Holding line with line hand - Fly Fishing Forum
Art of Casting Analysis, refinement of the cast

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Old 07-09-2007, 03:11 PM
popper popper is offline
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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
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Old 07-09-2007, 05:37 PM
jsteelhead jsteelhead is offline
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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!
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Old 07-09-2007, 07:08 PM
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Eric Eric is offline
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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.


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Old 07-10-2007, 05:04 AM
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juro juro is offline
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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!
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Last edited by juro; 07-10-2007 at 05:17 AM.
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Old 07-10-2007, 05:53 PM
popper popper is offline
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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
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Old 07-10-2007, 06:41 PM
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Warren Warren is offline
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Location: Lake Sunapee, New Hampshire
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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.

Last edited by Warren; 07-10-2007 at 07:09 PM.
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