Fly – SLF 90 Degree

Tying Instructions

slf90degree_2 Bass slf90_1
Hook:  #6 to 4/0 Mustad 90 degree Jig Hook (32746NPBLN)
Thread:  flat waxed in colour to suit body colour
Tail –  SLF
Body – silver or gold wrap
Wing –  SLF
Eyes – silver/black prismatic
Head – silicon over thread and around eyes.
Weight – .030 lead wire as required
Tying Steps

1. Lay down a base of thread from the hook eye to the bend and finish with the thread behind the eye. Add a few wraps of lead wire slightly back from the 90 degree bend and overbind with thread to secure.

2. Take a small clump of SLF and double and cut it so that it is about 2 hook shanks long. Hand stack to get a tapered shape. Tie in behind the lead so that it extends by one shank length past the bend and overwrap with thread back to the bend.

3. Tie in body wrap at the hook bend and transfer thread back to hook eye end.

4. Using close wraps but not overlapping, wrap body material around shank back up the hook shank, tie off and trim excess.

5. Cut off a small clump of SLF and double and cut so that it is slightly shorter than twice the length of the hook shank. Hand taper both ends by pulling some of the fibres out slightly.

6. Use three wraps of thread attach the mid point of the bunch on the bottom of the hook just behind the bend. Fold the front portion of the material back over itself and secure with a few wraps of thread. Use your thumbnail to evenly distribute the materials around bottom half of the hook shank.

7. Turn the hook over and repeat steps 5 & 6. Check that the entire shank is covered and that the materials are distributed evenly.

8. Form a neat head, whip finish and apply a drop of head cement to secure.

9. Attach the eyes and coat the entire head up to the back of the eyes with silicon. When cured, cover the area treated with silicon with clear nail polish.

Tying Tips

Will tying my own flies mean that I will catch more fish and save me money?”

It won’t make you a better caster to make that accurate presentation and certainly having flies that you have tied yourself won’t make fish materialise in areas where they don’t usually inhabit. However, learning to tie your own flies will cause you to become more observant as to what forage species are present and providing a food source for the fish in your particular area. As you become more involved, tying will tend to broaden your horizons by allowing you to use different patterns to target a more extensive variety of species. Many people find tying relaxing and fun but one of the great satisfactions of the sport is to catch a fish on a fly you have devised and tied yourself.

Because of the initial set up costs, it is expensive to tie your own flies if you are only fish a couple of times a year. In this case, take up tying knowing that it is a new hobby and don’t expect to save money. However if you fish regularly, after the initial setup, the cost per unit decreases with each fly tied particularly if you select and use “multi-purpose” materials that are suitable for producing a number of different flies.

Fly tying is undoubtedly an art form that has had more books written about it than any other aspect of the sport. Whilst many of these publications provide excellent reference material, the abundance of information tends to be confusing and daunting for many tiers. Once you know the basics, you can imitate virtually any form of forage species that fish feed on.

Many people hold back from giving tying a try through fear that they won’t be able to replicate a fly as it appears in that glossy tying book. Fortunately, fish are not the smartest of creatures on earth and generally don’t pass judgement on the way the fly is put together.

You finally succumb to your creative instincts and have decided to try your hand at fly tying. Be warned, once you start tying – you’re off and irretrievably addicted.  

“Where do I start?”

One look inside a fly shop will reveal a multitude of tools, vices, and materials that all cost money. The confusing variety has been enough to dampen the enthusiasm of many a budding fly tier. We advise that the best way to begin with, is to start small and start cheap while you are “giving it a try”. Fish can’t tell if a fly is tied on a $40 or a $600 vise.

Avoid buying a lot of materials and expensive tools until you have tied for some time. After tying for some time you will develop your own style and knowledge. Consequently, you will be in a better position to choose tools and materials to suit the tying you do.
“Initially, is it best to purchase a kit?”

Many of the commercial kits available on the market although seeming good value, contain a lot of materials that are not suitable for the flies being tied. In many instances the quality of the tools included is debatable and will not do the intended job efficiently and may need replacing after a short period of use.
“What are the basics to get started?”

These come in varying price ranges and designs. It is recommendable to select one of good quality with hardened jaws so that they don’t wear out and lessen the holding grip on the hook. For saltwater fly tying, it should have the capacity to hold large range of hook sizes from 10 up to 5/0. Some brands have interchangeable jaws that allow smaller hook sizes to be handled. A rotating head is useful to enable the fly to be turned over without removing it from the vise.

This holds the reel of thread so that the tension is maintained on the thread between tying stages. They can range from a few dollars for the basic model up to many dollars for models that have ceramic inserts to lessen the risk of damage to the thread as the lip of the tube wears.

Used for cutting and trimming materials. It is important that they be sharp to provide clean cuts. A Laser cut edge is beneficial as it helps to prevent materials such as hair sliding along the blades as it is being cut.

