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

The Angler and the Loop-Rod

by David Webster 1885 via OpenLibrary

“Loop-Rod and Loop-Line” 

what a nice descriptive. i like that and i like it a lot. it seems just right and somehow more appropriate than our usual ‘fly rod and fly line’ but fear not friends, this isn’t about changing what we call them but about sharing a really cool find.

the angler and the loop rod TLC 2-12-13
filled with a lot of experience and insights, tips and tricks,

angles at which to cast

you’ll also discover funny ways to talk to the fish to get them to take the fly, it’s a great read. click either image for the online book or HERE to download the file in various forms to read offline. enjoy !striking

“The statue stood quiet and still, like the silhouette of a tired mime. ”

~ Jarod Kintz

Ipt silhouette TLC 21-11-13

Fly Casting- the LOco WriSt !!! (revised)

still very much convinced that uncontrolled and/or excessive wrist movement is the number 1 cause of most fly casting problems, i thought a little rewrite of the original article was due.
as always, your thoughts and comments are very welcome. i hope this helps.

LOco WriSt !!!

are you one of those limp-wristed, flip-flopping, out of control, hand-flailing, line all over the place fly casters ?
if so, give this a try next time you go out for a practice session. of course you won’t be able to fish this way but the idea is to get the ‘feeling’ of what having a firm wrist/forearm connection can do and how it almost always makes a decent caster a much-much better one.

having good control of the wrist is just like magic. all of a sudden the flyline starts going back and forth in their intended directions, flies start avoiding trees and grass and remain attached to the leader, waterside friends stop giggling and it all usually involves catching a few more fish and a lot less frustration and sweat. all good, huh ?

let’s see how it works. if we don’t control our wrist and allow it to pivot in an uncontrolled manner we start casting in big great dome-shaped convex arcs in the same manner that windshield wipers move. since the line is supposed to do what the rod tip does, the whole line goes back and forth mimicking the dome-shaped course the rod tip took. these big open loops leave the line to the mercy of wind, take up a lot more space than necessary, the line tip and leader often land in an uncontrolled pile and any kind of accuracy is severely compromised. and it’s ugly.

the reel against the forearm method above is as noted, just a way to get a better feel of how we should try to cast, at least in the learning or relearning stage. turn the handle around and gently press the bottom of the reel against your arm and start casting as normal using the whole arm and all it’s joints instead of just the wrist and watch the loops tighten up. wow, they’re even SEXY !!! (of sorts…) but what this mostly shows us is that you’re in control of the rod and line.
there are gimmicks and gizmos on the market in the form of straps that attach to the rod butt preventing it from going away from the forearm which do about the same thing but most of the time people just revert to flip-flopping as soon as the strap comes off and i guess they must feel a little sore for having just spent 29.99 for nothing… whereas this method costs nothing and doesn’t allow the wrist to bend and that’s where this shines.

ok, so we’ve felt the ‘feel’ but what next ?  well, after casting like this for a while and once we’ve turned the reel back to it’s normal downward position, one of the tricks is to pretend that the hand and forearm are a solid unit just as if we were wearing a plaster-cast, recreating what we’ve learned by inverting the reel. whether we want to or not the wrist is going to move a little anyway and that’s good, mission accomplished.

the real remedy is a ‘mental thing’. for this to work we need to be constantly ‘telling’ our arm/body what to do instead of letting it do as it wishes or rather, what it’s been used to doing before.
it involves getting rid of old automatic reactions and replacing them with new ones (some call this muscle memory) and this all takes a little time (regular practice), work and perseverance but it’s well worth it.
later on, when this new skill is acquired and flip-flopping is no longer an issue we can start to use the wrist constructively in a controlled manner: that’s fine tuning an acquired skill.
another undeniably good and very important aspect of this ‘blocked wrist’ method is that it forces us to learn to move our elbows and shoulder more than before to achieve a proper cast.
simple logic tells us that for a  certain motion it will be better to have the stronger and bigger muscles and joints do most of the force work and let the weaker/smaller yet more mobile and faster joints refine the movement. the strong to weaker order is:  shoulder/elbow/wrist/fingers.

keep in mind that all of us at every level need to work on just one thing at a time and wrist control really needs to be under check to move on.

if you’re having wrist issues, please give this a try and let me know if it helps, ok ?

The Swift Manifesto, or HOW TO FLY FISH AND NOT MAKE US ALL LOOK BAD

from Carl McNeil – Swift Performance Fly Fishing

rather harsh ? nope, spot on.

  • Stop holding that rod butt in your teeth – you look like an idiot.
  • Fly fishing is not an extreme sport – if you somehow think it is, you need to get a life or get out more (probably both)
  • Welded loops are for little kids – learn to tie a nail knot. (Ok, they can be handy in the salt)
  • Loose that ‘grin n grip’ – Holding your fish out at the camera is just a projection of your extremely small penis. The ‘grin n grip’ while holding the rod in your teeth clearly states “Idiot with Small Penis”
  • Pictures of fish in the water are extremely  cool.
  • Nothing will make you look like more of a doofus than being all gear and no cast. Work on your fly casting – it will do more for your fly fishing than anything else you could do.
  • Stop being a tight arse and buy some decent gear – start at the pointy end and work back.
  • A stiff rod will not make you a better caster.
  • An expensive rod will not make you a better caster.
  • My fly line will not make you a better caster.
  • A lesson will make you a better caster.
  • My fly casting DVD’s will make you a better caster.
  • Practice will make you a better caster.
  • A Gin and Tonic will make you feel like you are a better caster.
  • Fast and stiff describe two different things – learn ‘em.
  • Understand what a standard weight forward line is and that it is ABSOLUTELY USELESS for casting distance.
  • “Todays modern fast action rods” Do not need a line that is half a line weight heavier in order to load the rod.
  • The correct advertising blurb for “weight and a half lines” should be “Buy this line, it will make you seem like a better caster than you actually are”
    OR
    “Buy this line, it will make our ridiculously stiff fly rod actually bend”
  • The secret to fly casting is knowing how to bend the fly rod correctly. Honestly
  • Be aware that weight and a half lines are for little kids. You’re a big kid and are being fed marketing crap – you’re better than that.
  • “Designed in (insert country here)” – means made in China.
  • If we all put as much effort into actually looking after the places we fish that we put into talking about our sport,  the world would be in much better shape. Please, don’t just be a talker – Have some balls, be a doer.

