Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Tip # 2 - Bottle Rockets

Payload Ready

At the risk of trying to have a tip useful to everyone here is a a pretty neat exercise. It's been in my instructor bag for a long time - don't know who came up with it - perhaps Lefty Kreh ? 

This, a fairly straight forward, entertaining drill may at first glance appear to be easy enough but it can be made quite challenging. Similar to the golf driving range - in this case it's ....  Basket o Bottles.

What you will need :

 Rod : A four piece rod is best as you can opt for using the bottom 2 or 3 sections. A two piece rod works fine. No matter which rod, leave the tip section safe in the rod tube - you will not be using it.

 Reel :  Go ahead put it on. Having it on will help give the correct feel even though you will not be throwing any line or reeling in Walter.

Containers : While prescription pill containers are the norm, there are all sorts of others that work the same or better - aspirin, spices, cigars and floss...... plastic, not glass.

Space : Ideally outdoors in an open space, though maybe not your neighbor's lawn ;)  Best is a space with good sized object to use as a target.

The Lineup

Beginners will find success quickest with longer narrower containers such the avocado green and the red ones pictured above, from cheapo single cigars - often found as litter that I regift into casting tools. Shorter, wider containers are more difficult to launch so give them a try them once you've established some consistent control with the narrower longer bottles. 

What The  ?!

At first, don't think (or worry... )  about Casting the bottle - just place it over the end of the rod and simply throw it to an area out in front of you - not too far. Then, as you get warmed up, throw it a bit further . Don't think about Smooth Acceleration or a Crisp Stop - just throw the damn thing out there.

Next step: Start to Think. Taking a cue from this, ease into the Key Position, the Ready Position: the starting place for the forward cast, where your arm and body should be to begin the stroke. Then, with your hand + arm easing forward and down, pick up speed - smoothly - as you drop your elbow. When your rod hand arrives inline with your view to the target allow (not force ) your wrist to hinge forward...  just a bit < that is where/when you squeeze 'n release the cork. In this case it's quite like a flick. This happens at the end of the stroke, after you feel the weight of your arm swing down and in towards your side. If you're relaxed, stopping the swing will activate your wrist. Upper and lower arms as a unit pivot from your shoulder. Plotting your elbow's path, it should wind up an arc - evidence that it moved down as well as in. It's this move, a deceptively powerful move, that when punctuated with pressing the thumb forward into the cork, at the target, that rotates the wrist just right.

The above paragraph is a glob of description - reread it, pick through it. Keep in mind we're making fairly small casts when launching bottles. It doesn't require carbo-loading and energy drinks.

Have you ever thrown apples off the end of stick?  If so, you should feel right at home here, one difference being the bottle lacks the friction, the tight fit that an apple has when impaled on a stick. That's the sneaky bit - keeping the bottle on the rod end as you stroke forward. Feel for the bottle on the rod's end just prior to launching it.  And of course use your mind's eye.

Casting bottle rockets is also a relative of "flipping water off a paint brush", a drill that Tim Rajeff (via his good friend Tony Vitale) is adroit at demonstrating.

Do some self analysis - try to pin point what works best, what thing you are doing that helps it go. 

Pay attention to the angle the rod is in when you start and what angle it's in when you launch - the stop. How you get there is key. If you wave your hand + forearm by simply hinging at the elbow like your erasing a black board the bottle will most likely come to rest quite close. Think about dragging the bottle with the rod end and then finishing with a flourish. So, drag it  L O N G , keeping the rod's angle fairly constant and then turn it over, rotate it, to the finishing angle, as late as you dare. 

Long 'n slow, to short 'n fast.
\  \  \\  /. . . . . . .  >(-'-'-'-'-','( ยบ > 

Six-pack Of Russian Doll Rockets

So you've got a tree, pick a spot on it a few feet off the ground - throw so the container projects towards it, at it. "At" doesn't mean you have to actually hit (make contact with) the target. Back up or inch closer and try it to the same spot. Try a spot down low and then one up high - similar to Joan Wulff's "Picking Leaves". At times pay attention to your arm as it articulates through the stroke. See if you're leading with your elbow and finishing with your hand. For some, it may work better to think of finishing with the thumb.

For those wanting to working on their Bonefish skills,  try a moving target - another caster slowly moving across from you. Similar but not moving : a set of hoops/cones placed several feet apart angling away.

The Firing Range

Lefty ties a length of mono to the rod and attaches the other end to the container, making for easy retrieval - works fine - but not needed. If you're paired with another caster the two of you can face each at distance apart and take turns launching bottles at one another, paying attention to each other's form. I highly recommend casting with a friend and not just for this drill. Well trained retrieving dogs come in handy as well as energetic obedient children - great for teaching scout groups.


Dare yourself to launch some backwards or change it up with some side-arm casting.