Rev Up Your Double Haul During Practice!

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By Justin Pickett

Practice your casting. Practice your casting. Practice your casting!

That’s what any good flats guide will tell you prior to stepping foot on the bow of his or her boat. And if you’re smart, you will do just that. After all, you didn’t spend good money to spend all day coming up short, or dropping your fly too close and blowing every shot you may have during the trip, and you don’t want your guide cursing under their breath all day either.

One of the things that I have clients focus on when they ask for casting tips is their double haul. So often I see fly anglers with weak double hauls, or double hauls that aren’t proportionate to the distance they are trying to achieve. Whether it’s a flat calm day, or the wind is howling, you need to have an appropriate double haul for the job. This brings us back to practicing.

One thing that I have noticed during casting instruction and fishing is that the double haul is never as pronounced during fishing as it is during practice. I’ve noticed this while guiding clients, as well as in my own casting while I’m out on the water. This can be the result of many things, such as distractions keeping your focus off your cast or fatigue, which can cause poor casts, coming up short, or failure to penetrate into the wind.

One way to combat this from happening, or from being so profound, is to exaggerate your double haul when you’re practicing.

We are able to repeat the fly cast throughout the day without too much thinking because of muscle memory. Our brains engage a chain reaction of functions that make our muscles move in familiar motion patterns and voila! A cast is made! It’s why we don’t have to re-learn things over and over and over. The more you practice with a revved up double haul, the more easily it will be for you to repeat it while out on the water. And on top of that, it will be easier for you to “dial it down” when you don’t need so much double haul. Even Tiger Woods, in his prime, practiced the same way. He’s been quoted many times saying that when he practiced he would swing at the ball as hard as he could, giving his absolute 100%, so that he knew what that felt like and what his limits were. During golf tournaments he stated that the large majority of his swings were dialed down to between 80-90% of his ability, saving his 100% swings for when the chips were down.

One thing that seems to help my clients is this idea… It’s not my original idea, but heard it somewhere along the way and it’s a great way to view the fly cast… Your rod hand is your steering wheel and your line hand is your engine. Your rod hand should simply be generating enough power to load the rod and guide it in the straight-line path that is desired while your line hand should be the determinate factor in supplying the line speed needed to acquire the desired distance via the double haul. I’ll use golf one more time… In the game of golf, greater ball speed equals greater distance. You generate line speed with your double haul, and if you don’t practice a good double haul while at home on the grass or in a casting pond, then it certainly won’t be there for you when it counts the most and your distance will suffer.

Now get out there on your local pond, or your own back yard, and practice on ingraining that distance-inducing, awe-inspiring double haul into your muscle memory!

Here is a great example of a double haul that’s worth emulating!

Justin Pickett
Gink & Gasoline
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10 thoughts on “Rev Up Your Double Haul During Practice!

  1. Your comment about flats guides cursing at you for lackluster casting is a large part of why I have no desire to fish salt. I have heard nothing but how intense the guides are, and how often the yell at you. I understand they are out there trying to get you on fish, but the angler is there to enjoy their self, not be yelled at. Too many guides make it about themselves. It puts a very bad taste in my mouth. This spans more than just salt, but seems VERY prevalent in the salt. Makes me think I will never hire a guide again. Better yet, I will yell at them every time I am yelled at.

    • I hear you, I’ve never been on a flats boat. But, that said, I fish the salt a lot without a guide (surf, kayak, private and sport boats). And from what I’ve seen salt water fish fight about twice as hard as freshwater fish of similar size. A 19″ calico will turn my 8 wt into a horseshoe, while a 19″ brown is well handled on my 10′ 2wt nymph stick.

