fly casting

The Fly Cast / Casting Technique: The Cast With The Flyrod

subpages: impact of angular momentum

“The bad flycaster will never find the relaxation that a good flycaster will have”

C. Ritz – experienced fly fishing


Basics Of The Fly Cast: Shape of the loop, Line speed and load of the flyrod, Geometry and dynamic of the fly cast, Fly casting styles,  How to grip the flyrod, Motions of the fly cast,
Casting With The Fly Tackle: Basic fly cast, Motion sequences, The “power snap”, Control of the cast- and linehand, The backcast and the center
Fly Casting Faults: Common casting faults, The “fine” casting faults, Casting faults on purpose
Advanced Fly Casting Techniques: The tip of the flyrod casts the flyline, The double haul, Guiding the flyrod, Optimizing the shoulder and body motion,
Distance Fly Casting: The long cast with the flyrod
Variants Of Fly Casting: The fly cast with heavy onehanded flyrods, The fly cast with the shooting head
Special and Trick Fly Casts: The bow cast, The snake cast, The roll and switch cast (D-cast) / Underhandcast
Fly Casting Videos:


The cast with the flyrod within the spectrum of fly fishing is my special interest. To learn the fly cast was and is important for me, so I visited several flyfishing courses and still collect all news about it. The essence of my experience I try to show in the following.

Originally, the following observations emerged to myself to bring the dynamics of the fly cast closer to me. Therefore, it should be said that my comments

  • have no claim to completeness,
  • do not deny the effectiveness of other fly casting forms and styles
  • require basic knowledge of the fly cast

Basics Of The Fly Cast

Shape of the loop

There is no doubt that to fly cast a tight small loop is the most effective way. Only the tight small loop

  • is unsensitive to wind influence
  • could accurate presented the fly – even at long distances –
  • is pre requisited for the distance fly cast

Line speed and load of the flyrod

The rodtip transfers on the one hand a speed into the fly line and effects on the other hand a tension in the rod, that bends it. The tension shows the load of the rod, which stores energy. The transport of the weighted fly line require a decelleration (a stop) of the flyrod, which causes a rebound and the flyline starts to pass the rodtip. The loop occures.

Quality and efficiency of the fly cast coheres with the loading and unloading of the rod. It can be said: the more uniform the rod is loaded and the more controlled the rod is unloaded, the better the fly cast.

Geometry and dynamic of the fly cast

The most important geometrical parameters for flycasting are: casting path, casting arc and casting layer (the casting layer is often also called “casting plane”).

above: geometrical definitions of the fly cast

The casting path is defined as the distance of the rodtipp between the stop positions of the flyrod, the casting arc is defined as the angle between the stop positions of the flyrod. The casting layer is defined as the layer at which the flyrod moves during the cast.

During the backcast the flyrod can move on another, more inclined layer to the body axis than during the forward cast. The transition between the levels of the cast takes place during the stop intervals. The importance for the shape of the loop is depending on the following named parameters:

  • the smaller the casting arc, the more the casting path is straight.
  • the larger the casting path, the more uniform the line speed and the load of the flyrod can be increased.
  • the larger the angle of the casting layers between the forward- and backcasts, the better the line control is; at the same time, however, the potential for distance fly casting drops, because the shape of the loop in the same manner the angle increases between the casting layers.

The most important dynamic parameters of the fly cast are the speed respectively the acceleration of the rodtip. The speed / acceleration of the rodtip should increase uniform, so that in the line speed and the load of the rod increase uninterrupted up to the stop too.

above: dynamical definitions of the fly cast

H.R. Hebeisen uses a comparison with a racing car to clarify the dynamic of the fly cast (1).

