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popper 07-09-2007 03:11 PM

Holding line with line hand
Hi, new member here. I've enjoyed reading this forum. There's a lot of great advice here.

I've been fishing my whole life, but only recently started fly fishing. Actually, I've owned one fly rod for about 15 years (still the only one I own, a 5 wt. Sage DS), but I've never used it all that much. I've gotten plenty of fish when I have tried it, both trout and warmwater species, but I pretty much stuck with spincasting and baitcasting, which is how I learned how to fish.

This year I've been concentrating more on my flyfishing. I've had some great outings catching bluegills and bass, but I am getting frustrated with my lack of casting skill. I'm not terrible, but I'm a pretty good baitcaster and I want to be a good flycaster too. I have one Lefty video that I've watched enough to know that there are lots of problems with my casting stroke. But here is one issue that I can't seem to find any good information on: How do you hold extra line in your line hand, and release it in a controlled manner when you are false casting?

I know that a stripping basket is one option, but I'd prefer not to go that route if possible. Alternatively, I can just let the loose line pile up at my feet or on the bottom of the canoe, which is what I tend to do now, but then te line gets wrapped around a paddle, or sticks to the water, or tangles, and I end up with a short cast.

In the Lefty video, in one frame it looks like he is holding loops of line in his left hand, but I've tried to imitate that with no success. I wrap 4 or 5 long loops of line around my left hand, let one loop go at a time, and "catch" the line at the end of the forward cast, holding the rest of the loops in my hand, but it takes me lots of false casts to shoot line because I am only shooting out a little bit at a time. I've tried letting two or more loops go at a time, but then my line gets tangled a good percentage of the time.

This is important to me because my rod will not pick a lot of line up off the water cleanly (another problem with my skill level?). So I pretty much have to work out line by false casting.

Help! I can use your advice. Thanks. Bob

jsteelhead 07-09-2007 05:37 PM

Bob, I personally do the same thing that Lefty does with forming loops in my hand. I think stripping baskets could have their place in saltwater fishing or something like that, but is a pain when it comes to most other forms of flyfishing. It is a difficult thing to get used to if you are new to flycasting because it requires that you are doing several things at once. The thing with holding loops is you are going to have to shoot your line/load your rod at the same exact moment you are letting the line out of your hand, otherwise like you said it becomes a mess. It is all about the timing with flycasting. It is a tough thing to explain on how to accomplish this in writing.

As good as a video is it can only teach you so much. I was a guide for many years and I saw many people that tried to teach themselves how to cast, often they had a pile of bad habits that are really difficult to break. I would go into a local flyshop if you have one and have them give you a few pointers, and if they teach a casting class I would recommend signing up for sure. It might click a little more if you see it in person or have someone point out what you might be doing wrong.

Unfortunetly there isn't a shortcut in great flycasting, and to become a great caster demands many many hours on the water and lots of attention to refining your cast with help from those that cast well. Don't get frustrated though, remember that great casters like Lefty have spent countless hours working to cast that well and it will take you time too, don't expect to cast like Lefty overnight. We all started at the same point and anyone can become a great caster if they aren't complacent and are willing to put the time in. Good luck!

Eric 07-09-2007 07:08 PM

Jsteelhead gives very good advice about getting professional instruction. I speak from bitter experience as I began teaching myself to flycast at about age 10 and have had a lifetime thereafter trying to unlearn the bad habits I picked up in the process.

A few hours with a competent teacher (not all good casters are competent teachers; get some recommendations from people you trust) can start you right onto a long, long period of great enjoyment. Few things, apart from hooking and landing fish and the other thing, give the satisfaction of executing the perfect flycast effortlessly. Or so I've been told. Someday, maybe I'll do it.

There are many ways of dealing with the "shooting" part of your line, depending on the situation. When fishing from a boat, try to remove as much of the clutter around your casting area as possible. If there's something to tangle on anywhere near, your flyline will seek it out and snag on it. Every time. Guaranteed.



juro 07-10-2007 05:04 AM

There are many ways to skin this cat.

