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Steve Rajeff on Evaluating Your Casting

Posted on May 24 2004

Reader Dave Dalu had a chance to spend some time with Steve Rajeff on Saturday and noted that Mr. Rajeff’s casting presentation exhibited “No wild hauls, no arcing rod movements — just steady words and small hand movements.”
“I got off work late yesterday, so I had to hurry over to the local fly shop to catch the last of the casting demonstrations, and maybe a free lesson of sorts. My local shop, Fly South, was having a “casting clinic” (aka thinly veiled rod sale). But the headliner here wasn’t a local yokel, but none other than Steve Rajeff himself.
Figured I could learn a thing or two
As I drove up (4pm), I could see some weary faces (the shop opened at 9. The crowd was gathered around a short, stocky fellow. The long sleeves hid wrists as wide as a 2×4 and forearms Olive Oil would find familiar. I was in luck, there was one more demo.
Stripping off the 5 wt line from the reel, he went through a few principles, talking and working out 40 feet over a makeshift parking lot pond. I didn’t see anything overly impressive save for a nice, tight loop and scant little hand movement. But he kept talking, looking at us, and the line seemed to lengthen magically. Effortlessly, smoothly, he finished his sentence and the line was out plus 20 feet of backing. No wild hauls, no arcing rod movements-just steady words and small hand movements. Intently I listened, and watched both the line and his hands, the loop seeming to get tighter as the line got longer…until it was all out. And then some, just like that.
He did it several times, talking all the while, with hauling and without. Holding all that line in the air without hauling. I’m not sure my freshwater neighbors noticed that, but I sure did. Astonishing. I wasn’t nearly as impressed with the 8 wt shooting head that went 150 feet with one sling.
A few observations:
As with most expert athletes, conservation of movement, fluidity and smooth application of power were the hallmarks of his casting style. It allowed for smooth, tight loops without rod shock. On the back cast, he stopped his rod hand at about 2 o’clock, and the line went *straight* back. (When I asked about that later, he allowed that in holding a long line one could drift back slightly more to allow everything to tighten up before power is applied on the forward stroke) The forward cast was “made” in the last bit when all the power is applied and stopped abruptly, then brought forward slightly more to allow proper loop formation.
I regret that I was unable to have him evaluate my cast due to the late hour. But after seeing a man that has spend my lifetime throwing the line around, I wasn’t sure I was ready for what he was going to show me. I suspect that my hand movements don’t follow my brain commands nearly as closely as I think.
We talked about a few other things relating to the 5 wt casting competitions and his thoughts on other rods (the TCR is “too stiff” and “inconsistent”) and that shooting heads (especially weighted) are under utilized in fishing. He encouraged me to try them for “bridge tarpon.”
It was an hour well spent.”

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