Fly Casting- Some thoughts on Instruction and Descriptions from Mel Krieger

an excerpt from The Essence of a Fly Cast – Mel Krieger via Christopher Rownes

words, words, words. we need them to teach fly casting but if they’re not carefully chosen they can lead to confusion.
for instance, a pet peeve of mine is Joan Wulff’s ‘Power-Snap’.
in my mind, and something i’ve often witnessed in person is, when described to a novice caster those two words connected together often result in too much power and too much snap: things that get them in trouble real quick.
another one is the infamous ‘stop’ which we’ve already scratched the surface on that deserves an in-depth article of its own but in the meantime, what this article mostly reminds me of is there’s two basic approaches (or maybe mental-frames) to how the rod moves and how it affects the line. i like to refer to them as-

Hand Centric and Tip Centric.

in the first case, instruction and casting movement is envisioned around what the casting hand does and in the second, what the rod tip does.
it goes without saying that the hand needs to move the rod butt to eventually make the rod tip move but i by far prefer to focus on what the tip is doing because it’s the rod tip that’s the final element affecting the fly line and this greatly affects our understanding of concepts such as the ‘stop’, rod bend/rod shortening, straight or curved line path, rod straight position, counterflex or: just about anything that has to do with the casting stroke. besides, thinking about your rod tip is a lot sexier than the usual dirty, ill-manicured hand…

needless to say i’m happy to see a similar hand/tip approach coming from a Top-Gun like Mister Krieger. i sure wish i could have met him.

Mel’s approach on this and a whole host of other matters remain some of the better ones i’ve seen and leaves a lot of food for thought. enjoy !

All fly casting, no matter how descriptive and analytical the directions and teachings, must finally conclude kinaesthetically – that is by feel.
The only way to learn this unique feel of casting a long weighted line with a flexible rod is to experience it; not unlike the learning process of riding a bicycle for the first time. Convincing or inspiring the learner to jump on the bike and go for it may well be the ultimate instructional mode. Casting a fly is identical, and again like riding a bike, virtually every person who is not severely handicapped can learn the timing and feel of fly casting simply by casting.
There is of course a place for other instruction even in this basic learning cycle that may help the learner focus his or her efforts and hasten that learning process. That would include analogies, visuals and key words and phrases, techniques that are also used for intermediate and advanced fly casters. Although most of these instructional tools are valid and useful to the learner, there are times when they can actually inhibit learning and possibly lead to serious casting faults. The following are some possible examples.
“Throwing a ball” is an excellent analogy for communicating the athleticism and fluidity of a natural throwing motion. It can, however lead to the use of too much wrist movement and a throwing motion that fails to utilize the bending and unbending of a fly rod.
Words like “whump,” “snap,” “flick,” “flip” and “pop” are commonly used to convey the feeling of bending (loading) and unbending a fly rod. Again, they are mostly good words, but often misconstrued to indicate a too-quick loading and unloading of the fly rod, resulting in a dip of the fly rod tip and tailing loops. Spelling whump with two or three “U”s – “whuuump” or possibly “snaaap” might be of help, especially for longer casts.
Phrases like “accelerate to a stop,” “speed up and stop” and “start slow and end fast” are common instructional tools that accurately depict the tip of the rod during a casting stroke. Many learners however, attempt to emulate those slow to fast directions with their casting hand, often with poor results. A more useful instructional phrase might be “a smooth even hand movement to a stop.” The result will actually be the rod tip accelerating throughout the casting stroke.
Another common phrase that has almost become a mantra in fly casting is “Applying power too early in the casting stroke creates a tailing loop.” This statement is actually incorrect. It is possible to apply maximum power in the beginning of a casting stroke. The key to a good cast is maintaining or even increasing the rod bend throughout the stroke. The real culprit in this tailing loop concept is unloading the rod too soon.


In the pull-through casting stroke, the casting hand precedes the rod tip through most of the casting stroke and the turnover and stop takes place only at end of the casting stroke.
Lay out 70 or so feet of fly line on a lawn behind you, fly rod pointing to the fly, and throw a javelin, turning the rod over only at the very end of the throw. You may be pleasantly surprised with this extreme pull through casting motion.

