Karlie Roland works as a sales rep for Umpqua Feather Merchants, one of the largest suppliers of flies and other tackle items to fly shops around the country. Prior to this recent change of career, she worked as a guide for Trouthunter, a fly shop/lodge located on the Henry’s Fork River in Last Chance, Idaho. Karlie is an exceptionally skilled caster and angler, and a teaching colleague of mine at School of Trout.
As with all expert casters, Karlie keeps the rod in one plane throughout the casting stroke. (Here she’s casting in the vertical plane for maximum accuracy, but it should be noted that when fishing we change planes often, angling the rod to the side in varying degrees, depending on conditions.) She has excellent vertical movement of the elbow—up on the backcast, down on the forward cast. Raising and lowering the elbow sets her line on the proper default trajectory—high in the back, low in the front—and virtually eliminates the chances of creating wind knots. Her acceleration is smooth and controlled, a characteristic shared by all great casters.
Early on in her fishing life, Karlie received advice not to use her wrist while casting. Horrific advice, plain and simple, which in the last few years she’s been working hard to overcome. (In being told not to use her wrist she’s certainly not alone—countless people learning to cast have been told the same thing, especially, in my experience, women.) But proper mechanics dictate that we use our wrist in the second half of every stroke. Every stroke, whether backcast or forward cast. That’s because the wrist adds easy acceleration to the rod, acceleration that becomes additive to what the upper arm and forearm generate in the beginning of the stroke. This makes for a balanced, efficient stroke.
Looking at the casts in the video, Karlie is clearly using her wrist (note the changing angle between the rod butt and her forearm during each stroke). And she’s using it during the second half of each stroke; excellent work. But is she using enough wrist? Critical to great casting is not just using the wrist, but using it to the right degree. The answer here is no, not quite. Even though her wrist is working, to my eye Karlie relies too much on her upper arm and forearm to accelerate the rod. This results in an uncomfortably high arm position throughout the stroke. Bringing more wrist and less arm to bear will provide the exact same acceleration, yet allow her arm position to drop down, relieving stress from the muscles of the shoulder. Over the course of a day’s fishing, that will make a huge difference in comfort.
Invoking more wrist remains a work in progress for Karlie, but I harbor no doubts that she’ll eventually achieve the ideal balance between wrist and arm. Even the finest casters—and Karlie’s one of them—can always improve. And attention to details like this play a big role in that improvement.