Fly casting styles

The literature differentiate between some fly casting styles. There appear the names of english, american, austrian, and more recently, scandinavian fly casting style. In direct comparison, the english and the by Hans Gebetsroither developed fly casting style have the biggest differences. The most striking differences between the two casting styles are listed in the following table:

Austrian Casting Style English Casting Style
Geometry Of The Cast Inclined casting layer, the rod hand movement passes the body axis. Almost vertical casting layer, the rod hand is moved in front of the body axis.
Flyline Guide Backcast (side view) The flyline will pass under the rod tip. The loop describes a more horizontal plane. The flyline goes over the rod tip (overhead throw). The loop describes a more vertical plane.
Motions Of The Cast Shoulder is included in the movement. The wrist is not or only passively used. The rod is loaded over a longer casting stroke. Shoulder is little or at the “classic” style not included (the famous book under his arm).The wrist is actively used. The rod is loaded over a shorter casting stroke.
Dynamics Of The Cast The casting arc will be changed relatively late. The casting arc will be changed immediately.
Tackle Short and long flyrods (6-9 feet). The tackle is rather light. Longer rods over 8 feet. The tackle is rather heavy.

Fly casting styles have been the subject of passionate debate. Ultimately, all fly casting styles have their place depending on the situation at the fish water advantages and disadvantages.  In my view, the Gebetsroither fly casting style, optimized by Hans Ruedi Hebeisen ist the best for most situations at the fish water (wading and fishing from the shore with little overgrown). His optimization is essentially to improve the loop physics, the loop discard a more vertical plane.

In the following I will talk primarily about the optimized “HRH Austrian” fly casting style. On other fly casting style I’m going to remark where is has advantages in comparison to the Austrian fly casting style. It is certainly advantageous for the fly fishermen to master more than one.

How to grip the flyrod

For the standard trout tackle I recommend the thumb and index finger position. Thumbs and index fingers are above the rod handle, pointing in the direction of the rod axis and touch each other. If the pressure of the forward cast applies to the thumb and index finger would push apart, the grip is right. These rod grip combines the strength and endurance of the thumb with the accuracy of the index finger.

Motions of the fly cast

The arm has three joints that have to be coordinated while fly casting. These are – listed in order of importance for the cast:

  • the shoulder
  • the elbow
  • the wrist

For the fly cast only the shoulder and elbow are important ! Elbow and the shoulder are the “fly casting joints”. These two joints must be coordinated in their movements.

The wrist has the least importance. The reason therefor is the high mobility and the position of the wrist. It is the joint that connects the arm directly to the flyrod. And the big movement is a disadvantage for he fly cast, because a very small movement of the wrist caused a large at the rodtip depending on the length of the flyrod, which is the reason for many casting faults. For this reason it should not be used actively, i.e. it should bring no force themselve into the casting process, but follow the casting motion passively.

Casting With The Fly Tackle

Basic fly cast

The “cast”, both forward-, and the backcast of, can be divided into two phases (1):

  1. The initial phase is used for the controlled and smooth preperation of the cast. This is about 1 / 3 of the casting path. The casting arc is changed only very slightly, i.e. the tip and the butt of the rod are about the same speed (Translation). With this movement the rodtip gets “in contact” with the straightend flyline.
  2. The actual “cast” of the flyline is about the last 2 / 3 of the casting path. The casting arc is changed and increases further the load of the flyrod, i.e. the tip gets a much more higher speed than the butt of the rod (Rotation). At the end of the casting motion is stopped as suddenly, the tail unloads. During these two phases, note the following:
  • The rod tip must travel on a straight path during the backcast as well as the forwardcast – watched from the side and top of view.
  • The cast ends with a crisply stop. Up to the stop an uniform increasing speed is important.
  • Forward- and backcast are initiated when the flyline has stretched itself the air completely. This is called “timing”. Until then, the rod is kept in the stop position or is continued to lead in the casting direction (drift).

The approximately straight path of the rod tip will ensure that the casting power is directed to a punctual target and therefore the flyline goes in a small tight loop in the direction of the cast. In case of a circular movement of the rod tip (so called “windshield wiper”) the energy is not targeted but died on the clamping a big thrown loop.

Motion sequences

The movement of the casting arm are based on the described geometric and dynamic requirements (1):

  1. At the beginning of the backcast  the fly rod is loaded by a uniform increasing speed. At the same time, the elbow is moved a bit downward so that the tip of the rod doesn’t come up too high at the beginning.
  2. From about the middle of the casting path while the flyrod continues increasing the speed the elbow goes up slightly (because of the upward movement of the elbow the tip of the flyrod stays on a straight path untill the end of the cast). If the rod axis is located just behind the vertical (approximately in the 1-clock position), the motion stops (stop).

