Kitting For Distance

Occasionally we encounter situations where it is an advantage to be able to fish at distance. There are numerous reasons why this may be so - we might, for example, want to cast to the margins of a distant island, or to a far bank no-fishing sanctuary area, or to middle-of-the-lake holding spots (a common situation in winter). The ability to cast a long way - accurately too - is obviously an advantage in such circumstances.


Jim with an Autumn carp caught at long range.

In some waters, anglers are allowed to use boats for the placement of terminal tackles. This is not angling; it is set-lining. Were it within my power, I would ban it. Hookbaits should be cast to position. Free-baiting is a different matter, and I don't have strong feelings regarding the use of a boat for free-feeding - providing it doesn't disturb other anglers. Trouble is, it usually does - and I've had many an early morning session ruined by thoughtless "pond admirals" paddling through my swim. As for bait-boats, I reckon they should be banned for no better reason than they're incredibly naff! I also have a more serious objection to their use; that being the fact that they encourage anglers to place baits in spots which are potentially dangerous - among distant snags, for example. Any fish hooked in these circumstances is likely to be lost, with the consequence that it will probably trail a shock leader and a length of line which might become ensnared.

My credo is unambiguous - we should not fish spots to which baits cannot be cast, nor those where there is a high likelihood of hooked carp being lost.

RODS

You will doubtless have read numerous claims for the astronomical distances which can be achieved using some branded rods. You may have noticed, however, that such claims are rarely supported with corroborative evidence. Who made the casts? By whom were they witnessed? Were such casts made with the wind blowing from behind, ahead or from the side? How strong was the wind? Were the claimed distances achieved with just a lead, or was a baited terminal rig included? What was the diameter of the main line?... and so on. As anyone who has done much distance casting will verify, such details are of considerable relevance. So why are they usually omitted? Well, I'll tell you (you knew I was going to, didn't you!) - it is because many such claims are, at best, estimates; and, at worst, are yardages (metreages?) which have merely been plucked randomly from the ether.

So now you know!

Truth is, most modem rods - providing they are ringed correctly - will cast in excess of 100 yards. And 100 yards is ample for most long range situations in the UK. Ringed correctly? By that I mean that six rings are sufficient and the butt ring should have an internal diameter of at least 30mm. Also - important this - it should be located at least 90cm from the reel spool. In the case of a purpose-designed long range rod, the butt ring should be upwards of 100cm from the reel spool. The remaining rings should graduate down in size to culminate in a tip ring with a minimum internal diameter of 10mm. I actually prefer a tip ring of 12mm diameter - this reduces the likelihood of algae accumulations on a leader knot becoming jammed.

The test curve of the rod may be used as an approximate guide to the maximum casting weight which can safely be used. I said 'approximate" because test curves are measured somewhat arbitrarily by some manufacturers. It depends on the angler's casting style, too, and how much power he puts into the cast. So with the proviso that it is meant solely as a rough guide, I suggest the following maximum casting weights:

Test Curve

Maximum Casting Weight

2.25lb 3oz (84g)
2.751b 3.5oz - 4oz (98g - 112g)
3.251b 4.5oz - 5oz (126g -140g)
3.5lb plus 5oz (140g) plus


Jim uses a throwing stick to free-bait at distance in a south of England reservoir.

Some modem high-tech multi-modulus materials enable rods to be overloaded - the Frontier and Advantage (Simpsons) models which bear my name are two such. Doubtless there are examples from other manufacturers, but I can only speak with authority of those with which I have direct experience.

You will notice that thus far I have made no mention of length - this is because there is no definitive "best length" for distance casting; it depends on the stature and strength of the angler, and his casting style. Most purpose-built distance-casting rods are 13ft, but that is merely a market-led convention, and should not be taken to suggest that a 13ft rod is superior to one of 12.5ft or 12ft.

REELS

There is a widespread belief that "bucket spool" reels - usually described as 'big pit" models - are best for long casting. This is only true if line in excess of about 0.32mm is used because the big spool ensures that the line does not drop too rapidly below the spool lip. In circumstances where line of lower diameter than 0.32mm is deemed suitable, the line level drops so little that "big pit" reels offer absolutely no advantage, so we may as well use standard size long-spool models such as Shimano's excellent Aeros (I like the 6010 and the 8010 which, notwithstanding their different number designations and different price tags, are actually identical!). Contrary to received wisdom on the subject, most anglers wil cast further with Aeros than they will with 'big pit" models; this is because Aeros are lighter in weight and so have less inertia - and their slightly smaller coils require less energy to spill from the spool.

Talking of line - a line lubricant such as Kryston's "Greased Lightning" will put a few extra yards on a cast. Alternatively, the spool should be wetted with water prior to the cast. Water is not as effective as purpose-made lubricant, but it offers a noticeable improvement over a dry line.

SHOCK LEADER

A shock leader is essential. Occasionally, I have read comments to the effect that if a reasonably strong main line is used - say, 15lb test - a shock leader may be dispensed with. My response to such advice is to hope that I never find myself
fishing opposite someone fishing in such a manner. To dispense with a shock leader is irresponsible and dangerous because tremendous stresses are generated which can result in a mid-air snap-off, with the consequence that the lead becomes a potentially lethal projectile.

For average casters - and that means most of us - I recommend that the weight of the lead in ounces be multiplied by eight, and the resulting figure be taken as a rule-of-thumb minimum leader strength in pounds breaking strain. For a 3oz lead, therefore, we require a shock leader having a minimum breaking strain of 241b. For 4oz and 5oz leads, we require minimum strength leaders of 321b and 401b respectively. Powerful casters should upgrade those minimums; I suggest they use a multiple of nine, giving minimum leader strengths of 27lb, 361b and 451b respectively.


The loneliness of the long distance caster...!

RIGS

Keep it simple! Rigs which are cluttered with ancillary items are prone to tangles. My choice for leads up to 4oz is a pendant-type weight (with the swivel removed) attached to a Nash Continental Safety Bead. Heavier leads are best used sliding directly on the shock leader (or more likely, on the anti-tangle tube) because this offers increased security. Powerful casters are advised to adopt the latter procedure with all leads, even those of 4oz or less.

LEAD SHAPE

You have doubtless read that this shape lead is more aerodynamic that that shape, and will put "as much as 15% on your cast" (it might be a different figure because we are back to the ether again!). Whatever the claimed percentage increase, it will not be achieved by means of lead shape. All right, I accept there might be marginal differences, but they will not be significant, nor even noticeable. This is because the speed attained by a lead in flight is insufficient to make shape particularly relevant. We are talking casting here, not ballistics! I have used long leads, stubby leads and even ball leads, and can discern no range difference between them. All that matters is that the lead be attached pendulum style - this is because hooklink drag causes inline models to bit in flight whereupon they adopt a sideways-on configuration. This provides the worst possible aerodynamic profile which results in the lead becoming unstable which, in turn, has an adverse effect on both distance and accuracy.

SUMMARY

For most of my long range fishing in the UK I use what many would regard as a very light outfit, comprising: 12ft/2.25lb Eclipse, Shimano 6010 or 8010 Aero Baitrunner, 0.30mm Ande mono (I like fluorescent yellow line for distance fishing), 251b Kryston Quicksilver shock leader and a 3oz lead. In big, wild winds I may upgrade to a heavier outfit, but most of the time I find that the aforementioned set-up does the job admirably.

Jim Gibbinson