What has been described up to this point is a form of the Wallis underhand cast, but as I said, there are about a dozen variations. Instead of holding the lead to start, the underhand cast can be started with a free lead swung to the middle, left, or right of the angler. Instead of using the crook of the thumb to pull the line off the reel, some Wallis Grand Masters prefer to start with a free-swinging lead, and to use the back of the hand over the line to set the reel running. Very long casts can be achieved with a long rod, and a long drop - thus allowing the angler to load more power into the rod. By long casts, I don’t mean 60 yards, although I suppose someone will say that he has achieved that distance. I’ve seen that supremely accomplished angler Dave Steuart throw a two swan-shot float rig well over thirty yards with a sort of over-head Wallis variation. The timing involved in the performance of this spectacular cast just beggars most folks’ imagination, but nevertheless, after many hours of practice, and hundreds of breathtaking tangles, it has also become my own favourite Wallis cast.
Most capable Wallis casters can manage twenty-five yards with a lead, and a bit less with three-swan float tackle. Beyond that distance something strange happens (at least to my casting), and to find extra distance the effort, concentration, and practice required seem to rise exponentially. The other day I sent a _ oz lead absolutely whizzing out (underhand) across my lawn. I was sure that cast would be 50 yards, but it was actually only 35 when measured properly. That is very much further than most people realise, and certainly further than I can cast with consistent accuracy. It’s also much further than the majority of anglers will need to cast to catch fish. Much more is available though, and occasionally everything goes just ‘so’ and some prodigious length of cast is achieved.
The rhododendrons on the short side of my lawn are a measured 32 yards from my casting spot. One day, when several heavenly bodies were in conjunction, and two black cats had crossed my path, I let loose an overhead 360° swing Wallis, with four swan float tackle, such a cast as the world had never seen. Out it sailed, high, straight, and unerring; and at 32 yards, where the rhodies started in entered the bushes about fifteen feet above the ground, still going hard, and with every intention of making that mythical 50 yards, if those accursed branches had not impeded its progress: well, perhaps nearly 50 yards. So it can be done, but mortal man cannot expect such wonders to be part of his every-day armoury. Because someone will want to know, I will tell you that I was using a 10_’ Allcocks Eclipse rod, a 1930’s 3_" double-spoked Aerial, 4 lb line, and home-made balsa/cane float to steady the flight.
The Wallis cast is generally thought of simply as a means of achieving distance with a centre-pin outfit. But, the underhand swing method, and learning system described offer an even greater advantage - amazing accuracy. With time, if you stick doggedly to the target system regime, you will find that you can, in a seemingly magical way, just ‘think’ the cast into the right spot (more Zen at work – ‘It’s not enough to think Grasshopper – you must know’). It is quite uncanny to discover that you can simply look at a spot on the surface of the river, swing out the terminal tackle, and find that it lands within an inch or two. Tiny gaps in far bank weed-beds become magnetic. It is incredibly satisfying to do, and needless to say it allows one to target fish-holding spots that might otherwise be missed. On public waters you may well find that you quickly draw a crowd of admiring anglers: ‘Blimey Mister - can you show me how to do that’.
What I am describing sounds almost unreal, and the tyro caster will may spend months patiently practicing his Wallis regime before even the slightest puff of angel dust alights upon his efforts. The really dedicated caster will find that at this stage his cast is quite reliable, and offers access to most parts of many rivers. But, as yet, it is a matter of concentration, and timing, and confidence, and an undeniable churning butterfly stomach when long casts are attempted. What the caster awaits is that first moment when the whole act is entirely unconscious: when, with no more thought than is given to blinking, breathing, swallowing, or, more prosaically, changing car gear, the terminal tackle drops with hardly a ripple, into a six inch wide channel between rununculus beds. It may just possibly be the guiding hand of Isaac, but more likely it's hours of dedication, with a silver lining of Zen mind-set.
And what of that World Council of Wallis Grand Masters? Oh yes! It does exist. Shadowy, exclusive, and privy only to those who have been ‘seen’: those who play their Wallis casting skills as a Stradivarius violin. Could a more prestigious club of artists exist? I think not. There is no means of application for the would-be, but the Masters’ eyes are everywhere.
The Overhead Wallis Casts
Anglers who attempt this very difficult cast before becoming absolutely proficient at the underarm and side-swing Wallis casts, should first buy shares in the Companies that make fishing line. This will ensure that there is some profit to be recovered from the dustbins full of Gordian tangles. Their wives should arrange to sleep in a separate bedroom, and wear ear plugs. Their children should hide all their piggy-banks. This is not for rushing-in-type fools, but it is one of the prettiest and most useful skills in angling.
There are several variations. The easiest is the back facing start, and the hardest is the forward facing 360° tackle swing.
Back Facing Overhead Wallis
Fig. 1 Face away from the target area, with free swinging terminal tackle on a drop of about 6’.
Fig. 2 Swing the tackle overhead, loading the rod smoothly, and at the same time spinning the reel with a smooth pull on the line by the left hand.
Fig. 3 Swiveling the head, and then the body, watch the tackle fly out, using the right thumb to damp out over-runs. The direction of overhead swing dictates the direction of the tackle, and damping on the spool is used to control distance.
Fig. 4 Feed the left hand back to the reel (between reel and butt ring). As the tackle enters the water, the reel is damped to a standstill.
Front Facing 360° Tackle Swing Overhead Wallis
Fig. 1A Face (throughout the cast) towards the target area, with free swinging terminal tackle on a drop of about 8’.
Fig. 2A Swing the tackle forward to about 70° , then allow it to pendulum backwards, behind you, and all the way round in a near circle overhead.
Fig. 3A Load the rod smoothly, and at the same time spin the reel with a smooth pull on the line by the left hand (this timing is very difficult). The application of loading and pull are timed by the feel of loading on the rod as the tackle swings in its overhead arc.
Fig. 4A When the tackle comes into view, follow its progress, using the right thumb to damp out over-runs, and feed the left hand back towards the reel (between reel and butt ring). The direction of overhead swing dictates the direction of the tackle, and damping on the spool is used to control distance
Fig. 5A As the tackle enters the water, the left hand returns to the reel, and the reel is damped to a standstill.
Even leaving aside questions of accuracy, and reaching for ultimate distance, on the WCWGM scale of Wallis difficulty, this is a 10.00 so do I respectfully suggest you leave it alone until you are an acknowledged expert in all other forms of Wallis casting. When it goes wrong, there is no wilder cast, and no greater thief of fishing line. Ah! but when it goes right, the laurel wreath of the champion is brought forth to the sound of lyres: the end tackle goes way past the rhododendrons: anglers gasp in amazement, and pretty girls drop to the ground in a faint. But then, pretty girls have always been easily swept away by the flamboyance of great artists.