Before I begin, let me say I’m well aware of Lefty Kreh’s way of long distance fly casting. (A right-handed caster puts
his right foot well behind his left.) My purpose is not to compete with Lefty’s or any other way, but simply to describe
another. In the end, I believe each caster should experiment with as many techniques as possible and see what works
I also believe, however, that the casting method I describe will allow anglers to dramatically change casting
trajectories, which is often very useful, for example, if we want to make a high back cast to avoid a bush.
GETTING STARTED: I prefer to use a short piece of string or yarn for a fly. A long 9-foot leader will help reveal some
of our casting defects. During each practice, I like to focus on one technique and not worry about putting all the
techniques together until I feel I’ve become good with each one.
THE OPEN STANCE: (For purposes of instruction, I’ll assume we’re right-handed.) Start with our feet about shoulder-
width apart, a little closer for more power, a little wider for better balance. If we’re casting holding the rod vertically,
we'll put our left foot forward about eight inches and point it at the target. We’ll point our right foot about 30 degrees
to the right of the target. If we’re casting with our rod pointed outward—somewhere between vertical and sidearm—we’
ll point both feet a little more outward. With our shoulders facing the target, we bend our knees and put our weight on
the ball of our front foot. To make a long-line pickup, we bend forward and hold the line just behind the stripping
guide. We point the rod at the water, with the rod tip about an inch above the surface.
THE CLOSED STANCE: I believe there is nothing wrong with using an open stance. In fact, an open stance will make
it easier for us to look over our casting shoulder and watch the back cast unroll—something that I believe is essential
for executing a long distance fly cast. I also believe, however, that when we cast a fly rod, unlike when we throw a ball,
we don’t bend at the waist to generate leverage and power. Instead, we rotate our hips as much as possible, like a
batter hitting a ball or a boxer throwing a punch. If my left foot is forward, I will not be able to fully rotate my hips and
get all my weight into the cast. Therefore, I often prefer to use a closed stance and place most of my right foot in front
of my left. At first, this will probably feel awkward for many casters, but with time, I believe it will become more
THE GRIP: We start by holding the rod lightly, then tightening our grip as we increase our casting acceleration. I
prefer to slightly bend my thumb and place it directly on top of the rod handle. Other casters, however, place their
thumb slightly on the side of the handle. This is often called a V-Grip.
LONG-CAST SEQUENCE: As a general rule, casting slightly upward will help keep the loops tight; so, if there is no
head or tail wind, we aim the first (the pickup) back cast upward about 30 degrees. We then aim the next false casts
and the presentation cast at a lower upward angle or even parallel to the water. (Aiming the presentation cast too
high will cause the belly of the line to pull the cast down and kill it.)
For maximum distance, the back and forward cast must form a straight line (180 degrees). If, however, I'm casting
weighted flies or sinking lines, I like to aim the false casts upward about 20 degrees. (More about casting sinking flies
later.) And remember: We apply maximum force (by reaching maximum acceleration) only at the end of the
At least six basic casting defects, however, will cause the cast to lose power and therefore change our intended
trajectory: 1. Starting the cast well after the previous false cast has unrolled. (When false casting a lot of line, if we
wait for the line to unroll it will be too late.) 2. Starting the cast too early, when not enough of the loop has unrolled. 3.
Accelerating the back-cast haul too slowly. (Because there is no back-cast wrist snap, the hauling acceleration should
be faster on the back cast than on the forward cast.) 4. False casting, especially a weighted fly, too hard for the
length of the line we have out. (When the line unrolls it will then snap like a rubber band and create slack) 5. Shooting
line without increasing the acceleration of the casting stroke and the haul. 6. The back and forward casts form an
angle greater than 180 degrees, and we therefore lowered the rod tip from the target line.
ANGLE OF THE ROD: Some casters argue the vertical cast is the most efficient. Others disagree and cast with the
rod tip pointed outward. Besides, they say, this is a safer way to cast that makes it easier, especially for us older
guys, to turn our heads and watch the back cast unroll without turning our shoulders and then inadvertently moving
the rod. Maybe so, but the important point is: If the cast is not under powered, and if we do not move the rod hand in
a convex motion and/or lower the rod tip from the target line, the fly will not hit us or the rod. The following casting
defects will prevent us from moving our rod hand in a straight line: 1. Pulling our elbow back. (Our elbow should move
back because of our rearward body rotation. To me, making a back cast is more of a flexing up motion than a pulling
back.) 2. Beginning the forward cast with our elbow behind our rod hand. (We always want to lead with our elbow.) 3.
