Master The Double Haul

Fly-Fishing is an art form that requires determination, dedication, intellect, keen observation and a whole lot of practice. While the basics can de difficult to grasp, once you have a firm hold on the fundamentals there are techniques that can increase your distance and power with hardly any additional effort. The double haul is one such tool and learning how to properly execute this casting technique is like going from a stick shift to an automatic transmission. Either way you still have to know how to drive the car, although automated shifting makes the experience a whole lot easier.


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Photo: Steve Dougherty

In the realm of saltwater fly-fishing, the double haul is common terminology. It’s not nearly as popular among freshwater anglers, but whether you are making the transition from freshwater to salt or are a complete novice, the first thing you need to do is master the basic fundamentals of casting. The double haul is not a beginner’s technique, rather an advanced tool used to make a good caster even better. When performed properly it will make tight loops even tighter and long casts even longer. It will also assist you when faced with windy conditions and when throwing wind-resistant poppers or heavy flies that are hard to turn over.

The double haul is not a beginner’s technique, rather an advanced tool used to make a good caster even better.

It is important to understand that a haul is no more than a short tug on the fly line during a cast. This short pull will effectively increase line speed, which in turn produces tighter loops. Tight loops are aerodynamic, energy efficient, and essential when attempting long and accurate casts to wary game fish. Making this tug during either the forward or backcast is what’s referred to as a single haul. Making it on both the forward and backcast is referred to as a double haul. While hauling enables you to cast with less effort and power—making repeated casting much less tiresome—it will not make a bad casting stroke better or compensate for poor timing.

To perform this technique you must be able to think of a few casting concepts at once. The rod tracking in a straight plane towards and away from the target, a crisp and sudden stop, and the hauling motion itself are just some of the details you must keep in mind. If one element is performed incorrectly, the whole cast can fail. This is why you MUST master the basic casting stroke before attempting more advanced techniques.

Understanding the double haul is one thing. Putting it to use is another. Hauls can be short, long, fast, slow or combinations of each. Proper timing is essential and often the most difficult part to master. One of the best ways to learn is to practice the motions without a rod in your hand. While it may feel funny at first, let your rod hand make the motions of a casting stroke while your line hand simulates the haul. It’s best to begin with a very short haul and gradually increase the distance as you become more comfortable. Throughout the casting stroke your line hand should mirror your rod hand and the two should never be more than 8 to 10-inches from each other. As you gain experience you can try larger hauls. Begin with your line hand slightly below your rod hand. As the rod hand travels back, the line hand should follow. At the precise moment the rod hand comes to a stop, the line hand should make a short and quick downward motion. This step is commonly referred to as “down-up” when teaching the haul.

You have now executed the first half of the double haul. To complete the cast, make another haul on the forward portion of the casting stroke. Again, the line hand should follow the speed and direction of the rod hand throughout the motion. As you execute your sudden stop on the forward stroke, your line hand will make another short, downward motion. At the bottom portion of this haul you can either decide to let go of the fly line and allow it to shoot forward for final delivery, or return to the starting position and make another backcast. Remember that during the early stages of learning new techniques is when bad habits tend to develop. Once you feel comfortable with the motions, it’s time to practice with a rod and reel.

Although the double haul can be performed with any outfit, it’s usually easier to learn with an 8 or 9-weight and a weight-forward or shooting head fly line. Start your cast with approximately 30-feet of fly line outside the rod tip. A 7-foot leader and a small piece of yarn tied to the end will complete your practice outfit and protect you from any errant casts.

Start by making several false casts without hauling. Watch both your forward and backcasts as they unroll and pay close attention to the size of the loops. Begin by making short hauls on your backcast. As your rod comes to a stop, make a quick, downward pull on the fly line with your thumb and forefinger. A 6-inch pull is a good start. Immediately return your line hand to just below the reel and allow the cast to unroll behind you. Not only should you be able to see a noticeable difference in the size of your loop, but you should also be able to feel the fly line pick up speed as it travels through the air. Repeat this motion for the forward stroke and you have completed a double haul.

Once you are comfortable with a simple double haul, you can then combine the haul with slipping and shooting of line during the cast. If you begin a cast with 30-feet of fly line outside the tip of the rod and want to reach distances approaching 80-feet, it is necessary to slip line during the cast, therefore allowing each stroke to carry more and more line. When combined with the double haul this technique will enable you to minimize the number of false casts needed to reach distant targets.

While adding this new element, remember that your hauling technique will remain the same. As soon as the down-up portion of your haul is completed, loosen your grip on the line and allow it to travel through your fingers. Again, timing is everything. You must stop the slip just before the line begins to fully straighten or it will lose energy. Begin by slipping only small amounts of line, around 5-feet or so. As the length of fly line outside the tip of the rod increases, the length of your casting stroke must increase as well. The timing will also change, as a longer length of fly line takes more time to unroll.

The double haul is an invaluable tool that should be part of every saltwater fly caster’s repertoire. While enabling you to make longer and more efficient casts, it also allows you to propel a fly in less than ideal conditions. It will take a lot of effort to master, but the reward will be well worth the effort. Remember that practice makes perfect.