Most common casting problems you see [Archive] - Fly Fishing Forum

: Most common casting problems you see

05-26-2004, 12:41 PM
When you are watching people cast (at a show, on the water, etc) what are the most common problems you see?

I would have to say that the answer depends on the region and the fishery. For instance most striper fishermen have a lot of creep in their cast.

I define "creep" as the rod coming forward during the backcast and before the application of power such that the rod is already forward before the cast begins. This has the effect of cutting the stroke to a very abrupt forward poke, which can not leverage full power of the rod and thus limits the available energy in the cast.


05-26-2004, 12:53 PM
#1. Not letting the backcast straighten all the way

#2. No defined "accelerate and stop" at 10 and 2 (dumping the backcast)

I'm not big on casting aesthetics but these are the problems I look out for when I'm casting poorly. One or the other is usually at fault.

Dble Haul
05-26-2004, 12:55 PM
Here's what I commonly see (and mind that I'm no expert)....

1. In the same vein of what Juro has defined as "creep", I've seen folks who let there rod drift slightly forward during the backcast. I've also seen plenty of full forward casts starting before the backcast has completely straightened out behind and loaded the rod.

2. Not letting the rod do the work that it's capable of. This is a generalized statement, but in a nutshell flyrods don't require a heck of a lot of muscle to use them correctly. Overpowering casts (especially the forward cast) usually lead to sloppy results. Relax and let the rod do what it's designed to do. When loaded correctly, they're usually quite easy.

3. Lack of attention to feet. The standing position of a caster affects the result of a cast if the body is not working in unison. Slight adjustment of the feet can result in better overall body alignment and therefore simultaneously retard fatigue and improve the casting stroke.

These are just off the top of my head. I'm sure there's plenty more.

05-26-2004, 01:31 PM
I think the three most common mistakes beginners make are:

1. Letting the rod tip drop down on the backcast (big wind-up)

2. Starting the forward cast too early, before their line straightens out on the backcast

3. Not stopping crisply at the end of either their forecast or backcast (this flaw is usually accompanied by a big "throwing" motion, rather than the short, snappy motions that allow a rod to load and unload effectively)

05-26-2004, 01:42 PM
#2. No defined "accelerate and stop" at 10 and 2 (just like a single hander)

And my #1 would be the rod is too vertical on the forward cast (generating the spey version of the 'tailing loop.'

05-26-2004, 02:07 PM
Over powering on the forward cast, such that the back cast is not complete...letting the rod do the work... like a golf swing...Tempo and timing is not considered enough..... also keeping the elbow on a flat plane thoughout the cast.

05-26-2004, 02:16 PM
Like others have said the #1 thing I see newer casters (and sometimes myself) is dropping the backcast instead of stopping high and throwing it up into the air. The fly should never be hitting the ground on your backcast.

I see alot of guys casting 3-9 instead of 10-2


05-26-2004, 07:30 PM
I'm the rookie out of the guys I have met on my home water, and they are all accomplished casters. I am truly too humbled to be critiqueing they're casting. So I'll give an account of what MY biggest errors are.
#1) I try to overpower the rod on the forward stroke, not letting the rod do what it was made to do. I instinctively try to "Power throw" the forward stroke and it is HELL trying to force myself to wait for the D loop to form, not creep forward (which shortens my forward stroke, I know, Iknow.....) and slowly but increasingly come forward and slightly down with the rod to a nice underhanded "Snap and Stop", ending high at 11 o'clock. (Thats more than 1 thing, I know, but they're all part of the forward stroke so I'm calling it 1 thing)

Other than that I'm doing OK, and when I shorten up, slow down and tie some yarn on (or when no one is looking and it doesn't matter) I do fine, so there's hope for this old dog yet! :rolleyes:

John Desjardins
05-26-2004, 08:27 PM
My personal # 1 bugaboo is breaking my wrist on the final forward stroke. Reduced distance, tailing loops & poor casting knots result :rolleyes: .

05-26-2004, 08:41 PM
Lok at the elbow!
An "overactive" one will almost always wreck the cast, it causes many problems and "fixing" the elbow can greatly enhance the "solutions" we all try to convey to casters we try to help.

05-26-2004, 08:53 PM
Frenchcreek -

I am curious about your observation. Most beginners have an under-active elbow, meaning they break their wrist instead of bending the elbow -or- hold their arm extended (elbow straight) and rotate the shoulder socket to wave the rod.

