Fly Casting- How straight is Straight Line Path ?

Making Adjustments on the Fly B.Gammel

a very astute casting student asked me recently, “I think I’m having difficulties keeping a Straight Line Path throughout the stroke. I must be doing something wrong ?”

i love these kind of comments. it shows the person is curious, really pays attention to what they’re doing and shows they’ve studied well. at this point i should say that his loops where ideal, nice and smooth, very close to parallel very nice loops, as nice as what we see Andreas Fismen performing in the 500fps slomo gif below. so, what was the problem then ?
since his casting was spot-on it obviously wasn’t anything he was doing wrong (loops don’t lie. they can’t) but simply his understanding of how rod tip travel should be for a textbook straight line cast but who could blame him ?
diagrams, books, videos and even in real, most instructors explain that just as in the diagram above, SLP (Straight Line Path) is a constant from one end of the stroke to the other. even in Jay and Bill Gammel’s awesome reference construct The Five Essentials of Fly Casting, this straight all-the-way-through concept is very easy to accept and take for granted.

“3. In order to form the most efficient, least air resistant loops, and to direct the energy of a fly cast toward a specific target, the caster must move the rod tip in a straight line.”

but is that what really happens ? lets take a closer look.

'SLP' Borger:Lovoll FC

first published in 2010, these findings aren’t anything new to some of us casting geeks but might be a sorta eye-opener for the non geeks, shedding some light for those who have asked themselves the same question as my student. just as we’ll see in the still below, in this study cast SLP is roughly a little bit more than a third of the overall stroke, most of the rod tip’s path has a mostly domed/convex shape with a somewhat flattened top. *
SLP length Borger:Lovoll

i won’t risk any absolutes but as far as i can tell, the only time we’re going to see a true, all-the-way-through SLP and its resultant tight loop will be when a non-flexible rod (the proverbial broomstick) is used to perform the cast. but even if the broomstick is somewhat frequently brought up in casting-geek circles and is a wonderful tool to understand a lot of casting concepts, it’s not something we use.
our ‘real’ rods bend, react to the forces we apply to them, get shorter as they bend and go back to their original length as they unbend and there’s the caster’s biomechanics and probably a billion other factors that are involved when considering rod tip path and even if they all where within my understanding, they’re not about today’s subject.

to conclude, after having shown this video and image to my student (ah, the beauty of bringing an iPad to lessons!) with a few explanations and demonstrations, you’ll most probably have already guessed it but here was the furthered response to his query.

– knowing this isn’t going to change your life, its just one of those ‘what we thought we where doing isn’t necessarily what was going on’ things.
– does this not-as-straight-as-we-thought SLP change anything in the way we should cast ? nope.
– provided you get the loop shapes you’re wanting to create, should you be doing anything differently ? absolutely not !
– if you want a straight line cast, keep on imagining your complete casting stroke is a straight one (and do all the other elements correctly) and you’ll get that tight loop and a straight line layout.

which in a certain manner, makes it resemble Saint Exupery’s elephant inside a boa drawing a lot more than your everyday ruler. at least in my eyes…

top image from Bill Gammel’s brilliant Making adjustments on the fly
regiffed video and adjoining image via Grunde Løvoll. click HERE for more of Grunde’s slomo studies on Jason Borger’s site: Fish, Flies & Water
elephant/boa drawing from Antoine de Saint-Exupéry: Le Petit Prince

note- although the loop shape in the gif is textbook ideal, Andreas’ casting stroke seems to be quite long considering he’s only false casting 10m (32.8ft) of line. my guess is he was casting at a fast rate which necessitates a wider casting stroke, perhaps something to do with getting a good visual result with the 500 frames per second camera.

the perfect Jump Roll

performed by Christopher Rownes

also known as a Switch cast and Dynamic roll by some, i prefer not to use those terms because of all the confusion they usually create.
simply put, a Jump roll is the other form of roll cast.
instead of dragging the line back on the water to create the D loop, the ‘jump’ part means lifting the line from the water, placing the anchor, creating the D loop in line with the intended front cast direction and going into the forward cast before the D loop crashes on the water.

although hard to disassociate from the Spey cast family, it really isn’t one because this isn’t a change of direction cast. sure, we can deliver the line in a slightly different direction than where the line was lifted but that angle change is very limited.
however, the Jump’s siamese twin of sorts, will be the Single Spey which is based on the same principle but involves a curved sweeping motion and consequent D loop angle change during the ‘Jump/Lift’.

