Single Hand Fly Casting

There is one thing that must be learned so that an angler can fish as we think.  By using the word 'think' I am giving you my opinion that a day on the water is a series of puzzles that have to be analyzed to conclusions and then acted upon to get each desired result.

Get used to the terms used to talk about casting.  Here is a great link.

Here are some additional terms from Gordy Hill.
Cadence : Rhythm of false casting.
Check Haul : Haul made as the loop is unrolling. ( Sometimes used to more rapidly turn over the leader.)
Drag : (casting def.) Almost pure translation of the rod prior to the rotation of the casting arc.
Effective rod length : "The measured chord that subtends the arc of the fully bent rod becomes the true casting or effective length." *
Hidden drag : Drag of a dry fly which is "unapparent to the fly fisher." **
Kickback : Sudden reverse flexing of a rod tip in response to rapid initial acceleration ***
Launch angle : Trajectory, Line plane. Direction of launched loop with respect to a true or artificial horizon.
Line launch : To send forth, catapult or release the line.
Mend: Re positioning of the line after the cast, in the air or on the water.
Parallel loop legs : Loop legs which are parallel in all planes.
Pre-load : Slight early rod bend as a loop with high momentum unfurls.
Rod action : Where and to what extent the rod bends.
Rod loading : Bending the rod against line inertia and the rod's internal resistance.
Rod plane : Orientation of the rod from vertical to horizontal on either side of the caster. Casting plane.
Rod spine : 1. "An area of an otherwise symmetrical rod which is stiffer than its corresponding segments around the rod." **** 2. Rod "Spline".
Rod strength: l. The ability to resist bending. 2. The resistance to breakage.
SLP : Straight line path (in all planes) usually referring to the path of a rod tip.
Static D-loop : A D-loop which remains still prior to a forward roll cast.
Ticking : "Ticking the water. The fly, or part of the leader or line, touches the water on the back cast or forward cast - unintentional on the part of the caster " *****
Trajectory : Launch angle, line plane. Direction taken by the loop relative to a true or artificial horizon.
Triple haul : Haul on the forward cast, and the back cast plus a check haul.
Underslung loop : The tendency for the loop legs to cross when great amounts of line are carried during long distance casts.
Caused by gravity. NOT a tailing loop. Collision does not occur i.e. "Gravity loop".

The perfect fly that is nestled in my vest must be used in the proper way to get that desired result and the perfect way can only be achieved with the perfect cast for that moment.  Making a cast is the mental calculation transformed to physical action.  Each action can only be made using what available knowledge and ability we have achieved prior to this moment.

My name is William and I am a fly casting fanatic.  I go out in the back yard and cast for the shear fun as well as to learn a few things that are roaming around my head.  My practice stick is always lined and at the ready. 

I am a proud International Federation of Fly Fishers member having qualified certifications in basic casting (CCI) as well as the Two Hand Instructor classification(THCI)  I love to teach as well as apply my abilities while angling.  Salmonoids are my passion.

Stretch your line before casting or fishing........

What is the basic principal of the cast?
We have all heard the expression tight loops.  This is how the shape of the leading edge of the fly line is described when being cast both forward and back.  The idea is that the closer the distance between the upper and lower leg portions of the line path, as they move past each other, then the tighter the front of the loop will be.  Let's make it clear that a tight loop is only a good loop when the desired cast requires a tight loop.  Using the word loop is kind of a misnomer because if you are truly forming a loop, according to Webster, then the cast is what is called a closed or tailing loop.  This clarification is being discussed right now between IFFF masters.  Tailing is when the upper portion of the line is allowed to dip below the lower line leg by causing the rod tip moving in a concave or dipping path.  For now I will just say tailing loops are not desired.  You will understand why with just a bit more reading as there are a number of ways this can happen.

Smooth and Continuous Application of Power  with a Straight Tip Path to an Abrupt Stop. 

This statement is the most important group of words in casting possible.  They are the basis for a tight loop cast.

