Depending on where you are geographically located will determine either that you need to be able to cast a long way, or that an over head thump will put you amongst the fish. This is generally dictated by the type of fishing and terrain being encountered. For example anglers in the North East are blessed with some very good rock fishing, where a cast of 60 yards usually suffices. They tend to use stiffer rods, larger reels, such as ABU 7000's and heavier lines in the region of 25lb. At the other end of the scale the fishing in East Anglia is vastly different, shallower water and less features means that a great deal of the fishing here is done at range. Therefore the rods and reels are different too. Generally lighter rods are used, smaller reels such as ABU 6500's and lines of a lower breaking strain. In my experience a large number of Northern anglers struggle when they fish the East Anglian coast purely due to the fact that they cannot reach the fish, as they are generally found at a distance which is twice what they are used to. Some of the best anglers in the country originate from the North, but not having the ability to cast long range leaves them at a distinct disadvantage when they venture away from their own shores. I'm in no way trying to stereotype Northern anglers as 'non-casters' because this is obviously untrue, I would merely just like to express that being able to cast a good distance is another 'string to your bow' which can be used from time to time.
If this has persuaded you to consider improving your casting then the best place to start is with rod selection. The correct choice of rod is of paramount importance as the wrong rod will hinder your casting dramatically. Each area throughout the country has its own trend of rods. In my area Meta-Lite rods are prevalent, Zziplex and Conoflex are popular on the south coast whilst Century rods are widely used in the North. Most of these manufacturers utilise similar rod building technologies and on first appearances most rods look pretty much alike, but that's where the similarities end. If you are seriously contemplating casting further and you need to upgrade to a decent rod, be prepared to spend at least £200 for a decent blank, another £35-£45 for a custom built rod.
To some extent your physical strength and build will determine which type of rod you will need. A 6ft, 15 stone angler will more often than not require a rod more powerful and longer than a 5ft 8 stone lightweight. Don't kid yourself that the latest super powerful rod will instantly add yards to your cast because this is rarely the case, if you cannot compress (bend) the rod fully you are not getting the best out of it. Look at the tip action of the rod, if your fishing encounters strong tide runs, you want a tip that will bend a little with the tide, if the tip is too stiff it will pull your lead out. Generally for distance casting the butt section of the rod should be fairly rigid. By holding the spigot end in one hand, the other hand pushing the middle with the other end on the floor, ideally there should be very little 'give'. If you are like me and have small hands, consider butt diameter, with the advent of modern rod technologies butt diameters have reduced whilst the strength has increased. Slimmer butts means that you can get your thumb further over the spool of a multiplier reel, which for me is very good news. Unfortunately one area that has never improved is that after 2-3years of regular use, all rods I have used have lost their power significantly, perhaps this is deliberate as in 2-3years you will have to buy a new rod!.
How you attach your reel to the rod should be considered, I use Meta-Lite Comfy Coasters which offer great versatility. To gain an even better grip of the reel when casting I use a piece of rubber pond liner about 100mm long by 25mm wide. One end is trapped under the reel seat. When you are about to cast you stretch the liner over the spool, cast, and when you release your thumb the liner shrinks back and doesn't interfere with the running of the spool. Some anglers prefer to use a section of rubber glove placed on their thumb which is just as effective.
If you are going to be fishing at night I would suggest that your rod is rung with Fuji type eyes as they are highly reflective and combined with lighter coloured or metallic rod whippings - you should have no problem in seeing bites.
The next item is reel selection. Most match anglers use multiplier type reels like ABU 6500's and Daiwa 7HT's. Again the reel you choose will need to reflect the area you fish. It would be no good using a 6500 sized reel if you are going to be winching good sized Cod from deep water on a regular basis as the reel just wouldn't be up to it. When you have settled on a reel the next step is to tune it to your own requirements.
