Creating a big 'D' loop for an effective roll cast

STUDY a stillwater and you’ll notice lines swishing back and forth as anglers practise their overhead casts in between catching a fish or two. Watch carefully and you’ll see various styles on show.

Towards the end of the retrieve, rather than lift the line straight from the water you’ll often see an angler sweep the line to one side, flick it forwards and then begin casting; that’s if a fish hasn’t taken at the last minute! This is a roll cast. But many anglers don’t realise this, and any practice they do is saved for the overhead cast, achieving as much distance as possible. In fact, I’d offer the reverse advice, sort your roll cast out first and then concentrate on the overhead. There’s good reason for this.

The roll cast is tremendously diverse. In particular, use it to straighten the line when you begin fishing, when fishing in enclosed spaces, to retrieve flies close to the shore and to pull a sinking line to the surface prior to recasting. Most importantly, learn how the cast works and perfect it to create a therapeutic routine that will save you energy while maximising fishing time.

To achieve this you’ll need to learn all about the big ‘D’ loop, so called because the line hanging from the rod tip coupled with the rod blank form a shape like a capital ‘D’.

Loops are the shape formed within the line during backward and forward casts. They represent weight that can be used to flex the rod (referred to as loading), resulting in energy that is then transferred to the line. During the overhead cast this process is achieved by allowing the line to fully extend upon completion of each stroke; but the roll cast is different. It doesn’t rely on the line moving at speed to tension the rod but uses the weight within the ‘D’ in conjunction with water tension.

If your ‘D’ is too small there won’t be enough weight to release the line from the water, or there will be too much drag. This results in a collapsed cast and once you have a mound of slack in front of you the only way to straighten it is to perform another roll cast! Knowledge of how to create the loop is crucial.

The secret is to be very slow and purposeful with each part of the cast. Treat it as you would a golf shot or tennis serve. There should be no rush. Lift the rod smoothly, slide the line gently along the water and aim to place your thumb within the peripheral vision of your casting eye - imagine aiming a dart for example. In this position you’ll find that the rod tip settles high above your head, with a slight backwards tilt, the line hanging below to form the required ‘D’ loop.

A common fault is to lift the rod so that the line twists around the tip as it falls backwards. To solve this, allow your arm to fall comfortably to one side as you create the ‘D’ loop. The other major problem is rushing. The natural tension on the line created by the water is lost if the cast is performed too fast, resulting in the line flying past the angler often into waiting vegetation. If this isn’t the case your ‘D’ loop will be small (or non-existent) while not facing your target. When creating an effective loop always line it up with your target! Casting across the loop or making a large change of direction will result in a tangle or collapsed cast.

When practising ‘D’ loops, experiment with size and correlate this with the amount of line resting in the water. A lot can depend on the action of your rod and in some cases the physical amount of space available in which to form the ‘D’ loop. Use the casting tip above to assist your progression and next month learn all about how to grip the rod correctly.


Find some water, as casting over a field when practising the roll cast is ineffective due to the lack of line tension. Once comfortable, think of three parts to the cast. 1. A steady lift of the rod. 2. Smoothly slide the line along the water while angling the rod slightly away from your body 3. Use your elbow as a pivot, lifting your thumb into the peripheral vision of your casting eye. The result: a big ‘D’ loop!