Fly Casting Made Simple

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Photo by Louis Cahill

Photo by Louis Cahill

By Louis Cahill

Here are three down and dirty fly casting tips that will fix 90% of your casting problems.

It’s difficult enough showing someone how to cast. Explaining it is even more challenging. Writing about it is another thing entirely. It’s no wonder that most articles on fly casting, including my own, run novel length and frequently spiral out of control. Today I’m going to try and focus on the meat of the issue. The three common problems which most casters struggle with. A Jack Web, “Just the facts ma’am,” approach that I promise will help your casting.

The three most common mistakes in fly casting.

Dropping the tip

Often a remnant of early years spin fishing, dropping your rod tip on your presentation is something most anglers do. The idea that the presentation cast is somehow different from the false casts made when working out line is a hard notion to let go of. It should, in fact, be exactly the same.

When false casting, you let the line straighten out fully before beginning the next casting stroke. Whether the line is in front, or behind you makes no difference. You wait for the line to straighten. The same thing is true of the presentation cast. That static rod tip acts as the anchor which keeps the energy in the line. Drop the tip too soon and you put slack in the system. The energy is lost and the leader piles up on itself.

Try exaggerating this pause. Hold your rod tip still at the end of your stroke and watch the line straighten. Don’t move the tip of the rod until the fly begins to fall. You’ll see how the system straightens out nicely every time. You can easily work your timing back from this point to where the fly and line land on the water at the same time.

Deviating from a straight line path

One of the essentials of a good fly cast is that the rod tip must travel in a straight line. This is the only way to make a tight, energized loop. It is very common for anglers to make a big arc with their rod tip when casting. Since the fly line follows the path of the rod tip, this results in a big round loop which piles up when it lands.

Look at your loop in the air. If it is not nice and flat, with the two legs of the line parallel, your rod tip is not traveling in a straight line. Watch your rod tip as you cast. Picture a power line, if one isn’t already there. Trace the line with your rod tip. Once you get your tip tracking in a straight line, your loop will flatten out and tighten up.

Blowing the timing

This is most commonly seen as creep. Creep is starting the casting stroke (forward or back) before the fly line has straightened out, and it is the most common cause of tailing loops. Your brain tells you that you’re casting harder, or faster, and there should be more power as a result but the opposite is true. If the line has not straightened, you do not have the weight of the line to load the rod, and fly casting is all about loading the rod, not adding power with your arm.

If you are tailing loops or your cast seems anemic, it’s very likely you are creeping. It’s also possible you have drift, which is when you let your line straighten, then rear back like you’re going to throw a baseball. Both are timing issues and it’s important to note that this timing applies to both your casting stroke and your haul. Read more HERE.


I see these three mistakes all the time.

There are, of course, all kinds of things that can go wrong with a fly cast, but these are the ones that most anglers struggle with. If you’re having issues with your casting, try a simple diagnostic test. Make sure you are doing these three things correctly. I’ll bet it helps.

Here’s a great video of Tim Rajeff showing his casting practice routine. Do Tim’s exercises a couple of times a week and it will fix most casting problems.

Louis Cahill
Gink & Gasoline
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6 thoughts on “Fly Casting Made Simple

  1. I disagree that creep is the most common cause of tailing loops. Creep is one cause of insufficient casting arc for the bend in the rod. The result is that we jam too much acceleration into too short an arc causing the rod tip to dip, the consequence is a tailing loop. I teach several hundred people a year and I would say that without question the most common cause of a tailing loop is a misapplied acceleration which causes the rod tip to dip. You don’t need creep to do that. “Hammer hand’ is the term I use.

  2. As a guy who only can get out 5-7 times a year, I’m good enough to be dangerous, but I get into bad habits quickly, and the finer points or “nuances” I never seem to get to…that being said, I’m getting pretty decent with the single haul. Would love to hear from you on tips for the double haul…I simply don’t seem to be able to nail it with consistency. I love fishing still water with my tube, but I feel I’m really missing opportunities by not mastering the double haul.

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