Fly Casting Rules
- the essentials for beginners

Fishing instructor, fly fishing tuition and fishing trips based in Scotland. Salmon and trout fishing advice, flies and articles.
fly fishing brochure

Fundamentals of good fly casting.

Single Spey cast
Single Spey cast

You don't have to be good at fly casting to catch fish but very few bad casters catch many fish and good fly casting is part of the satisfaction and enjoyment of fly fishing. Fly casting is easy if you satisfy the physics related to the method being attempted and fortunately the physics is simplified by observing a few basic rules. I call these rules of substance because they are facts of nature, laws of physics and natural forces such as gravity. Style is a different thing, we each may move differently, our bodies are different, our senses and timing skills are different and we cope with tasks in the manner that we think is best for us. It is the job of the fly fishing instructor or fishing coach to point out improvements to style that may be beneficial to you but only after he/she is happy that you are complying with the basic rules of casting, the rules of substance. Every decent cast ever made, overhead cast, spey cast, roll cast, side cast, switch cast, underhand cast, etc. complies with these rules and they form the basis for teaching fly casting in fishing schools.

Casting Rules (rules, knots, flies and more information is available in the brochure).

  1. Start with the line straight or organised. Just as it is impossible to pull a car with a slack tow rope it is impossible to move a fly with a slack line. If the line is not straight movement is wasted to straighten it and your effort is not only wasted, you have now got the rod in a bad place to start. Always start tight and this of course applies whether your line is on the water, in the air or formed into a roll casting D loop. If the fly moves when the rod tip moves a little the line is sufficiently organised.
  2. Every casting stroke is a smooth acceleration followed by a stop. In this context acceleration can be interpreted as meaning that the rod pulls all the line, all the time throughout the cast. The "cast" completes when the rod stops. The acceleration bends the rod and loads it as a spring. Whilst it is accelerating the bend increases, when it stops the rod recovers and straightens, it is the stop that transfers the stored (potential) energy from the spring (rod) to the line adding it to the (kinetic) energy already possessed by the line and thereby makes the cast. That is why descriptions "like flicking paint off a brush" are applicable to casting. Most people understand that action and can replicate it. The better the "stop" the better it goes because the energy transfer is more efficient if the rod is stopped abruptly.
  3. The line always follows the rod tip and when the rod stops the line projects in the direction that the rod tip was going in when the stop was made. This is perhaps the least understood rule but it is absolutely fundamental to the construction of every casting technique. Every direction that the line takes was produced by movement the rod tip. This is so obvious and equally obviously, often forgotten! If you want your line to go in a straight line - make the rod tip move in a straight line, the direction of the line is the same as the direction of the rod tip and the same thing goes for circles or parts of circles, eclipses or any other shape that can support continuous motion for the duration of a casting stroke.

There are of course many very important rules for good style that will help you to make the best use of casting physics. I am not including them here because the result would be totally confusing for most since their application is solely dependant upon diagnosis of the problem and that is best left to instructors or tutors on the ground and any good instructor will be able to advise. Some indirect reference to these rules is made in the pages relating to different casting methods. If you would like to know the secrets of fly casting, contact me to arrange fly fishing instruction or attend one of my fly fishing courses.

top of page
Copyright 2007 Alastair Gowans AAPGAI and FFF Master and THCI, APGAI. All rights reserved.