Once the angler understands the importance of progressive acceleration, the timing of the thrust and the importance of the height difference during the thrust and puts this into practice they will find that there is a sudden improvement in their loops and the line speed that they can
Below is FFMuk instructor Dave Southall’s excellent article from the November’s 2014 edition of the Ezine “Eat, sleep, Fish. It fully explains our philosophy.
Italian Style Casting by Dave Southall
I am a great believer that good presentation is nine tenths of the game in fly-fishing. I am therefore always looking for better ways of achieving as near as is possible the perfect presentation. Tenkara has resolved many of my presentation problems, as has French Nymphing / Leader to Hand. There is, however, a third technique that has revolutionized my approach to the problem of presentation in challenging situations; that is the Italian Style of casting as taught and developed by Massimo Magliocco, one of the world’s outstanding casters.
I tend to be lazy: I rarely tie any flies that take more than five minutes to construct: I virtually never practice casting: I’m not keen on driving long distances to my fishing: so why have I bothered to learn a totally different style of casting that has involved many hours of practice and that will involve many more hours in the future? The answer of course is presentation. The Italian Style allows me to present dry flies and small nymphs in situations where Tenkara and other styles are ineffective. So why is this style so effective?
Many of the casts facilitate a fly-first landing. This has several advantages over the more conventional cast where the line usually lands first, followed by the leader and finally the fly. Trout use their pressure receptors on their lateral lines to detect vibrations from food or predators; so will focus their attention on the first thing to land on the water which should be the fly. Furthermore, once they have focused on the fly they are less likely to be spooked by the landing of the leader and then the line. In addition, drag can only set in once line and leader have settled onto the water, so a fly-first presentation delays drag.
Many of the casts introduce controlled amounts of slack in the leader, further delaying drag. This is particularly true of the Slowed Down Angular Cast (now re-named the Dump Cast) and the Overturned Cast. The style was developed for fishing fast, mountain streams with complex flows and pocket water.
It was also developed to facilitate casting deep under low overhanging trees and the Totally Under the Tip Cast and Low Parallel Cast answer this problem better than any other casts that I’ve seen.
It generates very high line speed and very tight loops that not only help when casting into a wind, but permit the use of long leaders (5 meters plus) and light lines (3 weights and less) thus helping to reduce the risk of spooking fish. I often fish with a fast action 2 weight rod, 1 weight line and 6 metre leader. I have also found this style to be great when I need to achieve extra distance when casting the mono leaders used in French Nymphing and Leader to Hand.
So how is this style different from conventional casting?
The casting stroke involves a much-extended stroke that incorporates a drift on both the back and forward strokes. This helps to dampen any rod tip oscillations that might occur after the ‘thrust’ or ‘tap’ phase of the cast. There is no distinct stop and the forward stroke commences immediately after the rearward drift is completed which helps to maintain a high line speed evident in the Italian Style.
Although this style can be used with most rods the optimum set up is a 7’ 6” fast but progressive actioned 4/5 weight rod teamed up with a double taper 3 weight line and a custom built tapered leader plus tippet at least 5 meters long. The latter helps to dissipate all the energy of the cast so that the fly lands delicately despite the fact that the cast is targeted at the water and not a meter above the water as in conventional casting.
This is not a lazy man’s/woman’s casting style. It is a dynamic, high energy, style. Furthermore it involves quite a bit of hard work to learn all the casts. I found that it took me five days of intensive training to break my old muscle memory and get the basic casts up to a passable standard. Having said that, it is well worth the effort if you fish dry flies or very small nymphs, and want outstanding presentation in challenging flows.
On a trip to the upper Tees, Manu Gonetto and I compared Tenkara with the Italian style (I fished Tenkara) and we caught fish for fish (over 100 each). The two styles were equally effective in the complex pocket water, however Manu had to work much harder than I did. Tenkara is great at close range, when it isn’t too windy and when there aren’t overhanging trees, but the Italian Style wins, when Tenkara won’t work.
FFMUK run frequent courses at very little cost ,we are not a profit making organisation. In addition we do demonstrations at various fly fishing shows. Have a look at our Upcoming Events page to find out more.
