One of the many casting techniques that I teach each year is the double haul. When fly casters begin to challenge their skills and attempt longer casts, they quickly learn that it becomes increasingly difficult to add the increased amount of energy into the cast in a smooth enough manner to avoid tailing loops. As they add more power to cast further, the find that their short, wrist and elbow dominated stroke that sufficed for the twenty-five of thirty foot cast is now too abrupt to throw a line forty feet without a tailing loop.
At this point, I encourage the caster to lengthen their stroke and use less wrist and encourage them to move their hand and arm in a straight path using very little wrist. However, once they approach fifty feet, they once again find that they can no longer add the additional power smoothly enough to avoid tailing loops. Fly casting at these distances without a double haul requires great skill, and care to avoid applying power too abruptly.
Most casters reach their “non-hauling” limit somewhere around fifty feet. At that point, adding a haul to their stroke adds more power smoothly thus avoiding the abrupt application of power that results in tailing loops.
In the early twentieth century, it was not uncommon for a fly caster to single haul the line on the back cast or the forward cast to add power and distance to a cast. But in 1934 when Marvin Hedge hauled on both the forward and back cast and set a new world record, he changed distance fly casting forever.
Both single and double haul methods utilize the same techniques and accomplish the same ends. The difference is that the single haul, of course, is performed only in one direction while the double haul is performed on consecutive strokes (i.e. both forward and back casts).
The haul is accomplished by pulling the fly line with the free hand while the rod is applying power during the stroke. This additional “pull”, or “haul”, bends or “loads” the rod adding energy to the cast. The reason it adds power so smoothly is that it adds considerably less load (or bend) to the rod than the rod hand does. This hauling action moves the line through the air faster, and enables the loop to be tighter, the cast to travel further, and the angler to shoot more line. These advantages are well known to more advanced casters.
Try these tips designed to help you haul better and learn faster.
First, learning to haul is easier when you can feel the line pull your line hand. Practice with a heavy line weight such as an 8wt. or 9wt. You’ll feel the timing more easily.
Secondly, keep your line hand even with your rod hand. Practice holding the line with your line hand in this position and casting without hauling first. This positioning will enable you to haul longer and avoid hanging your line on the reel seat or butt end of the rod. Starting your haul from below the rod hand means that your haul will probably finish below the rod increasing the
Next, learn by using short hauls. Short hauls are easier to control. When the haul is completed, one must shoot the hauled line back through the guides. This is commonly referred to as recovering the haul. The motion is often referred to as the “down up” or “haul and recover” motion. Once the hauled line is recovered, one can once again haul. If the line is not recovered, much of the stroke will be waisted on recovering slack line before moving the line forward, and you will not be able to haul on the next stroke. Short hauls (i.e. 12 to 18 inches) are easier to recover and are thus easier to learn with. Note: When casting long lines, we do make longer hauls. However, once you have learned the proper hand position, you will find that the longer hauls will not get hung up on the rod or reel as often. Learning and becoming proficient with the double haul, though, is more easily accomplished with shorter hauls.
Another tip that will help you learn this technique more easily is to begin on the ground and do each as a separate single haul. Single haul on the back cast, and stop. Think about your next haul. Then haul the forward cast and stop. Breaking the double haul into two separate casts on the ground rather than in the air, allows the beginner to learn the “down-up” or “haul and recover” motion one step at a time. Once the haul and recover motion can be performed on consecutive strokes on the ground, lift the rod up off the ground into the air in a sidearm position. When the small muscle groups fatique and your hauling begins to fail, set the line back down and begin again, one haul at a time.
Also, the sidearm or three quarter position of the cast enables the caster to view the line in the air while still peripherally viewing the hauling line hand during the stroke. If you’re having difficulty developing the timing of the haul, try casting a little off the shoulder at three quarters and let your hand eye coordinate together.
Often I am asked when the haul should occur. Ideally, the haul should begin when the stroke begins and end when the stroke ends. One can begin to haul after the rod has begun to move and may end the haul before the stop. In fact, when learning to rub your tummy and pat your head (i.e. double haul) we recommend starting the rod first. It is easier to begin each element separately. But, to maximize the haul and do it as smoothly as possible, it should ideally begin at the start of the stroke and end at the stop of the rod.
Try these ideas to help you improve your double hauling technique. Then use it to tighten your loops and reach more distant targets. Better yet, sign up for one of the Orvis Michigan Fly Fishing Schools and have one of our great instructors personally lead you through these techniques. Hope to see you there.
Dave Leonhard is a master casting instructor for the Federation of Fly Fishers, director of casting instruction for the Michigan Council Trout Unlimited Fly Fishing School, owner of Streamside Orvis in Traverse City, Michigan, and director of instruction for the Orvis Michigan Fly Fishing School.