What's happening to your fishing rod at the end of a cast? (recovery)

Please bear in mind here that my technical knowledge of what is going on with carbon fibre during and just after the actual cast is at best limited, but via photographing lots and lots of casting with various digital SLRs over the years that are shooting at around eight to ten frames per second, you don't half get to see a lot - and I was wondering if you had any idea what happened to your fishing rod at the end of a powerful cast?

I would imagine that most of you assume you load up a fishing rod nice and sweetly, the bait, fly or lure then flies out there, and your rod "recovers" from that power curve to sit there nice and straight as you look out to see the bait or lure landing on the water - with absolutely no posing at all when it's a particularly good cast!! Well it's that recovery rate that I really notice via my photography, as in what happens to the fishing rod right after it unfolds from the cast and must eventually return to straight.

Photographing casting in all kinds of fishing depends of course on what you are actually trying to show, together with how the location, light, angler, rod etc. might combine to assist you if that makes sense. It can be different trying to shoot a precise casting sequence that lays out the technical bits and pieces of an actual cast against trying say to make something look really creative. Something like the photo above does it for me and my creative side - great light (and no, there are no horrible orange filters involved), an angler who can cast very well putting a rod under load (the rather lovely Major Craft Skyroad Wind Custom 8'3'' 7-21g, review here), loads of light which helps me with a very fast shutter speed to "stop" that rod in the perfect position (and even at ten frames a second you don't always get a really good rod position), plus some water splashing up. The perfect casting shot? Obviously not, but I am rather proud of it.

But what then happens to a fishing rod when it unwinds through a cast to help propel that bait, fly or lure out there? Check out the casting sequence above and you'll notice how the (longer, slower) lure rod compresses, unwinds, and then goes a bit weird looking as it "recovers", or returns to straight. This always happens, but various factors seem to determine how much that rod keeps going down and then sometimes back upright after the power curve. Faster rods, slower rods, the angle of release, weights of lures, baits and flies, where in the cast the angler is really hitting the rod etc.

One thing you need to know about the above casting sequence is that I have not edited any frames out, as in what you are seeing is exactly what I photographed (bear in mind that this sequence happened in less than one second). For a one off casting photograph, I err towards either a compressed rod or else a straight rod at the end of the cast - photographing fly fishing can be so good because you have that line which can be so visible, and this often gives far more to a photograph. But then the recovery on a fly rod takes even longer because of that heavier line - the dip after the compression is often more pronounced, as it indeed it is with older style, floppier spinning rods that can really look quite alarming right after the compression bit. I don't personally like the look of shots that show the strange bends in the rod as it recovers, and for the most part I will edit these out of a casting sequence as they aren't serving much purpose other than to show how a fishing rod recovers back to straight - which is why I kept that particular sequence intact.

If you knew nothing about how a rod has to recover at the end of cast, you might look at the two photos above and think it was perfectly normal so to speak - but what you wouldn't know is that I edited out three frames between the bent rod and the straight rod at the end of the cast, because I didn't (artistically) like the look of the rod recovering. Casting can look very different depending on what angle you photograph it from, and the angle here makes it look kinda horrible as the rod tip slams down after the cast and then makes it back to straight. Fishing rods have to do this, but it doesn't mean that me as the photographer has to like it.

But for all that I love lure fishing, from a pure photography point of view you're never going to beat a good fly angler casting a full line in awesome light. Sure, bad fly casting can look just as bad as any other kind of casting, but that poetry in motion when a good fly angler goes through the motions is just something else if you ask me. I love it. My own fly casting leaves a lot to be desired, but I have spent enough time working around very good fly anglers to know what good and bad fly casting is - and still you'll find that even the best casters can suffer from a good old dose of fish fever!!