The Maratelli tool enables a whip finish to be applied to tie off the thread so that it doesn’t unravel when the fly is finished.

A sharp pointed implement mainly used for the application of glues and other fixing materials. A cheap alternative is a darning needle in a wine cork.

There are many other tools used and these and/or alternatives will be covered in subsequent issues along with their use in the manufacture of particular.

The traditional ingredients used, hair and feathers, are favoured by many tyers because they impart very lifelike swimming actions to the fly. They are available in a wide variety of characteristics and colours. A knowledge of the characteristics of the different materials is important in the construction process. For example, bucktail (deer tail hair) can vary from thin at the tip of the tail to thick and coarse at the butt of the tail. Flies tied with the thinner hair will not be as bulky and will absorb water faster so will sink more quickly. The coarser hair will provide more bulk to the fly and will not absorb water as quickly so will sink more slowly. Calftail is not as long or as thick as bucktail therefore it absorbs water more quickly and is used for making smaller flies. This knowledge allows the use of different combinations of materials to construct flies that exhibit different characteristics to suit varied situations.

 In recent times, a vast array of synthetic substitute materials has been developed and these are particularly useful for saltwater flies, as they tend to be more robust. Many of these materials (particularly the nylons) are very resistant to water absorption therefore flies tied with these materials are easier to cast because they tend not to become as waterlogged as those tied with naturals. On the conservation side, many of the synthetic materials have been developed as a replacement or substitute for the natural materials. Another major benefit that has resulted is the development of a vast array of flash and highlight materials. These provide an infinite number of options to produce flies, particularly for saltwater, that closely resemble the real thing.

These include purpose formulated preparations, varnish and fingernail polish. They are generally best used to seal or finish various parts of the fly, as their adhesive strength is not particularly high. The most important properties of these forms of head cement are the viscosity and the quick drying time that makes them ideal to use to secure materials during the tying process and to secure the finished head whipping.

It is quite viscous and gives a durable finish with a strong bond making it ideal for forming smooth hard heads, finishing bodies and gluing eyes. It consists of 2 parts – a resin and a hardener that must be mixed in equal quantities before use. The most common type used takes 5 minutes to cure and consequently the fly needs to be rotated to ensure an even distribution of the glue. This can be achieved by turning by hand, however if constructing a number of flies using epoxy, some form of rotisserie that rotates at between 12 and 18 rpm will be beneficial and time saving.

These remain pliable when dry, have good adhesive qualities and are fairly durable. The more viscous types can be used as head cement and to reinforce the materials used in tying the fly. They include commercial preparations such as Softex and Softdip as well as silicone.

More commonly known as super-glue, it is extremely thin and therefore penetrates well. It dries quickly, does not shrink and is clear making it ideal for use as head cement, affixing eyes and attaching other body parts.

The majority of threads used are manufactured from either polyester or nylon. The thickness is defined by a series of zeros – 000 or 3/0 is thicker than 000000 or 6/0. The thicker treads are used for larger flies for additional strength when tying larger quantities of materials as well as giving a faster build up of threadbulk. Thinner threads are used on small flies where bulk needs to be kept to a minimum. Generally, 3/0 will cover most saltwater tying applications. Many threads are available in waxed and unwaxed versions in a vast array of colours. The waxing helps to resist fraying and aids in the forming of finishing wraps.

There are many different styles of hooks from different manufacturers and any discussion on the relative merits and the individual uses of the different styles is beyond the scope of this summary. Most saltwater flies are tied on stainless steel hooks to overcome the problem of rust ruining the fly.

Holographic eyes are printed in various colours and sizes on flat “holographic” paper. 3D eyes are moulded dome shaped eyes produced in a variety of colours and sizes. They are more expensive than the holographic type however they do give a very realistic appearance. Both are sticky backed and application is simply a matter of peeling them off the sheet and putting them in place. To ensure that they do not come off after immersion in water, a light coat of epoxy or flexible cement is applied over them when in place.

Hourglass eyes and beadchain are manufactured in a wide variety of materials, sizes and weights. Some types are supplied with eyes already applied, some have recesses in the extremities that allow you to apply holographic eyes of your own choice while others are left plain for simplicity. These are widely used to give varying sink rates to the flies.

This is in either wire or sheet form and is usually attached to the hook shank during the tying process. It is used to keel the fly to make it swim in a particular way or to add weight to increase the sink rate.


Clamp the hook in the vise so that the jaws grip the hook at the bottom of the bend. The shank should be parallel to the work surface and the jaw tension should be adjusted so that downward pressure applied to the eye does not cause the hook to slip. If the vise has a rotating head, the hook shank and the barrell of the vise should be in a straight line.