Breaking our wrist more than halfway during the forward-cast power snap. (To prevent this, try to pretend you’re
hammering a nail.) 4. Lowering, instead of just rotating, our shoulders. 5. Stopping the rod too late. (This sometimes
happens because we started our weight shift before we started the casting stroke, or because we quickly accelerated
the back cast, but we didn’t abruptly stop the rod with a slight upward, stabbing motion.) 6. Beginning the cast with
our rod hand too low for the intended trajectory. (For example: If you want to execute a cast parallel to the surface,
you must finish your back and forward casts with your rod hand at the same level.) 7. Casting with our elbow too far
out from our body. 8. Using an open stance but having our right foot too far back or pointing too far outward.
In short, a lot can go wrong that can cause us to get hit by the fly. Besides, even the best casters make imperfect
casts, so I recommend wearing sunglasses and a broad-brimmed hat, and casting heavy flies and sinking lines with
the rod tip pointing outward and not vertically.
To simplify my descriptions, I’ll assume we’re casting vertically. (If you’re casting with the tip pointing outward, adjust
your rod-hand position more outward.)
BACK CAST: First, remove all slack from the line. Aiming upward, we slowly start the cast by slightly lifting our elbow,
and moving the rod in sync with our rearward body rotation. Slowly, we tighten our grip. When the rod butt reaches 12
o’clock to the target line, we quickly increase the acceleration—I call this my power acceleration—and execute the
downward haul. (More about hauling later.) For maximum power, I like to keep looking straight ahead. When the fly
comes off the water, we squeeze the handle and abruptly stop the rod with the butt at about 1 o’clock. Our forearm
points to 12 o’clock. Our weight should be on our rear heel.
We ease up on our grip, and turn our head and watch the cast unroll. If we stopped the rod by stabbing it upward, we
lower our rod hand to casting-level. (Some casters feel they increase their power by rotating their forearm and palm
outward during their back cast so that they can then execute their forward power snap with a sharp twisting motion.
Remember the story of Sadaharu Oh and the Aikido master?)
Now we make the forward false cast. Because we probably won’t be able to accelerate the long, false back cast as
fast as we accelerate the long, false forward cast, I like to begin my false back cast when my forward loop is about two
or three feet long. This will prevent my forward cast from unrolling and then bouncing or falling.
We aim the second back cast a little lower, but again we stop the rod butt at about 1 o’clock to the (new) target line. If
we’re casting vertically, our casting elbow should point outward at an angle of about 45 to 60 degrees to the target.
Our wrist should be at about eye-level.
If the loop turns sideways or swings open, we moved the rod in a curving motion or pulled our elbow out and back
during the back cast.
HAULS AND DRIFTS: First, to keep the line from tangling during the haul, we pull off about 3 feet of line from the reel.
The more line we’re false casting, the faster and longer we have to haul to keep the casting loop tight. To do this, we
usually execute the haul faster than the cast.
If we’re casting a weight-forward line, we probably won’t need to use a haul until we’re casting with most of the belly of
the line outside the rod tip. During the back cast loading move, we keep our hands at the same level and move them
backwards. When the rod butt points to about 12 o’clock, we begin the power acceleration and the downward back-
cast haul. On most back cast hauls we haul at an angle of about 60 degrees to the water. We stop the cast and haul
at the same time. Our line hand will be at about 8 o’clock. If we’re false casting more line, we want to increase the
length of the haul (as well as the casting stroke). To do this, we haul at a steeper angle. Also, just before we finish the
haul, we generate additional power by snapping our line hand down.
Immediately, we begin the upward haul, giving back line at the same speed it is unrolling. Do not prematurely move
the rod tip back! (You’ll add slack.) When the fly passes us, we turn our head, but not our shoulders, and watch the
line unroll. Next, we move our line hand up to, but not past, our rod hand.
