Fly Casting- What does a Tailing Loop look like ?

upon seeing this image on a casting discussion board recently i instantly replied “that’s not a tailing loop !”, further reminding me of just how many people have a false impression of what a TL looks like.
all of these images where easily found on the net, have been displayed on sites and forums and seem to be eagerly accepted by a large percentage of those posting and viewing them.
my point here isn’t to go into the causes of tailing loops but of identifying them because to work on a casting problem first requires properly identifying what needs to be worked on before doing anything about it.

more examples by different sources but basically the same as above.

pic1this one’s getting there, could be considered a ‘tailing tendency’ because of the slight dip of the fly leg but most probably won’t lead to any problem. it does however get a few bonus points for having nice background colours.tailingon this one they managed to draw/put the tail on the rod leg !
most definitely a first as a TLs happen on the fly leg of the line…


now, before explaining why those aren’t tails and why they’re not half as bad as some might have us think lets have a look at some real ones: the really bad nasty ones.
unlike the ones above, tailing loops with a big dip in the fly leg that like to collide with the rod leg and really mess up our cast, scare fish, make friends laugh and sometimes make knots in our leaders. tailing loops can serve no good or creative purpose. they are faults and this is what they look like.

with great help from Bruce Richards and images graciously provided by David Lambert, editor of IFFF’s TheLoop,  first up are two graphic overlays taken from the video with easily understandable ‘rod tip path throughout the stroke, line path and post-stroke rod tip rebound’ colour separations to help us see what’s happening in real, not something born of imagination.



what we’ll notice right away compared to the previous images is that the dip in the fly leg crosses the rod leg twice. the dip in the line is there since the rod tip dipped and came back up during the stroke and this very same dip is reflected in the line and propagates down as it unrolls. at best the line and leader unrolls poorly and if the unrolling dip is too close to the rod leg there’s collision making bad worse.
some casting-geek colleagues might disagree with the crossing twice part as a for-sure sign of of a TL and indeed, line collision is the real nasty and isn’t dependant of how many times the line legs cross themselves however, my point here isn’t to go into minute subtleties or go against their way of thinking but to help out casters of all levels to differentiate between crossed loops and tailing loops. they’re different beasts.

i won’t go so far as to say that the first images demonstrate ‘ideal’ casting form (whatever that is) but even if some of the drawing authors bothered to include a concave path of the rod tip during the stroke hinting to what is ultimately the cause of real tails, ultimately, what we’re seeing in the drawn line paths are crossed loops and crossed loops are not a fault as long as the line legs don’t collide.

its not very common to see all-in-one-plane candy cane loops, specially with longer lengths of line carried.
crossed loops constitute about 99% (that’s just a guess but the percentage is very high) of all casts from casters of all levels, irregardless of casting school styles, casting overhead or off to the side.

crossed loops are an obvious necessity for all roll and Spey casts, many non-linear presentation casts or simply to cast out of plane to not risk banging ourselves in the back of the head with a heavy Clouser.
the Gebetsroither-Austrian-Belgian-Italian, Kreh, saltwater and almost every style of casting is based on casting in two planes and the result is a crossed loop. to put it another way, on a global level its the norm.

hopefully these few words will be of help, specially to those that might be worried because they’re not casting perfectly parallel-legged candy-cane shaped loops.
unless you’re doing big nasty Bruce-Type tails you’re probably not doing so badly after all…

Fly Casting- Bruce Richards helps prepare the IFFF-Certified Casting Instructor Certification

via Silver Creek Outfitters

of great interest for CCI candidates, the following videos should also be of help for anglers working on understanding good and bad casts and upping their casting game.

first, an introduction of the IFFF by Rick Williams and candidate expectations by Bruce Richards, both Casting Board of Governors.

without going through the complete exam, Bruce demonstrates and explains a whole host of information any candidate will benefit from. take special note of The Six Step Method and how everything relates to The Five Essentials.
if a candidate fully understands and knows how to explain and demonstrate those two then they’re more than half way there.

Fly Lines: Taper Designs

with the hope the following article will help clear out a few ideas on fly line selection and since there’s been some recent comments regarding the use of level lines…, here’s an introductory excerpt on the hows and whys of fly lines tapers from Bruce Richards‘ seminal book Modern Fly Lines via Virtual Fly Casting.
as a reminder, Bruce was head line designer at Scientific Anglers for over 30 years. we can consider him to be the ‘father of modern fly lines’, “What Bruce doesn’t know about flylines, probably isn’t worth knowing. In fact some of what Bruce *does* know about flylines you probably wouldn’t want to know either.”