Ounce of Prevention

Unless you are feeding line into the drift, reel up anything you aren't casting. No sense is having line around that is not in play.

Zig zag it out

By flexing the rod side to side in the right cadence the line will pull out of the guides easily. Then you roll cast it out and are able to load the rod usually with just one backcast and zero false casts.

Slip and flip

leaving the fly in the water, pull the rod horizontally to the side letting the line slip out thru the tip gradually coming up to the roll cast firing position, then make a flip cast letting the rest of the head slide thru the tip. If done right, the whole head will be laying on the water in front of you and you can lift the line right into a fully loaded backcast.

Back on topic

Ok as far as line loops and line hand technique...

I use the surface between my thumb and index finger as the gripper and the 3remaining fingers as individual loop holders.

The index finger should be curled around like a candy cane around the end of the thumb. The line is best slipped and gripped somewhere along this surface, most typically in the 'claw' for me.

Practice with no loops on grass. Just lay a pile on the grass. Put out say half the head (15-20 ft) and practice slipping the line and gripping the line in this manner...


where stroke is the bending of the rod and rest is the time you wait for the line to straighten out in the air. Obviously if you slip on the stroke the whole cast loses energy like a deflating balloon. Slip only in between strokes.

**As an advanced topic, using a haul will increase the amount of line you can slip between strokes thus reducing the number of false casts to get line out. That's a topic for another day.

Loops in the fingers

Ok once you are slipping and gripping the line off the ground you can add loop management techniques.

Once the line is fully cast out, strip in the line with your left hand using the rod hand's index finger as a guide. Start with just two line hand loops, about 3 feet in length. That means you are holding about 12 feet of line in your left hand.

Strip using the thumb/index claw until you are ready to hold a loop - at which point you grab the line with your loose fingers (first loop = pinky/ring, second loop ring middle, etc) and then continue stripping with the main index/thumb claw until you are ready to make the next loop, repeat.

It's important to note that the line hand should draw the line thru the rod finger in a manner that does not disrupt your loops once held since the working hand is simultaneously holding line while stripping more.

(a video here would help but I think you know what I mean here)

Now go back to your cast... slipping from loops

Where you were slipping line (slip/rest) without any loops / line laying on the grass you now allow line to be pulled into the cast from the loops. Ideally your technique will allow for the head of the line to get back in the air on the first or second stroke.

Keep in mind that fly rods are designed to be matched with the head portion of your flyline so until thats in the air you are going to be under-gunned and whipping back and forth without much happening for your trouble. In contrast get the head out and you are instantly in business.

Once the head is in the air you should be able to shoot a few loops just by letting them go after the forward cast is underway. I will mention the haul again here since it really does eliminate false casts.

You mentioned 5 loops. That's a lot to start. That could mean you are stripping right to the tip top, using very small loops or you're casting a hell of a lot of line which is good. When learning to use the line hand start with two and leave more line out of the tip top between casts.

Stripping baskets are ideal for fisheries where you strip right to the leader knot. They are also very good for boat fishing. Even if you do get your loops down pat you should consider one for your boat. They are easy to make for a couple of dollars.

Then if you add the zigzags and slip&flip tricks you will soon be eliminating false casts so that one is enough even for long casts.

Hang in there and keep practicing!

popper 07-10-2007 05:53 PM

Thank you very much, everyone, for your advice. I printed this out and practiced casting today. It went a little bit better for me. Towards the end, I was able to shoot a fair amount of line. A couple of times, I got to 60' from around 40' with one backcast. More normally, I was lifting up about 30' of line and shooting to about 50'. Of course, about a third of my casts were flops that ended up in piles on the water. I even managed once to get a knot in my fly line (!), not the leader.

It really helps me to have specific things to work on. So today I focused on lifting 30' of line out of the water cleanly (more than I've done before), trying to get a straight backcast with a little tug on the end of it so that I could get the forward cast going, and managing the loops with my line hand.

