Sunday, January 13, 2013

Marking Your Fly Line For Better Casts

I'm going to admit something on this post that I hope you quickly forget....I don't practice fly casting as much as I should.  Whew!....that feels good to get that off my shoulders.  Like many of you I have good days and I have bad days when it comes to casting - an occasional wind knot still plagues me.

Last year I attended a knot tying seminar hosted by local fishing legend Bob Nasby.  Bob is one of those dudes with a funky mustach that has fished everywhere and caught everything.  He can cast with his left hand better than I can with my right of those guys that has really got it down after 42 years of fly fishing.

Bob showed me a little trick that has helped my casting considerably.  The concept is so simple it is almost too embarrassing to unveil.  If you employ this tip you should notice a difference in your casting abilities.

Mark(er) the head

Bob Nasby showed me how to mark my fly line so I easily locate the fly line "head" while on the water.  Knowing the location of the fly line head is the key to a good cast.  Rather than reinvent the wheel I will post Bob's instruction directly from Rose Creek Angler's website.  Here you go!
Here's Bob with lesson #2
Lesson 2: The LOADING ZONE
The first thing we do in my casting class is to set the students up with a 6 wt. fly rod with WF-6-F line and a 7 ½ foot leader. We measure out the head length plus 5 feet and place a 10 inch long red mark on the fly line. If you remember from our last lesson the head length is the tip, front taper, belly, and rear taper. To locate the placement of the red mark, you need to find the end of the rear taper and measure out an additional 5 feet. (see fig.1) To find the end of the rear taper, locate the portion of fly line where the diameter is getting smaller as you go back from the tip. The end of the rear taper is the point where it stops getting smaller in diameter. This point should be quite noticeable without the use of a measuring device such as a micrometer, but if you have access to one, it may be helpful. With a permanent marking pen place a 10 inch long red mark 5 feet beyond the end of the rear taper. 
Now you are set up for casting. With the line extended out of the fly rod and your line hand on this mark, you have the correct amount of line to properly “load” the rod. We place the mark 5 feet past the rear taper because with an 8 or 9 foot fly rod, 3-4 feet of the rear taper will remain in the fly rod guides. Some of the rear taper should stay in the fly rod to get the “head” to turn over. With almost all of the fly line head out of the fly rod, the rod will “light up”. If you try to learn to cast with a short length of line out of the rod, you will never feel the rod “load” and you will never learn to cast a fly rod. You have to feel the rod load and you soon will learn you can lay a fly out with only one false cast. Most fly fishers false cast way too much. All show and no go. They false cast because they can’t feel the load. 
With the fly line lying straight out in front of you, with no slack in the line, and the rod tip to the ground/water you are now cleared for take off. Remember there are two parts to a cast. A back cast and a forward cast. When performing the back cast and the forward cast, I want you to think of the motion of starting a lawn mower. You start out slow and end up fast. 
You start the back cast by raising the rod tip up and back. When you see the line leave the surface, stop your hand. Do not- do not bend your wrist at all. Just think of how your wrist is when you start that mower or when you throw a dart - you don’t bend your wrist then, don’t bend your wrist now. The only thing that should bend is your elbow. As soon as you stop your hand, count 1-2-3 and come forward with a smooth acceleration and then stop your hand. Do not bend your wrist when you stop. Wait until you see the line in flight and then turn the thumb down just a little (approx. 1”). This will push the rod tip down just a bit to allow the line to pass over it. 
*Remember - accelerate just before the line leaves the ground/water on the back cast. Speed up, STOP your hand with your thumb just like your hitchhiking. Say 1-2-3, move your hand forward, accelerate - speed up - stop, count 1-2 then tip your thumb down approximately 1 inch and you just made a perfect cast (if you don’t bend your wrist). Remember - thumb on top of rod. Wherever your thumb points, that is where the tip goes and where the tip goes, that is where the line goes. If you snap the rod with a jerking motion, you kill the cast. Just stop your hand and do not bend the wrist. Bending the wrist is what all bad casters do. They think they have to snap the wrist. But, if you follow these instructions, you will soon make the perfect cast. The cast should feel just like fine silk. One last thing, trap the line under your index finger where the red mark is. You will know when you make that perfect cast, because the rod will want to jump out of your hand!

Here is a video of Bob at a local convention.

Don't want to mark it....just buy it!

Turns out that 3M has a line on the market that has taken the worry out of measuring and marking your own fly line (imagine that).  Scientific Anglers HeadStart fly line marks the head portion of the fly line with a "bump" in the line that you can detect in your fingers while stripping.  Strip in until you feel the bump, then use Bob's instruction above to load and cast the rod/line.  Great stuff!

Scientific Anglers Mastery HeadStart Fly Line

The Scientific Anglers Mastery HeadStart Floating fly is costs $39.95.

First, this line is ½ size heavy for easier loading of your fly rod. Billed as a beginners fly line SA made modifications to other lines to produce an Easy-Fishing Taper. This taper really does help beginners learn to cast better.

The Scientific Angler HeadStart has the line slick additive called AST. A slick fly line casts farther and easier. The HeadStart line has all the pertinent information about the line printed on it, so at a glance you can tell which line you are fishing.


Half size heavy for easier loading

Forgiving taper optimized for most casting ranges

Telecast bump indicates best position to hold for casting

Short head eases turnover

Briaded Multifilament Core, low stiffness, moderate delivery

AST (Advanced Shooting Technology) - Scientific Anglers’ patented dry slick technology sets the standards for slickness. Advanced Shooting Technology (AST) Fly Line provides continual line slickness allowing the line to shoot farther as it moves virtually friction-free through the guides. AST fly lines easily shed dirt, algae and other parasitic drag particles allowing them to cast farther, float higher and stay cleaner than traditional lines.

SA ID - Scientific Anglers Line Identification is a result of their lab’s mission to continually improve their fly lines. SA ID is an innovative line marking system allowing you to identify your lines at a glance.

Streamlined Loops - Exceptionally slick and strong, welded Streamlined Loops produce smoother casts and easier turnover with a seamless fly-line-to-loop transition making for softer landings and cleaner pickups. The sleek design also maintains buoyancy for improved fly line floatation. Streamlined Loops also enable quicker connections between fly line and leaders.


  1. Doug
    Excellent tip and one I will give a try. I like most all fly fishermen sometimes have trying days on the water with casting. I have found if I stay away from a long leader 9 ft. or longer I can control my cast much better. Thanks for sharing

  2. I have done this for a while, but i use a nailknot of backing at the end of the belly. When you hear it going through the guides, times to recast. It also never wears off.