The Double Haul
A recent discussion of the double haul with Gordy Hill, Dayle Mazzarella and Walter Simburski was very interesting and caused all of us to take a very hard look at what we know, and what we don’t. The following are my thoughts on double hauling. I think the other guys would agree with most, but not all, of what I write.
Hauling is normally done to increase line speed, and it does that in a couple ways. Some of the energy of each haul goes directly to increasing line speed by pulling the line through the rod guides. Hauling also causes a bit of extra rod bend which also translates to more line speed when the rod unloads. Some anglers haul simply to reduce the strain on the rod arm.
As with most other sports, technique varies considerably. The haul technique we use for fishing, or teaching someone else, will most likely vary significantly from the technique of a competitive distance caster, so I’ll try to point out some of those differences. The basics of hauling are the same no matter the application.
Timing – First, the easy part. The haul hand should stop accelerating the line right as the rod reaches RSP1. (Editor’s Note: RSP1 stands for “Rod Straight Position 1,” which is the position of the rod just as the loop forms. The caster bends the rod then “stops,” the rod unbends and when it is straight, that is RSP1. When the rod counterflexes, then rebounds, and goes straight again, that is position RSP2.) At that point the rod tip quickly decelerates and the fly line overtakes it forming the loop. The haul must stop accelerating the line at the same time to be most efficient. If the haul stops before RSP1 maximum speed won’t be reached. Also, stopping the haul early reduces the load on the rod which will cause the rod tip to rise to some degree which may cause a tailing loop.
Stopping the haul late (hauling past RSP1) won’t cause a tailing loop but will reduce cast distance. Hauling past loop formation means pulling back on the bottom leg of the loop, a “check haul” in essence. When we pull back on the bottom leg of a loop it forces the top leg to turn over a bit more quickly, but the cast will be shorter than without the “check haul”. So, for most efficient hauling, stop the haul right at RSP1.
Now, when should the haul start? This has been the subject of many discussions and there isn’t one right answer, it all depends on your objective. Let’s look at three scenarios, assuming in each case that ending haul hand speed is the same and the same amount of force is applied.
#1 – Haul starts when casting stroke starts
#2 – Haul starts midway through the casting stroke
#3 – Haul starts very late in the casting stroke, just before RSP1
#1 – When the haul starts at the beginning of the casting stroke there is plenty of time to make a smooth, gradual haul. Timing is easy, both hands start to accelerate the line at same time. Because the force of the haul is applied over a long time period it will bend the rod somewhat less than in scenarios 2 & 3. Since the haul and additional rod bend start from the beginning of the casting stroke this kind of haul is unlikely to cause tailing loops.
A bit less line speed is generated due to less additional rod bend, but timing is easy (easier to learn, and teach) and haul caused tailing loops rarely occur.
#2 – Starting the haul about halfway through the casting stroke, when the rod butt is about vertical has some advantages but disadvantages too. Obviously, if the haul starts later but the same hand speed is reached at RSP1, the haul must be made more quickly. This will result in a bit more rod bend. That means more line speed but, abruptly adding more rod bend in the middle of the casting stroke often results in tailing loops. If done carefully and very smoothly it can work, but #2 is much more difficult to perfect than #1.
#3 – Making a very fast, abrupt haul very late in the casting stroke will bend the rod more than hauling earlier, but is the most difficult technique to master. The casting stroke itself on most casts lasts less than half a second, trying to time a haul into the last 25% of that time period requires a lot of practice.
So, who should haul when? If you are a competitive distance caster at the top level you need to do everything you can to maximize distance, everyone else will be. Hauling as late as possible may add some distance. Of course, that assumes there is time to haul late. If you watch video of top casters like Steve Rajeff, or Rick Hartman, or Paul Arden you’ll see that not only do they haul very quickly, but they rotate the rod very quickly through the casting stroke also. If accelerating the line very rapidly bends the rod more, rotating the rod very quickly with the rod hand bends it even more. If your casting stroke is slow enough that you have time to choose when to haul, your casting stroke isn’t fast enough to make you competitive.
Watch this video of Steve Rajeff competing in Denver, does he have time to delay his haul?
There is much more to be gained by maximizing the quickness of your casting stroke than by trying to pair a late haul to a sub optimal casting stroke. Informal studies have shown that hauling only adds about 15% to distance casts, the other 85% comes from the casting stroke. Obviously, perfecting the casting stroke is the place to start for more distance.
I’m not trying to discourage anyone from hauling, I haul on most casts whether fishing, playing or competing, it makes fly casting more fun. My point is that the “delayed haul” is not the panacea some think it to be, and it is much more difficult to learn, teach, and perfect. Certainly developing a very powerful, smooth casting stroke with the rod comes first.
Length – How long should the haul be? Again, that depends on your goal and the situation. Haul length is related to cast length, for a good reason, time. Most good casters haul on short and long casts. When making a short cast the casting stroke is short, doesn’t take long, there is no time to make a long haul. Short cast, short haul. As cast length increases there is more time for longer hauls and longer hauls are what work best for most applications. Timing is easiest, and it is much easier to make longer hauls smoothly. Short, sharp hauls are the cause of many tailing loops. And for most non-competitive applications, the additional rod bend of very abrupt hauls is not needed. The adage “short cast, short haul, long cast, long haul” is good advice!
In a very long cast most top casters use the longest haul they can, when their haul is complete their hands are as far apart as they can be, that is the longest possible haul. The rod arm will typically be extended straight out in front of the caster. For the haul hand to be as far from the rod hand the haul arm will be extended full length out behind the caster. There is a reason Tim Rajeff at Echo uses this for his logo!
Would this look right if the casters haul arm was pointing straight down instead of behind? No…
Speed – The faster you haul the more line speed you add. For most casters it is easier to reach a high haul hand speed over a longer distance and it is much easier to accelerate smoothly. As your, or your student’s, skills improve you can start trying to achieve the same haul hand speed in a shorter time which will allow you to delay your haul to some degree.
Of course, if your haul is done more quickly but your hand speed is less you won’t be gaining much, if anything. So, in my opinion, it’s more important that you do achieve the highest hand speed you can, more important than trying to delay your haul to bend the rod a bit more.
Haul Hand Path – Something many casters don’t think much about is haul hand path and that affects haul speed. This is only an issue with very long hauls on long casts, but it’s important. Just as we work very hard to accelerate the rod very smoothly we need to do the same with our hauls. It’s easy to accelerate smoothly in a straight line, not so if our hand moves in a curved path. The back haul is rarely a problem, but the front usually is.
For some reason most people haul with a very curved hand path on their forward haul. Assume a right handed caster. The haul starts with their haul hand up by their face. When the haul starts the hand drops almost straight down to a position just outside the left thigh. This is good, straight line acceleration, but the haul isn’t done. From that very low point the haul hand continues back and up, in a big curve.
Hand acceleration relative to the rod is good until the hand turns and starts back up, then it slows, just when we really want acceleration to continue. Effort should be made to move the hand in a straight line during the haul. This straight line haul accelerates smoothly from beginning to end.
As I’m sure you can see there isn’t just one way to haul. How you haul is determined by the kind of cast you are making and as instructors we need to keep that in mind. Most hauls we make in the real world will be medium length, medium speed and timed to start when the casting stroke starts, end at RSP1. That is what we should teach our students, the easiest haul to make. To try to teach extreme competition style hauling to beginning double haulers is asking for trouble. As they become more competent they can decide if they want to become extreme distance casters and learn all the techniques required to be competitive.
This article first appeared in “The Loop,” the Journal of Fly Casting Professionals, which is published quarterly by Fly Fish Fishers International.