Strip about 10cm of thread from the bobbin and hold the tag end in the left hand and the bobbin in the right hand. Fold the thread over the top of the hook shank at the tie-in position. Hold the thread under slight tension and bring the bobbin around the shank to trap the tag end against the shank. Wrap 4 or 5 tight wraps towards the bend. The tag end can now be trimmed off with scissors.

Note the direction the thread is wrapped – wrapping in this direction maintains the direction of twist used in the manufacture of the thread.

Letting the bobbin hang between tying stages maintains the tension on the thread and prevents it from unravelling.


To move the thread between tie in points, either use close wraps or sparse transfer spirals. The latter method is useful in keeping the bulk of the fly to a minimum particularly on small flies as well as saving thread if long shank hooks are being used.


Finishing wraps are used to secure the thread at the completion of the fly and to form a neat head. Half hitches can be used but are hard to place accurately making it harder to form a neat well-shaped head. Most tyers prefer to use a form of whip finish – it is essentially a number of half hitches that are tightened all at once.

Tying_6  Tying_7  Tying_8

The whip finish is more secure than a number of individual half hitches and allows the thread to be placed more accurately to control the shape of the head. It can be achieved either by hand or using a whip finishing tool.

When trimming the tag, some tyers prefer to cut it close. However if monofilament thread is used it will tend to unravel and some threads shrink during finishing. Leaving a short stump of 1mm will overcome this problem.



Prevent the head of the tool from turning in the handle with the forefinger. Lay the tool on the thread and catch under bottom notch and top hook. Bring the bobbin end of the thread up to the origin of the tread at the wrap


Maintain tension on the thread and shift the fingers to the handle in the position shown. The tool will spin in the handle to the position. Note that the thread is held along the hook shank.


Holding the handle only, rotate the handle in a circular motion around the hook shank. The notch should remain in line with the hook eye.

Repeat Step 3 another four times. As the thread shortens, gently rock the tool back and forth to feed more thread off the bobbin


To finish, slip the thread off the rear notch and maintain the tension on the loop with the tool hook. Pull on the bobbin using the tool hook to guide the thread and seat the knot. Slip the hook from under the thread and pull the knot firm. Trim the tag end.


Start thread behind eye of hook. Make a bed of thread consisting of two or three layers. Finish with the bobbin hanging about one and a half hook eye widths behind the eye.

Position a set of hour glass eyes where the thread is hanging (about one and a half hook eye widths behind the hook eye). This distance is important to allow the attachment of additional materials. Secure in position with 6 wraps using a figure of eight wrap.
Make sure the eyes are straight on the hook. Complete six more wraps by moving the thread over the eyes then under the hook shank and over the eyes on the other side of the eyes.
To lock into place, do three or four turns of thread around the bindings between the eyes and the hook shank. A drop of head cement will ensure that they do not twist or move.


This method is used to hold the materials such as feathers and hair in place while tying it in. It enables you to hold the materials along the hook shank and eliminates the problem of the materials spinning down the side of the hook shank. This means that the materials are kept straight which results in the fly swimming straighter.

1.  Hold the materials along the hook shank between the thumb and forefinger. The fingers “pinch” the materials to the shank.  Move the thread up in the “pinch” between the thumb and the materials maintaining the pressure on the materials at all times.
2.   Maintain a firm hold, form a loop and take the thread down between the forefinger and the materials on the far side of the hook.

3.    Still pinching the hook and materials pull down on the bobbin until the thread is firmly securing the materials in place. Do not pull down too hard as this will cause the hair ends to flare out.

4. Keeping the pressure on, repeat the above steps another 4 or 5   times so that the materials are held firmly in place.

This technique is mainly used for attaching flash materials to form tails and body wraps.
Simply double the materials around the thread and slide them down to the base of the thread and bind down with a few turns of the thread.

If you hold the materials with firm tension at about 45 degrees to the hook shank as you do the binding, it will ensure that the materials are bound into place on top of the shank and not twist around the shank as the binding is carried out.
Double_2  Double_3


Making even bodies on flies that have a tail underbody and over wrap can present some problems and can result in an uneven body.

One way of tying in the body material is to strip off the end of the chenille.
 Tie in the stripped end of the chenille and wrap the body. Make sure that the stripped end is tied in securely. This end will tie in flat and not make a bump.

 A second way is to tie in the material behind the eye of the hook, wrap the thread over the material back to the hook bend.

 To form the body, wrap the body material to the tie off point, tie off the material and cut off excess.


 Weed guards are sometimes a necessity to prevent the fly becoming fouled on weed growth and foliage.

Weed guards can be broken down into 2 basic materials – hard nylon and wire. Generally a very stiff monofilament gives best results – Mason leader material is a good choice while stainless trolling wire in a strength of 20 to 30 pounds is used for wire guards.