The forwardcast is almost a mirror image of the backcast. The elbow describes – in contrast to the backcast – a slightly downward line. The forwardcast is taken with a little less pressure than the back cast.

If the casting movement is performed as described, we get the following picture of the flyline:

  • At the backcast the flyline passes the rod under it’s tip by (and is rising up back), the flyline rolls out on a more horizontal plane.
  • At the forwardcast the flyline travels over the tip of the rod, the flyline rolls out in a more vertical plane.

The “power snap”

As described the cast takes place at the end of the movement by changing the casting arc. During this change the loaded flyrod can undergo an additional acceleration that gives flyline more energy. This additional acceleration is called “power snap”. Using the Austrian casting style it comes from the forearm, using the Englisch casting style it comes of the wrist.

The „power snap“ can also be counterproductive if it is running too much. Then waves come into the flyline and prevent its clean roll out. For quick and fast flyrods of the power snap usually is beneficial.

Control of the casting hands

Fly casting means control over the flyline. The flyrod can move the flyline so much controlled as better the flyrod is a natural extension of the forearm (as described in the wrist can cause many faults). So avoid an angle between forearm and the butt of the flyrod by forming a unit between both. This is the case when the grip of the flyrod along its entire length can be felt in the forearm, i.e. the flyrod „rests“ on the forearm. It will also provide the wrist during the backcast because the flyrod “lean” controled on the forearm and the power is transferred directly from the forearm into the flyrod.

The line hand is holding the flyline stretched throughout the hole casting movement. For this reason the line hand must adapt to the movement of the casting hand. To get a feeling for the movement of the line hand during the casting movement, stuck the the flyline with the casting hand onto the rodgrip. The linehand now holds the flyline so that is is stucked during the hole movement and remains equally tensioned. Only when double hauling the line hand developed its own opposite to the casting hand dynamic.

The importance of the line hand is often underestimated. Some casting faults just result from the incorrect use of the line hand.

The backcast and the center

The backcast is underestimated by many fly fishermen. Without a good backcast good forecast is not possible. Only if the line is fully extended straight back, the flyrod can be loaded optimal for the forecast. Each flycaster should specifically train the backcast and check it from time to time by laying down the line behind him. If the line is straight, so the backcast was good. However, if the line isn’t straight, then the backcast was not optimal.

By placing the line on the backcast the direction of the line in relation of the body can be checked. If the flyrod describes a perfectly vertical casting layer and if the flyrod is moved in front of the body, then the line travels “over the head” and comes down just behind the flycaster. In this case the flycaster – viewed from bird’s eye – stays at the center of the cast, i.e. he stays in the path of the line.

The more the flycaster stays at the center of the cast, the more the line could hit his body. For this reason modern casting styles prefer an inclined casting layer (H.R. Hebeisen, for example, recommends a tilted about 45 degrees). In order that the inclined casting layer – again viewed from the bird’s eye – doesn’t curve, the rodtip must travel straight off the side of the body. The line passes the body sidewards and is also located to the side of the flycaster. In this case the flycaster stays not the center of the cast, i.e. the trajectory of the line passes him on the side. Also the backhand cast is made on an inclined casting layer. Then the two casting layers of the normal (forehand-) cast and backhand cast describe a “V” when casting on the same target.

above: the center and the "V" of the fly cast

Fly Casting Faults

Common casting faults

The most common casting faults are:

Casting fault Possible causes
flyline back too deep, fly gets stuck in the grass: Is the wrist tilted too far back (is common using the thumb grip)? Was the rod tip at the beginning of the backcast too high (later the rod tip can then only be performed down)? Speed (and load) of the flyrod too low ?
Fly caught from the flyline (tailing loops): Does the rodtip describes a concave path (upward arch) reported? Is the casting arc is changed  too early maybe already at the beginning of the casting stroke ? Is the acceleration of the rod is not uniform enough (the pressure is too early, the flyrod is “overpowered”)
Wigs of the leader: Was the rodtip back too deep? Does the linehand moves forward during forwardcast (i.e. reduction of the flylinetension and thus the loss of dynamic)? Was the flyrod moved foreward during the flyline still continued stretching herself back ? Bad Timing !