Not moving our line hand up far enough may cause us to then begin the forward cast by moving our rod hand before
or faster than we move our line hand. This will eliminate line tension, and prevent us from fully loading the rod. Our
cast will then be underpowered and—if we have a lot of line out—probably collapse. (Oh, the embarrassment!) And
remember: The stronger the wind we are casting into, the shorter, but faster we have to haul.
At the end of the forward false cast haul, our hand, depending on how much line we’re false casting, will point to
between 8 and 6 o’clock.
To make a long presentation cast, we can add a drift move after the last back cast. That way, we’ll increase the
length of the forward casting stroke. We can execute a drift move in two different ways. The first way is to keep our
wrist stiff, our elbow in place and our shoulders level, and wait until our back cast has unrolled at least halfway; then
we move our foreman back to about 12:30, and slightly break our wrist down and point the rod lower, to about 2 o’
However, at least five casting defects will cause us to add slack during this drift move, the last four defects by
weakening the cast before the drift: 1. Drifting too fast or too far. 2. Not hauling fast or far enough on the back cast.
3. Beginning a cast just before or after the false cast unrolls. 4. Stopping the downward haul too late, so that we then
have to execute the upward haul faster than the line is unrolling. 5. False casting too much line, especially with a
Finally, when false casting, unless I’m trying to change trajectories, I do not drift, and therefore I reduce the risk of
The second way of drifting is to move the rod back so that the tip travels along the path of the target line. We then
begin the forward cast by leading with our elbow and moving our casting arm forward before we begin to rotate our
body. (Our arm will catch up to our body.)
On the presentation cast, we haul as hard as possible and concentrate on stopping the rod and letting go of the line
at the same time. (Momentum should force our hauling hand well behind our front thigh.)
To make an effective back-cast haul, I find it helpful to visualize a loose rope connecting my rod and line hands.
When I stop the rod, I imagine the rope snapping tight and stopping my hands.
Finally, to me the secret of becoming a really good hauler is to practice throwing a ball left-handed.
FORWARD AND PRESENTATION CASTS: When making a long cast we should start it before the back cast loop
opens. (The heavier my fly or the faster my line is unrolling, the earlier I begin my cast.) To start the forward false
cast, we keep looking over our rear shoulder and push off our back foot. With our wrist locked, we begin the forward
cast in sync with our body rotation. Watching our rod hand during the cast will help prevent our casting arm from
getting ahead of our rotating body. Move the rod butt perpendicular to the target line. (This is the loading move.)
When our casting arm is extended at about halfway, we begin the power snap and haul, and then squeeze the rod
handle and abruptly stop the rod and the haul when the rod butt points to about 10:30. We ease up on our grip. Our
right shoulder should be ahead of our left. Our weight should be on the ball of our front foot.
If we want to finish the forward false cast in position to increase the length and power of the back cast we can: 1.
Speed up the forward false cast—if we get a tailing loop we should slow down the haul—and end the cast with our
weight on our toes and with our right shoulder well ahead of our left. 2. Execute the cast parallel to the water so that
we’ll begin the back cast with the rod in a lower position. 3. Add a drift move by slightly lowering the rod tip.
As soon as we finish the cast we can shoot up to eight feet of line. (As the line slides through our curled fingers, we
keep moving our line hand up so that we’ll be able to reach our rod hand before the cast unrolls.)
To make a long presentation cast, we begin with the rod drifted back, and then we push off our back foot. Again, we
move the rod butt perpendicular to the target line. When our arm is extended about three-quarters, we execute the
power snap and haul. As we reach maximum casting acceleration, we fully rotate our body and fully extend our
casting arm. We again stop the rod when the butt points to about 10:30. Our front leg should now be straight, and all
our weight on our front toes.
To reduce friction between the line and the guides, we immediately raise the rod butt, so that the rod points to the
target line. Do not lower the rod tip!
Finally, if we do everything right, but we still can’t get the fly to turn over, try lowering the casting trajectory, or by
beginning the cast with a little less line off the reel than we want or are able to cast. (When the cast unrolls, line
tension will help the fly turnover.)