Double  Strand Mono Weedguard
Cut a piece of mono that is twice as long as you need and double it over and pinch the double point with a part of pliers.  This is tied on top of the hook shank at the bend of the hook.
Mono_1    mono_2

After tying the fly, bring the two strands forward and position on either side of the hook shank behind the eye of the hook. This will make the strands of mono flare out to the sides giving more effective protection to the hook point. Make sure that you have more than the required length sticking past the eye of the hook. Wrap the weed guard with enough thread to hold it in place. Mark the required length, push the mono from the rear so that it extends past the binding, trim to length and melt a small ball on the cut ends. Put a drop of superglue on the mono and pull it to the rear. Finish wrapping the thread.

Double Wire Weedguard

Mason brand single strand in about 30lb test is suitable. Take care when using this wire as the material is very hard, stiff and of small diameter. It will penetrate you like a needle if you are careless and catch your finger on it.

The downside of wire weed guards is that they can sometimes become bent and don’t work as efficiently. You will need to check them occasionally to correct this problem.

This type of weed guard is a little more difficult to tie on because you have to measure to ensure that it fits properly and while  tying the fly, you will need to go around the weed guard when you are wrapping the thread.

Take a piece of wire and bend it into a “U” shape. Bend the “U” end of the wire. This will be the end that sets on the point of the hook.

With the “U” end of the wire on the point of the hook, hold the wire under the bottom of the hook. Make a slight bend in the wire at the point on the wire where it is aligned with the middle of the eye of the hook.


Slip the cut ends of the wire through the eye of the hook from the underside of the hook eye. Make final adjustments and bind the two cut ends of the wire to the hook shank. Cut off excess. You should have about 1/4 inch of the wire on top of the hook shank when you have trimmed the wire.

Place a drop of superglue on top of the thread securing the wire.


The use of epoxies has allowed the construction more durable and realistic flies. A lot of the flies tied with hair and feathers (while extremely good flies) are short lived. Anyone who has fished for tailor can vouch for how quickly flies are destroyed. An added advantage of epoxy is that it also provides weight to give a faster sink rate when fishing deeper waters.

There are basically two uses of epoxies in fly tying:

As a finishing coat: As an example – over thread wraps, coating popper bodies,

 Used in the construction of the fly: As in Surf Candies

If you are applying the epoxy as a finishing coat, only one coat is usually needed. For making flies such as the Surf Candy, then a minimum of two coats are required. The first coat will be absorbed by the materials allowing the body to be shaped. Once the first coat has cured, additional coat/coats are added to achieve a smooth even body. Remember, a number of light coats will give a better result than one heavy coat.

Cheap disposable art brushes are ideal for applying the epoxy as a finishing coat. Simply brush the epoxy on and spread to achieve an even coverage. If excess is applied, the epoxy starts to run and sag. To remove, take the brush and gently touch the sag to get the excess off the fly. Take care with some of the synthetic materials such as streamer hair as the epoxy will tend to “leech back” along the fibres and this should be taken into account during application.

Avoid using wooden tools for mixing and application because the wood could contain chemicals or dyes that will affect the epoxy. Stainless steel and plastic are more suitable. Use cheap stick-it note pads to mix the epoxy on. When finished, just tear off the top sheet and throw it away. Be careful of using ones that are colored as the epoxy could pick up the colouring dye.

There are a number of brands in various curing times available. DEVCON and Z-Poxy are the most popular epoxy used and are readily available in tackle, hardware and hobby shops. No doubt, there are other products available that can be utilised. Whatever brand, the epoxies should have several properties. They should be waterproof and remain clear when mixed. Try to avoid any of the epoxies that are tinted.  Clear epoxy allows application of finishing coats that remain clear and permit the under colours to show through.

 Epoxies have a working time and a curing time. Generally, the working time is what is noted on the packaging container. The curing time on epoxies varies from several hours to 24 hours or more. Generally, the longer it takes to cure, the harder the epoxy is. The working and curing times quoted are under certain conditions mainly temperature. Most epoxies cure within an optimal temperature range. A higher temperature will cause the times to shorten while a cooler temperature will require a longer cure time.

The working time can also be controlled by adding a 70% or higher rubbing alcohol solution. A lower % solution is not recommended because it has a higher content of water. Acetone (nail polish remover) can also be used. Adding a few drops to the epoxy mixture, it will extend the working time but at the same time, it will thin out the epoxy. Numerous applications of alcohol to an epoxy mixture can cause the mixture to discolor, particularly with acetone.

 Regardless of the liquid epoxy used, it will yellow over time. This is an inherent characteristic of liquid epoxy. The epoxies with a longer working time, generally do not yellow as fast as the faster curing epoxies.

It should be noted that any of these products should be used only in a well ventilated area.