in his dvd set ‘Modern Spey Casting’, Simon Gawesworth highly recommends practicing this cast regularly and to use it to warm-up to start off the day. i couldn’t agree more. it’s not the most useful of actual-fishing casts as it means putting the fly back where it came from and usually causes some commotion on the water’s surface during the lift but ! getting it down right involves good and proper everything: power application, timing, rod tip tracking, smoothness and probably a whole bunch of other elements that’ll come back to me once i’ve published this post…

more than just ‘line-pretty’, this image shows excellent anchor placement involving anchoring only the leader and not the fly line. this provides more than enough ‘stick’ to not blow out the D loop and makes the front cast more efficient and quasi-effortless. superb form indeed.
in this image we’ll also notice that the ‘kiss and go’ principle is far from being a rule or even a necessity as we clearly see the forward cast was started and finished well before the line anchor touched down: a ‘go and kiss’.

’nuff said, here’s some line-candy. enjoy !

'the perfect Jump Roll' Chris Rownes

Fly Casting- The Pull Through

here’s part two of yesterday’s Some thoughts on Instruction and Descriptions from Mel Krieger about the often brought up Pushing vs Pulling which basically consists of:

– when Pulling we’re translating the rod throughout the majority of the stroke and rotating it at the end: Late Rotation
as Mell notes below, an easy way to see this is if the rod tip is behind the hand throughout translation.
Pulling requires a greater (and more efficient) involvement of the arm. the shoulder muscles do most of the work and the elbow leads the hand and either goes up and down (overhead casts) or out and in (non-overhead casts).

– when Pushing we’re starting the rotation much earlier and counter to above, the rod tip will be in line or in front of the hand throughout most of the stroke: Early Rotation
Pushing doesn’t require as much whole-arm work. not all casts require a lot of arm movement but on the other hand,  arm-lazyness is a really good way to mess up and make lovely tailing loops. an added unwanted bonus to these screw ups is that Pushing/Early Rotation may/can/might promote creeping.

breaking down the basics of the movements involved to these simple definitions means that this is easily observable regardless of casting style: overhead, side casting, casting in different planes or with a single or double-handed rod.

now, what’s the point and why the vs as if they where at battle ?

well, Pushing isn’t a crime in itself but it leaves us with more limitations if that’s the only way we know how to cast, specially when we’re aiming to cast in tight places, create tight loops, trying to cast farther than usual or maybe into the wind.
what Pushing/Early Rotation generally does is give us bigger loops but that’s not a sin either because bigger loops (i mean nice purposefully formed and controlled loops, not ugly, fat out-of-control blob-loops) are often a common sense safety necessity when casting heavier/bigger flies or when fishing teams of several flies or simply on the front cast when there’s wind from behind. (the bigger loop gets pushed by the wind and line, leader and fly(s) land nice and neat, the wind does a big part of the ‘work’)
just to show that pushing isn’t all evil, it’s probably the best trick of all for good, consistent casting at accuracy target rings. most if not all the better accuracy competition casters do this. these comps aren’t about delicate presentation as the line is slapped down to the target and rotating throughout the stroke also enables a better judgement when hovering (judging the distance to the ring) but wait ! doesn’t this sound like terrestrial imitation ‘plopping’ or when casting streamers to the banks from a drift boat ?

i believe that by now we’ll agree that Pulling Through the stroke is what we want to learn and have as default style and change over to Pushing when the need arises. (i really like Mel’s term ‘Pulling Through’ as it leaves an immediate understanding of the action. thanks Mel !)
i hope you’ll benefit from my ramblings and Mel’s wisdom. enjoy !

” And now to one of the most elemental and important aspects of a fly casting stroke, often overlooked by experienced caster and even many instructors. It is a pull through motion – the casting hand preceding the rod tip through most of the casting stroke – the turnover and stop taking place only at the conclusion of the casting stroke. A push through movement in the casting stroke has the rod even or ahead of the casting hand through much of the casting stroke – somewhat akin to a punching motion. While it is possible to cast fairly well with this push through motion, especially with the stiff powerful fly rods that are currently popular, the pull through casting stroke is superior.