Smooth - Think of using the gas pedal in you car.  You can punch it down or you can start the car moving with even yet added pressure to make the car gain speed.  Casting is not the abrupt and forceful application of power.  It is the ability to gradually move the rod grip back and forth from a stopped position to a stopped position in the most physically expeditious way possible.
Continuous - Now we understand that we are going to move forward and back in our casting stroke with a motion that is constantly increasing in speed during the entire movement.
Acceleration - Simply, the conclusion that the stroke is becoming quicker throughout the action.
Abrupt Stop - The end of the casting stroke is immediately stopped.  No deceleration and no extra flick of the wrist.  A dead stop, or as can be called "The Almost Dead Stop".  No matter how hard we try, an exact dead stop is impossible.  The inertia created by accelerating the weight of the rod, reel and moving line makes it impossible for our bodies to be that strong and rigid.  We try to come close and by keeping our muscles from being extender we do our best.  So the almost stop as close to abrupt stop is the desire.
Straight Tip Path - Think of your hand as the tip of the rod.  Yes, think about it.  No matter how hard you try you can not make the tip of the rod follow any other path than the path that your hand follows.  Raise your hand and  the tip goes up.  Move your hand out to the side and the tip moves the exact same distance.  So the idea is that the tip of your rod will move in a straight path that is being determined by what path you use with your hand.   I keep my wrist firm so that I am not adding an arc(convex) or any abrupt change to my tip path.  Our fly rod was designed in a taper so that the tip will flex and transfer energy.   Because of this bending of the spring we must control a straight tip path by making a slightly downward move at the end of each stroke.  Some call this move the stop/pop.   This is the time when the wrist changes position as well.  When the rod is in the pointing forward and down position at the start of the back cast the wrist is also pointing down with the thumb pointing straight ahead.  As we make a lift to clear line and then the back cast a transition using the pop/stop happens and the wrist moves to the most powerful position possible.  If you can draw a line down the inside and middle of your forearm it would continue through the palm of the hand and precisely parallel if your fingers were outstretched.  This is the straight wrist position that comes at the end of a back cast and the beginning of the forward stroke.  The stop/pop made on the forward stroke changes the wrist back to the pointing down position and clears the tip so the upper line leg moves over the lower line leg.  Having a straight upper line leg is of the greatest importance to the proficiency and energy of the cast.

Here is a video of Joan Wulff explaining the basic cast.  When Ms. Wulff uses the snap example it is the same thing as what I described as the pop/stop.

Joan Wulff Basic Cast

Smooth and Continuous Application of Power  with a Straight Tip Path to an Abrupt Stop. 

Let's stop for just a moment and talk about the late and great Mel Kreiger.  Mel is the inspiration and Godfather of the IFFF casting instructor program.  He made videos and wrote books like The Essence of the Cast and with the combine efforts of a few others came up with the concept of Essentials in casting.  I mention this now because we need to understand what these essentials are and how important they are to better casting.  The five Essentials are 1.Pause 2.Slack Line 3.Straight Tip Path 4.Size of Casting Arc 5.Power.

Pause - Slack - Straight - Size - Power  P.S.S.S.P.
P - There must be a Pause at the end of both the forward and back stroke.
S - There must be no Slack Line prior to starting a forward or back stroke
S - The tip of the rod must move in a Straight Line Path laterally as well as vertically
S - The Size of the casting arc must increase as the line is lengthened out the tip of the rod.
P - Power is applied in a smooth and  acceleration.

Using the word arc means the angle between the start and stop of a casting stroke.  Stroke is the action that makes the rod tip travels during a forward or back cast.
Now let's do our best to make bad casts.  This is necessary for a full understanding of what the basic principals means. 

Tailing Loops
A tailing loop is when the upper leg of the of the fly line will be caused to dip below the bottom leg during a cast.  We all have this happen and the results are what are politely called dreaded wind knots and when the fly is catching on the line.   

There are a few ways to make tailing loops.  One is to apply a very hard and abrupt push during some part of our casting stroke.  The easiest way would be to make this abrupt action at the very start of the stroke. We void the Essential that power is smooth with constant acceleration and make a violent action to our stroke.  What happens is that the rod being a spring will bend very deeply at the tip.  This causes the path of the line to be very low and will travel under instead of over the tip of the rod when the stop is applied.   Add to this shortening a forward stroke by means of creep, of the forward movement of the hand prior to the full extension of the line on the back cast, and the cause of dramatic tailing loops will be found.  Tailing loops are caused by inappropriate application of power, shortening of strokes and concave or downward tip path.   I practice these faults constantly and make tiny adjustments to fine tune my casting stroke.   It's very easy to step on essentials but when we practice them as faults we learn how to make them count when we want to.

