One of the most neglected skills of many anglers is casting. It should be a smooth operation designed to use the action of the rod to place the tackle in the required spot. It is easy to find anglers who have not even mastered that basic skill, so it is little wonder that they have not explored the various alternative casting techniques.
One particularly useful skill is the underarm cast. This technique once turned an apparently hopeless peg in a national match on the Severn into a productive spot. It is also useful in casting delicate baits, such as wasp grub, which would be ripped off the hook by the force of an overarm cast. That peg on the Severn had a 6ft gap between the water and some overhanging willow branches. Quite a lot of competitors in that match would surely have given up, but one man was able to underarm cast a loaded slider float 1520 yards into the main flow and catch fish. ‘Backhand cast”
Perhaps the actual term, underarm cast, while commonly used, is something of a misnomer. The correct description should be the ‘backhand cast’, for in many instances the cast is more of a side sweep delivered from the back of the hand. It is similar to the action of a spin bowler in cricket involving a nice steady arm movement across the body, with a smooth sharp delivery the wrist makes as the ball is bowled. The starting position for underarm casting is with the rod positioned across the body and the point down. The bait is held in the free hand. So, if you are righthanded, the rod is in that hand and the bait in the left, the line being tight to the rod top—not too tight, though, as you can easily hook yourself. The rod tip should be positioned on your left side—vice versa if you are lefthanded—with the point near to the surface of the water.
A smooth, sweeping action then sends the tackle on its way. The next second is vital to the action, for the rod must “follow through’, with the tip raised high and pointing directly at the spot aimed for.
As the end tackle starts to fall the rod tip is used to straighten or mend the line—either by moving it upstream or, on a Stillwater, against the wind—while the line is ‘feathered’ off the reel with the forefinger to retard the float and allow the length between float and hook to straighten out and so enter the water smoothly.
The rod tip is now dropped and should finish up just above the surface of the water again, if the line is to be sunk.
It all sounds easy, and it is, with practice. Most probably, the first few attempts will be disastrous, but practice will make perfect and a skill that leads to improved catches will have been acquired and will never be lost.
Points to watch are the followthrough—vital for direction; dropping the rod point, and ‘feathering’ the line off the reel to eliminate tangles and give clean entry. Do not expect to cast as far with the underarm method as with an overhead throw if using similar tackle. You need plenty of weight in the float, but, properly placed, it will not affect bait presentation. Loaded floats, such as sliders and stick floats which carry weight in their base, are the right choice for this job.
The importance of shotting
Shotting is important. With a ‘waggler’ or loaded slider, normal shotting is right—the bulk shot should be about 5ft from the hook with the telltale shot around 18in from the hook. The stopshot—to stop the float running down and fouling the bulk shot—should be 10ft 6in from the hook. When float fishing shallower water, the pattern of shots should be positioned in proportion.