Fly Casting- Tailing Loops, a visual explanation

film-stills casting sequence performed by Paul Arden.

a lot can, has and will be said about tailing loops but before adding more  i thought it would be of interest to look at this frame by frame sequence because the elements leading to tailing loops are hard to see in real time even when we’re casting slowly and diagrams are often suited to taste. not only is it cool to look at but it should help understand this loop’s cause and dynamics. enjoy !

NOTE- the comment section at the bottom of the post is well worth the read. as always, Aitor’s wisdom helps me understand what i thought i understood…

41 thoughts on “Fly Casting- Tailing Loops, a visual explanation

  1. well, i don’t see a significant dip in those specific frames. it’s hard to be exact but using the background trees as a reference point, the rod tip is basically traveling in a straight line.

    up till now, the most comprehensive list of tailing loop causes counts seven elements and two of those aren’t connected to rod tip path. i’ll find the document and post them here as soon as i find it in my casting folders mess…

    let’s keep in mind that the pic above isn’t the typical everyday tailing loop and it’s demonstrated by one of the best casters in the World and i chose it for this purpose, not as a ‘trick question’, but as a complex example.

    • my mistake then. I still feel the rod tip at max bend (that would be pic #8) is lower than before/after, but I’m not really used to measure that kind of stuff and I just may be imagining it.

      • it’s not a mistake Amigo ! it’s just that TLs can be a bit more complex than the usual ‘concave path of the rod tip’ explanation. of course, that’s basically the BIG ONE but we have several elements leading to that and they can also be combined which makes it all the more fun ! 😆

  2. from Paul’s Front Page 31.10.2011

    “The way I now understand it, is the tailing loop is a transverse wave in the fly leg, which travels along the fly leg under tension towards the fly end, while the loop propagates. This can be caused by
    1) too narrow a Casting Arc for the rod bend
    2) Creep resulting in too narrow a Casting Arc for the rod bend
    3) uneven/jerky application of force
    4) finishing the haul too soon
    5) breaking the 180 degree rule… as well as
    6) Slack Line and
    – possibly –
    7) line layout configuration at Loop Straight on the backcast,
    which Aitor showed me last month in Spain.

    1, 2, 3, 4 and 6 all involve a concave or buckled path of the rod tip during the Casting Stroke.

    5 and 7 are independent of tip path.”

    pretty interesting, huh ?
    no7 is new to me and explains a lot i hadn’t figured out or heard of yet.
    just to add a personal note, many of us consider no3 to be the main or most common cause of TLs and 1 and 6 (usually combined… ) come in next.

    cheers,
    marc

    • I see you. reading the list I thought ‘those guys have me all figured out.” I’m all for 3 and 6, actually I think that Jerky Slack may have been my birth name.
      boy, I need to work.

      • well, at least i’ll know what to call you now ! haha !

        as far as the work goes, it might make you feel better to know that all of the “übers” as you call them feel like they have a long way to go. (at least among those i respect or consider colleagues)
        that’s the beauty of fly fishing, fly tying and fly casting. some people might be better than others in some areas but nobody’s an expert at everything. it’s an endless road.

    • Just found this,
      Number 7 that I showed to Paul isn’t a tailing loop… because it isn’t produced by an anomaly in the rod tip path.
      What I said to him is that some line configurations look like tails but aren’t.
      In this case the origin is line dangle:

  3. Like Walton famously said: “Angling may be said to be so like the Mathematics that it can never be fully learned.”

    you pushed me in a good direction marc. with all I read these days in mind, I’m going to really try to assess (some of) my faults today.

  4. thanks Monsieur Slack ! trying to help is what it’s all about.
    i’ll have something special for you today on casting fault analysis. of course, it doesn’t have to be about faults only, it was named that way but it works the other way around as well. 😎

  5. Maybe the most common cause of TL’s is creep, IMO. It makes all sorts of bad things happen, like shortening the effective stroke length and punching on the forward throw to compensate for the shortened stroke. Get that back cast straight out behind you, and more or less in a 180 degree plane, and everything follows nicely. In Paul’s sequence he stops (‘shocks’) the rod so hard on the short forward stroke that the tip bounces back considerably, even though his back cast appears to be a good one and there’s no obvious creep.

