Casting a 12 Weight Left Handed... Off Handed and Rod Reviews

May 28, 2015

This is an obscure post title to say the least.  It may sound like the most useless blog article ever but wait!!!!  If you want to fly cast better, faster, and stronger then read on.  It will make more sense in a few minutes, I hope.  I took a little trip to Christmas Island last week and learned A TON about fly casting, how to get better at fly casting, and hopefully how to teach you guys how to fly cast better as well. 

The idea for this article started by me asking a few guides the same question.  For the first time in the history of fly fishing, I asked several fly fishing guides' opinions on the same topic... and I got the SAME ANSWER!!!!  I know, I know it sounds crazy but its true.  I asked 4 guides the same thing and they all gave me the same answer. 

The Guide's Consensus 

My question was... "if somebody is going on a big fly fishing trip, what is the #1 piece of advice you would give them?"  Their answer... "learn to cast better".  There it is.  Plain and simple.  Not set the hook better, buy better gear, or learn to spot fish better.  LEARN TO CAST BETTER.  That's it, all guides agree!  The good news is that this part of the trip is free.  Just learning to cast better doesn't cost you a thing except a few minutes in the back yard or the park here and there.  There are some formal drills you can do, but it frankly isn't that complicated.  Just whip it.

I grew up a poor kid in a small town with a crappy fly rod from K-mart. I'm not sure they even sell fishing gear anymore but I still remember my first rod.  Piece of junk.  I never dreamed I would wind up flying on jet planes to go fly fishing, so don't think for a second that I am a saltwater angler by pedigree.  That couldn't be further from the truth.  I have fished mis-matched rods with electrical tape on them to hold the ferules together many times.  There were no lessons, no books, no Youtube.  Just me and my fly rod trying to figure out each other's quirks. I would cast and cast trying to make that fly go.  I lost more flies by snapping them off than I ever did in the trees!  I was a terrible caster but at least I was casting.  Getting your reps in in the most important lesson.

Nowadays I enjoy having pretty nice gear but you CAN'T BUY A CAST.  You gotta earn that tight loop by putting in your time.  On the island I was beating myself to death casting my 1290-4 Sage ONE into a stiff wind with an 8/0 Master Blaster Popper that is the size of a turkey vulture.  I learned a ton about casting on this trip and got a lot stronger mentally regarding the fly cast.  

Fly Casting is Simple - Its All About Putting in Your Reps

I found myself in a cross wind from right to left, unfortunately I am right handed, and was having a tough time getting a good shot.  I had an 8/0 hook whizzing by my head at about 150 mph and it would have been better to use a back handed cast but with that big popper I had a tough time getting it to zing. It was cloudy and I'll be honest in saying that I was getting a little bored.  We weren't seeing fish and I needed something to keep me busy otherwise I would have driven my guide crazy.  With GT's on the flats there is a lot of "waiting" for them to just show up and start crashing baitfish.  Walking far and fast is sometimes very ineffective..  I was blind casting to kill time and due to the wind I thought maybe casting left handed would be a good exercise.  Well, it was exercise all right.  I was starting from scratch and using a 12 weight rod none-the-less.  I thought back to all those beginners that I have taught over the years and how awful they looked learning to cast.... now I was personally experiencing how they felt and am glad there was no video camera rolling.  Everything was out of place, out of whack, and I probably looked like I was having a seizure while trying to double haul!  It was ugly at first.

Eventually I slowed down, thought about the cast, the physics, and the "rules" about how a good fly cast works and began to follow a system.  On my left side, 2 false casts and a shot of shooting line into the 2nd backcast and I was dialed in.  I followed this system and things began to come together.  Eventually I wound up having a pretty strong left handed double haul! It took me about 2 days of casting lefty off and on but in the process I sure learned a lot about teaching casting a ton about how to cast right handed better.  I am still a total spazz with my left hand when it comes to stripping line and setting the hook but it was a good drill.

Things that jumped out at me on just pure fly casting:

This left handed drill was a really good lesson.  I learned some things and maybe you'll find them useful.
  • You need reps.  You have to cast a lot in order to get better.  It will be ugly, you will fail, you'll snap flies off, you may whip your hat off, and all sorts of other stupid stuff.  However, you need to get some reps in and build some grace and tempo.  The finished product will come with time.  Do it in the yard, parking lot, or park.  Just cast.  Even if you suck and are doing it wrong, do it anyway.  This isn't amateur brain surgery, you can't hurt anyone, so just give it a shot.  You'll figure it out with time.  
  • Make sure you stop, take a deep breath, and understand the system of the cast.  Fly rods need tight line both forward and back.
  • The backcast is 80% of the fly cast.  If you get the fly line TIGHT behind you and fully extended then the forward cast is easy.
  • The sooner in life you learn to Double Haul, the easier it is to learn.  I am by no means an exceptionally coordinated person (if you have seen my play pool, even sober, in Ascension Bay you know what I am talking about). Get out of your cushy little comfort zone and force yourself to learn this.
  • Make sure that you sweep the rod tip sback in a plane that is slightly outside (away from your body) and forward cast ever so slightly inside (closer to your body).  This eliminates a lot of "line to line" collisions that kill line speed and accuracy.  This became very obvious to me as I was learning to cast lefty.