 Because epoxy comes in a two part mixture, it is important that it is mixed correctly – there is some margin for error but not much. Most of the problems incurred when working with epoxies are caused by not mixing equal parts. The best option is to produce a number of flies and then use measuring spoons (a different one marked for each part) to obtain equal amounts of each part. For small amounts, lay equal “beads” side- by-side on the mixing surface. With experience, you should be able to “eyeball” the amounts. The two tube syringe to push out equal amounts is a good idea however, after a while these tend not to function properly and lead to problems.

When mixing the two parts, normal stirring tends to cause air bubbles and these are trapped in the mixture as it cures. To minimise the bubbles fold the two parts together with a thin flat tool.

To clean up metal tools only use acetone – plastic will melt.  Place a small amount in a glass jar and put the tools in. When they are clean, remove and put a lid on the container as the acetone evaporates very quickly.

Flies finished with epoxy need to be rotated to ensure that the epoxy dries evenly on the fly and does not sag. If making one fly at a time, this can be done by rotating it in your hand or in a rotating vice. If making numerous flies, a rotator of some type is a must. Rotation at 12-18 RPM is ideal – anything slower and the epoxy will fall off and anything faster, the epoxy could be slung off. Tiewell produces a battery operated rotator and these can be purchased from most fly tackle shops.

Some nice effects can be achieved by adding colours to the finishing coats. Dissolve the desired amount of dry Rit dye in 70% rubbing alcohol and add to the mixed epoxy one drop at a time until the desired tint is required. Another way to color epoxy is to simply mix the epoxy with a good hobby/craft acrylic paint. Dying will give a semi-transparent epoxy while coloring the epoxy with paint will make it opaque. The addition of some very fine powered glitter in pearl colour will produce a good scale effect on minnows patterns.


Many of the saltwater species in Australian waters respond well to 3D baitfish imitations. The normal finishing, comprised of either epoxy or flexible cement such as Softtex or Softdip, proved to have some shortfalls for a few reasons.

The problem with epoxy is that it adds weight and it is impossible to produce a fly with neutral buoyancy. Another disadvantage is that it yellows over a period of time. Fish probably aren’t put off by the latter but it doesn’t look too attractive to the fisherman’s eye.

 Flexible cements don’t have the same problems however they do shrink as they cure and tend to “crush” the 3D profile that is being produced. This is particularly applicable when using some of the soft materials such as Polarfibre and SLF.

 Silicone is an alternative to overcome these problems however, the thickness in the pure form, makes it is hard to get an even coat. A smooth finish can be obtained by using Photoflow or a drop of wash up liquid in some water to prevent the silicone sticking to your fingers however it is still difficult to control the uniformity and evenness of the finished coat.

The real breakthrough came when it was discovered (where the idea came from now escapes me) that clear silicone could be thinned down to a runny consistency with a few drops of “Zippo” lighter fluid. No doubt there are other solvents that will do the same job, but lighter fluid is easy to purchase and does the job admirably. Diluting it this way means it can be applied thinly and evenly.

Use a small airtight glass jar, squeeze in some silicone (Allclear by Selleys give a good result), add a little lighter fluid and stir until absorbed. Keep adding a little fluid at a time until the desired thickness is obtained. If you have difficulty dissolving the silicone, put the lid on the jar and let it stand for an hour or so. By varying the consistency it can be used for different applications. A thin runny consistency can be used to stiffen materials to help prevent tail wrapping while a thicker consistency can be used to produce an air-pocket in the body to give a fly a neutral buoyancy. The mixture will stay liquid for some time as long as the jar is airtight. When it begins to become too thick, just add a little more fluid.

To achieve a thick coat, it is preferable to apply three thin coats as opposed to one thick coat.

The downside of silicone is that it takes longer to cure and remains tacky, particularly in hot weather – the latter can be overcome with a coat of Sally Hanson’s “Hard As Nails” (clear nail polish) which adds a nice luster to the finished fly. A coat of nail polish over the eyes also helps to fix them and make them more bulletproof.

Distance Casting

Distance Casting – is it all that necessary?
by Nial Logan

Get a room full of flyfishers and apart from the differences of opinion regarding choices of rods, reels and lines, the other area of conjecture would be whether being able to cast long is an advantage.
Many will argue that distance is simply for spectator appeal and that most fish are caught within the 60 foot range so being able to cast over that is of little benefit and accuracy is more important. While accuracy is an important aspect of casting, I doubt that there is a fly caster, whether they want to admit it or not, who at times has wished that they could have added a few more feet to their cast.
On the surface it would seem true that when fishing in tight situations you don’t have to throw a long line however when conditions get ugly, it’s a new ball game. If your best cast is 60 feet under ideal conditions, you may have difficulties casting 30 feet in a strong wind. However, the skills and techniques needed to throw 100 feet in relation to control of loop size, line speed and trajectory become a big advantage to allow you to continue fishing and still throw that 60 foot cast accurately when the wind makes fishing conditions hard.
You don’t have to become a tournament caster, just increasing distance from say 60 to 80 feet will open up additional opportunities by allowing you to cover more water in varying conditions.

