Handcaster – In Praise of the Humble Handcaster – Going Old School
By Steve Coote
The simplicity of a handline has always appealed to me. For years all l used was a line wound on a board with a vee in each end. I’ve caught plenty of fish with one and, until recently, never saw t.he reason to use anything else. My spending on tackle was minimal: anything more than hooks and the occasional swivel or wire trace seemed extravagant. Even better are the modern plastic spool handcaster available from most tackle stores.
In 1988 I moved to Western Australia for a year. I had no boat and no tackle. The local sports store had some cheap hand-casting reels so I tried them. They proved to be excellent. My family and I had a ball ﬁshing from the beaches and massive granite cliffs.
With practice, a hand reel can be cast a respectable distance. The reel is held in one hand with the front sloping edge facing the direction you want to cast to. A metre or so of the tackle end of the line is swung and released by the other hand. The thumb of the reel hand has to press lightly on the trailing end of the line to stop it from coming off the reel before the cast.
If a loop does fall off the reel before the cast, the line may end up around your wrist. Naturally, this will cut the cast short and you stand a good chance of clobbering yourself with the sinker.
The line may be wound on a reel in either a clockwise or anticlockwise direction. Individuals may find one direction is easier to cast with than another. When casting, I hold the reel in my left hand and prefer the line to be wound anticlockwise when viewed from the front. I generally hold the reel in my right hand when winding in.
A handcaster is easy to carry. This is something to consider when the boat or car space is limited. It is also an advantage to the land-based fisherman who has a long way to walk or may have to negotiate difficult terrain.
A hand-caster is good for boat ﬁshing too. Instead of laying your line all over the deck, it can be wound directly onto the reel. Longtime hand-liners may feel this lacks the sensitivity required to play a big fish. I’ve adapted to it: it keeps the boat tidier, has fewer tangles, and quickly releases the line if the fish needs it. The hand-caster never goes “klunk klunk” on the bottom of the boat as the old wooden handline does.
I’ve seen handcasters ranging from around 90mm in diameter up to about 300mm. The size of the reel may have to match the monofilament line you want to use. Thin or very ﬂexible line will go happily onto a small reel, but the stiff line will tend to make loops spring off a smaller reel. A small reel may be convenient to fit in the fishing bag, but a bigger reel will help you wind in faster.
The back flange of the handcaster should have slots to hold your hook when the line isn’t being used. Some casters don’t have them but it’s easy enough to drill and file your own.
The back ﬂange should also be big enough to aid proper winding. If you miss the reel when winding, you can get the line around your wrist and that will probably be when your big fish decides to take off.
Heavier monofilament, say 40-50-pounds, won’t cut into your hands and fingers nearly as much as 20-pound mono. The heavier 40-50-pound mono line is good for boat and jetty fishing where you don’t need to cast any distance. It is OK too for rock fishing as you stand a better chance of getting your gear back if you get snagged. Whereas you will be able to cast a lot further with 20-pound mono. Spooling up with a braided line would be very dangerous as it can cut your fingers like a knife under tension.
Simple Handcaster Rig
My favourite hand casting rig may lack subtlety, but it works and is relatively safe. I simply thread a running sinker onto the line and then tie on a hook. This rig keeps the weight all in one spot and is a safer rig for children to use. With a hook trace, the hook can flick around during the cast and catch things you don’t want to be caught. If you give your line plenty of slack the fish will soon pull the line through the sinker.
Knots are a weak point; with only one knot you have only one weak point. I feel this rig gets snagged less as there is no ﬂoating hook trace and the hook is partly shielded by the sinker.
Handcasters are beautifully simple. They are versatile, cheap, require little maintenance and don’t take up much space. I’m glad I gave them a try.
Video: Going old school – Handlining for big snaps and carrots in the little FC. What do you do when you have accidentally left your rods at home and it’s too far to go back to get them?