How to surface and roll cast with a sinking line

ONCE they’re sunk, sinktip, intermediate, medium or fast sink lines can represent a major casting problem.

The pressure on the line at depth will not allow us to merely pull the line from the water straight into an overhead cast. Attempt to do this and the result could well be a nasty injury as the pressure (otherwise known as drag) suddenly vanishes, launching line, leader and fly towards the unsuspecting angler.

Beginners in particular can fall foul of incorrectly casting a sinking line. Novices should always start their casting careers with a floating line - see issue 377 of Trout Fisherman and my advice regarding the roll cast. This diverse technique can be used to straighten a line, cast in tight spaces, fish flies to the shore and pull sinking lines to the surface.

Once the overhead cast has been made and the sinker fished back towards shore or boat, begin a very smooth lift of the rod tip using your elbow.

However, it is important not to begin lifting until the cast has almost been fished out, allowing for sufficient line (weight) to commence an overhead cast once the sinker has been surfaced. One method of arriving at the correct point every time is to measure the required length of line from tip ring to leader connection (I would suggest two rod lengths) and then whip a small marker onto the line using tying thread. This marker should be situated so that once it arrives in the hand, two rod lengths of line remain outside of the tip ring. At this point start the lift described above.

If you do not like the idea of a small ‘bump’ created by the marker then you will need to watch carefully for any signs of the rear taper on a standard weight forward. Most modern day sinking lines will have a weight forward (WF) profile, although in super-fast sinking lines the difference between the head section and running line is virtually unrecognisable. Line densities that descend rapidly should only be used by experienced anglers who, through practice and experience, will be able to accurately judge the amount of line remaining below the surface.

While our goal is to create a roll cast it is also worth using the process to try and add a fish to the bag. So as you lift steadily take up any slack with a figureof- eight retrieve. You can also pause, allowing the flies to ‘hang’ vertically below the rod tip, a technique that often proves the downfall of a curious fish.

If a take or fish is not forthcoming continue the stroke sweeping the rod away from your body and positioning your thumb within the peripheral vision of your casting eye. This will form a Dloop and will also surface the leader.

While the roll cast can be performed extremely slowly with a floating line once the D-loop has been formed, it is important to apply power quickly with a sinker; otherwise the line will begin to descend once more. Very fast sinking lines may need a couple of rolls to bring it and the leader to the surface, at which point smoothly peel the line from the water and accelerate into an overhead back cast. Alternatively, for maximum efficiency, do not allow the line to fall to the surface once the forward stroke of the roll cast has been completed, instead launch straight into the overhead cast; also known as a roll pick-up.

Finally, using fluorocarbon with floating lines and heavy Buzzers can achieve incredible depths, pulling the tip of a floating line well down. In these circumstances a roll cast will also be required for maximum efficiency and safety. If a fish takes during the roll cast, apply the forward power as described above but with a little more venom which will double as a strike!


Visit a clear water fishery with good depths close to shore. Using a sinking line, watch carefully when nearing the end of a retrieve to see how the flies behave in conjunction with the use of a roll cast. Also use this opportunity to experiment with the amount of line required to surface the flies effectively and commence a cast. Start with slow sinking lines and gradually build up to fast sinkers.