Understanding Distance Casting

In this article, the relative advantages or disadvantages of different brands of rods, lines and other speciality equipment is not covered primarily because this choice is a matter of personal preference. It is suffice to say that, when casting for distance using full length fly lines, rods with a medium to fast action teamed with long bellied lines will perform best (this excludes speciality shooting heads).
The first thing to understand is why some people, with what seems like consummate ease, can throw further than others. What do these casters do differently to other casters to get extra distance?
I recently got together with Peter Hayes, Gordon Lowe and Greg Jackson for a play with Greg’s 5 weight that was loaded up with an XXD line. Although all three could bring the 120 foot line up tight on the reel on a regular basis, their styles varied greatly.

It was noted that each of them had optimised their style according to body shape.

  Lowy_1 Lowy_2 Lowy_3
For example, Gordon is about 6.5 feet and built like a rugby union breakaway and consequently, to apply power, he uses his reach and size with very little body mass movement to propel the line.

 Greg_1 Greg_2 Greg_3
Greg is also solidly built, but not as tall as Gordon and he relies on technique, great timing and some body movement to make the cast.

Peter on the other hand, the shortest and more slightly built of the trio, uses every method at his disposal …. long stroke (to compensate for less height, he reaches way back after the stop on the backcast), uses a distinct pulling action on the forward cast with a pronounced wrist flip to a stop coupled with maximum movement of body mass from front to rear.

Even though their styles differ considerably, the common thread was that they all obeyed the basic essentials of fly casting …. keep slack to a minimum, move the rod tip in a straight line, apply acceleration at a constant non jerky rate, perform abrupt stops to unload the rod, match the stroke length to the amount of line being cast and pause until the line has completely straightened before commencing the next stroke.
Following the get together,  some research on the subject revealed an informative article by Al Kyte and Gary Morgan published in 1993 in the Fly Fisherman magazine where they compared the differences between what they described as good and elite casters. The study group included such personalities as tournament casters Rene Gillibert and Tim Rajeff and renound casting instructor Mel Kreiger. Their evaluation was structured along similar lines as those used for biomechanic research in sports training and included such aspects as the backcast loops, rod butt stop on backcast, rod bend/loading, rod tip path, path of rod hand, drift before the forward cast, casting arcs and stroke length, body weight shift, stance open or square, hauling technique, arm and shoulder motions, wrist movement and stop on forward cast.
In the final summary of the article they observe,  “The elite casters were able to store more energy in the bent rod and were able to release the stored energy more efficiently to the fly line”.  They go on to say, “The top distance caster bent the rod most, stopped it the quickest, used the most body lean, had the best rated backcasts, had the widest casting arcs, hauled line effectively, kept a straight rod tip path during acceleration, used weight shift and shoulder rotation and benefited from late and forceful use of elbow  and wrist action.”
It was also noted that there was no “magic bullet” to delineate the major differences between the two groups.  What seemed to make the difference was that the elite casters did everything a small percentage better.

Some thoughts on arm style.
There are generally three basic descriptions of the arm positioning that are also used by many of the very proficient casters.

  • Elbow forward – This relates to a relatively vertical rod plane that is generally accepted  as the best position for accuracy.
  • Elbow out – This describes a style where the elbow to held out to the side about shoulder height. An ideal option for fishing out of canoes and float tubes as well as wading in deep water.
  •  Low elbow – often considered by many as the most powerful casting position and favoured by many saltwater fishermen using heavier rods because it facilitates casting on a more horizontal plane to keep larger size hooks further away from the angler.

Irrelevant of what arm style you use, you will need to open up your stance to allow your arm to move farther back to lengthen the casting stroke for distance casting. That is, stand slightly side on as opposed to facing square on to the target. This position will also make it easier for you to turn your head to watch the backcast to assist timing.

Another aspect you may have to consider is the way you grip the rod.  On the backcast, if your grip is thumb on top, it is virtually impossible to fully extend the arm straight back without turning your hand so that it is palm up. If you are not careful, this action will cause rod tip tracking problems and lead to the end of the fly line kicking around. If your grip is forefinger knuckle on top, it is much easier to reach straight back as far as you can to achieve the longest possible casting stroke.

Adapt an arm style to suit your body shape and that feels comfortable. In reality, it doesn’t really matter how you cast as long as the basic essentials mentioned previously are adhered to and incorporated in your style.

Techniques to increasing distance

Just going out and trashing the grass to chaff or the water to foam in an effort to increase distance will have little effect. A far better approach is to use this information on the results of the study and break the big picture of improving your distance casting down into a few component elements and work on improving those specific aspects individually.