Some observations:

1. It really helps not to have a foam bass bug on the end of my line!

2. I think that a newer, stiffer, slicker line will help me to keep from getting tangles. I've got to go to the fly shop and pick one up.

3. I guess this is not so much like "getting it", like I thought, but more about practicing individual casts, all of which are different, until you can do them passably.

4. I do know how to haul a little bit, and I needed to do that the few times that I got out to 60'. But oddly enough, it made my backcast wavy, even though it loaded the rod more forcefully. Without a haul, I got some nice straight backcasts, but they weren't very powerful.

Is anyone here a bass fisherman? I need some advice on a new rod. This 5 weight just isn't cutting it with the big flies I want to throw. I've read that a medium-fast action fly rod is best for bass, because it throws wide loops and most fishing is done close in, but I'm thinking of a faster action rod. I read an article years ago about how Ted Williams was able to get smallmouth bass to rise in the middle of summer to bass bugs, by casting them extremely far. So there are some situations where a long cast would help in bass fishing. Should I go for a fast-action rod? Will they work with hair bugs and the like? Should I get both a medium-fast action rod (a cheapie, maybe?), and a fast action rod (more expensive)?

And I'm looking for cheap or free flycasting classes in the area. On the Internet I found some guides in my area that will give instruction for a pretty hefty fee, but nothing like a fly fishing club yet. I'm sure they're around though. I'd like to use my disposable income this summer on a new fly rod first.

Your thoughts would be appreciated. Bob

Warren 07-10-2007 06:41 PM

Most fly shops have someone who can help you out, If you buy a rod set up they may even not charge you. I know My friend here who owns a shop does not charge much at all or anything if you are a customer. He is the accommodating type & would like to see a beginner succeed so he helps out. But things may be different where you are.

A five weight is a little light for bass. You would be served to keep the 5Wt for trout & pan fish and buy a 7 or 8 wt for bass. ( 8 Wt will also work for steelhead & light salt water duty if you decide to try that someday)
The rod need not be too expensive. I fished for years with a less than $100 Bass pro shop 7-8 wt. it got the job done nicely. but as I became a better caster it was a bit soft & I eventually reached the limit it would cast. I still have it though & use it on occasion

I fish for Bass quite frequently. I now use a 7wt fast action rod or an 8 Wt. My preference is the seven. I think that the fast action rods turn over bulky flies better than slower rods, But once again that is personal preference. A Bamboo rod fisherman might disagree. Use a shorter leader( 5-6 ft) for bulky flies, it helps. I frequently use a level piece of #20 Lb floro for a leader & that is it. The seven Wt will throw a light Clouser or a big deer hair popper just fine and still have plenty of grunt to get the fish to the boat quickly.

Have a look at line selection.
There are several lines out there specifically made for Bass fishing, Scientific Anglers Mastery Bass bug taper, I think Cortland makes a bass bug line. I am sure there are others. I use Rio Accelerator WF 7F for my bass fishing. It shoots good far away & works good in close too. I can cast it 50- 60 feet no problem from my Kayak with a deer 2/0 hair popper. Maybe even farther if I had the need. I have never tried

Some fast action rods you might look at for bass fishing are as follows.

Mid priced:
Cabelas Ft & LST Series
Sage FLI
TFO Lefty Kreh pro series
St. Croix Avid

Higher end Rods
Sage VT-2
St.Croix Legend ultra
Cabela SLi
Orvis Power Matrix

High end
Sage Z-axis
Orvis ZeroG & T-3
Loomis GLX

These are just a random sampling of rods that would be sufficient for Bass fishing IMHO. There are other makers too. Redding, T&T, Scott, LL Bean to name a few.

I might add that for Bass fishing a inexpensive reel is sufficient as well. I have caught fish up to six pounds & never had one run off on me. I just pull em in off the reel most times unless they take all the line out then I use the reel.

bonehead 07-14-2007 04:21 PM

Line Management...
First off, good suggestions above. I'm glad to see you mention a new line on your own. I think a new, stiffer line will really help. Too limp a line will tangle easily as will an older line that's got a rough surface.