    • hey Bob, thanks for your comment.
      yup, creep is a creep for sure ! :mrgreen:
      if you scroll up in the comment section you’ll see a (probably non-exhaustive) list of possible reasons for TLs. a pretty wide consensus among instructors designates improper power application (in itself) as the major cause but of course that fits in perfectly with creep. in fact, a lot of these ‘faults’ combine, but i guess that’s just to make it harder on us to diagnose exactly…. 😆
      cheers,
      marc

      • Since I’ve been hanging with FFF casting instructors, I’ve noticed that almost everyone but them has a creep issue. Especially old guys, because almost none of them have the ‘5 essentials’ nailed, don’t know it, and won’t seek advice. Leads to all sorts of funky stuff.

  6. “thanks for that Aitor. i was wondering what took you so long…”

    Humm… tiredom? 🙂

    The question about this issue of tailing loops is that only three points of that list are actually able of causing tails, and not always.
    In the case of breaking the 180 rule… never… if you don’t drastically and purposefully reduce your casting angle.

    When demoing tails all instructors I have seen so far cheat to produce them: the tail demoed isn’t the result of the fault being demonstrated.

    • “In the case of breaking the 180 rule… never… ”
      sorry but i disagree. this happens quite a bit with anglers that have been taught the 10 to 1 or whatever o’clock ‘rule’ when they cast longer lengths of line without increasing the casting arc.

      care to give us those three ‘sometimes’ valid points ?

      “When demoing tails all instructors I have seen so far cheat to produce them: the tail demoed isn’t the result of the fault being demonstrated.”
      completely agree. to demonstrate real TLs i need to greatly lengthen the line carry and discreetly (lightly) include something like improper power application etc.
      of course, if i want to make real, honest tails i just lengthen line carry more and they’ll usually happen by themselves… :mrgreen:

      • Quote:
        ““In the case of breaking the 180 rule… never… ”
        sorry but i disagree. this happens quite a bit with anglers that have been taught the 10 to 1 or whatever o’clock ‘rule’ when they cast longer lengths of line without increasing the casting arc.”

        I don’t see the relationship between keeping the 10 to 1 casting angle when increasing carry and the violation of the 180 rule.

        I have never seen a caster violating the 180 in the way demonstrated by instructors. Never. Those demos produce a tail not due to the 180 but due to an incredibly reduced casting angle.

        A very common way of teaching the puddle cast is by means of a horizontal backcast followed by an upward directed forward cast. The 180 is violated and we get no tail, provided that you are accelerating properly.

    • 😆

      “I don’t see the relationship between keeping the 10 to 1 casting angle when increasing carry and the violation of the 180 rule.”

      i know what you’re referring to but i do see it. and i’m not talking about good casters but people who are just starting or others who have never bothered to expand their skills.
      as an example this happens a lot to fishers who have fished rivers and go to lakes where the casts are often longer. they’re trying to carry more line but not changing all the other aspects of the cast they’re used to doing with shorter casts.
      simples !

      • People just starting, or “false beginners” for that matter, violate the 180º rule… but just the opposite way: much more than 180º.

        Trying to cast longer without increasing the casting angle is problem number 1 in the list above. Nothing to do with 180º rule then.

        I see that I must shoot a video casting with much less than 180º between backcast and forward cast lines. How many casts without tails do you want me to make? 😀

  7. Got this from you by email, I can’t see it here though:

    “and to get back to your puddle cast example, “provided that you are accelerating properly” or rather the opposite, is what’s making them tail.”

    Again improper acceleration is point number 3 in the list above, not point 5 (breaking the 180º rule).

    “I see that I must shoot a video casting with much less than 180º between backcast and forward cast lines. How many casts without tails do you want me to make? 😀

    “pointless ! because you’ll be doing all this on purpose and you’re an expert caster. it’ll be fake… ;-)”

    You don’t get my point, Marc:
    No puddle cast worth that name is made without breaking the 180º rule.
    Breaking the 180º doesn’t make you to accelerate improperly.

    Well, now you see why I didn’t jump in before. It won’t happen again. 🙂

    • i took that away because it didn’t make sense and i would have had to write all afternoon to connect it to a ‘standard’ cast, not a puddle… 😆
      i understand (at least i think… ) what you’re saying and agree. all this would be over in 2 minutes if we where talking about it face to face. 😉 and no, you don’t have to issue threats ! this isn’t SL !!! 😆

  8. Aitor, since posting this article i’ve realise of course that the image sequence shouldn’t have used as a serious analysis of TLs since it’s ‘faked’. i had been thinking about the pros and cons of TL demos for a while and your careful observations have helped a lot in how i understand the whole issue. it’s not like i think i understand everything and that’s why i wouldn’t use words like ‘never’… 😉 but i do hope you’ll come back to set things straight, ok ?
    the images are still interesting though.
    marc

    • In my view tails made on purpose are very useful if we know how to interpret them.