The “fine” casting faults

At the more skilled casters casting faults are often revealed only when a long flyline is casted, because the long flyline requires a high degree of fine motor skills in the movement. This casting faults make themselves felt that the flyline does not roll out perfectly in the air, but forms waves and bulges, which occur mostly at the end of the flyline. Primarily, this picture comes through a loop of non-uniform acceleration of the rod tip (active wrist movement), what cause a the non-uniform casting path ((short term) leaving the straight line) or / and asynchronous coordination between the line- und casting hand.

The aim must be that the flyline rolls out uniformly to its end, in small loops as possible! This can be achieved only through a uniform casting movement. It is recommended to present the own cast an experienced flycaster, if possible with video and record it to investigate the described errors.

Casting faults on purpose

Flycasters that can cast a fault image loop on purpose, have over flycasters who can not, a big advantage: they have internalized the reasons why a loop sometime is not properly developed. Who can cast bad loops has permeated the casting mechanics and is able not only to correct himself, but also correct faults of other casters. This capability increases the safety of each flycaster. For a deeper understanding of the mechanics, it is constantly to put up with the faulty mechanics practically throw apart.

Advanced Fly Casting Techniques

The following described advanced casting techniques share the best possible control of the basic form of the flycast forward.

The tip of the rod casts the flyline

In most disciplines the throw object, such as a javelin, is thrown by the hand directly. When fly casting there is a flexible flyrod located between the hand and the flyline as the throwing object. The flyrod offers a great help to flyline far – if used correctly, i.e. loaded optimally.To clarify the mode of action can cause the following consideration: suppose the flyline is the javelin and the rodtip the hand that throws it. Then it becomes clear why the tip of the flyrod should describe a straigh path and its acceleration should be uniform during casting. I’ve never seen a javelin which would have flown much by using a round commuting and non-uniform acceleration.

So it is very helpful to watch the rod tip during the flycast. If you find the rodtip is moved too quickly, you can wrap them with a luminous tape.

The double haul

The double haul shouldn’t be missed in the repertoire of any fly fisherman. However, it is essential to master the basic cast almost perfectly before you start double hauling, because the double haul can keep casting faults hidden in the ground.

With the double haul, the cast will be increased significantly because the casting arc can kept small what causes a small loop even by false casting a longer flyline. The casting arc can be kept small because the double haul loads the flyrod more.

The double haul achieves an additional casting path, which increases the load the rod achieves by travelling along its casting path – if it is used right. Essential for the optimal efficiency is that the rodhand and the linehand travel in a opposite direction to the eatch other! I.e.

  • the line hand passes behind the body axis during the foreward cast, according the opposite during the backcast
  • the acceleration of the line hand rises to the same extent with the acceleration of the rodtip.

The double haul was already described in many books over fly fishing, which is why I do not discuss it in more detail (1). In order to understand the effect of the double haul better, I created the drawing below.

above: function of the double haul

Guiding the flyrod

In addition to the above parameters, the controlled movement of the flyrod is largely responsible for the development of the loop. The more controlled the flyrod is moved between stops (guiding the flyrod), the more controlled (i.e. wavefree !) the flyline rolls out.

Guiding the flyrod covers the hole phase of the fly cast, but the guidance of the flyrod between and after the stop points has a different meaning: the guidance between the stops is important for the uniform acceleration of the flyline; the guidance after the stop is important for the loops development.

The optimal guidance of the flyrod between the stops is a constant, uniform motion. This includes in particular

  • The tip of the flyrod should move approximately on a straight path (geometric part of the flycast).
  • The speed between the stopp points should increase uniform (dynamic part of the flycast).