Of course we are not talking about observations of beginners in this thread but intermediate casters, so are you referring to the raising of the level of the elbow out of the horizontal as Striblue mentioned or is there another aspect of controlling the elbow we should be noting?


05-26-2004, 09:17 PM
Originally posted by John Desjardins
My personal # 1 bugaboo is breaking my wrist on the final forward stroke. Redued distance, tailing loops & poor casting knots result :rolleyes: .

Hmm . . ., I wonder if that's my problem as well. My fly frequently crosses underneath my fly line on the forward stroke. This seems to have gotten worse over time instead of improving. Guess I've developed some bad habits :( . Since I'm not quite sure what I'm doing wrong, it's hard to figure out how to correct the problem. I suppose that's a problem in itself!


05-27-2004, 08:35 AM
In teaching beginners to flycast, I've stopped talking about how to move (or not move) wrists, elbows, and shoulders. Instead I just focus them on the goal--a short, relatively flat stroke that accelerates quickly and comes to a sudden stop, sending the line straight out behind them, and then a similar, short, relatively flat stroke in the opposite direction that accelerates and comes to a quick, firm stop, sending the line straight out in front of them. I find that different casters use more or less wrist and do different things with their elbows and shoulders depending on what's most comfortable for them. So trying to be too prescriptive about how to move body parts during the cast isn't always helpful, since different people will find different casting movements most comfortable. Also, it seems distracting for beginners to focus too much on how their body is moving, rather than focusing on the rod and line movement they are trying to produce via their body movement.

As a more accomplished caster my biggest bad habit is rotating my shoulder forward and leaning into my forward cast, rather than standing straight and letting the rod do the work.

05-27-2004, 08:58 AM
You all listed all my problems :)

05-27-2004, 09:05 AM
With my own casting, I can see vast improvement when I loosen my grip on the rod on the forward cast. This allows the rod to move the line and I don't send shock waves into the line. Still, I have the tendency to grip hard and try and power the line forward.

I took my wife Atlantic salmon fishing last year for the first time and she was a great caster. I told her only about waiting on the back cast and not to let the line hit the ground behind her. Without any coaching she gravitated towards a side arm cast with stable elbow which really worked well. Later I read a column by Lefty Kreh explaining the virtues of just such a side arm cast.

05-27-2004, 09:10 AM
So far it seems we have:

1) Not stopping the rod at 10 and/or 2 (stroke too open, loss of power, open loop / Sean, BigDave, etc)

2) not waiting for the backcast to extend (timing, loss of power / Bigdave, striblue, etc)

3) elbow not in line (tip travel not in a straight line, tailing loop, line collision / Striblue, Frenchcreek)

4) stopping a spey cast too short or too high (tailing loop, line collision, loss of power / Fred)

5) over-thinking (soloflyfisher, Rimouskis)

6) creep forward before making the forward cast (loss of power / DbleHaul, Juro)

We can assume these traits are common to moderately experienced casters, since thatís what we see most often.

So I am going to stop this right here and ask for the above, what advice or methods (tricks) would you offer to these people to correct the 6 observations, if they asked?

I'll start with creep. One of my favorite metaphors for correcting creep is the batting champion metaphor. Consider Barry Bonds waiting on a change up. Not high inside heat, nor a low fastball - but a change-up, a pitch designed to make you think it's fast when it's really slow. Provided he isn't fooled, which he rarely is, he must feel like he has time to check his watch, tie his showlaces, and think about his investment options by the time that ball finally comes into range to be swatted out into San Francisco Bay.

If his bat moves forward, his stroke is shortened and he becomes a slap-hitter instead of a home run slugger. Likewise, if the rod does not "stay home" until the backcast loads it, the full amount of available energy is not leveraged into the cast.

This is essentially timing and rod position. I ask the question "did you see A River Runs Through It?". Have never gotten a "no" yet from someone with a flyrod in their hand. Well in that movie, the preacher sets the metronome for a four count... click, wait, click, wait. He instructs the boys to stroke only on the alternate beat. I then ask the caster to cast, calling out a four count with two strokes (one on every other count), called out loud. Then I tell him to extend the line, pointing out that the longer the line, the longer the wait. It usually results in their longest cast ever.

Seems to work pretty well, until the pod comes over the flat when a whole 'nuther kind of patience is necessary :devil:

05-27-2004, 09:48 AM
Rather than using the 10 o'clock to 2 o'clock analogy, I sometimes just tell beginners to try to stop their rod straight up on their backcast. If you tell people to stop at 2 o'clock they seem to drift to 3 or 4 o'clock. If you tell them to try to slam on the brakes as soon as the rod is straight up over their head, they then tend to stop right about where they should stop.

