle loss can be reduced. Another on the beach time saving alternative is to use a fixed spool reel, spare spools can be swapped in seconds simply by unscrewing the front drag and swapping spools. If you only have one fixed spool reel then a spare spool or two loaded with line and leader is an advantage when a snap off or snag claims your gear.
On the Continent the overhead thump casting style is widely used in conjunction with fixed spool reels and low diameter lines and this combination poses far less risk of a lead breaking off and flying parallel to the sea. Fishing rules in Europe only allow anglers to cast overhead and in a straight line in front of them and this takes out most of the dangers imposed by the line snapping. The overhead style is less powerful and only allows a snap off to go directly in front of the caster. The more experience angler using the overhead thump casting style and a fixed spool can however safely reduce the leader strength and this is increasingly the case amongst summer anglers. Other ways around the problem includes the use of braid line all through and using 30lb breaking strain braid on a fixed spool reel is a fairly safe option for short to medium range fishing and is the option chosen by a large number of sea anglers nowadays.
PRO TIP: The standard rule for monofilament shock leader strength is 10lb of breaking strain of line for every 1 ounce of the lead cast, add 10lb to the leader line for the casting field or busy venues.