Some analogies might be useful to more fully understand this concept. Imagine a brick on the end of the line. A hard push through motion will very likely break the rod, while a pulling motion could easily move the heavy weight. Imagine a three foot length of rope pulled through to smack a waist high board. Pulling the rope through could almost break the board while pushing the rope through would be futile.
A bio-mechanical company working with Olympic athletes and professional baseball teams concluded that the closest athletic event to a distance fly cast would be a javelin throw. Try this: 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. Now try the same cast with a push through casting stroke, noting the significant reduction in speed and the very likely resulting tailing loop.
Shorter casts are more subtle, utilizing a fairly short pulling motion at the beginning of the cast. Many instructors teach a pulling down with the caster’s elbow or hand during the casting stroke, resulting in an excellent pull through movement. Longer casts however, require pulling on a more horizontal plane; the longest casts very close the same plane as the projected forward cast.

Start all fly casting strokes with this pulling motion – a short pull with short casting strokes and a long pull with long strokes. Combine this pulling motion with a good rod bend and you’re almost assured of an efficient cast. “

Good luck!
Mel Krieger

“And who would have thought that analyzing fly casting could be so sexy ?”

for more on this most informative instrument of torture created to make fly casters go crazy and weep from ineptitude yet not-so-sexy thingy devised by the brilliant yet cruel minds of Bruce Richards and Dr. Noel Perkins click here- CASTANALYSIS

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

romanticized mathematics


source unknown, author ‘Barnes’

i have the feeling this was written a while ago. i would love to read what Barnes came up with but then, maybe a lot of the romance would have lost it’s way between all those numbers

Tension Glasses

i remember Lee Cummings bringing this up several years ago and i’m pretty sure it’s still in the back of his mind.
the idea being, through high-tech chemistry and ingenuity, someone could devise a fly line that would change colors as it goes through various degrees of tension throughout the cast. the tension glasses would allow the caster or viewer to see these colors while the line is dancing in the air and as a bonus, look extremely cool and cause large amounts of envy by having shades no-one else has !

it’s easy to see how a visual back-up confirmation of explanations such as this would greatly benefit casters of all levels.
“With a beginner, one way I like to describe fly casting is to get them to imagine that the head of the fly line out beyond the rod tip is like a piece of bath plug chain of the same length and the typical objective of a normal overhead cast is to get every ball and link of this chain moving in the direction toward intended target area prior to ceasing to apply force with the rod.
If we don’t do this then there is the risk that the last few links/balls at the very far end of the chain were not fully utilized as available weight during the casting process and as one result, the leader and fly of which is attached may not be directed accurately at the target.”

tension glasses lee cummings

as per Lee’s ‘vision’ demonstrated by the photo-shopped image above, bright red would designate highest tension and i guess, bright blue when completely slack. (blue being at the opposite end of the visible spectrum for humans)

anyhow, somewhere right in the middle of downright absolutely f’n brilliant and something pulled from an old pipe-dream sci-fi flick, i fully applaud this kind of thinking and imagination because, even if it never really comes through, (but i hope it does ! this already exists so changing a few things here and there and transposing the idea to a fly line doesn’t seem so exotic) the idea might lead on to another way of achieving the same result, furthering the knowledge of fly casting without resorting to horrendous and boring charts, graphs and equations that have become the norm when discussing casting physics.

“I think if I ever get these glasses it would open up a whole new dimension to fly casting pleasure, actually seeing tension change with the eye would probably stand right by what we have actually come to learn what it is that we feel when we cast.”

for the complete Fly Casting seen through Line Tension Glasses article click this link or the pic. put on your shades and enjoy !

related articles

Fly Casting Physics Explained

” It’s all quite simple, really… “

A=TLC Einstein logo

… and if you’re interested in more complex matters regarding fly casting (without the dreariness of physics) you can click the image for the Cobra’s complete fly casting archive or HERE  for a more pertinent selection of reference articles. enjoy !


from buddy Roger Håkansson

far from being knee-slapping funny like watching drunks make fools of themselves or seeing puppies falling off of cliffs, this is as far as i know the first Fly Casting Bloopers video and as such i hope you’ll enjoy this historical moment !
on a practical side, fault analysis (specially other people’s faults… ) are an important aspect in understanding how casting works and learning how to not make faults so, apart from “D’Ohing !”, the avid caster can always try to figure out what went wrong.
happy day folks, i’m off to (hopefully) tease some fish !

