Fly Rod Grip – Keep it Consistent

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Fly Rod Grip – Keep it Consistent. Photo Louis Cahill

A common mistake that I see with many of my first timers is they fail to keep a consistent fly rod grip when they’re first learning how to cast a fly rod. Without notice, they often shuffle their rod hand around on the cork, which ends up altering their grip slightly from one cast to the next. Probably the most common grip movement I see with my students is they reposition the thumb during the casting stroke. To be more specific, they slide their thumb off the top of the cork to the side of the cork, and it causes problems with casting form, makes it more difficult to abruptly stop the rod at the end of the back cast and forward cast, it seems to make it harder for anglers to feel the fly rod loading, and direct a cast to a designated target. I’m always quick to point out the thumb grip position error, but I’ve yet to come up with an explanation of why it comes up time and time again with my beginners. Perhaps it’s feels more comfortable to them, and maybe when I see the thumb sliding off to the side of the cork I should take it as a clue for me to suggest students to try a true v-grip or palm out fly rod grip instead. Regardless of why it happens or how I proceed with my instruction, the most important point that should be heard loud and clear to all newcomers, is good fly casting form and accurate fly presentation all starts with a fly rod grip that’s consistent from one cast to the next. I like to think of a proper fly rod grip as the foundation for fly casting. Once an angler has that, they then can focus their attention on developing good casting mechanics and form. At that point, they should feel comfortable experimenting with other fly rod grips like the index finger grip or the v-grip which can sometimes prove to be better grip choices for certain fly fishing situations on the water.

If you’re new to casting a fly rod, the next time you’re on the water and notice your fly casting isn’t up to par, try taking a close look at your fly rod grip because there’s a good chance it could be the root of the problem. Gripping a fly rod incorrectly can contribute to multiple casting flaws, encourage bad habits, which will limit skill growth.

Keep it Reel,

Come fish with us in the Bahamas!

Kent Klewein
Gink & Gasoline
www.ginkandgasoline.com
hookups@ginkandgasoline.com
 
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17 thoughts on “Fly Rod Grip – Keep it Consistent

  1. I used to play golf a ton, and anytime I ever had issues with my swing, I would go straight to my grip. In my opinion it’s the foundation of your swing. Crappy grip = crappy shots. If my grip was off, then so was my setup, my take away, and so on. And often, as soon as I fixed the problem with my grip, I was good to go. It’s the basics that make the huge differences in things like your golf swing, or your fly casting.
    I use the the traditional “thumb on top” grip with my fly rod, however when you guys posted the “V-grip” I tried it out and it’s now my go-to grip for line speed and distance. It takes a little effort to get used to it, but it really does make a wicked difference for me. It’s my grip when I’m fishing the salt or throwing bigger flies at bass and trout. I definitely reccommend looking it up and giving it a try.
    Great post Kent!

    • Justin,

      One thing I noticed with both the index finger and v-grip is that It naturally cut down on rotation during my back cast. Basically, both those grips make it harder to turn out the wrist. Have you or anyone else noticed this also?

      Kent

      • You’re very right. It’s really hard to rotate your wrists with both of these grips. I just tried it (yea I know its 3:15 am). You can do it, but you really have to think about it, and even then it’s kind of counter-productive.

  2. Depending on my rod~ my 3wt in particular, I use the fore-finger on top for a little more finesse. I do switch up my grip on my 5 weight thru 9/11 weight, these heavier rods can require a stiffer grip to throw some heavier flies into the wind. The best form is the V-shape and I have noticed when teaching new fly anglers, they either choke way too far up the rod handle and throw off the balance or they slip the wrist all the way down to the reel base, which looks uncomfortable and throws nothing but sloppy pile casts. First thing I look at and work on, is the rod grip, it is the basis of a good cast and casting technique…
    Tight Lines,
    Koz

    • Brian,

      Awesome comment that I found very helpful and I’m sure many others will as well. Thanks for your support and expertise day in and day out. It really adds a lot of value to the readers.

      Kent

  3. When working with new casters, I try to encourage good habits and keep it to about 4, so they are easy to remember for the student. First good habit, is a good grip. Thumb on top. Unless it’s a young kid, then I encourage them to use two hands. But I found that explaining to newbies that it’s a “good habit” gives them a personal checklist to run through when they see that their cast is not performing as it should…they can fix it themselves. I believe Bruce Richards said, “fixing the hand, fixes the rod, fixes the line.”

  4. Kent, Your points are well taken, consistency of where you hold the rod is very important, but a grip that is too tight has many negative impacts on casting also.

    Sam Sneed, (probably the best “pure golfer” in the world), once answered the question: How do you hold a golf club? He said;”Like a little baby chick, firmly but not tight”.

    I see anglers every day in my boat gripping the rod so tightly they develop carpel tunnel syndrome symptoms and I have to remind them not to use their “Darth Vader Death Grip” on the rod.

    Fatigue is a huge factor, especially when casting big rods and big flies for Musky all day long. It is important to make the distinction between a comfortable, firm grip and one that is too tight and will fatigue the caster too quickly.

    Lefty taught me years ago how to accomplish this, today, you could almost rip the rod out of my hand while I’m retrieving, yet a fish never will; a firm, but gentle grip is necessary to good form as well.

    • Bill,

      I intentionally left out the tip on not holding the grip too tight and just focuses on consistency. There’s lots of great casters and instructors that read G&G and I knew without a doubt one of you would bring it up.

      It really shows how great our community is and the great knowledge together that we have. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, the G&G community is like one giant team of anglers sharing and helping one another with advice when its needed. That’s really cool and I thank you all for taking the time to leave comments.

      Kent

  5. My observation is that hand size plays a big role in what grip works best. I have hands like a catchers mitt and big thick wrists, so the “V” grip works best for me for both finesse / control and for casting distance. Several of my fishing friends with medium sized hands have noticed my grip and tried it and it wasn’t effective or comfortable for them.

  6. What a great post and comment thread! Down here on the coast I have noticed that my students deal with the same issue of shuffling hand placement, and it often takes several gentle corrections before they realize that paying attention to how they grip the cork can pay big dividends. In my opinion this is especially true when dealing with the higher (therefore heavier) rod weights that we often use. Really great to see so many instructors weighing in on this one.

    • Austin,

      Thank you for taking the time to weigh in yourself. Great point about the larger weight rods. I am so proud to have such respected authorities on casting instruction chiming in on this post.

      Kent

  7. Now I am going to have to look up the different grips and their uses.
    You bring up a very good point that I have never thought of or heard anyone talk about. This could really help with my casting.

    Thanks
    Mike

  8. I never ever thought about grip until I saw Lefty’s video. I tried the “thumb on top” but it felt very awkward and I didn’t like it. I “self taught” myself the V-grip many years ago and use it every time I fish.

    It occurs to me I hold hammers, screwdrivers, and Hockey sticks the same way.

    Great discussion!

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