“Obviously, heavy and wind resistant flies offer more resistance to the fly line than light, small flies. Lines with long front tapers have less mass in the front section of the line than lines with shorter front tapers. Less mass means earlier acceleration, earlier dissipation of energy, and a more gentle, less powerful delivery which will effectively deliver small, light flies, like most trout flies. Lines with short front tapers dissipate energy less efficiently, resulting in a more powerful “turnover”, suitable for the heavier, wind resistant flies usually used for bass or saltwater fishing.

Casting into the wind increases the wind resistance the line encounters, and more energy is dissipated from the line than in calm-air or downwind casts. Lines with shorter front tapers, which dissipate energy less efficiently, work better for most anglers casting into the wind. When all else is equal, lines with longer tapers deliver less powerfully than lines with shorter tapers. It is the actual line weight that determines the range of fly sizes that can be cast effectively. A light line (2 to 5- weights) with a short, powerful taper is not going to throw big bass bugs well, because the line is just to light to carry the energy necessary to overcome the resistance offered by a large bug.

The primary purpose of the front of the fly line is to allow proper delivery of the fly and leader. The taper from the belly of the line to the tip acts to reduce the mass of the line. As the loop of any fly line travels through the air, the mass of the moving part of the line decreases because that part becomes shorter. In lines it decreases even more because the line becomes smaller towards the tip. This increases acceleration, resulting in greater Drag, wind resistance and greater Dissipation, and therefore a more delicate delivery.

It should be mentioned that the tapered leaders tied to the end of fly lines continue the dissipation of casting energy. If you have ever cast a line without a leader, you probably noticed it did not cast well. Lines are designed to be cast with leaders. A properly designed line will have just the right amount of energy left at the end of the cast to turn over the leader and deliver the fly. If a line is cast without a leader, it will ‘kick’ and be most difficult to cast. Lines are designed to be cast with a particular leader commonly used with that size type of line. A light fly line will be overpowered by a heavy saltwater leader; the line will not have enough energy to turn it over properly. By the same token, a light trout leader won’t be able to handle the large amount of energy a heavy saltwater line passes to it, and the line will ‘kick.’ Casting a level line with no front taper demonstrates very clearly how tapering effects the way a line casts. Even with the correct tapered leader, level lines ‘kick’ when casting because thy have so much undissipated energy left when the line straightens. To avoid the kick the caster must modify his or her casting stroke to reduce the amount of casting energy by slowing the line and by casting with a larger, more wind-resistant loop.

Level lines turn over very abruptly and land on the water forcefully because the energy dissipates poorly because the tip is just plain heavy without the line taper. Sinking lines are said to ‘hinge’ when cast; there is a significant change in the density where the floating and sinking parts of the line join. If cast correctly, a properly designed sinking-tip line does not ‘hinge’ but rather ‘kicks’ just as the level line does. The tip of a sinking line is very heavy and dissipates energy poorly. To compound the problem, lines with very high density tips are very small in diameter and offer less wind resistance even when the do finally accelerate. The key to casting these lines effectively is the same for level lines, namely to open the casting loop and slow the line down as much as possible.

The ability of the caster is important to consider. Lines with longer, more delicate tapers require good loop control and may be difficult for an inexperienced caster to use. There are lines on the market specifically geared toward beginning casters, lines with shorter tapers that dissipate energy less quickly during the cast. Most novices cast with relatively wide, open loops that are quite wind-resistant. If a line with a long, delicate taper is cast with this kind of loop, too much energy is dissipated and the line and leader will not straighten. With a shorter, more powerful taper, effective deliveries can be made even with less than perfect technique.

Instructors may often overlook the fly line a student is casting with. Ask the student what line it is they are using. This may be especially important when dealing with advanced or intermediate casters.
For example, many intermediate casters attempting to cast a line to 75 or 85 feet are simply unaware that in the case of a Weight Forward line, they must learn to control and understand what “overhang” is, and how it will affect their ability to control the line for longer casts. Overhang is simply the position of the rod tip in relation to the distance between the running line and the end of the rear taper. While experienced casters can control lots of overhang the intermediate caster should not attempt to cast with more than 2 or 3 feet of overhang outside of the rod tip. It is highly recommended that an approximate overhang point be marked with a permanent magic marker allowing the student/ caster a consistent “pick up” point that will promote greater efficiency when learning to cast a longer line. Again we turn to “Modern Fly lines” for a detailed description of why understanding “overhang” is critical.