The optimal guidance of the flyrod after the stop damps the cast. The faster the vibrations of the rod tip can be reduced, the more quiet the flyline rolls out. The flyrod unloads at the stop by the tip goes through its rest position and bends further in the casting direction. This reloading must be unloaded by the tip of the flyrod swings back again. Just from this point on, the flyrod can be damped actively. The optimal damping of the flyrod is reached when the rod tip oscillates back into its rest position and do not go again through its rest position. Without damping the rod tip would swing once again through its rest position, which causes waves in the flyline. The best way to achieve damping is by doing following immediately after the stop:

  • guide the rod tip up slightly – in the same direction in which the tip of the flyrod swings back
  • reduce the pressure on the hand grip of the flyrod.

With optimal motions of these measures the swing-back movement of the flyrod will be prevented, so that flyline rolls out wave-free. In addition the described guidance of the flyrod after the stop abets also two other parameters of the flycast:

  1. the casting geometry is optimized. The lengh of the casting path increased (drifting) and the casting arc can be reduced.
  2. the upwards guided rod tip “tightens the loop”, i.e. the loop becomes faster and smaller.

The guidance of the flyrod comes out of the forearm. If the wrist is used (too much), the guide movement of the forearm is not enough transfered in the flyrod. For the advanced casters the guidance of the flyrod is the key to improve their flycast by reducing power and increasing the casted length.

above: the guiding of the flyrod

Optimizing the shoulder and body motion

The „austrian castingstyle“, with was created by Hans Gebetsroither, allows to cast with a high controlled body movement. The fly cast does not come only from the arm movement, but is transferred from the shoulder into the arm at least in the rod. The wrist is not (actively) used, forearm and rod form a straight line.

The movement of the shoulder can be optimized, if the upper body in used right at the beginning of the fly cast. The cast starts in the slower, stronger muscles of the upper body and passes over to the quicker, less stronger muslces of the shoulder and the arm into the rod. The movement of the body goes ahead. As soon as the upper body starts the movement, a harmonised shoulder and the elbow move the rod to the upper body without changing the casting arc (i.e. the grip und the tip of the rod possesses the same speed). The upper body takes up the shoulder movement and continue until the shoulder takes the movement up again and guides it foreward to the arm and finally to the rod.

By going ahead the upper body generates a tension across the shoulder joint to the rod. The tension effects a pressure, that loads the rod right at the beginning of the fly cast much better. It is important, that the change of the casting arc is delayed at the same time. The more the movement of the upper body goes ahead, the more the tension that can be generated between the body and the rod ! Sportsman of distance casting disciplines (f.e. javelin-cast) move like that. At the beginning of the cast they move their body in the direction of the cast and the delay between the movement of the body and the shoulder, arm they generate a tension. This is also important within the fly cast.

The movement of the body has to follow the principles of the fly cast, such as the uniform acceleration and the straight path of the rodtip. A stretch movement supports the body best to maintain these principles.

Distance Fly Casting

The long cast with the flyrod

For the distance fly cast over 27 meters with conventional WF and DT flylines, it is essential to falsecast a good of 23 meters flyline by with a narrow, quiet (i.e. “wave-free”) loop in the air. Special importance is the development of the loop at the backcast: only if the loop rolls out complete to its end and the flyline can enlarge complete. This causes that the flyline starts to pull on the tip of the flyrod during its roll out movement resulting the loading for the forwardcast substantially increase. Only the smooth, continuous roll out of the flyline with tight loops over its entire length is essential! This can be achieved by any fly casting style.

The falsecast movement at the forward- an the backcast are almost identical when casting to distance, so that the shape of the loop looks same in both casting directions. Moreover, the flyline – seen from the bird’s and sideview– should travel at the high of the rod tip, when the rod is in its stop position. If the flyline passes the tip of the rod too far, the energy can’t  be implemented optimally, i.e. directly in the flyline. If the flyline developed too little pull at the backcast it is running not optimally (in this cast it should be trained to lay down the flyline fully streched to the rear. Only when the long flyline streches over its hole lenght the backcast is suitable fort he distance cast).