It’s all in the loops, line speed and stops

Small tight loops, between one and three feet wide, that have parallel upper and lower legs are the most efficient. They have less air / wind resistance therefore have the potential to travel further, provide greater line speed, have more effect on the rod tip as they straighten as well as  produce better layout of the line and fly turnover.

When the rod is loaded (bent), the more abrupt the stop, the more effective the transfer of the energy stored in the rod to the fly line. Try it for yourself. Use a side-on stance as this makes it easier for you to see the results and make horizontal casts parallel to the ground with progressively quicker stops. Note how an abrupt stop (imagine your hand hits a brick wall) results in the same distance with a lot less energy expended in the execution of the cast.

Here is a setup that will allow you to improve your loop shape and sharpen the stop. The casting aids consist of two closed cell foam “noodles” (the closed cell foam cylinders about 3 inches in diameter kids use for floatation in the pool) about 4 foot long with a spike fitted to one end. These are fairly forgiving so will not cause damage to the rod if hit. Push the spikes on the noodles into the ground about three feet apart on the tape line or a line on a sports field. Stand between the noodles but about half a rod length back from them. Make sidearm casts stopping as close as possible to the noodle posts without hitting them and have the fly line unroll parallel to the tape or line. For variation, place the posts further apart or closer together to practice narrow and wide casting arcs as well as just using the rod tip for short casts and deeper loading of the rod for long casts.

Lefty Kreh in one of his many writings noted that, while many casters threw good loops during false casting, they tried too hard on the delivery stroke and blew it. I call this the “surf rod syndrome”. All form and technique relating to the essentials mentioned previously is lost when too much power is applied to the final forward cast in an endeavour to heave that sucker over the horizon.

Instead of trying to throw the line, maintain loop shape, increase the cadence (that is the speed of the stroke), to impart more monemtum to the line/loop and perform an abrupt stop (imagine your hand hits a brick wall).

Rod tip tracking

To achieve these tight loops with parallel upper and lower legs, a straight rod tip path is all important. This path must be as straight as possible in both the horizontal and the vertical planes.

The best way to visualize a straight path is to stand at the end of a room with half a rod in your hand. If you move the rod along the wall or the ceiling in a semi circle, it will be tracing a curve in either the vertical or the horizontal plane but will be a straight line in the opposite plane. To trace a straight line in both planes at the same time, move the rod tip along the point where the wall and the ceiling joins.

In the practical world of casting, the fly line will follow what the rod tip does so when the path is curved in the horizontal plane, the end of the fly line will kick around. Conversely, a curve in the vertical pane will result in a wider loop.

Pause  and timing

For a few reasons, it is important that the subsequent casting strokes start at the exact instant  the line straightens.

  • Firstly….. the rod will not load (bend) until the line is straight behind the tip. Starting the next stroke before the line has completely straightened equates to having slack in the system. This means some of the effect of the next stroke or the haul is wasted in taking up that slack.
  •  Secondly……the momentum of the line as the loop straightens will pull on the rod tip. When the next stroke is commenced at this point the rod is already partially bent (referred to as pre-load in some references)  Put simply, the weight of the fly line pulls the rod tip slightly to the rear as the loop straightens and this provides extra resistance as the next stroke begins and consequently contributes to more effective loading of the rod.
  •  Thirdly ….. if you wait too long, gravity will take effect as soon as the line straightens and it will begin to fall towards the ground. If this happens, bearing in mind that the forward and back casts need to work in a 180 degree line of each other, then the trajectory of the next casting stroke will need to be adjusted otherwise a tailing loop will result.
    Virtually without exception, all elite casters will watch the loops on both the forward and the backcast to assist in timing the commencement of the next cast.

Slip line on final backcast

On the final backcast before the final presentation cast, shoot some line. This delays the turnover of the head adding more force as the loop unrolls and increases the amount of preload on the tip.  Combined with perfect timing at the start of the forward stroke, it yields an additional early load on the rod.  The importance of this skill is concisely summed up by Joan Wulff commenting on distance, “Shoot a little on the forward cast… shoot a lot on the back cast.”

Casting stroke – arm and wrist pull versus push

Many have described the casting stroke as being like throwing a ball. A more accurate parallel would be throwing a spear where, apart from any run up approach to the delivery, the basic actions bear a remarkable resemblance to fly casting.

Try this exercise to see for yourself the effectiveness of using a pulling action on the rod rather than pushing it. Start with about 30 feet of line out of the rod tip. Lay the line directly behind your casting arm shoulder with your hand and rod at the position of the completion of the backcast. Bring your hand forward leading with the heel of your hand and still maintaining the rod pointing to the rear (this starts the line moving). Hold this position until you reach a point where it starts to become uncomfortable, then rotate your wrist forward and fully extend your arm straight out in front, all in one movement. This has the effect of loading the rod deeply because the movement of the rod butt and the movement of the rod tip must conclude at the same time. The wrist only moves a short distance however the rod tip which is 9 feet away has to accelerate to complete at the same time. This translates to power. The action has a similar effect as the wrist snap used by baseball pitchers and cricket bowlers to impart that extra bit of speed on the ball.

