Overhead Casting Drill for Better Spey Casting Results

Gary Carlson’s Version of an Overhead Drill for Spey

I spent last Saturday with Gary Carlson at the Red Shed Clear Water Spey Clave. He showed me this cool overhead drill he likes to do, to promote more bottom hand use in the cast, that should translate nicely into using more bottom hand in the Spey cast.

I spent last Saturday hanging out with Gary Carlson at the Red Shed Clearwater Spey Clave. He showed me this cool overhead drill he likes to do, to promote more bottom hand use in the cast, that should translate nicely into using more bottom hand in the Spey cast.

We were casting one of his Gary Carlson Custom Spey rod builds, which are highly exquisite and feature his own custom cork and hand turned wood accents which he turns himself.  Its built on Mieser’s latest technology which is his MKX blank, AKA the Mike Kinney Special. I gathered from Gary that the X meant it was Xtra Special, because it’s absolutely one of his favorites.

The idea with this drill is to basically, more or less, pin the top hand elbow to the rib cage and cast overhead continually without allowing the line to touch down. It’s quite a challenge to toss sweet tight loops. I plan on incorporating this drill into my casting as it definitely will improve my skills and coordination.

It will be especially helpful when no water is available for casting.

Here, in Gary’s own words, is his explanation of the drill:

I consider two hand overhead casting one of my favorite drills for practice. So I will try to explain the what and why of the drill. 

Equipment: 15′ 8/9 wt. MKX rod, 830 gr. Ballistic Launcher line, 15′ 20 pound Maxima leader.

Requirements for drill: Continuous forward and back overhead casts of 80′ of line/leader without shooting line with symmetrical narrow loops of forward and back cast with no ticking of leader/line on water

Dynamic facts of fly casting: The line follows the rod tip during a cast and continues in the direction of the rod tip when it stops. 

So my reasoning in meeting the requirements of the overhead casting drill: 
There are two ways to move the rod tip to move the line and create momentum in the line.

  1. I can rotate the rod from the fulcrum which is at my upper hand with power from the bottom hand. \|/ This tends to bend the weaker tip sections of the rod before the butt sections.
  2. I can move the entire rod forward \\\\ before rotation which tends to bend the stronger butt sections of the rod before the tip sections.
  3. I can combine moving the rod forward \\\\ and make the rotation \|/ at the end of the casting stroke. This has the advantage of loading the stronger butt sections of the rod before developing the speed of the line from the rotation of the tip sections.

One of the common inefficiencies of casting is seen when rod rotation is done at the beginning of the casting stroke. This is always seen in beginning casters and results in the open loop of the cast. It also uses mostly the weaker tip sections of the rod.

So for me to develop the speed, energy and straight rod tip path for the cast in order to form narrow loops and line momentum which prevents the leader tipping the water I need to combine rod movements to succeed. I do this by moving the rod forward before rotation at the end of the cast utilizing the power of the butt sections first and then the speed of the tip sections. 
Moving the rod forward is done by a combination of weight shift, body rotation and a chopping style stroke which lengthens the track for moving the top hand forward as a traveling fulcrum for aiming at the target and pulling the bottom hand back for power application. The trick is harmonizing the movements of the top and bottom hands to develop the straight rod tip path and resultant narrow loops. 

For single hand casts I follow the fulcrum style by using the thumb, index and long fingers as the fulcrum and a strong squeeze with the ring and small fingers for the rotation of the rod. It tends to eliminate the flexible wrist and elbow. Same dynamic of single hand moving the rod forward with rotation at upper fingers and power by strong squeeze of ring/small fingers vs. two hand movement of rod forward with rotation at top hand fulcrum and bottom hand power pull. 

This is just my approach to double and single hand fly casting. It works for me and the overhead casting drill is my favorite tool in trying to improve the muscle memory for the cast. It is important because the same forward casting stroke is the same for all anchor point D loop spey casts including all change of direction casts. 

I’m happy to answer any questions.

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