05-27-2004, 09:55 AM
That's an interesting approach I would not have thought of.

With beginners (which is another topic) I do advise to align the thumb with the forearm and rod, bend the elbow to bring the rod back and stop the forearm at vertical while allowing the wrist to flick the rod tip to 2pm. This is the only allowable wrist action (for the backcast)*. This method is only for the basic low-power "trout" cast intro.

But I have to wonder, with your technique how do you get different people to drift past vertical consistently to 2 o'clock if teaching a group to stop at vertical?

*and a complementary wrist flick at the end of the forward cast after extending at the elbow similar to hammering a nail for a picture hanger - stopping the hammer so it would not go thru a freshly plastered wall.

05-27-2004, 11:18 AM
Originally posted by juro
But I have to wonder, with your technique how do you get different people to drift past vertical consistently to 2 o'clock if teaching a group to stop at vertical?


I've never done any formal instruction of a group . . . just taught a few friends one-on-one, so I'm not sure how this would work with a group or whether it would work for everyone. What I've noticed though, is that just about every beginner I've tried to teach seems to have had a natural tendency to drop the rod back too far on the backcast. (I think they are trying to use the rod to throw with, and therefore they want to start with a big wind up, just like they'd do if they were throwing a baseball--emulate Barry Bonds when he's hitting, not when he's throwing, I guess!) Anyway, in my experience, using the 2 o'clock analogy hasn't worked well, since the tendency to drift back seems to be so strong in beginners that they have trouble stopping firmly once the rod gets behind their head. So one day I just said to a friend I was teaching, "try to stop the rod as soon as it's straight up" . . . and voila! he started casting well almost instantly. In actuality he was stopping his forearm straight up but breaking his wrist slightly to get the rod close to the 2 o'clock position. Maybe why the straight up analogy worked better for him than the 2 o'clock analogy is that he was judging which way the rod was pointing by his forearm position, not by the rod's actual direction --- and when his forearm was straight up, his rod was actually pointing close to the correct 2 o'clock given a bit of wrist bend. Not sure this would work for everyone . . . but I've found that the "straight up" instruction has worked well with other friends too.

05-27-2004, 11:51 AM
Tailing loops bug the hell out of me. They seem to often result from trying to hard on the final forward cast. I know pretty much why they happen, just can't seem to break out of the mode sometimes.

As far as clocks and drift go, from what I've heard...

Other than trying to get someone off the ground with casting I think Lefty's got it right. There ain't no clocks in flyfishing. The stopping points are to be abrupt, to unload the rod, preceded with the smooth acceleration of the rod, to load the rod. At the risk of mis-representing Roberts, for distance casting, rod drift, after unloading on the backcast, is a means of providing a longer stroke through which to accelerate and more deeply load the rod. So I'm not sure why drift is nessacerily a problem.

05-27-2004, 12:27 PM
Most adults have an aversion to passive learning situations and a penchant for active or hands-on learning experiences. But, a little theory on flycasting might be helpful in order to conceptualize the connectivity between the flyline, rod and line/rod hands before the "hands on."

This is even helpful to intermediate casters:
!. The flyrod is a flexible lever or spring that loads and unloads on both the back and forward strokes. If a definite stop does not occur at the end of the stroke (both back and forward casts) then the energy developed in bending this flexible lever is inefficiently dissipated.
2. The flyline is the weighted mass that loads the rod. It travels from the tip of the rod in a lazy "S" configuration on both the back and forward stroke. The fly attached via the leader to the flyline merely goes along for the ride.
3. The rod hand is an extension of the rod. As the fulcrum to the rod, a little arm/wrist movement translates to feet at the end of the rod.
4. The line hand plays an equally important role. It is the tensioning device on the flyline for controlling the loading and unloading of the rod.

Once those principles are understood, then the art of flycasting can begin.


05-27-2004, 12:40 PM
The few people I have taught to cast I have them visualize punching their thumb (assuming you cast with your thumb on top of the cork) towards the sky when stopping the rod on the backcast. This seems to help get them to stop the rod high.

I also like to get beginners to spend a lot of time just practicing the backcast and nothing else. This it what I spend the majority of my time on when I am practicing and it has really helped improve my distance. When I first started casting I had no idea how important the backcast is to being a successful caster. Every newbie should have this point driven home before they even pick up a rod.