      I don’t understand everything either, far from it. My opinions aren’t better than those of anyone else and confronting different opinions is the way to knowledge.
      But when a lot of effort is wasted just in trying to demonstrate the evidence… I just give up. 🙂

        • Saying that violating the 180 gives a tail is another absolute that doesn’t help either, and it is specially weird given how easy it is to prove it wrong.

          So against absolutes… more absolutes. 😀

  9. phew, at least i didn’t say that… 😆

    anyhow, i was thinking of this inappropriately short casting arc that can lead to TLs at the supermarket.
    let’s assume we have a very well made casting machine. it casts with supreme consistency because it’s made in Switzerland by Breitling 😎
    it’s a machine, not an inconsistent person.
    this machine is set for casting perfect loops at 15m.
    what happens if we extend line without changing any other setting to the machine ?
    we can extend the line as much as we want but the machine is still set for 15m.

    • Marc,
      Too narrow a casting arc is a sure way to have a tail, that is why almost all tailing demos use it, even when trying to show a tail due to a haul ending too soon.
      If you want to show a tail due to faulty hauling just do that, don’t cheat yourself narrowing the arc in front as we can see so many times in videos.

      For the same reason violating the 180 doesn’t imply to narrow the casting arc.

      In the case of your machine the180 isn’t violated either so I don’t get the point.

      On the other hand the surprising answer to your casting machine problem is that the result will be that the fly will fall short of the target.
      No tailing loop if the machine is employing the same torque and casting arc. 😀

      • look, i don’t know why you’re so fixated with this 180° thing ! :mrgreen:

        “the surprising answer to your casting machine problem is that the result will be that the fly will fall short of the target.”
        a real TL usually falls short, at least when line tangle is involved. and your reply implies much too much line was pulled out ! what about in intermediate lengths ?

        • I thought it was the 180 issue we were discussing, I never know when you decide to change the goal of the debate. 🙂

          Your casting machine won’t fall short due to any tailing loop produced tangle, it will fall short due to performing an underpowered cast.
          And unless you consider underpowering a source of tailing loops… It isn’t very worrying anyway, lots of people consider that a crossed loop and a tail are the same. 😀

  10. hi Aitor,
    sorry mate, i went back through the replies to see where this ‘issue’ started and it’s because i didn’t quote you correctly to start off with… “In the case of breaking the 180 rule… never… if you don’t drastically and purposefully reduce your casting angle.”
    i should have left out the first 180 rule part and only include “if you don’t drastically and purposefully reduce your casting angle” and that’s where my casting machine fantasy started… :mrgreen:
    now, i realise you’re probably thinking i’m mixing everything up and you are correct !
    sorry for the confusion, i hope you still love me. 😆
    marc

    • btw, i just came back from 6 hrs of fishing without being able to hook a single fish.
      the fish and casting gods have punished me for my hideous mistake ! 😆

    • “now, i realise you’re probably thinking i’m mixing everything up and you are correct !”

      For some reason I never get accustomed to your usual mixing up. 😀

      I haven’t argued about the fact that too narrow a casting angle leads to tails. But your casting machine isn’t a good example.

      The machine is devised to cast at 15m, with always the same torque and angle. The force that the tip of the rod/machine is exerting on the line is always the same, whatever the line length.

      The line puts a bend in the rod due to a reaction force that opposes to that force exerted by the rod tip. Same action force = same reaction force.

      So if you lengthen the line attached to the rod/machine the same force exerted on more line mass results in the same rod bend. No tailing loop then, since we have the same bend and the same angle than before, and as you said the casts were perfect.

      Also, the same force applied to more line mass results in smaller acceleration, which applied over the same angle results in less line speed. So the result of lengthening the line in your machine is an underpowered cast.

      For the tail to happen in the real world you need to narrow the angle and, at the same time, to apply more force (torque).
      It is what happens with those who want to cast in the lake like they do in the small river.

      I wonder what your reply will be about; something along “butterflies like flowers”, maybe? 😀

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