      I don’t mean to turn this into a salt v fresh fish discussion, just a suggestion that there’s a heck of a lot of fun to be had in the salt, and don’t think you need a guide to do it! 🙂

    • Didn’t mean to have something fuel a fire fellas. I was just making a wise crack as I was writing. Yes, there are awful guides out there, but I have to say that most guides I have ever dealt with, both salt and fresh, have been both very accommodating and a wealth of knowledge of the area they guide in. You can certainly have a ton of fun fishing anywhere without a guide, and catch fish as well. But when it comes to finding out as much info as you can about an area you’re not familiar with, a guide can open your eyes and give you a great start. And if you’re a beginning angler, they can provide you with priceless feedback about your casting, hook setting, fish fighting, etc, and provide you with tips that will be useful to you down the road. I fish quite often without a guide, but typically only in areas that I know well, which are few when it comes to saltwater. When I hire a guide, it’s not just about catching fish, but gaining the knowledge that the guide is willing to share with me about the fishery. Sure you can get some info from forums, reports, and some locals, but I would rather pick the brain of the man/woman that’s on the water six or seven days a week and knows how the fish are going to move/eat before they do. That’s just my dos pesos on that subject though. Didn’t mean any harm. Hope everyone is having a great Christmas and has an awesome New Years. Thanks to you guys for commenting!

  2. I practice the double haul when I can, however, I am not around saltwater fly fishing guides where I live. I have basically taught myself, but I make errors that get ingrained in my brain. I fish the salt, screwed. Wished I had professional help or a hell of lot more money to fish often in the salt. I have to admit losing a cervical nerve (gone, no more,el finish”d ) didn’t help any. I love it so much that going to fish more next year and hope I get it right. Wind and a 10 lb bone makes it difficult.

  3. U are worried about bad habits being ingrained but you are sure of what you are doing and you have no one to assist, do this it works. Set your mind on a couple of things. First set yourself to cast with your non dominant hand. It’ll feel strange but you tell yourself ” this is my body and I can and will dominate.” Now just try a basic back and forward action with the rod, sure it’ll feel strange but just relax and talk to yourself, tell yourself what you know. Take the rod back, stop, watch the rod on the back cast,stop take the rod forward stop then back again. If you focus on what you are doing and talk it through you will find that it isn’t so bad using the ” wrong” hand. Take breaks and analyse what you are doing, criticise yourself gently for mistakes but also applaud yourself when you do it right. Don’t grip the rod too firmly and take rests when needed. I taught myself this way and several of my students successfully taught them selves to cast with the other hand. Good luck and persevere, then you can sort out the problems with the dominant hand.

  4. Justin, just a quick question and comment, not necessarily in that order. Anyway, I 100% agree, practicing your cast is a good thing at any line weight and in any type of water. Every sport requires practice, the more realistic the better. Therein lies my question. I am a relative rookie to the salt (3 trips under my belt). I can practice all I want/can to prepare for a trip, but once I get on a rocking boat and the target/hula hoop moves (didn’t even mention the wind) and all the practice in the world seems for naught. Sure I am missing something, but practicing at the park and then transferring that work to a flats boat/panga is like practicing free throws to improve my golf game. Short of practicing for the salt while standing on a skateboard, any suggestions or am I off the mark here. Thanks for the post, much appreciated.


    • Aaron, I know exactly what you’re talking about. I can’t say that I have THE solution to solve that problem other than just getting as much time on the bow of a boat as possible. You’re absolutely right. Casting at a fixed object like a hula hoop is way different than casting at a school of tarpon or bonefish. Not only is the target moving at its own free will, but you also have your emotions and adrenaline to factor as well. This is why I like to take multiple day trips to the salt whenever possible. That way I can learn from my mistakes on the first day(s) which will (hopefully) increase my chances of hooking up on the following days. I spend probably 90% of my time on freshwater, so I feel your pain. One suggestion that works for me when I can get out and do it….Do you have access to any stillwater carp fishing? They can be a great species to learn how to lead a fish and cast to a moving target.

      • Justin….carp….brilliant. The boat “issue” will just have to resolve itself on the bow, as you suggested. Thanks for the reply, much appreciated.


  5. Pingback: Tippets: Fly Fishing Apps, Improve Your Double Haul | MidCurrent

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