Cast Better: Casting teams of flies

I have witnessed seasoned anglers shudder at the thought of casting with anything but a single fly. Their reasoning is obvious enough, teams of flies can tangle. But it’s not the leader or the flies that generally cause the problem, it’s the way in which they are cast. Faults such as mistiming or an over-powered stroke will lead to a tangled multi-fly leader, but iron out these niggles and suddenly a whole new way of presenting flies becomes available.

For example, if you like fishing a single Diawl Bach why not add a lure such as a Blob? In the top dropper position the lure attracts fish to the imitative nymph a few feet behind, a classic stillwater set-up. Or if surface fishing is your thing, add a bushy dry such as a Carrot fly to a team. The ‘Carrot’ will help you see the other dries, even in a wave.

And by adding a Hopper, Harry Potter or similar dry you can take advantage of trout feeding in a wind lane. Cast so that one fly lands in the ripple, the middle dropper on the edge of the lane and the point fly within it – a deadly tactic. All sorts of other methods such as the ‘washing line’ are only available to those anglers willing to rig up a multi-fly leader.

- Leaders: Leader choice is paramount to success when using teams of flies. Choose quality products and knot varied breaking strains together using water knots to provide a tapering effect. This aids good turnover while also allowing for customised lengths, with one, two or even three droppers. Alternatively rig up a leader using the same breaking strain all the way through, ensuring at least four foot and preferably 5-6 foot between each fly and taking care that the wind is blowing on your back. 

- Nets: Using very long leaders of over 15 feet will require a long-handled net when landing fish. 

- Clothing: Ahat and sunglasses are essential protective wear at all times.


Cast 1 – Overhead casting with a teams of flies


It’s a shame to avoid using teams of flies in the hope of reducing tangles, because the ability to cast a team provides an array of fish-catching tactics. So how do we avoid the dreaded bird’s nest? The key is to create enough line speed while maintaining a rod stroke that opens the loop sufficiently for the leader not to become tangled.

1. If you’re new to casting teams of flies, tackle up with a 14-foot leader with the first fly seven-foot from the fly line, and allowing a further seven-foot to the point fly. Tapering the leader is preferable. Whenever executing a standard overhead cast, start with the rod tip low.

2. With hands close together, use the elbow to smoothly lift the rod tip, peeling line from the water. A jerky, sudden movement will result in the line clattering into the rod or at best a tangle as the line unrolls into the back cast. Avoiding tangles while using long leaders is all about being ultra-smooth, especially as you accelerate into the back cast.

3. To avoid jerky movements, imagine a clock face while casting, above your head being 12 noon. As your rod tip reaches the 10am position begin the acceleration into the back cast, aiming to stop the rod at around 2pm. These directions are based around a right-handed caster; left-handed casters should lift their rod to 2pm and accelerate to 10am.

4. The 2pm stop (rather than 1pm which is often taught to novice casters) will open the loop enough so that the leader does not become tangled, while the smooth lift and acceleration will provide enough speed to fully extend the line. This is all-important because, if a forward cast is made prior to the line straightening, a tangle is almost inevitable, especially when using a team of flies.

5. During the forward cast it is important that the rod stops high enough to give the line time to unroll over the water (see above), but don’t be tempted to stop too high as the shortened rod arc will over tighten your loop, causing the line and leader to pass close together and tangle (see tailing loop section). Experiment with the amount of stroke required to ensure a high enough back and forward cast while opening the loop sufficiently to avoid tangling your team of flies.

Cast 2 – The roll pick up

Fishing with a team of flies allows us to hedge our bets, sending out a varied menu of patterns with each new presentation. Add a little distance and our leader spends plenty of time within the trout’s zone. This efficiency should also be applied to the moment we have finished retrieving and are ready to recast. It is at this critical point that some anglers struggle, either trying to lift too much line with flies well below the water’s surface or pulling the leader into the tip ring. Attempting to cast in either circumstance results in a guaranteed tangle. To avoid this, practise a roll pick up, a very efficient way of maximising fishing time with a team of flies while allowing for a smooth pick up into an overhead cast.


1. After retrieving, leave two rod lengths of line out of the tip. You may see this as a colour change on a two tone line or a thicker section as the head of the weight forward line enters your hand. Start the roll pick up.

2. Using the elbow, smoothly peel the line from the water’s surface, creating the standard ‘D’ loop required for a roll cast, while ensuring that the droppers have cleared the water’s surface.


3. Accelerate forward smoothly and stop rod at 10am (2pm for left-handers). With practice, the right speed will be gained to lift the flies clear of the water, allowing the fly line to extend. For sinking lines or very long leaders (over 20-foot) you may need to repeat the above process to bring the flies to the surface.

4. With fly line and leader extended into a forward cast, begin an overhead cast without the line touching the water. With practice, this skill can be used to keep a team of flies in the water for as long as possible prior to effectively loading the rod and presenting your flies to the fish.



In simplistic terms, a tailing loop will allow the fly line and leader to cross over itself, leading to an almost inevitable tangle. This common overhead-casting fault will tangle a single fly rig and cause carnage with a team, so it is to be avoided! Tailing loops are caused because the rod tip has failed to maintain a straight-line path, and the key faults causing this are:

1. Allowing the line to fully extend but then ‘hitting’ the forward cast. This sudden change of tempo suddenly flexes the tip and causes it to dip below the straight-line path. In other words an cure the problems, apply power into the forward stroke smoothly, not suddenly.

2. Using a very short rod arc. In most circumstances (other than a very short line) this will not allow the rod to flex correctly, buckling the tip and causing it to dip below the straight-line path. This is certainly the case when attempting to distance cast long leaders, which will require a long casting stroke for successful presentation. To cure the problem, practise with a short line and short stroke, aiming eventually for a longer line and longer stroke. Do this slowly, ensuring you can cast a set amount of line effectively without a tailing loop before extending further.

3. Forward creep – this can be difficult to detect (have a lesson with an instructor or video your cast) but in essence the forward stroke is being made while the back cast is still unrolling. This pulls the rod tip under the straight-line path. To cure this fault, ensure the rod remains motionless in the back cast ‘stop’ position while the line unrolls. Alternatively learn to ‘drift’ into the back cast.

Tailing loops can become a frustrating nightmare and dissuade plenty of anglers from trying a team of flies. But with practice, tailing loops are cured by focusing on good timing to ensure your line fully extends while maintaining a smooth casting stroke without any sudden increases in power.

Also in the Cast Better series...

1. Casting in the margins

2. Camouflage your casting

3. Distance casting

4. Casting teams of flies

5. Casting in the wind

6. Reaching a tight spot

7. Good presentation at distance

8. Make your own shooting head