Smooth and Continuous Application of Power  with a Straight Tip Path to an Abrupt Stop.

Open Loops
Now allow me to step on the other two essentials and understand what makes for the opposite of the tailing loop, the open loop.  Without the pause at the end of a cast we are not allowing the weight and inertia of the moving line to pre load the rod.  This pause is the key to also making sure that there is no slack in the line prior to making our next stroke.  Drift now comes into play and is practiced by all quality casters.  Drift is done when we follow with tempo the moving line back or forward to extend the size of the casting stroke.  It is the extension of pause and achieves the pre load with added ability toward a smooth transition to the next stroke.  I can step on these two essentials very easily by making an opposite stroke too early as well as making a movement with my hand called creep.  Creep is when the rod is slowly moving in the direction of the next stroke before the pause and or drift is complete with all slack is out of the line.  It creates a massive lose of power, a shortening of the next stroke and the possibility of tailing loops and tangled line.

The easiest way to understand how to make open loops is to dramatically increase the size of the arc of our casting stroke in a convex or rainbow shape tip path.  This is even more enhanced if the stroke is made with all wrist and we keep our arm stationary.  What you will notice is that the cast has no tension and no power.

Control, Control, Control, Control, Control, over and over and over again.  Open then Loose then tight then loose then open then open then tight and over and over and over till you can cast 1 foot till you can drive a bus through them loops.  Being able to make the loop on command over and over again.  Have I said this enough?  Well then, fine.  

The Horizontal Cast
This technique has some great advantages in presentation as well as safety.  The key factor to remember is that when we take the vertical cast down closer to the ground and face the rod tip path in a sideways plane we must increase the speed of the stroke to compensate for gravity.  This is natural and required to keep the rod line leg and fly line leg tracking correctly.

Having this casting stroke available offers a number of advantages.  We now have the ability to cast under hanging trees.  On windy days we can keep the rod stroke on the opposite side of the wind and be safe.  If the wind in blowing at us from our dominant side we can simple turn our back to the target and make the forward stroke the back and the back the forward.

If we take our range of ability one step further then casting over our opposite shoulder then changing foot position a little and horizontally casting on our off side offers addition potential.  As an experiment, stand in front of a door jam.  Hold your hand in front of your face equal in height to your forehead and pretending that you have made a back cast over your opposite shoulder on a 45 degree angle.  You will find that if your hand makes it's stop position in the same location as you made a salute you can exert the greatest power on the door jam.  Find this location and it will become the place where you make your stop and then the beginning of the forward stroke for all over the opposite shoulder casts.

Aerial Mends
Here is a technique that if used in our fishing day we will present the fly in a more appealing and natural way a greater number of times.  They are called mends because the action occurs after the stop has been applied. There are a few different types of these applications that involve changing the shape of the line as it lands on the water.  The first two are similar.  They both are performed by moving the rod tip side to side after the stop.  First is with wide slack waves.  This is a cross current cast that lets the line move with the current and not pull on the fly.  It is achieved by making wide side to side movements of the rod tip after a very high stop.  The next incorporates the same movement but in smaller side to side movement at a quicker rate as well.  This cast would be used from an up stream position where we want our fly to dead drift away from our position.  The next is the one side areal mend.  We use this cast where going around the back of an object is required.  By making a side motion with the rod after the stop we can create an outward shape to a section of the line.  The farther out we want the mend to be the sooner after the stop we need to make the side and back tip movement.  For very long mend positions close to the end of our line the move will be required at the stop with slipping of line a necessity.  These casts can be made to both right and left.

Reach mends are also forms of areal mends.  This casting style is used when there are slower or faster currents where you want to place the fly.  The cast is made to stop in the regular basic way to a very high stop and then with tempo we move the rod to to side of choice and present with tempo to the water.  The line should be straight as possible from tip to fly.

