Dan Daufel is a highly skilled caster, angler, and fly tier from Bozeman, Montana. It was my pleasure to have worked with him years ago at Blue Ribbon Flies, along with his twin brother, Doug. Together, they make up Montana Brothers Rodworks, a fly rod company producing what I regard as the finest rods available today. Though Dan and Doug share any number of classic “twin” traits, they do cast with different hands—Dan, left, Doug, right. (I’ve analyzed Doug’s stroke here.)
Dan’s stroke contains elements shared by all great casters: a shoulder pivot, proper elbow movement (up on the backcast, down on the forward cast), rod restricted to one plane through the entire stroke, and efficient sequential movement of the arm. It’s a solid stroke, and therefore no surprise that he can handle any fishing situation, from the easiest to the most difficult. But let’s dig down a little deeper, focusing on Dan’s wrist. Several things are happening that warrant discussion.
First, note the relationship between Dan’s forearm and rod butt at the start of the cast. In a perfect world, those two would be parallel, or very near parallel, with one another. Why? Because that starting position preserves the entire range of motion of the wrist, to be deployed later as necessary during the backcast. In the position Dan assumes, with his wrist already cocked (see the significant angle between rod butt and forearm), he has precious little range left for further wrist movement. This ultimately limits the amount of line speed that he can achieve on his backcast. Certainly not an issue for most trout fishing situations, but one that can be problematic when long casts are required, when casting large, air-resistant flies, or dealing with strong tailwinds. Another consequence of beginning with a cocked wrist is the tendency to throw low backcasts, especially on casts that require a longer stroke. We can see this in the video. As Dan finishes his backcast, his rod is angled quite low to the ground for the length of line he’s casting. Fishing with tall grasses or bushes behind him, he’ll have to be really careful to avoid hanging up.
In terms of when to engage the wrist, ideally we bring it to bear in the second half of each stroke. In this way the acceleration it provides becomes additive to the acceleration already achieved in the first half with the larger muscles of the shoulder, upper arm, and forearm. A close look at the video reveals that on the backcast, Dan meters out the use of his wrist through the entirety of the stroke. While not ideal, this move is quite common among excellent casters. And truth be told, the exact ratio by which we divide the acceleration between wrist and arm proves inconsequential in most fishing situations. But if Dan were a competitive distance caster, or fished exclusively in places where distance is paramount, this is absolutely something he’d want to address. Looking now at when Dan uses his wrist on the forward cast, we can see that this is ideal—he saves it until the end of the stroke. Really nice, efficient work, and a move worth aspiring to for all flycasters.