A fly line is controlled by the tip of the fly rod, the angler’s last point of contact. The rod tip moves the part of the line that is in the rod tip, and that part of the line moves the rest of the line. For the rod-tip part of the line to move and control the rest of the line effectively, it should have enough mass to move the line connected to it.

A good caster can cast effectively with running line in the tip, however, if the line is kept very straight during the cast. Energy can be transmitted through the straight, small- diameter running line to the head of the line. But it usually desirable to choose a line with a belly that will insure the belly is at least very close to the rod tip during overhead casting, roll casting, or mending. In closing it is important to note that it is the fly line that delivers the fly to the target. Understanding how fly lines transmit energy to deliver the fly to the target is predicated on a firm understanding of taper design.”

EDIT– since publication of this article the Virtual Fy Casting site has been deleted/removed which also deleted the images previously added to this post.

related articles

What is a double taper line for fly fishing?

as alluded to in yesterday’s post Double Tapered vs Weight Forward Fly Lines – Which is really better?, there’s an enormous amount of let’s say, less than informative information available on the net when it comes to explaining this or that about fly fishing, fly casting and basically fly-anything.
here’s a real gem in the rough in the matter. the poor guy is so lost at attempting to teach us something that he doesn’t know. it would be sad if it wasn’t so funny…. enjoy !

btw, it’s this.
and to get a little more technical, a taper is:
taper |ˈtāpər|

• a gradual narrowing: (click the link at the top of the page for Bruce Richards’ basic explanation of mass, weight distribution and other goodies and how they affect a fly line’s performance).
•diminish or reduce or cause to diminish or reduce in thickness toward one end : the tail tapers to a rounded tip | [ with obj. ] : David asked my dressmaker to taper his trousers.• [ no obj. ] gradually lessen: the impact of the dollar’s depreciation started to taper off .

ORIGIN Old English (denoting any wax candle), dissimilated form (by alteration of p- to t-) of Latinpapyrus (see papyrus), the pith of which was used for candle wicks.

hmm, it turns out that thanks to Mr. DT we found out that the word taper finds it’s origins in candles and we can use it when chit-chatting about trousers so, i guess it aint all bad.

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Double Tapered vs Weight Forward Fly Lines – Which is really better?

by Bruce Richards

constantly amazed that this subject is still an issue with so many anglers, on so may forums and by so many ‘experts’, i thought it might be of worth to pull up this article and let Mr FlyLine explain it himself.
of further interest we’ll note that the exact same principles of mass (or of more practical use,  diameter), tapers and lengths apply equally to leaders. a leader is to be designed as the continuation of the fly line and not an entirely separate entity.  what applies to line selection applies to leader selection. the two work hand in hand, so to speak, to enable the fly angler to meet the specific casting/fishing challenge at hand.

“Few fly line subjects have been discussed more than which is the better taper, double taper (DT) or weight forward (WF). The answer is, neither is inherently better, but one may be better than the other for you.

A lot of generalizations are made about these two tapers based on outdated or incorrect information. We’ve all heard that DT lines are more delicate, give better control, roll cast better, etc. In some cases some of these things are true, but not always.

Delicacy of delivery is determined by the mass of the front part of a fly line. This is determined by line diameter (which relates directly to mass), and taper length. A line with a small diameter tip and a long taper has much less mass up front than a line with a large tip and short taper. Don’t be mislead by taper length alone, a line with a long front taper but a large tip diameter will not deliver delicately. A DT and a WF line with the same taper and tip diameter will deliver the same.

For many years most DT and WF lines were made with the same tip diameter and front taper length so there was no difference in how they delivered, although many claimed there was. Today, some of the DT lines are actually designed to be used specifically for spring creek type fishing and do have longer tapers and/or smaller tips.

Anytime a line (or any product for that matter) is designed to do one thing very well it usually has a shortcoming somewhere else. Lines that are designed to be very delicate have little mass in the front to carry larger or heavier flies, and don’t handle windy conditions well. It takes a better caster to throw the kind of loops it takes to make these lines perform their best. And no, DT lines aren’t more “accurate” at normal fishing distances, that is entirely in the realm of the skill of the caster. Good consistent loops and practice are where accuracy come from.