Sensorsex Test with Two Sensors

here in the south of France we need to find good ways to keep both our minds and bodies busy during the long-long winters and one of the best ways to accomplish this is the all new Sensorsex Test with Two Sensors.
far from being some cheap gadget, the SsTwTS wonderfully accomplishes several (at least two) functions and does all of them wonderfully !

it keeps your casting arm in prime shape, ready to go on opening day and as a sideline, the sensor thingy transmits information to a computer and gives graphs and such about rod rotation, tracking, speed, translation and who knows what else all in the interest of studying fly casting mechanics and physics but that’s not important because it’s main function is that it fills your house with weird funk-like tunes from some bad ’70′s flick, something we all need on a regular basis but generally speaking, lack.

it’s creator, Tom Reidar Syversen A.K.A. SuperRattus from Norway tells me that it also sends ‘sexy feeling’ waves through the arm that spread throughout the whole body putting the user in a state of prime fly-flicking condition and awareness.
for the moment, and after some less than extensive testing, i haven’t felt these but he affirms that this happens when the wrist is well conditioned. “It’s a long winter, you know… “

soon to be on sale in the upcoming Limp Cobra Boutique, don’t hesitate to give a call to reserve your plug and play SsTwTS today !

the PULD complex

here’s an interesting little exercise that’s starting off quite nicely.
being a relative newcomer to our activity and keenly interested in fly casting, i asked Laurent from GOne Fishin9 to describe with words a basic Pick Up and Lay Down cast.
the purpose is to break down each element, have a better understanding of them and how they work when combined.
this is what he came up with. quite impressive.
instead of keeping this more or less between the two of us, what i’d like is to hear what you all have to say about his description.
the PULD is one of the foundations of casting and breaking it down step by step in our minds before putting those steps into application is an enriching experience for anyone at any level.
let’s play !

the PULD complex

Marc having unexpectedly turned into Sigmund Freud, he’s all about what’s happening into the dark corners of my mind, and since he won’t take ‘wtf??’ as an answer I’d better practice my introspection. Current exercise: what did you think about your mother’s boobs? if you don’t want to think about them, you’re just repressing, that’s sad but you can always try to describe with full detail what happens in a PULD.

yeah, PULD, or PU&LD. In case you’re like myself somewhat unfamiliar with the pro’s lingo (and then feel retarded) it’s for Pick Up & Lay Down.

so, my unenlightened version would be like: take rod… sling back… tug… sling forward… follow. but that won’t do, obviously. I need to get a finer grain.

  1. initial position: right handed, open. left foot in front, right foot behind. body plane slightly tilted towards the line plane. 10m of line on the ground, straight. no slack. rod in line with the line.
  2. grip rather loose, wrist slightly bent to have the rod in line with forearm.
  3. start moving up the rod by flexing the elbow and shoulder. smooth acceleration. the whole movement goes towards a sharp stop with arm horizontal, forearm vertical and wrist straight. the rod is at one o’clock.
  4. your eyes follow the loop, hence your head has turned back over the shoulder to look at the backcast
  5. meantime, and just after the stop, try to squeeze and release the grip to absorb bounce (not very clear what to do, but you try to dampen the goddamn thing)
  6. arm extends a little in direction of backcast while the loop unrolls
  7. when the line is straight, start front cast. smooth acceleration to a stop. stop should be more or less 1-2 o’clock. things you try not to forget:
    1. less power
    2. concentrate on loop: let the loop happen correctly, them the rest will follow (relatively easy to believe at 10m)
    3. careful with power, not too much, else you tail
    4. be smooth and sharp but smooth
    5. try to have the tip moving in a relatively straight path. this one is wishful thinking, because the tip move fast and I have no fucking idea of its trajectory (the tail will tell me)
    6. think you shoot into a tube to try to get a narrow loop
  8. all this went well so the loop is nice and not tailing (much) and maybe it has a kind of point to it. (you should film it to really know but lazy)
  9. just before the line straighten, start lowering the tip. the idea is to follow the line as it falls on the ground.

Fly Casting- Hand path dynamics with a double hand rod

a biomechanics study in this video from Alejandro Viñuales who has plotted and over-layed the hand movements of a long distance aerial overhead cast with a double hand rod.
another wonderful example demonstrating that what we might think we’re doing isn’t always what’s actually going on.

Rain Music

here’s my friend Lee Cummings again. on this video he’s casting a shooting head and trying out a new retro-reflective rod coating that enables a better visibility of how a fly rod works through video analysis. a very cool idea indeed with astonishing results.
this was filmed one night in December. as you can see, the passioned and obsessed will stop at nothing !

ps- not sure what happened but the soundtrack is rather special. it reminds me of Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) experiences i’ve had… 

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