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PUBLISHED: 3:59 PM on Thursday, December 28, 2006
A winter warm up

Rich Culver photo
  To achieve maximum distance, elevate your casting plane and cast with a tight loop.
A properly executed fly cast is not only graceful but also poetic in its motion and delivery. Whether the cast is a rebound shock cast from a single-handed rod, a distance cast with a double-haul, or a spiral single cast from a two-handed spey rod, all forms of fly-casting are governed by the same common principles. Understanding these principles and putting them into practice will undoubtedly make you a better caster. The primary principles that govern all aspects of fly-casting are: the path that the rod-tip travels, the application of power and timing.

I like to use the slow winter months that we have in Southeast Alaska as a period to personally critique and practice these governing principles within my own fly-casting and refer to this as my "Winter Warm Up."

One of the most commonly used terms in fly-casting is the term, loop. The loop of a fly-cast is nothing more than the shape of the fly line as it unrolls from the tip of the fly rod after the cast. There are three parts of the loop; the top part of the loop, referred to as the top leg, the bottom part of the loop (the bottom leg) and in between the two legs is part of the loop called the leading edge of the loop. If the top and the bottom legs of the loop are relatively close together then the leading edge of the loop will become narrow. The resulting cast is what we refer to as a tight loop. On the other hand, if the distance between the top leg and the bottom leg of the loop is wide, then the leading edge of the loop becomes more open. Fly casts with these characteristics are referred to as ones with open or wide loops. And finally, there's a third type of loop that occurs where the top leg of the loop crosses or dips below the bottom leg of the loop and when this occurs what we observe is a tailing loop. What determines the shape of all of these particular loops is the path that the rod tip takes during the casting stroke.

It's important to understand what determines the shape of the casting loop because this has crucial implications in fishing. The start of the casting stroke is when the rod bends in a meaningful way so that it contributes to the fly cast. A properly executed fly cast is not only graceful but also poetic in its motion and delivery.


Richy Culver image
  The three parts of the loop: the top leg, bottom leg and the leading edge.
Whether the cast is a rebound shock cast from a single-handed rod, a distance cast with a double-haul, or a spiral single cast from a two-handed spey rod, all forms of fly-casting are governed by the same common principles. Understanding these principles and putting them into practice will undoubtedly make you a better caster. The primary principles that govern all aspects of fly-casting are: the path that the rod-tip travels, the application of power and timing.

A properly executed fly cast is not only graceful but also poetic in its motion and delivery. Whether the cast is a rebound shock cast from a single-handed rod, a distance cast with a double-haul, or a spiral single cast from a two-handed spey rod, all forms of fly-casting are governed by the same common principles. Understanding these principles and putting them into practice will undoubtedly make you a better caster. The primary principles that govern all aspects of fly-casting are: the path that the rod-tip travels, the application of power and timing.

I like to use the slow winter months that we have in Southeast Alaska as a period to personally critique and practice these governing principles within my own fly-casting and refer to this as my "Winter Warm Up."

One of the most commonly used terms in fly-casting is the term, loop. The loop of a fly-cast is nothing more than the shape of the fly line as it unrolls from the tip of the fly rod after the cast. There are three parts of the loop; the top part of the loop, referred to as the top leg, the bottom part of the loop (the bottom leg) and in between the two legs is part of the loop called the leading edge of the loop (see Figure 1). If the top and the bottom legs of the loop are relatively close together then the leading edge of the loop will become narrow. The resulting cast is what we refer to as a tight loop. On the other hand, if the distance between the top leg and the bottom leg of the loop is wide, then the leading edge of the loop becomes more open. Fly casts with these characteristics are referred to as ones with open or wide loops. And finally, there's a third type of loop that occurs where the top leg of the loop crosses or dips below the bottom leg of the loop and when this occurs what we observe is a tailing loop. What determines the shape of all of these particular loops is the path that the rod tip takes during the casting stroke.

It's important to understand what determines the shape of the casting loop because this has crucial implications in fishing. The start of the casting stroke is when the rod bends in a meaningful way so that it contributes to the fly cast.

On the other hand, the end of the casting stroke is when the caster stops applying power (energy) to the fly cast. Remember, it is the path that the rod tip travels that ultimately determines the shape of the loop of any fly cast. If during a cast, the rod tip travels in a relatively straight line from continually accelerating the rod until the moment the rod is abruptly stopped, then the resulting cast will reflect in a tight, narrow loop.

Generally speaking, casts with tight loops are very efficient. Virtually all the energy within the cast is delivered to the fly line as it unrolls from the tip of the fly rod. Tight loop casts have special advantages when casting flies into harsh winds or when distance is required. If the path that the rod tip takes during a cast begins low then travels upward before ending low again-and follows the shape of an arc-then the resulting cast will be one with an open or wide loop. Wide loop casts facilitate casting extremely heavy flies, and excel in fishing conditions that require split shot or heavy poly yarn indicators. Expert and advanced casters know when to exercise which type of cast in order to match their specific fishing conditions and techniques.

To emphasize this point, if one were to attempt to cast heavy bugs or poly yarn indicators using a tight loop, for example, one might immediately find themselves wrapped in tangles. Lastly, if the caster applies power to the cast inappropriately so that the rod tip suddenly dips and bends in the middle of the casting stroke then what we see is a tailing loop. The tailing loop is one of the most common faults in fly-casting and is the result of improper application of power during the casting stroke.

The third important aspect of fly-casting is timing. Ideally, the objective is to have both the forward cast and back casts progressing smoothly and with no abrupt transitions. In general, timing is simply a slight, deliberate pause in the casting stroke that allows for all of the fly line in a cast to fully unroll off the tip of the fly rod. This pause occurs during both the forward cast and the back cast. The length or duration of the pause is a function of how much line the caster is throwing. In other words, if a caster is making a long cast then the pause between forward and back cast is relatively long. However, if the desired cast is short, then the duration of the pause is also short and reflects this shorter casting distance.

Fly-casting is an elegant and highly versatile form of sport fishing. With an understanding of the basic principles that govern all forms of fly casts, one can not only successfully fish a wide assortment of diverse environmental conditions, but also target a wide variety of quarry. I hope that my instructional tips on the fundamental principles of fly-casting help you become a more proficient and analytical fly caster by providing you with the necessary tools to critique, perfect and ultimately master your cast.


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