The final example I will include is commonly called a cast.  If the definition of a cast or mend is that one is performed before the stop and the other after then the Tuck Cast is clearly a Tuck Mend.  We use this cast to drive our fly in a downward movement to gain instant depth.  Works really well with weighted flies.  If you make a cast with a high stop and then make an straight upward move with the rod tip you will watch the fly dive.

Curve Casts

Now we are entering the realm of the trick cast using the dynamics of energy in some power on and power off technique.  Although there is controversy in the casting community about weather an under powered curve cast forms a loop or not the cast is still a cast.  It's partner is the over powered curve cast where excessive energy is transferred to the rod and hence the line, leader and fly to make it bend around corners.

Both casts are used to cause our fly to be positioned swimming with or opposite the current.  It is a cast that can go around an obstacle.  The under-powered curve cast is performed with a deceleration in line speed with no abrupt stop and a pro nation of our wrist with tempo to presentation.  These casts can also be made using torque twisting.  Although a bit more difficult and requiring the rod tip to be high they are a valued addition to your casting range.

The Roll Cast
Because the roll cast is a water borne cast that needs water tension to be performed well it is a difficult cast to make on dry land.  The roll cast is a static cast with very little dynamic in the set up.  I like to think of being on a railroad track and when casting over my right shoulder stand close to the rail on my left.

Because of my two hand experience I commonly use a continuous motion 'D' shape to what is the back of the roll cast.  This is not acceptable when showing the cast in single hand.   A "D" loop for the switch cast is made with a lift and air borne sweep forming the "D".  The single hand roll cast is slow and deliberate in function.   Removing slack from your line, staying low in the wind, having no back cast room and raising a sinking line to set up a cast are reasons to use the Roll.   It is performed in two separate segments.  First is the raising and moving of the rod tip over the shoulder forming a D shape loop.  Remember the rail tracks.  When making the beginning move keep the fly line within the rails. This will have the effect of the least amount of resistance lifting the line and fly from the water on the forward stroke.  Second is a slight outward move of the rod tip out and around to form the "D" loop.  By this move you are giving the slightest dynamic to the line that will enhance the formation of the "D".  Once the "D" fully forms we make the forward stroke.  The stroke is cast with the rod tip moving in a straight path forward lead by the butt of the rod making the transition as late in the stroke as possible..  If you make the tip of the rod position be far back you will get an open loop.  Too far forward and no power but a very tight and low loop.  You must be able to make this cast over the opposite shoulder as well.  On dry land I over power the stroke leaning the rod slightly to the side to get the leader to lay out straight.

Switch Cast
The next logical progression after learning a good quality roll cast is the switch cast.  This cast is the basis of all Spey and two hand style casts.  It is the final portion of all Spey and two hand movements.  It is what is called an air borne cast.  What this means is that the line is removed from the water by a lift and sweep and then placed back on the water as a set and anchor in an advantage way to create the load necessary to bend the rod on the forward stroke.  All principles of continuous acceleration with straight tip path to an abrupt stop apply.  The end is the same, the set up changes the game.

The movements of the switch cast are lift, sweep to anchor set, continuous round up forming a well defined "D" loop and a forward stroke were all parts of the cast line up in a straight line.   In two hand we use the bottom hand to transfer extra power in this cast.  In single hand we use the single haul.  This is where additional line speed is applied at the moment of the forward stroke that is very similar to using the haul in over head casting.   This pulling or hauling of the line is very dramatic.  The key is for the line hand to travel close to the rod hand through the lift, sweep and round up to key position.  It is here that the transition and haul becomes enacted and adds additional line speed and loop tightness.

Single Spey
The Single Spey is a change of direction air borne cast that is used when wind is blowing up river.   From the dangle a shotgun lift is made to clear line from the water.  Then a sweep using body turn to target lifts the line off the water and sets the anchor on the up river side of the caster.  A transition is made by forming the "D" loop and rounding up to the key position and making the forward stroke and presentation.  The 180 degree rule where "D" loop. casting stroke, anchor placement and target are all in a straight line.  The path of  least resistance.  This cast also befits from the single haul.  A go to cast with obstetrical behind the caster when swinging streamers.

