How to false cast a fly line for added distance

The mesmerising series of movements known as ‘false casting’ required to present a fly captures many newcomers’ imaginations. Unfortunately it is also a skill that many anglers struggle to master! Here we detail how it's doen and why it's so important...

A false cast is in essence a forward and backward stroke of the rod that allows the line to hover in mid air without dropping to the ground behind or water in front. To understand how to achieve this result find a strip of grass and follow this sequence:

1. Start with the rod low to the water and the line straight out in front. If the line is not straight use the roll cast (see HERE) to straighten it.

2. Lift smoothly into the back cast, accelerating to a controlled stop.

3. Allow the line to extend fully and then commence the forward stroke; once again smoothly accelerating to a controlled stop.

4. When the line straightens on the forward stroke, accelerate into another back cast without allowing the line to touch the water. Repeat steps 3 and 4 two to three times, but no more. Finish the cast by allowing the line to fully extend on the final forward stroke and drop gently to the water.

Timing is vital in every cast, but once you have started a false cast, it is paramount to success. Mistime the stroke and you’ll hear a loud crack as the line snaps together.

Another common fault caused by poor timing is for the line and/or leader to clatter into the rod. Try chanting tick/tock or pause/push to coincide with each stroke as the rod waits for the line to extend.

Another common false-casting fault more difficult to diagnose is known as ‘rodcreep’. Rather than stopping and waiting for the line to fully extend on either the backward or forward strokes you may find yourself beginning to move the rod as the loop unrolls. This results in an inefficiently loaded blank leading to poor presentation, tangles and a heavy delivery on the water.

False casting is actually far easier than it sounds and, once mastered, will change your flyfishing forever. A correctly-executed false cast will load the rod as the fly line extends placing tension upon the blank. The result is line speed as each stroke is completed with a controlled, abrupt stop resulting in the line flying over the tip. Imagine riding a bike down a hill and then jamming on the front brake. The rider would fly over the handlebars, which is exactly what we want the line to do when false casting.

Creating line speed with a false cast allows us to develop distance because, with practice, it is possible to shoot line with each stroke. The more weight we give to the rod, the deeper the bend within the blank; the result is line speed. Inexperienced casters using a weight-forward profile fly line should only allow the head section of the line to extend outside the rod tip. Many anglers think that the rod must be false cast many times in order to achieve distance and as much line released as possible – this is not the case! Instead use a maximum of two to three false casts (counting each back cast as one) and, with practice, it is quite possible to shoot an entire fly line.



Work out two rod lengths of fly line, practicing a roll cast to straighten the line. Using just the rod-hand, maintain tension by trapping the line against the cork with the first finger and follow the sequence detailed in this feature to practice timing.


Introduce the line-controlling hand. Follow the sequence but as each forward stop is completed open the hand to allow some line to shoot and trap it once more during the back cast.


Use the line-control hand to shoot line into both the back and forward casts. It is possible to extend the running line of a weight-forward or similar using this process (referred to as overhang) but ensure you maintain plenty of line speed or the cast will collapse.