Fix Your Tailing Loops Once and For All

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Perfect Loop by Kent Klewein Photo by Louis Cahill

Perfect Loop by Kent Klewein Photo by Louis Cahill

By Louis Cahill

 Tailing loops are maybe the most common problem in fly casting and they are remarkably easy to fix.

During our last Bonefish School in the Bahamas we had a great conversation about tailing loops with good friend Michael White. Whitie’s approach to fixing tailing loops is so concise and on point, you could watch our anglers’ casts improve before your eyes. Guys who had been plagued by tailing loops for years seemed cured like the faithful in a revival tent.

Tailing loops are simple, if you don’t get mired down in the physics. There are two things that cause them and most anglers who throw tailing loops do both. The real key to solving the tailing loop quandary is to relax and take a deep breath.

 The two causes of tailing loops

 The Jackrabbit Start

The casting stroke requires a smooth application of power to an abrupt start. We’ve all heard that but for some reason it goes straight out of our heads when we start trying to add distance to our cast or turn over our leader. We revert to the first thing our muscles ever learned about throwing something farther. Throw harder and faster. That works with balls but not with fly lines. We end up trying to fix problems with our technique by adding power and more bad technique. You can see where this is headed, right?

I like Lefty Kreh’s analogy for a good casting stroke. It’s the same action you would use if you were trying to throw wet paint off of a brush. You’d start smooth, no jarring motion to slop the paint back on you, then you’d speed up once the whole thing is in motion. Finally you’d stop hard to send the paint flying. This is nothing new but it’s a brilliant metaphor. Your arm understands it.



The second cause of tailing loops is creep. Creep is when you start inching your rod forward before your line fully straightens out behind you. Ironically, creep is often caused by anxiety about your jackrabbit start. Creeping leaves you with a shortened stroke once your line does straighten and, in an effort to power the line, most anglers return to the jackrabbit start. This is what make tailing loops such a devilment. It turns into a vicious cycle.

Fixing creep is easy. Just watch your line and wait for it to fully straighten out before beginning your stroke. Be very mindful of not moving your rod tip as the loop unrolls. Your rod tip should be a steady anchor, which the line pulls against. This is what keeps energy in the system and prevents slack. A happy side effect is that you will instantly see your casting distance increase as slack is taken out of the system. Your leader will start to lay out straight as well.

Fixing tailing loops is easy. It just takes a little focus and practice. It’s like most things in life. When things are going badly, take a deep breath, slow down and pay attention. You’ll be more relaxed and your loops will be more energized.

Louis Cahill
Gink & Gasoline
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20 thoughts on “Fix Your Tailing Loops Once and For All

  1. Great tips. I find myself getting tailing loops at the end of a long day on the water or during periods of frustration. Always important to take a step back and think about what you’re doing.

  2. This is why I love glass rods, it in part fixes both faults by loading slower and then allowing you to feel the line as it straightens in the back cast.

  3. Thanks for the tips! My problem is with creep caused by a shortened back casting lane/area and other confined quarters. With obstructions behind I don’t feel like I can let the back cast straighten fully before I have to start the forward cast, which opens up the loop and adds slack. Using heavily weighted flies on ultralight lines exacerbates the tailing loop problem.

  4. Editorial:
    ‘The casting stroke requires a smooth application of power to an abrupt start.’ => last word should be ‘stop’.

    I see many students with the current (ultra) fast rods have more problems with tailing loop than ones with a more moderate action rod.

    The creep is probably one of the result of a major problem in casting in general. Many cast the same arc whether casting short, mid length or long casts. Trying to cast a long(ish) line with a small arc (pizza part) makes it (tailing loop) happen. make the arc larger (large pizza part).

  5. Great Article Louis! I agree with the comment above as I begin noticing tailing loops during the end of the day when I’m becoming tired especially if the fish are not cooperating. These are great tips and easy to remember while on the water.


  6. Excellent advise. This is the most clearly stated explanation on how tailing loops are created. Some try to explain it’s from the rod not keeping a level plane during the casting stroke, (which is sometimes true), but yours is dead on. For inexperienced casters, this is usually part of a myriad of other errors they are committing. However, these errors happen to good casters when they get tired or frustrated. Which is a vicious cycle. You throw a tailing loop and you get more frustrated. Your last paragraph is an excellent reminder of how to stop the cycle, and a reminder of why we choose fly fishing over chucking bait.

  7. I have had success and have taught many to use my cell phone technique.
    The reel is a cell phone…it rings…you pull it back to your ear and say”hello”then say “this ones for you.”on you ,you cast the rod straight forward and stop it at arm length.keep it straight up,and you will see the line passing you in the air.

  8. For those that still have issues with creep, due to casting quarters… pick up or try a friend’s switch or spey rod. I can get out there without ever having the D loop pass behind me. Great tools for tighter quarters, where a backcast isn’t possible.

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