Double Spey
This is a water borne cast that is used when the wind is blowing down river.  It starts on the dangle with a shotgun lift that then proceeds to a second lifting movement positioning the anchor on the down stream side of the caster.  The sweep is then made back toward the anchor and spins the knot forming the 180 rule with "D" loop, forward stroke, anchor placement and target.  Key factors are determined by space behind the casters position.  The first lifting moves are placed away or near the caster by how far behind is available to form the "D" loop.  Small clearance behind equals lift position farther away from the caster.  Greater room behind equals closer distance of the lifting move to the caster.  This is the determining factor of power in the cast.  The farther back the "D" loop can be made the greater power to be transferred.   The end of the cast is the same forward stroke to a high stop as all other Spey style casts.

You are on your favorite trout stream and watching a few fish rise in soft dimples you will want to quickly, gently and accurately put your fly in the ring formed by the fish.  You want that fish that was just rewarded with food to make a split second reaction to your presentation.  You must first be able to determine what cast to use and in an instant have it in the ring.  Now all that we are learning about tight loops, casting plain angle, distance and wind control will come into play.  It becomes very hard to be watching your back cast and pointing at a target.  Practice is the key.  Line control with the off hand is also important when performing these types of casts.

Making pin point casts involves a few movements as possible.  The more movements attempted the more movement that can mess up.  Try to read the situation.  I a cast low and hard or soft and high to flutter required.  Slow and deliberate with help a lot.  I also like to add a slight haul for accuracy.  Not for distance but to turn the fly over in a more deliberate way.

Casting 85 feet might seem easy if you take out the need to make the cast with the proper form.  Tight loops with no tails and a smooth Double Haul Cast is the key to greater distance.  Learning the Single and Double Haul will give you a strong sense of timing.  Now you must make movements that are in opposite directions because the purpose of these casts are to make added loading of the rod as well as accelerating the speed that your line is traveling through the air.  I found that the easiest way to feel the timing was with a short line out the rod tip of about 3o feet.  Because the line is short the stroke is also short.  Remember Short Line = Short Stroke, Long Line = Long Stroke.  It's the same with the Double Haul.  Long line=Long Haul, Short Line = Short Haul.  As Mel Kreiger said treat the haul as  one word, downup.   That's right, all one movement with the hand that is holding the line.  It is the ability to haul down and up as one movement that is going to give you the best result.  The Downup rapid motion really works.  This haul movement happens at the same time as the forward or back stroke is made.  The length of the downup pull varies the amount of line speed that you want to generate.  The last haul will be the largest down and the up part is eliminated to shoot the line. When you pull at the same time you start the casting stroke a dramatic power gain is instantly developed.  Now with the 30 feet out the tip you can make false haul casts in as slow and controlled as you can.  It will still seem fast but quickly what feels very awkward will start to feel better and better.   Now let a little more line out of the rod and what seemed very fast and out of control will make the distance cast get slower with a wider arc and stroke.  For achieving greater distance we use the haul in conjunction with line slip.   Back cast, stop, drift and slip, forward stroke, stop, drift and slip, back cast, stop, drift and slip and then make the forward stroke with very little added power but a big haul behind the butt and let go.  Any abrupt rod punch is going to result in a tailing loop.  Timing of the hauls and strokes is critical.  Over power is not your friend.  Timing with quality control and hauls are your friends.

Salt Water Quick Casts
If you are going to be fishing flats style water then this is a must technique to learn.  Simply, fish like bonefish and permit are as spooky as can be.  When they hit the flats to eat they are going to run at the first and slightest feeling of danger.  Make these casts quickly and with as much stealth as possible is critical to success.

From a skiff where you have a platform to collect line a reasonable quantity of line can be out the tip of the rod, with an additional amount hanging over on finger of the off rod hand.   You then can have the rest neatly coiled at your feet.  Holding the fly and line in your hand keeps floating weeds and grass from fouling your line.  At the moment you are going to start to cast throw the first stroke forward releasing the line looped over your finger.  Now holding the fly outside you casting arm hold the fly with the point facing back and the bend of the hook between your fingers.  Of course it is important to have the hook point beyond your fingers and pointing in the direction of the back cast.  When the tension of the back cast is noticed release the fly and continue as if making a few double haul casts and shoot the line.  If done well, it will take no more than three back casts and three forward casts with hauls, drift and slipping of line to achieve a 60' to 70' cast.  If you are standing on the flat itself the challenge becomes a bit more difficult.  Personally I use a stripping basket and shooting heads to achieve this cast.  The process is exactly the same only I shoot more total distance when using the shooting head and running line.