Let’s look more closely at a fly casting stroke. The first step in all fly casting strokes is “bending the rod. Significant movement of the line only takes place after the rod bend.
Starting a casting stroke too slowly, or for that matter too quickly, commonly results in a poor rod bend and an inefficient cast. Think of starting strong or heavy, forcing a bend in the rod as the casting stroke begins. A somewhat better description of a casting stroke might be “bend the rod and sling the line” or “bend the rod and accelerate to a stop”, or whatever words work for you following “bend the rod and …”. Casting the fly line from the water and changing the back and forth direction of the line helps to start the casting stroke with a good rod bend. Notice that many casters make their best back cast from the water. That’s because the friction of the water puts a decided bend in the fly rod early in the casting stroke! A roll cast however requires a more forceful rod bend as it does not have the loading advantage of a water pickup or an aerialized line between back and forward casts.

The roll cast can be an excellent entry to the unique feel that exists in fly casting. Forcing the rod into a bend and keeping it bent – finally unloading (stopping) in the intended direction of the cast – almost like putting a casting loop in the fly rod itself.

for the second part of this article: The Pull-Through click here

Fly Casting: Analyzing Straight Line Rod Tip Path and Shoulder-Elbow-Wrist Paths during the Stroke

here’s a more than interesting set of video-still overlay images of some of the World’s top distance casters created by Dirk le Roux who graciously accepted  to share his findings here. this is a real treat for anyone interested in fly casting mechanics. as mentioned below, this was a study on the final ‘up’ lift of the wrist common to many casters but it tells us a lot more than that.


“Watching video on distance casters I’ve been intrigued that often a seemingly small down-up flick of the wrist could be seen right around final rotation on the forward cast. Sometimes more like just an “up”. Thing is it’s hard to get a handle on what’s happening just by watching, even in slow motion. Trying to analyse that I started tracing the arm configuration and spline path of the wrist, and while I was at it also the elbow and shoulder paths, at various intervals of various casts.

A bit of explanation first
• The red and blue hopperleg graphs are back and forward positions respectively
• The spline* paths are generally: lower one the elbow, middle one shoulder and top one the wrist trace, except in Paul’s case.. 
• You can see which part of the spline paths are back or forward by checking which of the blue or red hopper-legs they correlate with
• I included wrist angles also (show rotation timing)
• All the figures containing interrupted line hopper-legs have been taken at exactly regular intervals, with the interrupted positions in between the regular solid line ones. From this some idea of speed at certain stages can be gleaned”

*  (spline curve ) a continuous curve constructed so as to pass through a given set of points and have a certain number of continuous derivatives.

Lasse Karlsson
Lasse Karlsson
Lasse Karlsson
Lasse Karlsson
Steve Rajeff
Steve Rajeff

rajeff 2

Paul Arden
Paul Arden
Paul Arden - Wrist Path
Paul Arden – Wrist Path
Bart De Zwaan
Bart De Zwaan
Bart De Zwaan
Bart De Zwaan
Fredrik Hedman
Fredrik Hedman
Stefan Siikavaara
Stefan Siikavaara

and maybe what it’s mostly telling us is no two people cast the same despite what we might think…
thanks Dirk !

Related articles

good knots

it’s been brought to my attention lately that a lot of people believe good casters never make ‘wind knots’.

well, that’s a load of bull it’s just not true. i regularly have the great joy of meeting and casting with what are referred to as some of the best fly casters in the world and i can assure you that it’s quite rare to see a ‘clean’ leader, specially during competion-style distance casts. heck, i even specialize in figure-of-eight knots! (above and below) these knots are a good thing. a blessing. they teach us.

they’re here to remind us that we can always improve and do better, but mostly to remind us that fly casting is an activity that no-one will ever truly master. that might be a hard one for some to swallow. too bad. the one below happened to me during a course. i had a dozen or so beginning students in front of me, i lifted the line to demonstrate a cast, the leader or fluff got stuck in some mole turds (see the mounds in the background), jerkiness happened (the line jerked and i jerkied it even more) and what happened next took around five minutes to undo. of course this isn’t supposed to happen and of course it’s entirely my fault !  (i hadn’t taken the mole turds into consideration) and to make it even worse, what knotted so badly was the fly line… however, what happened was all of a sudden, the dozen or so people smiled with even a few polite and well deserved giggles. what happened was all of a sudden, the pupils and the teacher where on the same level and all of a sudden, the whole group was less intimidated by their beginnerness. the day finished wonderfully and most left with enough casting skills to go out and catch a fish or two. a big lesson there for both sides. just like the sticker says: “sometimes it’s good to fuckup… “