Observations On The Double Haul

Every year I’m asked to teach the double haul (a technique used to increase line speed, primarily for gaining extra distance and fighting wind). These requests always make me uneasy. Not because I don’t want to help, but because without seeing someone cast first, I might end up doing them more harm than good.

How’s that, you ask?

Well, if the necessary fundamentals which a double haul would enhance are not already in place, not already ingrained as muscle memory, learning the technique generally proves counterproductive. Two things tend to happen, both of them bad.

One, the double haul becomes a band-aid, even a crutch. It serves to cover up undeveloped or flawed fundamentals. Its use becomes almost constant—irrespective of whether conditions actually require it. Adding hauls to faulty technique engenders a limited casting stroke, with potentially serious repercussions. When confronted with conditions in which a double haul really is required, guess what? Its benefits are no longer available. They got used up masking away those flawed fundamentals. This isn’t an uncommon situation, and fishermen that find themselves here are more or less stuck. They have no other tools in their bag, no place left to turn.

The other thing I see happen when someone learns to haul too soon is that all further casting development ceases. No more learning takes place, no more time spent practicing. Progress stops cold. There’s something about whomping out an extra few feet of line that seems to impair our judgment. We suddenly overestimate our abilities. We tell ourselves, hey—I know how to cast! Which is too bad, really, because no matter how good we actually are, we can all be better still.

My suggestion is to resist learning to double haul until your fundamentals are rock solid. (You’ll catch plenty of fish in the meantime.) Fight the urge to cast long, even when you’re on the practice field. Remember that adding hauls to faulty technique provides only a (very) few extra feet of distance anyway. Compared with the thirty or more feet that can be gained with good technique, it’s simply not worth it.

Employed best, a double haul is always additive to the casting experience. It allows us to present our fly and catch fish in situations that, sans its use, would be impossible otherwise. So it’s definitely worth learning.

Just don’t learn it too soon.

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