05-27-2004, 01:15 PM
Solo -

Thanks for the explanation, I see your point clearly!

Fred -

Drift backward after the release of line into the backcast is good... I think what people are saying is that drift forward before the forward stroke is bad. At least that's what I am saying.

If the forearm stops vertically and the wrist snaps to 2pm, then the arm is not positioned to make a big stroke forward. The drift back increases the stroke length for the forward stroke, which increases load in the rod, which increases power in the loop, etc - so to your point the drift back after the stop on the backcast is definitely a good way of increasing distance provided the travel forward keeps the tip of the rod in the same line 180 to the back cast and has a gradual acceleration to a snapping stop in front.

I've learned the hard way (repeat hard way!) that hitting the power too early in the forward stroke -and/or- having any kind of deviation from the straight path results in tailing loops, twohanded or singlehanded.

Simms -

Great description! Just a bit of clarification - what is the "lazy S"? I see a "C" or sideways "U".

Thumbs up Sean ;)

05-27-2004, 02:43 PM
Originally posted by FrenchCreek
Lok at the elbow!
An "overactive" one will almost always wreck the cast, it causes many problems and "fixing" the elbow can greatly enhance the "solutions" we all try to convey to casters we try to help.

Taught to cast by an elderly gentleman neighbor (Mr. Coles); that was his main point for a 10-12 year old (really) learning how to cast. His 'tool' was a roll of newspaper under the elbow; instant feed back if the roll fell out from under your arm. Not good.

As timing/distance improved then you could drop the paper as you had to move the arm forward and back for double hauling, etc.

05-27-2004, 05:26 PM

I agree that on overhead casting, allot of people will drift the rod forward prior to making the forward cast. My cure for this has always been to close my stance. Just like a batter can close his stance. With the closed stance it is easy to look over your shoulder and see what the rod is doing. for those that want to learn to drift the rod farther to the rear for a longer stroke this is an easy way to learn to do it.

But my biggest bug a boo is trying to keep to much line in the air. I have a habit of shooting line on my back cast and sometimes trying to get that extra foot I put to much in the air and everything turns do do. Thats one thing I like about the multi colored lines. When I see the wrong color at the tip I know I am in trouble.

05-27-2004, 06:22 PM
Great point about watching the backcast. I often start a newbie off by doing side to side "pendulum" motions just to get the accelerate/stop cadence down. But you don't want to do it for long to avoid muscle memory.

For increased visibility of the backcast, an open stance with the opposite foot forward also helps aid the view.

Change of color is being adopted by more line manufacturers in the seasons to come, thankfully! This includes Rio, Wulff, Airflo for starters that I know of, some of whom already had it even for floating and intermediate lines.

05-28-2004, 08:12 AM
when referring to a lazy "S" configuration of the flyline on both the back and forward stroke. In fact, before the flyline straightens out on the backcast, it does look like a lazy "S." You are correct on the forward cast configuration appearing to be a sideways "u."

An excellent aid to depict flyline form and to commit to muscle memory is your "boa" or the Fly-O sold by Joan Wulff.

This is a welcome addition to the forum and not readily available elsewhere.

Juro, good Job!


05-31-2004, 10:34 PM
Here is a frustrating problem that I often encounter in my casting:

My cast hooks to the left instead of going straight out (I'm right handed). In the worst instances the leader will end up 90 deg. to the line. I try to keep rod motion in a straight path as best I can, but that doesn't seem to help. There seems to be too much kinetic energy in the cast which ends up dissipating itself by turning left. To try to stop it I will sometimes place my right foot forward instead of my left. This reduces upper body rotation making the cast somewhat straighter, but its not the total answer.

Any ideas?

05-31-2004, 10:57 PM
There are a couple things I can offer, passed on to me by the wonderful casters I have known or things I've cooked up myself.

1) push your thumb in the direction you want the line to go. keep it on top, not to the left or right - but right up on top of the hand as you finish the cast. This also helps control tailing loops.

2) practice keeping the hand in plane by standing next to the wall and rotating the arm like a windmill an inch or two off the wall a few times, then make casting motions where your knuckles are but an inch or two away and equidistant the whole time, keeping your thumb on top so you can point it at the target in the end.

