If we look up the word ‘practice’ in the Cambridge Dictionary, we will find that it is;
“The act of doing something regularly or repeatedly to improve your skill at doing it”
Coordination is built over a period of time using repetition. If you practice incorrectly, then all you are ever going to be is wrong. If you have faults, then you need to work on them by forcing your body to make a change by using correct repetition to engrain good form.
One of the most problematic faults I see with anglers is unintentional bad tracking. As Paul says “tracking is the bird’s eye view of the rod tip path during the casting stroke” and the back and forward casts must be 180 degrees from each other for a straight line cast. With all else being equal, you will get parallel loops if your tracking is true. Good tracking is essential if you would like to cast accurately, as well as throw a long way.
One practice drill to try when you are at home, is to stand in front of the mirror using a closed stance whilst holding your rod butt, elbow over the knee. Pantomime a short cast (by imagining casting 10’) and concentrate on minimal hand movement for 10 minutes a day, for two weeks. Make sure that the tip of the butt section is moving straight back and forward. In the third and fourth week, imagine casting a bit further (15’ of line) by increasing stroke length and arc etc, and continue until you reach (what you think) is somewhere around a 60’ carry. This should be done over many weeks, but you will eventually find that your loops will improve and you will be casting with a lot less effort as there is no wasted energy (providing you throw tight loops) The key to any fault fixing is to start slowly on a problem area, and build up speed using a variety of exercises.
When it’s time to move out into the field, tie on a new 9’ tapered leader (around 0X is best), ideally with a needle nail knot, and then attach some bright fluorescent glo bug (or egg yarn) to the end of the tippet which is about the size of your thumb nail. Please ensure that you wear sun glasses, even with a piece of fluff that doesn’t have a hook in.
One of the best ways to fix tracking is to cast to targets. Now, if you have done the above exercise in the mirror for a number of weeks, your tracking should be excellent already (this is how I fixed mine many years ago). To put this to the test, lay out a contractors tape in a straight line on a calm day and stand half way down it with your casting foot over/next to the tape. Make a few false casts with a reasonable amount of line (30+ feet) and let one of your back casts fall to the ground. Now is the moment of truth. If your tracking is good, then the line should be more or less straight down the tape. If it’s not, then you may have slipped back into your old habits. As I mentioned previously, casting to targets is probably the best way to fix tracking in my opinion. Have a look at Paul’s video on the pickup and lay down below;
Place targets at 10,20,30,40 and 50’ on the tape and practice casting to them standing at the start. As you know, the close target will have a very steep back cast trajectory and the furthest target will be slightly lower. Another gauge to tracking is observing what the reel does. If you use a thumb on top grip and strain to look at your back cast, the chances are that your thumb nail will end up facing you, which rotates the reel away from your body. This is a very common tracking error, and almost always ends up with the rod tip behind your head. The solution in this instance would be to not look at your back cast and concentrate on throwing to targets, keeping the reel in the same plane. Switching to a different grip, such as the V grip may help you as well.
If you do need to look at your back cast (as you would for distance) then you need to choose targets that line up in the distance, and these are usually trees. Place your rod on the ground, or look down the tape from both ends. Before you begin your stroke, you need to look at these targets and cast to them. This will ensure straight tracking, and is a fantastic one which I learnt from Paul!
Finally, I would highly recommend experimenting with different grips in the mirror when you are first trying to improve your tracking. You may find that one grip gives you almost perfect tracking straight away, no matter how you stand. You can tell when your tracking is spot on by observing the unrolling loop and leader, and you will feel like you are just ‘floating’ the cast out there as all your energy is focused.
Make sure that you practice little and often. This is more effective than a large practice session with almost no down time for your brain.
All the best!
(Back cast check) To test your tracking initially, lay out around 30’ of line straight out in front of you with a PUALD. Then, make a back cast, a forward cast and finally another back cast. Let your last back cast fall on the ground behind you and take a look. If the line looks like the photo above, then you need to start practicing by casting to targets and working on mirror checking when you get home. The reason for the short amount of false casting is simple. If you find that you are having issues then you don’t want to engrain them further!
Let your last back cast fall on the ground behind you, and take a look. If you have worked on the above exercises, then you will be really happy with the results.
You will find that all that time spent in front of the mirror was worth it! Congratulations! You can now throw more accurately, carry more line for distance casting, and cast with far less effort! I do this exercise regularly to ensure that i am tracking straight, and i call this a ’tracking top up’.