Main thing I'd add to all this is a little thing called line management. I've fished a good bit from a kayak and I'd second what Juro mentions about clearing the clutter. Also, how you prepare your line is important. Lots of lines need to be stretched after they come off a reel, particularly the older model reels with small diameters. Stretching it reduces its tendancy to lie in tight coils on the deck.

Also, if you have your line sitting in the bottom of a vessel it will probably get dirty. Make sure to clean it after every outing. Dirt causes lines to act "sticky" and tangle easier, not to mention shoot less distance.

Learning to manage line is an ongoing task, and it's not the same for every situation. If you're wading a stream or river, the coil idea Juro mentions is great. It keeps the line from being pulled downstream, which is hard to pull back for a cast.

(Wading the saltwater flats it's just the opposite: holding the line in coils will almost always result in a tangle when you cast, but letting the line drag in a big loop behind you will keep it clear and ready to cast.)

Fishing from vessels usually just means making the boat fly-line friendly. Move anything the line can catch on or, if you can't move it, drape a wet towel over it so the line won't catch on it. Or, use a clean, five-gallon bucket as a "line-tamer". Drill a few holes in the bottom for water to drain and just strip into that. If it has a tendancy to slide around on the deck, you can pain the bottom with some of that cheap rubberizer you can buy at most hardware stores - tool dip, I think it's called. Using a stripping bucket of some kind also means you can simply pick the line up and move it if you need to... a sure way of making a tangle otherwise.

Hope this helps.


PS If you're line is piling up at the end of a cast it probably means you aren't stopping the rod properly at the end of the cast. This is usually a symptom of trying to "throw" a line, rather than unroll it, as Lefty would say. Remember, the rod needs to quickly and completely stop at the end of the cast.

popper 07-14-2007 06:11 PM

Your guys' comments have made me into a better caster in just one week. I really appreciate the advice. I'm still not doing a perfect job of line management, but I'm better than I was a couple of weeks ago. My casting is getting tighter too, except when I get excited and forget what I'm supposed to do.

I think I need a new rod, too. I got my rod before I knew how to cast, and I think that they gave me one where the guides are not lined up with the spine. Why do I say this? Well, I'm thinking of building my own rod and I've learned how to find the spine of a rod. On my rod, the guides are offset about 30 degrees from the spine. I've noticed that when I cast the rod has a tendency to twist in my hand, and I think that that explains it. I've started holding my rod off-center, with the reel and the guides splayed out a little bit to one side, so that the spine of the rod is lined up with the force of the cast, and my casts are straighter as a result.

The main thing I'm focusing on now is throwing tight loops. I don't do it all the time, but at least I know that I should be! It's weird, I notice that if I just focus on throwing a tight loop on the forward cast, the line goes farther than if I try to power the cast. I still have to put some force into it, though.

I'm casting well enough to catch fish, anyway. Went to the local canal today and got three huge carp under a mulberry tree, on a little bit of red deer hair that I spun to look like a mulberry. Then I caught a few little smallmouths on a yellow and black deer hair bug. I'm having fun anyway, which will keep me at it.

Thanks for all your help.

bonehead 07-14-2007 07:44 PM


It's weird, I notice that if I just focus on throwing a tight loop on the forward cast, the line goes farther than if I try to power the cast.
That's not weird at all, and it's pretty much the secret to improving your cast. Casting is not about power or strength, but speed and timing. In fact, too much effort defeats us. If you'll remember from your Lefty video, the casting stroke is a gradual, continuous acceleration to a sudden speed-up-and-stop. But, what I think many casters need to hear is speed-up-and-STOP!

The first part gets all the line moving with the constant acceleration putting a bend in the rod and storing energy. Then the speed-up-and-stop adds speed to the line and causes it to unroll when the rods stops.

