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fly casting in the USA

American Tendencies in Fly Casting

After decades of futile efforts to transfer the Central European techniques (pointer on top, elliptical casting, Gebetsroither Technique) to the States and make them presentable it seems as if now America is in an upheaval phase. Especially the younger generation of fly casters are going in new directions. In August 1998 I had the pleasure to demonstrate together with Jupp Verstraten those central European techniques as European representatives in front of TV cameras at the FFF-Conclave in Idaho Falls. In comparison three of the best American fly casters Bob Jacklin, Bruce Richards and Jason Borger (known as the Shadow Caster of Robert Redford's Film A River Runs Through It) showed American techniques. It was a very interesting comparison, which ended in a funny show which fascinated the big crowd without exception. The most remarkable thing for me was that two out of three Americans cast with the pointer on top. Jason Borger called it the Euro-American grip, which was of course the work of Hans Gebetsroither, Austria, who created this grip as a part of his style in the 30ties. Lee Wulff was a pointer on top caster too, because he cast and fished with very light and short rods (even for salmon) in the fifties and sixties like Hans Gebetsroither did.
Fly casting demo Idaho Falls

Whereas Gebetsroither's technique became popular throughout Europe, Lee Wulff had not that many fans at that time who wanted to cast with the short rods and the new grip. The big crowd of fly fishers in the States was casting with long and heavy equipment. It seems as if Lee Wulff was too progressive for his generation.



Jason Borger (USA): pointer on top

G.F. und J.V. casted simultanously back to back
pictures: H. Birkl


Hans Gebetsroither and Lee Wulff would have been very happy about this development. This demonstration showed in an impressive way that the styles get closer and closer together. In each style there is a certain advantage, no technique as a whole is perfect. All of them have their boundaries and cover only a part of the whole fly casting area, but adapted to the different situations and combined they are part of a huge puzzle which - if completed - is a compendium to master nearly all different situations. It will be the work of the coming generations to complete this puzzle to create a Universal Fly Casting Style which is the core of my teaching philosophy. 

Double-handed fly casting

What double hand casting is concerned the gap between the average fly casters in US/North America and those in Europe got a bit smaller. After decades in which there was not too much development in this field of fly casting in the US and Canada, for a few years, the North Americans try to put more emphasis on it. There is a long tradition of double-handed fly casting in Europe which has brought up such important styles like Spey Casting(deep water, classic long line technique) and the modern Underhand Casting from Scandinavia which is by many fly fishers regarded to be the most efficient way of casting the double hand rod.

Günter Feuerstein teaching Mel Krieger
GF explaining Mel Krieger his hauling technique

Unfortunately and obviously because of business reasons there are many using the underhand technique now but call it Spey Casting. This has lead to a lot of confusion. In the Speyorama some things were put clear but there is still a lot to do and the most important thing to do to dissolve this confusion is to make the instructors try to get to the bottom of their techniques and put the terms right again.

The Belgian Style - definitly the wrong term!

In the USA a wrong term is used for the Gebetsroither Technique or Austrian Style. There it is called the Belgian Style or Belgian Cast. How comes the wrong term is used there? Here is the explanation for that development from Guido Vinck from Belgium, former fly casting world champion and an honorary member of the Board of Governors of the EFFA Flycasting Instructor Certification Program:

"Albert Goddart was born in the town Bouillon (south of Belgium - Ardennes) just before World War One. After World War II he became a well know caster and fished a lot of times together with Hans Gebetsroiter and Charles Ritz (so he could learn the Gebetsroither style). At that time Goddart was one of the best fly casters in the world and was more or less sponsored by Hardy. I never met him because he died in the early sixties but met a lot of people who knew him. In the early fifties, the first international (official) casting championships (CIPS) started and the world championships in Brussels in 1958 was his moment of glory where he won a silver medal. During this period he met a lot of Americans and visited also the USA. There he demonstrated the Gebetsroither Style, that's why the Americans call it the Belgian Style."

So please, my American friends, change the term Belgian Style into Gebetsroither Style (aka Austrian Style), as a contribute to Hans Gebetsroither! Drop the term "Belgian Cast", is definitely the wrong one!

Watch Günter Feuerstein teaching Mel Krieger how to teach the Gebetsroither Style (elliptical fly casting technique)

read about European fly casting tendencies


fly fishing connects generations
G.F. and the Grand Dame of American Fly Casting: Joan Wulff

picture: H. Birkl

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