The latest green ABU elite's' use a magnetic braking system which I am told is vastly improved on prior efforts. This system relies upon a series of small strategically located magnets which, when the slider is moved forwards or backwards, moves the magnets closer/further away from the spool, thus increasing and decreasing braking as desired. Some magnets can be removed altogether to reduce breaking even further. For me though, traditional uncomplicated centrifugal breaking is still tops. This type of breaking relies upon one or two brake blocks of varying sizes located on the spools spindles. When a cast is made the blocks are forced outwards due to the centrifugal force of the spool spinning at high speed these blocks rub very lightly on a metal plate which causes braking. To reduce braking simply remove a block and/or use one smaller block.
Attention must also be made to the reels bearings in which the spindle of the spool is housed. Many reels when purchased have their bearings packed with grease which is no good for casting at all! Well it is, if you don't want to cast very far!. This grease should be removed by using Rocket Fuel de-greasant. Once the grease has been removed add a couple of drops of Rocket Fuel into the bearings, this oil is brilliant and in my opinion is the only oil worth using, a small bottle will last for years at very little cost.
When you load the line onto your multiplier reel ensure that it lays flat with no ridges. When loading it on, move slowly from one side of the spool to the other and back again. A useful tip is to make sure that the leader knot is kept to one side of the spool and not the middle, failure to do so will probably result in a lump of skin being removed from your thumb when casting!
With fixed spool reels, working out which way the spool of line should face to load the line is not always clear. All you need to do is to wind on about a dozen turns of line slacken of the tension and if the line twists up simply turn the spool of line the other way up.
With the easy bit out of the way, the rod and reel choice, we now move on to the actual business of casting itself. There are many casting techniques used such as groundcast, backcast over head thump etc. The style used by most is the pendulum cast. This cast once mastered and coupled with the correct gear will serve all your fishing needs adequately. By far the easiest way to learn how to cast is to seek the assistance of a casting instructor, but I shall endeavour to provide you with a basic guide to get you started. But I would strongly suggest that you take a few lessons as an instructor will be able to find and remedy faults that you don't even know exist.
I shall start with a half pendulum cast with the following instructions for right handed anglers. Arrange your feet so that your left foot is at the 9 o'clock position and your right foot at 1 o'clock. These positions are not set in stone and can be adjusted to suit yourself. Have a drop of about 6-7ft and whilst pointing the rod to the 2 o'clock position swing the lead away gently. The lead should return towards you with enough pace so that it rises just above and to the side of your right shoulder. There is a critical point at which the lead neither rises or drops and it just momentarily stops, it is at this point that you should begin to bring the rod round. Your left arm should raise slightly, and your right arm lowering a little this action causes your body to lean to the right. The rod should be kept horizontal to the beach until the rod is in line with 12 o'clock when the left hand needs to be pulled in firmly, and the right arm punching outwards and upwards. The reel should be released when rod just passes your head. Release too early and the lead will fly off to the right, release too late and the lead will go to the left. If the lead travels too flat (doesn't gain any height) prior to release, deliberately look high into the sky, this should add height to your cast. Your feet will naturally move during casting, you may find that by bending your knees slightly and straightening them when releasing, it helps to launch your cast better.
Some anglers move their head round facing the sea before they even begin to move the rod, I find that the cast is much more controlled if the head follows the rod round together, besides you can see exactly where the lead is. One habit that you must try to avoid is to 'hook' the rod, this is where instead of keeping the rod flat/horizontal to the beach when bringing the rod round from the starting position, the tip drops towards the beach and is then 'hooked' upwards for the later part of the cast. This results in uncontrollable casts and inevitably 'snap offs'.
A few 'big' casters put most of the power into their cast between the 12 o'clock position and release by really pulling and punching hard at a late stage. I would suggest that until you have firmly got to grips with the pendulum cast that you try to add power and speed gradually throughout your cast. Leaving the power to the end, in my experience, results in many 'snap offs'.
Once you have got used to using the half pendulum style you can the progress to the full pendulum. The only difference being that the lead carries on above your head and in fact completes a full arc. When the lead reaches its highest point, it is then that you should begin to move round in the same manner as mentioned earlier.
When practising any new cast I would suggest that you use a cheaper line as 'snap-offs' and 'birds nests' are inevitable, it is also a good idea to increase the braking on the reel too.
Give it a try, get it right, and it will put more fish on the beach.