3) throw a fly line without a rod for a while. Nothing makes you straighten your stroke like a 10-15ft length of flyline cast with your bare hand. For a real eye-opener, add a haul on the backcast, and forward cast if you can. The backcast haul is easy, but my point is check out the impact that move has on the line speed.

4) Look at your hand when you finish the cast. Do you see your fingernails? You shouldn't unless you turned your hand in a palm up vector during the cast.

5) Cast a short line, about 25-30 ft, perfectly straight using the absolute minimum energy possible that will still carry the loop. Then add line, keeping things perfectly straight as you add only the minimum energy. Then put the whole head out there, and keep things going perfectly straight. Finally, drift back a little and accelerate a little quicker on the forward stroke, hitting it mostly at the end. That should reach about as far as you could ever reach with more effort and less straight-line efficiency. Try to throw the other half of the loop - the half past the wedge and attached to the fly - like a javelin through the air, straight fast and true.

Hope these help.


06-17-2004, 10:36 AM
I will comment on my faults:
1. not letting backcast straighten
2. i get a wobble in the line on the forward cast.'
3. not a tight enough loop
4. tails

I've been fly fishing for 12 years and just recently decided to work on my casting since i never had a need for distance.

Once I started to learn about good casting, my casting has gone to hell. I used to cast a good distance with my old 8 wt, now i have problems with 50 ft. on a new, good rod. :(

06-17-2004, 11:27 AM
One of the things that I don't see enough people doing is watching their line during the cast. They have no concept of what's going on with the line and rarely form tight loops or make very effective casts to fish that are further out than they typically can reach, and they don't really have a feel for the line loading the rod. I think that actually looking at the back cast, at least from time to time and whenever you change patterns to one that is much more/less wind resistant to the one you've been fishing (unsuccessfully :hehe: ) for the last two-hours, or whenever the wind changes direction and/or strength significantly, can really help maximize casting efficiency.

I'm guilty of overpowering my forward cast from time to time, evident when I relax and unload the line to the same distance that I previously attained by trying to launch it to the moon.

As an aside, I seem to have fewer problems with my cast when I'm casting side-armed; I've always been that way. Casting directly overhead, or even a few degrees off, just isn't as effective for me. I'm not sure if it's a more natural motion for me than overhead casting, it just feels better and casts farther.

06-17-2004, 11:56 AM
Originally posted by flyfisha1

As an aside, I seem to have fewer problems with my cast when I'm casting side-armed; I've always been that way. Casting directly overhead, or even a few degrees off, just isn't as effective for me. I'm not sure if it's a more natural motion for me than overhead casting, it just feels better and casts farther.

I totally agree that sidearm (or three-quarter) casting is much more comfortable than overhead casting. For some reason, I'm also much less likely to get a tailing loop when I drop to a sidearm cast. The only time I go directly overhead is when I want pinpoint accuracy (or when there's an obstruction that I need to get my backcast over). I tend to aim a bit better when the cast is overhead, but I get the best distance with a three-quarters cast.

06-17-2004, 12:21 PM
"I tend to aim a bit better when the cast is overhead..."

Same with me.

06-18-2004, 06:30 AM
I'm sure that physics supports better aim with a more vertical path of the rod, for one thing the path of the hand is aligned with the eye and where the hand goes the rod follows. When I take the overhead cert test I will be using a vertical stroke for accuracy tests for sure.

But as an avid sight fisherman I rarely cast with a vertical rod position because it's harder to get as fast of a load into the rod for me with the upright angle in time to make the connection with the cruising fish, not to mention potential collisions with stainless hvy hooks and weighted eyes to right the hook on very shallow flats, etc.

By harder to get a load I mean that when walking around in the water, holding the line in the hands or when casting after one shot to take another, I find it easier and more natural to throw the necessary backcast with an outward angle to get things going to get enough momentum going to put the fly where it needs to be. After years of sight fishing I have become 'accurate enough' with a 45 degree cast and have avoided the vertical position for fishing saltwater.

Accuracy with spey casting is another topic entirely. To use a very vertical path you usually need to set the anchor closer, thus you would use a shorter line and probably more of a Scandinavian technique. For most of my fishing I prefer a longer line and traditional technique, and I am finding that you can get pretty accurate coming off the anchor placed a rod length away and to the front just by paying close attention to the angle of aim and having a smooth stroke to the correct release point for the target.

When two-handed overhead casting it's quite a bit easier to use a (near) vertical path of the rod and you can create a tremendous amount of power for accuracy at distance with a little practice.

Interesting discussion!