post note-
i’m not quite sure how the ladies that do “The ‘grin n grip’ while holding the rod in your teeth” will deal with the small penis bit but i guess they’ll just have to work that out for themselves and find a proper equivalent…

“In the lexicon of the fly-fishermen, the words rise and hooked connote the successful and desirable climax; landing a fish is purely anticlimax.”

~by Vincent C. Marinaro-1950

left-hand tenkara 1 TLC 25-5-13

which is a good thing because while i was doing some left-handed Tenkara shenanigans at Lake Trouto (and for some reason trying to get this on film) all three of these fish came off…

left-hand Tenkara 2 TLC 25-5-13 left-hand Tenkara 3 TLC 25-5-13

Bendy vs Stiffy – a study of fly rod action and casting mechanics

“My experience is that for a given line length (and weight) the caster uses almost the same stroke regardless of the action of the rod. Different rods certainly “feel different” but there is little or no “adjustment to or matching of  the stroke” going on.”
Grunde Løvoll

how many times have we heard or read that we need to change the casting stroke depending on a rod’s action ?
the typical explanation given is, for a slower rod we’ll use a slower stroke and a faster stroke with a faster rod.
well, this happens to be incorrect and is a classic example so common in the fly casting world where ‘what we think we do and what actually happens’ don’t meet up.

as we’ll see below, Lasse Karlsson has taped two very different rods together to cast them at the same time with two identical lines of the same weight rating. simultaneous loop formation, loop shape and loop speed are very-very similar with both rods.
if it weren’t for the excessive counter-flex/rebound (and it’s resultant waves of the rod leg of the fly line) produced from the slower rod’s heavier tip  it would be extremely difficult to determine which line was cast from which rod.
there is no adjustment of the casting stroke to achieve these equal results.


for the tech geeks, here’s the equipment info from the video-

“Two rods cast at the same time, same line on both, and same line length.
Bendy rod: Berkley Grayphite 8 feet 5/6
Stiff rod: Sage TCX 690
Line: Rio tournament Gold 5 weight
To make up for the difference in length, the rods where taped together so the tips where aligned.
The berkley rod is 75% glassfiber and 25% graphite, has an IP of 97 grams and a AA of 65 (so really according to CCS it’s fast ;-)) and a MOI of 76
The sage is full graphite, has an IP of 167 grams, an AA of 74 and a MOI of 70

Several things to learn about tackle here.”

and one of them is that a lot of ‘experts’, many rod designers and people in the tackle industry just blindly repeat what they’ve heard without giving it any thought and don’t seem to try these things out on their own, specially when they’re so simple to observe.
thank goodness for people like Lasse, Aitor, Grunde, and a host of others who don’t live in a box.

EDIT: someone asked what would happen if there was more line out of the rod tip and Lasse shared a variant of the first test, this time extending line whilst double-hauling.
the quick answer is: nothing different than if it had been done with only one rod/line. the casting stroke widens, the pause lengthens and every other aspect of a basic cast remains the same.
see for yourself.

related articles

” a little ear wax will get you through “

from Captain Jim

” What’s the quickest way to break a fly rod?

Some might say- putting too much pressure on the rod while fighting a heavy fish. Another might say- holding the rod butt above your waist while fighting a strong fish. Still another might answer- holding the rod blank above the cork grip to gain additional leverage while fighting a heavy fish. All answers are good ones but from my experience the quickest way to break a rod is to not apply a paraffin-type wax to the male ferrule sections of the rod where they seat into the female sections.

Candle wax works great, as does dubbing wax if you have a supply from tying flies. Bowstring wax (if you are an archer) also works great, and if you are really in a pinch while on the water and you lack any of these types of wax, a little ear wax will get you through.”

ok, the last part particularly caught my attention and at the same time made me wonder how to achieve this state of waxyness without piercing my eardrum in the process.
a little research and the best i could find is the how-to video below. it’s not what i was expecting but i hope you’ll nevertheless enjoy.

anyhow, back to ferrules and rod breakage… lots of good points in the complete ferrule lubricating article.
from now on i’ll never again clean my ears !

The Snakecharmer

“because fly lines are wild snakes that need to be tamed… “

here’s the beast, a 7’3” 6wt hexagonal bamboo rod with a bamboo ferule and a very special super-fast taper (faster then most fast-tapered carbon rods) specially built to my specs from Ulf Löfdal. although the lower 3/4 of the rod is very fast the upper 1/4 is very supple, sensitive and with a fantastically fast recovery speed (going from bent to straight after loop formation), enabling great loop control and line tension. some relate fast to being stiff but this isn’t the case for this rod. it’s got a lot of power yet the experienced caster remains in full control whether it’s for casting in the short, middle or long ranges. not what one would expect from your typical bamboo rod.
i’ll have a lot more to say about it later when i’ve fully assimilated it’s potential but one thing’s for sure, it’s gonna make for some fun times in the future !