The smooth, continuous roll-out of the long flyline in tight loops makes high demands on the geometry and dynamic of the flycast. Geometry: it is important that the rod tip travels not only from the side view but also from the bird perspective, on a straight line between the stop points. In particular, during the greatest acceleration just before the stop if the change in the casing arc is greatest, the tip of the rod must travel exactly on a straight path. Even a very small movement away from the straight path at the end of the cast produces undynamic loops (tailing loops, open loops etc.). Often the tip of the rod makes exactly this unwanted movement when the rod is rotated about its axis during the end of the cast. This is the case when the fly roll axis points in different direction at the stop positions (which is found frequently by using the thumb grip). Dynamics: it is necessary that the flyline is fully extended, both in the forward- and the backcast, before the counter movement is initiated (exact timing!). Absolutely essential is the uniform increase of the speed at the same time onto the stop ! The speed of the rodtip should be high at the stop.

The relevance of the line hand is essential. The distance fly cast comes mainly from the line hand, that runs the double haul witch increases the line speed and the load the flyrod. Particularly important is the synchronous interaction between the line and rod hand: when the rod hand changes the casting arc, the pull of the line hand is greatest accordingly fastest. The rod hand is essentially responsible for the clean and smooth guidance of the flyrod.

Essential for the distance cast is further more that the loop rolls out on a vertical layer. This causes that the flyline travels high up in the air even falsecasting longer flylines, which is fundamental for the distance cast. N.C. Perkins described the reasons for this here.

To achieve this loop picture, the flycaster must always find the optimal casting layer that fits to him. Most flycasters find them in a more vertical layer, as this layer can produce the described loop most easily. The vertical layer also supports the tracking (absolute straight path of the tip of the rod) even more, for the tournament distance fly cast a must. For a distance fly cast used in practical fishing a vertical casting layer is not optimal because the fly with its hook close passes close to the body. The ambitious fly fisher and caster is going to achieve a distance cast with also more inclined casting layers to keep the flies away from the body.

Like any sport witch comes to distance the whole body should be involved in the movement. So it is at the distance fly cast too: the tension for the fly cast starts in the lower body and moves over the shoulder in the arm and comes finally into the rod. It can be said that the cast starts in the slower and stronger muscles and passes over into the faster and less powerfull muscles.

It is beneficial to involve the body more with a stretch- instead a rotation movement in the distance fly cast. The stretching movement supports the caster to travel a very straight path with the rod tip (tracking). A hollow back at the end of the backcast is a good indicator, that the body went through a stretch movement. Further more the caster can control the straight path of the rodtip while he goes through with the stretching movement.

One of the most common distance casting faults is the tailing loop appearing at the end of the flyline. In addition to the aforementioned reasons for the appearence of a tailing loops, there are two other reasons especially when casting for distance. On the one hand the rod and line hand do not work together synchronously (see also double haul) or on the other hand the casting arc is kept too small. In case of the last reason the concave path of the rod tip is again responsible: because at the distance cast the load of the rod is higher, the flyrod bends more. This is the rod tip moves down further, the flyrod „is shortened“.

If the stop comes now too early the flyrod unloads the highly loaded rod in the manner that the rod tip descibes a concave path – what produces tailing loops as known. The more opened casting arc (the very strong charge can require a stopp position at 3 o’clock on the backcast) takes care of the greater rod bending during distance casting that causes not necessarily an open, wide loop, because the rod tip describes a straight path again. Especially with softer flyrods that bend much more by providing the same work in comparison to a faster flyrod, the increasing of the casting arc can often increase the casting success.

Summarizing, the movement is to optimize the effect that

  • changing the casting arc should always take place at the end of the casting motion, as delayed as possible (“late butt rotation“),
  • changing the casting arc is quickly made and the pull of the line hand occurs absolutely syncron to the change of the casting arc,
  • the body is involved in the cast more with a stretch- than a rotation movement,
  • the casting layer of the flyrod is placed in a almost vertical position,
  • the flyline travels close to the rod tip during the rod lays in its stop position,
  • the tracking especially immediately before the stop is ensured
  • swing motions of the flyrod end of the cast should be damped (guiding the flyrod, drift)

…read more here (by using google translate)…


(1) the water color pictures are taken from the book “Faszination Fliegenfischen” by H.R. Hebeisen. I thank for his permission to publish them.

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