It is very true that DT lines are easier to control and roll cast at longer distances than WF lines. At shorter distances there is no difference. The key to line control and roll casting is that large diameter line belly must be in the rod tip. If small diameter running line is in the tip it is nearly impossible to transmit enough energy through it to the belly to make the line do what you want. What many people don’t consider is that WF lines control and roll cast as well as DT lines at the distances most people fish.

Most WF lines have heads that are 35-40 ft. long. Add a 9 ft. leader and the distance to the fly from the end of the head is 44-49 ft. To that, add the length of the rod since roll cast normally end with the rod parallel to the water and pointed at the target. That is the distance at which DT and WF lines control and roll cast the same. There aren’t many typically trout fishing situations that require roll casts longer than that, and not many casters who can roll cast that far. What this all means is that DT and WF lines work pretty much the same at the distances we fish most of the time.

Certainly if someone fishes a big river that requires a lot of long distance roll casting and mending he or she should consider a DT line or a WF with a long head. Rods longer than 9 ft. are almost a necessity also, roll cast distance and mending performance is directly dependent on rod length.

Everybody knows that WF lines are better for distance than DT lines, but is that really true? Well, yes, but the difference isn’t as big as you might think. Certainly WF lines shoot better because of their small, light running lines. But remember, this benefit starts at 44-49 ft. when the running line is in the rod. If you will be making a lot of long casts it is certainly a little easier to do with a WF line, but don’t think that DT lines won’t shoot, they will, just not as far. With the advent of new slick coatings like AST DTs shoot better than ever.

For most people it probably doesn’t make a lot of difference which taper they use. Most of us fish at distances less then 44-49 ft. which is where WF’s start to shoot better, but lose line control. Most of us don’t have the need, or the ability, to roll cast longer than 45 ft..

So, how do you decide which is right for you? If you do mostly small fly fishing at short to medium range there is no reason not to get a DT line. There is always the budget issue, DT lines are essentially 2 in 1 so are less expensive over time. If you are consistently throwing long casts you will be able to make them with fewer false casts with a WF line, but lose the ability to do long roll casts and mends, if you ever need them, and are able. For most of us it doesn’t make much difference which taper we use most of the time, make your decision based on how much short distance fishing, or long range fishing you do.”

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The Key to Good Fly Casting: Practice!

by Bruce Richards

fly casting can be very easy and it can be extremely complex, it’s all a matter of how far we want to take it. you can be an expert in history without ever having made history but you can’t cast a fly line with just theory.
whatever level we want to achieve won’t happen without a certain learning curve and without practice. Bruce gives us some very solid advice and ideas that make perfect sense. i hope you’ll both enjoy and benefit from this master’s experience and wisdom.

“A lot has been written about how to cast effectively. I’ve taught over 3000 people to cast. The one single most important factor in successfully learning to cast, or improving your casting is practice. A lot of my students spend good money and time to take lessons, but if they don’t practice what they have learned it will be lost. Developing good practice habits is often the key to becoming a good caster.

It doesn’t take a lot of time to practice, but practicing fairly often is important. To make a bad analogy, practicing casting is a lot like training a puppy. The best way to train a puppy is in frequent short sessions, not all day once a month, the same goes for casting. Every day is best, but 3-4 times a week is certainly adequate. I have found the best practice sessions are usually 15-20 minutes long, for me in the evening after work. I like to leave a rod rigged and ready in the garage that I can quickly grab and head to the back yard. Having water isn’t necessary for a good practice session, except for roll casting. If you want to practice roll casting on the grass all you need to do is secure the end of the leader to something, to simulate the resistance of water. I like to use a clipboard, just clip the end of the  leader in the spring clip and you are ready to cast.

Of course it is important to practice the right things. If you are having trouble correcting problems or improving your casting you need to reference a good book or video, or better yet, a good instructor. Books and videos can be very helpful but don’t provide the feedback a qualified casting instructor can.

I think it is very important to practice to a target. Too many casters practice by just throwing loops at the same distance without paying much attention to their delivery. Being able to hit a target is often pretty important when fishing. A technique I have used very successfully when practicing follows. This drill works very well when practicing for demanding casting tasks like fishing for bonefish or tarpon.

Determine a good place to stand in the middle of a good sized open area. Scatter 6-8 targets (I use paper plates) around at various distances appropriate to the kind of fishing you do, and in different directions. Stand in the center of the targets and make a cast to the one in front of you. Strip the line in short, turn your body one way or the other and make your next cast at the target you see first. Try to make each cast with no more than 3-4 false casts. Repeat this process until you’ve made several casts at each target.