If we add too much force to the cast we cannot stop our hand fast enough and it drifts forward causing the rod to dip down and throw the line in a heap. (An oversimplification, but true enough.) Also, the fastest motion of the rod must come immediately before the sudden stop. Often if we overpower, or try to throw a cast, we accelerate too quickly and reach our fastest speed too soon - say midway through the casting stroke - and the rod actually slows down before the stop. Obviously the rod loses some of its load (stored energy) this way.

I like the trick I've heard of throwing the line at the tip of the rod. Trying to make the flyline hit the tip on each cast has the effect of tightening the loop and teaches better form. It also shows how little effort needs to be used to make good casts. Focus on throwing tight, effortless loops and you'll be amazed how much better you get.

popper 07-14-2007 09:33 PM

Well, one thing that's messing me up right now is that this canal often doesn't give you any room at all to backcast. So I'm having to try the Steeple cast, and the cast where Lefty throws it into a hole in the bushes (Galloway cast?). Obviously I get hung up on the trees every now and again. Fortunately, since I'm fishing for carp and bass, my tippet is 20 lb. test so I usually get the fly back. :) Every now and again there is a short stretch where I can do a normal backcast and a normal forward cast. I've also got a video by Doug Swisher and while I don't like the way that his casting looks compared to Lefty, there are some useful tips for practice. For example, he tries to throw loops through a tire. I really should try to do something like that to help me with my backcasts into the bushes. If I ever get that down, then I'm going to start working on curve casts. The straight line cast is pretty much all I know now.

Thanks for the tip on trying to hit the tip of the rod with the line. I'm going to try that tomorrow.


jero 07-16-2007 09:21 AM

guys excellente advice as always, it was a very good question by popper and the answers have helped me out a lot.

I have a few questions though,
1-Whatīs a stripping basket?
2- boneheadīs suggestion on aiming to hit the fly line at your rod tip is actually something that happens to me unintentionally from time to time, any comments on how to prevent this, maybe lowering the rod after the foward stop?

finally, Iīve never had trouble with the back-cast stop, but no so in the foward cast. Something I read on the Net that has helped me very much (and I leave this subjecto open for criticism) is squeezing hard the rod hand after the acceleration of the backcast and foward cast. This "stiffens" my arm and makes me remember to do the sudden stop.

well guys, keep up your "evangelization" of new fly fishermen like myself! correcting my mistakes and learning new things have made the sport a lot more enjoyable for me.

Warren 07-16-2007 03:38 PM

A stripping basket is either a manufactured item or a home made affair made of a dish pan. It is strapped to your waste on the line hand side of your body. As you strip in line from your cast, it collects and holds the line so it does not get tangled up and ruin your next cast.

We saltwater fishermen use it in the surf or flats to keep the line from blowing or drifting away. You can us it on a boat if you like although most people just strip the line on the deck. A few inland trout fishermen are now using them but not many. It really is a necessity in the salt water. Do a site search on stripping basket or look at pics from the spring clave. You will see the baskets strapped to the waists of wading clavers

jero 07-26-2007 06:58 PM

hauling with line loops
Guys I tried those loops in my line hand and itīs really comfortable with a regular casts with no double-haul.

The problem is when I try the double haul, my loops become a mess and when I release them they all get stuck in a big knot in the first "ring" (or was it "guide" in english? :confused:)

anyways, any suggestions or tips or ideas of what I might be doing wrong?
thank you

juro 07-27-2007 06:10 AM

My guess (unless you want to post some video) is that your line hand is pumping up and down too much.

Work on the proper mechanics of the cast with the rod hand and minimize the movement of the line hand while hauling by refining the timing of the pull.

The haul does not need to be big, just correct. The line hand should not have to move out of an oblong area less than one foot wide to throw almost or all of a fly line if the cast itself is done right.

Personally I tend to hold the line off to one side and use more side-pull than down pull which seems to help.

Keep at it.

jero 07-27-2007 08:04 AM

youīre right, my hauling hand is a bit exagerated, I think I tend to try to compensate with my left hand all the things Iīm not doing well with my right... Iīve been doing that side-ways haul from a previous suggestion from you and it really has made a difference.
cheers and thanks.

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