Bone fish and the impenetrable art of hauling

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Hauling – giving the line an extra little pull as you cast – is a relatively new repertoire to my fly-fishing.

Hauling - giving the line an extra little pull as you cast - is a relatively new repertoire to my fly-fishing. Keen readers may have noticed I started single hauling instinctively last year, whilst fishing the Coln for trout. It's not the sort of thing beginner's should cloud their casting with, you have enough things to remember. But once your casting is under control it's a good idea to add this to your bag of tricks. I know plenty perfectly good fishermen who have fished for years and never bothered with hauling. But then, I spoke to one man last year, who had fly-fished for decades and then one day had to learn to double haul as he was going bone fishing. Well! It was like he had discovered fishing, all over again.

Indeed hauling is mostly used for bone fishing, this is because bone fish are very shy and you can't get too close to them, but you need your fly to land delicately, and right on top of their nose, hence the need to get lots of controlled line out. However, hauling can be very useful for other types of fishing too. When I first started using it, it was to enable me to get my dry fly under a low hanging branch on the other side of a chalk stream. The problem with hauling, as I'm starting to realise as I progress into this column, is that it's almost impossible to write about, you have to be shown it. At least, you can write about it but reading it back gives you the sort of headache you experience reading legal small print. No wonder that it's hardly ever written about in books (if anyone has come across a particularly eloquent passage on double/single hauling in a book, do please let me know).

The reason I mention it now is two-fold. Some of you lucky pups may be preparing to go bone fishing in which case, as you've probably already been told, a few lessons learning to haul are essential otherwise you'll waste valuable (in all sense of the word) time when you get there, flaying about and missing fish. Those of you who aren't so lucky can practise hauling on a big bit of grass. The Americans do this a lot - practise their casting in the winter months. We don't tend to, probably because few of us have lawns the size of theirs at our disposal and feel silly doing it in the local park. You can also practise whilst winter fishing on a reservoir, if the fish aren't biting and you need to warm yourself up.

As I said, you really need to be shown how to haul, taking lessons is recommended, but in lieu of this, I asked three of my fishing friends to explain hauling, and each has done so in their own unique way. So this is your homework for this week:

Ally Gowans, fly fisher extraordinaire and inventor of the Ally's Shrimp, the most deadly modern-day salmon fly ( www.letsflyfish.com)

"Double hauling is necessary when you want to cast more line than your rod can handle on its own. It causes the rod to bend more than the line weight alone can and therefore produces more line speed and if your casting is smooth the line goes further. You see, pulling line from one end i.e. with your hand has the same effect as pulling it from the other end and so you can easily understand how this bends the rod more because tension in a string is the same throughout. The important thing about double hauling is that the hauls have to be timed to coincide with peak hand speed so that the effort is added to the system. Remember that every cast is a smooth acceleration to a stop and it doesn't matter whether a haul is involved or not that rule must be obeyed for efficient casting. The haul just becomes an additional means of acceleration.

So: single hauling is when the line is accelerated by pulling it through the rod coincident with the peak of the casting stroke and so greatly increasing the rod bend and therefore the line speed. Double hauling is a combination of hauls. The line is hauled for a back haul, the line is then fed into the back cast and hauled again on the forward cast. There are two common descriptions for the work of the non rod hand during this process. Together - apart, together - apart (common in UK) and down - up, down - shoot (American). Both are helpful reminders when learning the rhythm. The interesting thing about hauls is that they can be used with any single handed cast to make super roll and Spey casts."

Michael Daunt, principal at the Hugh Falkus School of Spey Casting ( www.hugh-falkus.co.uk)

"The ability to double-haul is like keeping three lovers simultaneously: It requires specific timing and unusual co-ordination. It is mostly used in this country by reservoir fishermen wanting to hurl their lure as far as possible into the distance and then to strip it back, thus covering as much water as possible. It is not often used on the chalk streams as stealth is more important than distance. It is unusual and almost impossible to use it when salmon fishing as double handed rods are normally employed and, anyway, enough distance can usually be achieved with normalcasting whether it be Spey or overhead.

Double-hauling really comes into its own when wading for bone fish on the flats of some sunny shore in places such as the Florida Kays, Bahamas or Cuba. Bone fishing with a fly is all sight fishing. You see the individual bone fish or the shoal and have to get a fly to them. The bones tend to be very spooky and therefore you cannot approach them too closely and double-hauling will give you that extra few yards to cover them without frightening them. The best conditions when bone fishing are a flat calm but this, of course, makes the approach even more difficult. It will also help to punch the fly into an adverse wind.

We tend to teach it a great deal at this time of year specifically forpeople who are going for a winter break away from the awful English weather to catch Bone fish and Tarpon."

Andy Murray, House of Hardy, ( www.house-of-hardy.com)

The single haul

The single haul speeds up the line and enables you to lift a longer line of the water with less disturbance.

How to do it: With your rod and line hand close together, lift the rod like you would with a standard overhead cast, keeping hands close together. When the rod tip reaches the '10 o'clock' position, smoothly pull the line hand down about 18", continue as a standard cast.

The double haul

This is used to speed up the line and it enables you to aerialise at least twice as much line, which means more distance.

How to do it: First part as per single haul, until you have pulled the line hand down. As soon as you have pulled down, keeping hold of the line, let your hand travel back up to the start position, pause whilt your line stretches out, continue with the forwad cast, and at the same time, pull the line hand down 18" or so. This speeds up the line thus helping with distance. It's like tapping your head and rubbing your tummy. Think of 'down up' with your line hand.

How to practise hauling whilst sitting in front of the fire: You only need the butt (handle) section of your rod to do this:

Unless you have one great big long elastic band, loop together lots of thin ones and attach to the butt ring, long enough to reach the rod handle. Let them hang loose just as a fly line would do. Hand positioning as above but the elastic bands pull your hand up the rod enabling you to practise the technique.

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