This drill will teach you to quickly work out line, judge distance and make good deliveries. If you find that you are unable to consistently come close to the targets, that usually indicates a problem with your loops, time to consult your book, video, or instructor !”

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Fly Casting- The Six-Steps Teaching Method

brilliant by it’s simplicity, along with other seminal articles such as The Five Essentials or Making Adjustments on the Fly, Bruce Richards’  Six Steps Method of fly casting analysis, though originally intended for instructors is of great value for every single fly fisher and not just instructors. we can all use this to great effect by observing the three basic elements: line, rod and body and how they work together in our casts but also to work out how to deviate from straight line casts to get the line layouts we’ll want to perform when fishing. as with all other aspects of casting mechanics, the exact same principles will apply to double-hand rods as well as single-hand.
casting MF

Since the inception of the FFF Casting Instructor Certification program I have had the pleasure of working with, and certifying, quite a few instructors. About half the instructors I’ve tested have failed. Some have not been able to make the necessary casts, but more have failed because they did not exhibit the ability to adequately analyze and correct casting flaws. Some of them fully understood casting, but lacked a method to clearly and concisely communicate that knowledge to a student. If followed, this 6 step procedure provides a logical way for an instructor to analyze any casting problem, and communicate the cure in a way that most students will understand. The heart of good instruction is communication. Too many instructors try to cure a casting problem before the student even knows what the problem is or why it is a problem. Also, some instructors try to cure every problem they see at once, and don’t use clear, concise language that the student will understand. All of these things lead to a confused and often frustrated student, and instructor.
I have been using a six-step method that helps instructors more effectively convey their knowledge to a student. The six steps analyze the cause of the problem from “top to bottom”, then the cure of the problem from “bottom to top”. The first step of the CAUSE is describing to the student what is wrong with the
(1) LINE. The next step is to explain what the
(2) ROD is doing to cause the line problem. The last step of the cause analysis is to explain what the
(3) BODY (usually hand/wrist/arm) is doing to make the rod and line misbehave. The CURE part of the process tackles the same steps, but in reverse, “bottom to top” order. First, explain what to do differently with the
(4) BODY. Next describe what this makes the
(5) ROD do differently, and then how that affects the
(6) LINE to get the desired results.

Each step should be as concisely stated as possible, extra words can confuse, especially beginners. Only work on one flaw at a time, start with the one that is most detrimental to progress. Speak slowly and clearly and demonstrate what you mean with the rod if appropriate. If you demonstrate, make sure you cast as slowly as possible and exaggerate what is right and wrong so the difference is clear to the student. This can be an interesting exercise for an instructor. It is imperative that the instructor has a very thorough understanding of the dynamics of both good casting and bad. If you try this and find you struggle with any of the steps it may indicate that your understanding is not as complete as you thought. I often suggest posing a particular casting problem then writing down the 6 steps of cause and cure. Better yet, have someone else pose the scenario and analyze your 6 steps.
Here is an example of the process, analyzing a typical beginners big loops. Assume loops and loop terminology have been explained to the student.
CAUSE (top to bottom, line to body)
LINE – “See the big, wide loop we talked about?”
ROD – “Remember that the big, wide loops are caused when the rod tip travels in a big, wide arc?”
BODY – “See how your wrist is bending a lot and how that makes the rod tip travel in the big arc?”

CURE (bottom to top, body to line)
BODY – “Don’t bend your wrist so much”
ROD – “See how that makes the rod tip travel in a much straighter line?”
LINE – “Look, your loop got much smaller”
I know this seems simplistic, but it really works for both the student and the instructor in most cases. The student will probably not be throwing perfect loops after the exercise, but the loops should be improved and the student should know why. At this point the instructor should re-analyze the students cast, decide what is now the biggest problem, and proceed to the next series of 6 steps. It may be that the loops are still too big in which case the same steps would be repeated. The caster might be throwing tight loops now, but they are tailing. Applying the 6 step process to tailing loops works exactly the same. I will grant that this tool works best for students with a more analytical mind set and may not be effective with everyone, but then no instructional technique is. I have found that it works with a large majority of students, and offers a good, clear, easy to remember guideline for an instructor to follow. Every casting flaw can be addressed with this process, but it does demand a complete understanding of all casts. Pose a scenario for yourself and see how you do !

Bruce Richards
From the Loop © Copyright by the Federation of Fly Fishers