Why keeping a tight line will help your fly casting

PUT all the pieces of the casting jigsaw together and the process behind the act of loading a rod with a fly line is actually relatively simple. However, just like driving a car, if one of the elements is removed or of a poor standard the whole procedure collapses!

One of the best examples of an element that can severely inhibit results is an inability to maintain tension throughout the rod. The stroke can be well practised and timing honed to perfection, but if slack develops somewhere within the cast the result will be poor presentation.

Slack line can appear from the moment you start casting. Arrive at your chosen venue, dump the line in the water and you immediately have slack just waiting to cause no end of problems. At this point use a roll cast (see Trout Fisherman, issue 377) to straighten the line.

Once the roll cast has been completed, lower the rod tip so that it almost touches the water. Now when you peel the line from the surface it will remain under tension and use the drag from the surface tension to assist loading the rod blank.

Try this experiment. Throw some line on the water and roll cast it straight. Lift the rod slowly, so that the tip is at about eye level and then gently drop the rod to the surface again; you will see a pile of slack! This exercise shows that if the cast begins with the rod tip elevated slack will be thrown into the cast resulting in less tension on the rod and ultimately less speed within the line.

These tips will all help to maintain a taut line. But, while teaching, I notice one thing that always results in slack, and that’s the positioning of the hands.

During an overhead cast many anglers position the line-controlling hand at waist height, so that as the rod hand executes a back stroke, slack develops between the line-control hand and the butt guide. To prove this for yourself, make a back cast with your line hand at waist height and then pause in this position. You will notice the line is now across your body. This is slack waiting to kill the cast as it rushes back up the rod reducing the tension within it, no matter how well you timed the cast or executed the stroke!

There is an easy solution to this problem. Start with your hands close together, about 12 inches apart is ideal, and then make a back cast. As the rod hand forms the stroke, follow it with the line hand as if they were both connected; the line will remain taut at all times but only in conjunction with good timing and technique of course.

Learning to cast with the hands close together will assist with development or learning of advanced techniques such as the double haul, which demands excellent coordination of both hands.

The line must be pulled under tension through the rod to develop line speed but if the line-controlling hand is allowed to droop at waist height there is quite literally no line available to pull upon. The result is flailing arms, lots of mid-air swishing and for all this effort a pile of tangled fly line and leader.

To alleviate this problem practice the various techniques discussed above until casting with the hands close together feels natural. With good timing and stroke you should notice that, during both the back and forward casts, the line feels as if it wants to be pulled from the line-controlling hand. This signifies that the rod has been loaded correctly and that you are ready to learn the coordinated movements required for effective double hauling.

In conclusion, casting is all about tension throughout the rod that then changes into line speed. A small change in hand position could make the difference and perhaps complete the final part of your jigsaw.