Becoming an expert beachcaster does not require any special skill. With constant practise and the right technique you can soon achieve a good, far flung cast with effortless ease
Really good beachcasters are disappointing to watch. The rod sweeps round in an effortless flick, seemingly without enough power to. Cast more than 80 yards. Yet this relaxed style when performed by an expert will produce a cast of 150 yards.
Learning to cast is not easy, although there is no magic involved, no superhuman strength required and no demand for enormous talent. What you need is a basic understanding of the principles, well-matched tackle and sensible practice. Beachcasting 100 yards or more is demanding of time and effort, but anyone can reach this goal if he tries.
Casting is the transfer of power from the caster’s body to the line and sinker. The rod merely acts as an intermediary to provide leverage.
The sinker’s momentum comes from its mass and speed, so for equivalent power a small sinker must fly much faster than a big one. As air resistance and other drag factors increase with speed, it makes sense to use relatively heavy sinkers for long-range casting.
In good weather, 3-5oz sinkers give adequate carrying power but 6-8oz sinkers cut into gales better and tend not to tear soft baits from the hook. If weather conditions pose few problems it is best to use the sinker weight that suits the angler’s physique. This must be found by trial and error by testing a range of weights between 4oz and 6oz in lAoz stages. Most people cast furthest with sinkers weighing between 5oz and 5 ¾ oz. Regardless of the ideal sinker weight, as soon as the wind is in your face, change to a big, slow sinker to maintain range.
Sinker shape has little effect on distances – a chunk of scrap iron flies as far as a streamlined casting sinker. But the farther you cast, the greater the effect of tide pressure on the line. The sinker must anchor firmly in the seabed or the line sweeps ashore in a few seconds. In fierce currents grip-wired bombs are excellent, even at long range.
The trace is a source of drag and imbalance, both of which cut casting distance. Simple paternoster rigs are much better than running ledgers and just as effective for attracting fish. One hook is better than two or three, and all superfluous tackle such as swivels and booms can be 300 dispensed with to save weight and cut down drag. Never tie the sinker directly to the line because the sand and shingle gradually weaken the knot so much that it will eventually snap in mid-cast. A split-ring makes an effective buffer and a very strong link. Wherever possible, present the most attractive baits, but if distance is the key to success, it is better to throw a second-rate bait the full distance than to offer a perfect bait 30 yards too short.
The pressure of casting snaps ordinary reel lines and therefore a heavy shock leader is essential for beach work at more than 70 yards. Really powerful casters should use 35-45lb b.s. Leaders for 3-5oz sinkers and 45-50 lb b.s. Leaders for the bigger weights. Ten yards of leader are sufficient for most casting and may be attached to the main line by a knot that will run through the rod rings with minimal friction. The main line can be much thinner than the leader because it does not suffer during the cast and undergoes very little strain in actual fishing. Nylon monofilament of 15-20 lb b.s. Is ideal for all shorefishing except very light work and short-range, heavy ledger-ing for such tough species as conger.
As the amount of line affects reel size, it pays to use no more than the safe minimum. This is approximately 200-225 yards for routine ledger-ing, but fast-running tope need almost twice as much. The reel holding that much line is too big for really long casting but that seldom matters in tope fishing where fish are hooked at fairly short range.
For distance casting along there is little to choose between multiplier and fixed-spool reels. The smaller reels of each kind are excellent for tournament casting to very great distances, but this is well in excess of anything possible from the beach. The multiplier is an all-round im-provement on the fixed-spool, being better for retrieving, smoother, and more precise. Nevertheless, they are much more difficult to cast with, even if governed by casting brakes. Beginers are better off with a fixed-spool reel, because casting is enough of a headache without worrying 302 about the reel as well.
Apart from routine lubrication and cleansing, the only thing to remember about fixed-spoools is maintenance of line level. Friction from the spool lip cuts casting range if the line level falls below ‘/3m from the lip when fully loaded. The importance of keeping the spool topped up cannot be overstressed. Correct loading of the reel will add up to 50 yards to a cast.
If sinker, trace, lines and reel are balanced, the design of the rod makes little difference to the newcomer to shorecasting. Use the shortest rod you find comfortable: 11½ft for 4-6oz sinkers. Until casting range exceeds 150 yards with sinker alone, rod action is ir-relevant provided that extremes are avoided. Ultra-fast tapers and reversed actions are too difficult to use when learning, and the beginner casts much better with a standard medium-fast rod. The rod’s power is matched to the sinker weight and the caster’s physique. The recommended weight range marked on the rod is a good guide but may underestimate the rod’s potential.
Trial and error is the only way to evaluate rods. If you cast well and feel that the rod has just a hint of power in reserve, look no further. If it fails under pressure reject it, except for short-range fishing. Too much power, which prevents the blank flexing fully, is disastrous because timing becomes far too critical for trouble-free casting. The most important specification is nan- die length. Unless the hands are about shoulder-width apart, full power is impossible and the casting action becomes stunted.
The best casts
The best introductory casts for general beachcasting are the ‘South African’ and ‘Layback’ styles. Pendulum and tournament casts are too demanding for the beginner.
The South African cast, where the sinker is laid on the beach then swept over the shoulder with a twist of the shoulders and push-pull of the arms is an excellent teaching style and the foundation for all other casts, except the Norfolk methods. With properly matched tackle and sensible practice, the newcomer to shorefishing can learn to cast over 100 yards in less the three hours if he is instructed by a competent coach. Teaching oneself to cast takes longer, but a couple of weeks are enough to work out the details and to form the basis of a good style.
The South African cast is fully capable of 200 yards range. It is a restrictive cast because you must lay out the tackle on the beach before casting; and best results require at least a 13ft rod, which imposes too much strain for most beachfishing. However, in the right hands it reigns supreme.
Shorter rods – typically around 11 ‘/2ft – offer a better compromise between fishing and casting needs. You can hold them all day if necessary; the leverage advantage outpulls a big fish more easily and the choice of rods and blanks is wider than any other beachcaster. Only the pendulum cast extracts top results from short rods and pendulum casting is a precise art which can not be learned in five minutes.
The Norfolk back cast is an alternative pendulum style which employs a long rod moved relatively slowly. Stand back to the sea and shovel the rod round and over your shoulder. It is a pull rather than a normal pendulum pushing action. Top casters exceed 250 yards with the fixed-spool reel.