Heavy Weighted Flies
Gravity, that force of nature that keeps us standing on the earth is also the phenomenon that will cause a weighted fly to want to mess up our casting.  The easiest way to deal with this issue is to understand how to make casts with various degrees of open loops.  The heavier the fly or line the larger the arching tip path that will be needed.  Line pick up becomes an issue when fishing down deep.  You might even have the necessity to strip back some line and make a roll cast to bring your fly to the surface prior to making the back cast.  False casting becomes difficult at best and might be dangerous.  Limiting false casts and shooting line for some distance would be the better choice.  Knowing how to make casts with open loops is the key to weighted line control.

Changing Direction
Today the modern fly caster has a number of options available to make change in direction casts from down stream positions.  In the past we used movements like false casts successively moving to the target, roll casts successively re positioning, Galway casts, switching casting arms or even stripping back line so starting over facing the up stream position was easy.  The key factor in these kinds of casts it the time it takes from a fishing day.   Today we use water tension with opposite directional inertia to achieve the goal in shorter periods of time.   Al Buhr asked what I thought was the best cast.  I went into the story about tight loops and smooth and such and he said, "the cast that gets his fry from when it stopped fishing till it was fishing again in the least amount of time"

That is what two hand techniques for the single hand rod can achieve.

Spey and two hand casts like snake roll to spiral casts, C and Snap T casts that set anchor positions on our casting arm side offers us a much wider range of options.   Re positioning set up style casts like the Double Spey are easy and safe.  Even single hand Single Spey casts that require no back cast are made with a minimal use of time.   We then enhance this casting style with the use of off hand hauls and the effect is quite dynamic.

Casting When Wind Is A Factor
Having the wind playing a roll in our casting is a factor that can be addressed with safety.  Safety is the constant truism in the decision of what cast should be used.  Let's first take an example of the wind blowing in the direction we are casting.  The effects can be that our back stroke will be the first part of the cast effected. Our first option is to change the trajectory of an overhead cast so that the back cast is low and then the forward cast is higher.  We cut the wind to the back and then use the wind in the front.  A horizontal plane or side cast can also keep the wind to a minimum effect.  For the opposite situation of the head on wind we can simple change the trajectory to be higher in the back and low and driving in the front.  Would I expect in each of these situations that I will cast as far as with no wind?  Absolutely not.  But this simple altered tip path control will keep me fishing reasonably well.  Try making a haul on the driving forward head wind cast.

When the wind is coming from the side our first option is always to be casting over the opposite shoulder from where the wind is coming.  If the wind is blowing at our right then we want to be casting over our left shoulder.  Changing our foot position to make the forward cast and back cast reversed will create a good option as well.  Side casting over the opposite shoulder is best achieved by making sure we keep our casting arm in a strong position.  The saying is to salute the rod.  This means bringing your casting hand toward your face in the same way you would make a salute over the eye on the same side as your casting hand.  This is a location of power.  It's one of physical absolutes that place our bone and muscle structure at it's strongest. Move farther to one side or the other and the strength is diminished dramatically.  You can try an experiment to see this is true.  Simply try this position and then move outward and inward with your hand position.  It is a very noticeable difference.

Making Changes In Direction 
There are many factors that will be presented that determine what cast we will use.  Changing directions from the dangle could be a matter of thirty to forty degrees and making a pick up and lay down with a slight directional shift would be easy.  But what if you wanted to make the nest presentation at ninety degrees.    Using false casts to make the change would work without an obstacles.  The Devon cast, a sort of areal version of a single Spey is an option for small venues.  We can use our opposite hand and pick up on an angle to make the change.  The same will work with our dominant hand by simply starting the lift with a diagonal movement and casting over the opposite shoulder.  But by far, the best way to make directional changes is with Spey and two hand water or air borne casts.  From single Spey, double Spey, snake roll snap T and more the available casts offer speed and ease.  With two hand style casts for single hand rods the added power can be transferred by the use of a haul accelerating the line on the final forward stroke.

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