Sat, Jan 21, 2006 - Page 16 News List

Fly-fishing is all about physics

Fly-casting theorist Ed Jaworowski reveals that less is more

By Peter Kaminsky  /  NY TIMES NEWS SERVICE , NEW YORK

Newcomers to fly-fishing believe it's all in the cast, in the clothes, in the catch. But there's a code of conduct too, governing everything from where to stand, to how to handle the spoils.

PHOTO: AP

With a motion no more forceful than my 9m cast on a trout stream, Ed Jaworowski, the fly-casting theorist and recently retired Latin professor, let fly 30.5m of fly line. The secret, or at least part of the secret, to his surprisingly effortless achievement lay in his mastery of the precise timing and coordination required for fly-fishing's long-distance cast: the double haul.

In modern fly-fishing -- especially on salt water, where longer casts are the norm -- the double haul is a requirement for successful angling. Though necessary, it is little understood, which is why I arranged to meet with Jaworowski, whose book, The Cast, elegantly sets forth the theory and practice (lots and lots of practice) of the fly-cast.

On a frigid gray morning, I met Jaworowski at Betty and Nick's Bait and Tackle in Seaside Park, New Jersey. It is one of those places dear to all anglers where one can buy every necessity, whether a dozen bloodworms, a 23cm Rapala lure, lead sinkers or a breakfast of eggs, bacon, home fries and toast. A phalanx of four-wheel-drive vehicles, bristling with rod racks and fish coolers, filled nearly every parking spot.

Inside, the steam from hot coffee and conversation fogged the windows. The clatter of breakfast dishes filled the air, as did the conversation of a few dozen flannel-shirted fishermen who saw no reason to leave the warmth of their hangout absent a promising fishing report.

Jaworowski sat at a booth explaining the double haul to a rapt audience. He drew a diagram on a paper napkin. It depicted the motion of a rod as it flexes and springs forward to deliver the fly. I was struck by how much it resembled a rudimentary drawing that Sandy Koufax had sketched to illustrate proper form in delivering a pitch. In both cases, the principles of the lever and catapult come into play: the objective being maximum force with minimum expenditure of energy.

But one cannot learn to throw or cast simply from studying a drawing on a napkin. To perfect the double haul, one must pick up rod and reel, which is what we did next on the protected lee shore of Seaside Park.

The first thing one notices about Jaworowski's casting motion is how little there is to it. With the lightest of grips on the rod and a motion that looked more like a symphony conductor's lilting gesture than the full windup and extension that most of us use to get distance, Jaworowski took one false cast and shot the whole line.

"There is no such thing as one single `right cast,'" he said. "Whatever your style, though, the key is acceleration: a gentle speed-up and a quick stop. It is all a question of physics: using speed and the lever action of the line to load the rod by deepening the bend."

To grasp his point, imagine bending a willow switch and then releasing it. Bend the switch more and it springs back with even greater force and speed.

Jaworowski and I waded waist deep in the water. "The double haul is not a magic bullet that makes a bad cast good, but it can make a good cast better," he said. "Before you even attempt it, you must refine your short cast. For most people, the benefit of this is that it will cut your effort in half or more."

He directed me to cast to some pilings about 15m away. I felt the line slap against the reel, which, to me, evidenced a good cast.

"That slap," he said, "is an indication that you have applied more energy to the cast than is required. Try it again. Only this time, use less force."

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