Tips for Casting 12 weight Rods

My pal Kevin used a Winston 12 Weight all week, he preferred this rod to all others.

I spent 90% of my time trying to catch GT's on the flats on this last trip  Which translated into a lot of casts thrown with a #12.  I carried two rods, one with an intermediate line and one with a floating line.  I managed to land one whopper GT and had about 6 other really good shots that I wish I could take back.  Next time I'll bet I can hook at least 2 more knowing what I know now.  I also did a ton of blind casting and a lot of general practice which provided me with some incites on casting heavy rods.

Here are my tips:
  • Learn to manage your running line better - Whatever system you use, do it better.  The better you handle your line the more focus that will go into spotting fish and making the right cast.  Here is a video tip:

  • Reach further back - Extend your arm and get that rod waayyy back so that you can use your big muscle groups to bend that rod.
  • Bring your hand tight to the body - As you come forward, make sure your casting hand comes in tight to the body. Unless you want to sprinkle Advil on your cereal in the morning and ice cream at night.  If you have your hand and arm stretched out, it will create a painful amount of leverage on your joints.
  • Develop a system.  You won't feel these rods bend like a 5 weight, you'll need to have somewhat of a false cast routine and line shooting system memorized.  If your rod/line likes 3 false casts and then a shot - remember that.  If it likes 4 false casts, again - remember this!
  • Spend as much as you can on a rod.  I know, I know.... "joe you just said you can't buy a cast".  I guess to a degree I am a liar, but in this category I'll just say that 12 weights are beefy sticks and some of the more expensive rods are designed to have casting friendly tip sections and stronger butt sections for battling big ass fish.  

The 12 Weight Rod Review

Here are a few that I tested and liked are here with a few comments.  I did throw some other rods but didn't care for them as much, no need to comment on them.

Sage ONE 1290-4 - This is the best rod that I have ever cast in this category.  I used it last year on this trip as well because it threw the furthest and fastest without giving me any issues in my hand or wrist.  Some of the faster action 12 weights just kill my hand.  I like this rod and used an Airflo Tropical Punch WF12F on this rod and loved the setup.  

Sage MOTIVE 1290-4 - This lineup of rods is a freaking steal at $425.  I have been carrying the 8 weight everywhere.  It started out as kind of a "tag along" and has slowly grown into my go to 8 weight for the saltwater.  It doesn't deliver the fastest line speed, longest cast, or even the straightest cast.  But it has been so durable.  Oh wait, excuse my romance I forgot we were talking about the 12 weight!  I enjoyed this rod but I didn't like it quite as much as the ONE.  Understandable, it isn't the same grade of rod.  Nonetheless- I would totally buy this rod again.  I didn't like it with a true "Tarpon" line with a longer head.  I put a WF12I RIO Outbound Short on it and really liked it.  

Winston Boron III SX 1290-4 - I liked this rod, but it wasn't the perfect rod for me.  This rod appears to have been designed (as far as I can tell) for the top half to be quite flexible making it a bit easier to cast and the bottom half (the one that has Boron in it) remains very stiff and strong.  I loaned it to an intermediate level caster one day and he LOVED it.  He agreed that it was easier to cast.  My only problem with it was that having cast A LOT of rods I could feel it bend in the 'wrong' spot.  It really didn't affect the performance which was great, and I'll bet with time I wouldn't even notice it.  This rod was a favorite amongst me and a few others. If you fear the #12... this is a great choice.  

  1. Great article! Loved the read!
  2. Are stripping baskets out of fashion? Another way I've seen anglers perform line management is to form five or six loops, each new loop being smaller than the previous. Hold loosely between your fingers and let go one by one. This takes practice and works better if the line is stretched prior to casting so that unwanted coils do not form.
  3. Stripping Baskets are great if you are doing a lot of blind casting, guys LOVE them for Striper fishing. We blind cast only part of the time in Christmas Island. I do it to stay busy so that I don't drive my guide insane. Jorge, good tip.
  4. Great article! I started to practice casting with my 'wrong' hand too recently. Wow, no smooth casting stroke to be seen here! I looked like a drunk taxi driver. Eventually applying the few small rules of casting instruction I teach others, the casting started to look 'bearable'. I think being able to cast with your wrong hand is about the most underrated skill in fly fishing that becomes a life saver when conditions (wind or being on the wrong side of the stream) forces you to save your day.
  5. I have a 12 weight Winston, which I used on my last tarpon trip. tHe water where I'm fishing is a bit merky, so you have to gues cast after you spotted fosh breaking the surface. This way you make many more casts then fishing the clearwater flats. After 2 days my right arm and wrist started to hurt like hell. I then switched to a 10 rod, and hooked and landed a 200lbs tarpon on the 10 rod. When I was fighting the fish, I wished I'd hooked it on my 12 rod. Anticipating the next trip, I wonder if I should have my 12 rod fixed so that it's easier to use it with two hands. How do you feel about that?
  6. Hi, I think that some people benefits casting with opposite hand because in this way that cast with their dominant eye side. This is on my opinion the reason because they are less fatigue Best Regards Dario Manfroi ????