ROLL CASTS: If we’re using a weight-forward line, we must begin the roll cast with at least the end of the head of the
line inside the rod tip. (If the head is outside the tip, the thinner running line won’t transfer all of the cast’s power to
We start the cast just before the fly stops moving and slack forms in the D loop. Also, to maintain line tension, we
must use a short single (downward) haul, or we can hold the line against the rod handle, then let go when we stop the
cast. We begin the forward roll cast by rotating our body, shifting our weight forward, keeping our wrist stiff, and
moving the rod at the same angle. This is our loading move. (If we instead begin the cast by rotating our hips,
breaking our wrist and rolling the rod forward, the rod will not fully load, and our cast will be underpowered.) Next, we
snap the rod forward and abruptly stop it at about 10: 30. This is our power snap. We let go of the line.
Finally, it’s important that we don’t weaken the D loop by lowering our elbow and the fly rod during the forward cast.
OVERHANG: Overhang is the amount of running line between the rod tip and the belly of the line. As we increase the
overhang, we must also increase the acceleration and length of the casting stroke and haul.
If we use too long of an overhang, the cast will be underpowered, and the loop will not turn over. If we use too short of
an overhang, we’ll probably get a tailing loop. We should, therefore, experiment to find the longest overhang we can
handle. Keep in mind that the more long false casts we make, the more we risk adding slack; so once the belly of the
line is outside the rod tip, we should try to make the presentation cast after the first or second back cast.
To increase the overhang, we can try: 1. A heavier, stiffer rod. 2. A fly line one weight lighter than the rod. 3.
Shooting line as the last back cast unrolls.
If we’re casting a shooting head line, we have to shorten the overhang.
And now, let me digress. Many years ago, though I’m a New Yorker, I had the chutzpah to train for the Best-Of-The-
West fly casting tournament. A few weeks before the tournament, I found out that I would not be allowed to use the
line—Rio Long Cast—I was training with. Instead, I’d have to use the SA’s XXD line. I bought the line, reeled it on, and
started casting. The line felt heavy, so I shortened my overhang. Then, I watched in horror as my loops badly tailed.
Frantically, I searched the Internet for a quick fix to this new casting defect. My search came up blank, and so ended
my dream of competing in the BOTW tournament. What I didn’t understand back then, was that these special
distance lines—with bellies up to 75 feet—are designed to, in effect, eliminate overhang, and to enable good casters
to form long loops and to false cast almost the entire line.
HOW MUCH LINE DID I SHOOT? To answer this question, I use the counting method. For example, if I fully accelerate
my casting stroke, and then I shoot line for as long as it takes me to count to 3, I know I shot almost 10 feet of line.
TAILING LOOPS: Some common causes are: 1. The rod tip is moved in a concave path because too much force is
applied too early in the casting stroke. 2. The casting stroke is too narrow for the action (bend) of the rod. 3.
Executing a presentation cast with too short of an overhang. 4. Beginning the downward haul too early or quickly.
WEIGHTED FLIES: If we use the same casting and haul acceleration as we use with lighter flies, the loops will open
up. Many casters prefer this, as they feel a wide loop will prevent the fly from hitting the rod tip. I believe, however, if a
cast is executed correctly, it will not hit the rod tip; so, for maximum distance, I actually increase my casting and
hauling acceleration. How much do I increase my acceleration? The answer is as much as possible as long as my fly
doesn’t bounce at the end of the cast. (A bouncing fly will add slack to the line.)
To me, finding that “sweet acceleration” is the biggest challenge to casting heavy flies.
Also, I’ll use shorter leaders and a shorter casting stroke. If my loops are still too wide, I’ll then shorten my overhang.
Remember: At high speeds weighted flies, if they hit your rod tip, can break it. To fish below the surface, therefore, I
like to use lighter flies and sinking lines.
BIBLIOGRAPHY AND FOR FURTHER READING:
Fly Casting Techniques by Joan Wulff: Lyons & Burford, 1987.
Longer Fly Casting by Lefty Kreh: Lyons & Burford, 1991.
The Cast by Ed Jaworowski: Stackpole Books, 1992.
The Essence of Flycasting by Mel Krieger: Countryman Press, 2001.
L.L. Bean Fly-Casting Handbook by Macauley Lord: The Lyons Press, 2000.
Master the Cast by George V. Roberts: International Marine/Ragged Mountain Press, 2005.
THE OPEN STANCE AND THE LONG-LINE PICKUP
|THE FINISH POSITION: THE
BACK CAST DOWNWARD HAUL
THE BACK CAST DRIFT TO TWO O'CLOCK
THE PRESENTATION CAST FINISH POSITION