The grip used in the Italian Style is very different to that used more normally. Instead of the hand being wrapped round just the cork handle of the rod the hand is wrapped around the cork, the reel and the reel seat which produces a much more stable grip. Initially this grip feels quite strange and uncomfortable, eventually however it does become second nature. See the photograph below.
The Italian Style of Casts
The Italian Style of Casts can be divided into three groups:
The High Speed Casts
The Anti-drag Casts
The Utility Casts
For details of the individual casts forming these three groups of casts use the drop down menu on the top of this page. On this page we will describe some of the common features of the Italian Casting Style and the equipment we use.
Most anglers practicing the Italian Style use a 7’ 6” to 8’ fast action 3 wt rod, however it is possible to use different rod lengths and ratings, avoiding the necessity of buying a new rod by selection of a suitable fly line. The Italian Style when properly practised tends to load the rod very heavily and selection of a fly line one or more line weights below the rods rating is often beneficial so you could end up using a slower action 5wt rod with a 3 or 4wt line or a 3wt rod with a 1 or 2wt line. When we run workshops we tend to have a range of fly lines available to demonstrate what can be achieved with an angler’s rod by changing the fly line. It is often quite surprising the variation in rod performance between one model and another even from the same manufacturer.
Until recently the majority of us were using double taper floating fly lines, some are now using weight forward lines quite satisfactorily. It can’t be stressed too much that the important thing is to match the fly line to the rod as outlined in the section above re rods.
We us a specially developed articulated leader 5 metres long. The length of the leader is particularly important for notably the Totally Overturned Cast as the water’s surface tension on the leader is the only thing which stops the fly being repositioned in the second part of a two part cast. The articulation helps the leader cope with different current speeds along the leader length helping to prevent drag and is provided by interlinked perfection loops. The leader is made up as follows:
1800 mm 0.5 mm dia.
900 mm 0.4 mm dia.
600 mm 0.3 mm dia.
300 mm 0.2 mm dia.
1400 mm 0.12 to 0.15 mm dia. Although in some cases a lighter tippet may be used if necessary.
One of the most common problems we find, particularly with people who have been casting in the conventional way which only uses a very short casting stroke, is that they tend to initiate the rapid acceleration of the thrust too early in the casting stroke and are actually decelerating the rod by the time it comes to delivering the fly line drastically reducing the energy available to the cast and hence the line speed which can be achieved.
The loop is formed on the delivery stroke by the difference in height between the highest point the rod tip reaches during the thrust and its height at the end of the thrust, the smaller this height difference the tighter the loop will be. This is a very important universal point which applies to the majority of casts, even the roll cast.
To see how to build the leader click here:
The Non Casting Hand
The non-casting hand has an important role in the Italian Style, in many casts it is used to impart a haul in the back cast, the forward cast or both. It is also used to hold one or more loops of line which will be shot at some time during the cast to either add distance to the cast, dissipate the energy in a high speed cast so the fly lands gently or prevent the fly being moved during the second phase of a cast such as the Overturned Cast. By carefully positioning of the hand prior to the line shoot it is possible to significantly reduce the friction experienced by the fly line as it passes through the guides on the shoot, this position changes with each different cast.
The Casting Stroke
In the majority of Italian Casts there are three main parts to the casting stroke whether it’s a forward or back cast, these are a period of progressive acceleration in which the rod is relatively lightly loaded followed by the thrust in which the rod is rapidly accelerated in a very short space, this has the effect of heavily loading the rod. At the end of the thrust the rod slows significantly, the rod tip rapidly unloads catapulting the fly line forward generating high line speed. This is then followed by a follow through of the rod which we describe as vibration dampening in which the rod is further slowed. On the back cast this generates more space so that a longer casting stroke can be made on the following forward cast. One very distinctive feature of the Italian Style is that in general there is not a stop whilst the angler waits for the fly line to straighten out before starting the next phase of the cast this straightening occurs during the vibration dampening period. At the end of the vibration dampening phase of the casting stroke instead of stopping the rod immediately reverses direction to begin the next phase of the cast whether that is the back or forward stroke. The following diagram shows the sequence for the forward casting stroke of the Angular or Fly First Cast.