Carry more line

As a basic rule of thumb, you can shoot an equivalent of about 50% of the length line being carried in the air. For instance, if you can carry 50 feet of line outside the rod tip while false casting then you should be able to shoot a further 25 feet. It naturally follows that if you want to throw 100 feet, then you need to be able to carry 70 feet.


Learning to haul is not the magic bullet that will suddenly turn an average cast into a great distance cast. However, a correctly executed haul is estimated to contribute about 15% to the overall distance. A few of the more direct benefits of hauling are seen as:

  • directly increasing line / loop speed.
  •  increasing rod bend / load.
  •  tightening the shape of the loops.
  •  reducing the effort required by the rod arm.
  •  helping to reduce the number of false casts.
  •  useful for removing slack.

An incorrectly timed haul will be more of a hindrance than assistance. The general consensus of opinion on the starting point of the haul is at approximately the same time as the start of the casting stroke. By far, the finish point is more important …. it must finish at or immediately after the rod straight position (RSP). For example, completing the haul after the RSP and after the loop has formed will pull on the line and in fact shorten th cast.

Some aspects to concentrate on to improve the haul:

  • Co-ordinate the fastest part of the haul with the fastest part of the casting stroke. A simple way to look at the action is to mirror the movement of the rod hand.
  •  The haul should be smooth. A jerky movement will cause the rod tip to dip resulting in a tailing loop in a majority of instances.
  •  The presentation haul is the maximum length that you can muster. 

Body Weight Shift

Shifting your body weight forward and backwards in time with the movement of the casting stroke  will allow the casting arc to be widened and add power to the final delivery.

In summary:

  1. Improve the loop shape and abruptness of the stop.
  2. Pull rather than push the rod and use a wrist “snap” action to apply the final punch of power.
  3. Watch the backcast to improve timing and avoid slack.
  4. Develop the ability to carry more line in the air.
  5. Learn to shoot line on the final backcast.
  6. Co-ordinate the movement of the line hand haul with movement of the rod hand and use a long haul for the presentation cast.
  7. When practicing, start with a shorter distance and only add further line when that distance is perfected.

Distance casting is about control. Learning control of the rod and line to achieve a long distance cast will serve you well in many of the other aspects of fly fishing…..whether it be short accurate casts or curve casts in awkward situations, all will benefit

Copyright © Try on Fly 2005 All rights reserved

Casting in the Wind

Tips and Techniques for Overcoming the Effect of Wind on the Cast

It’s funny that you don’t notice the wind until you pick up your fly rod. In the real world of fishing, it seems very rare to encounter a completely windless day. Sometimes beating the wind in a freshwater situation can be achieved simply by finding a section of protected water. However, in the saltwater environment this is not always feasible, and if you want to maximize your fishing time, you should be aware of some techniques, apart from the well known “chuck and duck”  that will assist you to cast in the wind.

The equipment you use is of vital importance. A fast action rod will allow the application of more power than a slow action rod. Speciality weight forward fly lines with a short front taper will aid casting as will shooting head lines that have lower wind resistance.  Shortened leaders with a heavy butt section are a prerequisite to allow the fly to layout straight. Weighted streamlined flies will also help to cut down the effect of the wind.

Your attire becomes critical in the wind since hooking yourself becomes more likely and, because of the more force coupled with higher line speeds used, any “self impalements” will be more memorable. A wide brimmed hat, sunglasses and a jacket give added protection for absorbing wayward flies.

Wind Facts
Although a matter of conjecture for a number of years, it has now been proved that wind speed at water level is the same as the water current speed. However, information on how quickly the wind speed increases with distance above the water is limited.

An article by Larry Pratt, published in the Federation of Fly Fishers “The Loop” journal for Certified Casting Instructors in spring 2001, refers to data from studies of the mean wind profile over open water in the Pacific Ocean by Dr John Edson of the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution. The graph produced with this data sheds some light on the subject and shows that wind speed increases rapidly as height above the water increases.

In lieu of this information, it appears that casting sidearm into head or tail winds only provides minimal advantage as the wind speed even at knee level has increased markedly.

A line of thought put forward is that, even though the wind speed is still high close to the water, casting side arm does have an advantage because the line has less distance to fall to the water. Consequently, the wind has less time to effect the fly line as the loop unrolls.

This is true if compared to an upright horizontal line plane. If the casting plane is tilted so that the cast into the wind is low, then it doesn’t become such an issue. In addition, when the wind direction is following the casting stroke, a high casting plane makes use of the wind to assist the loop to unroll.

Technique Aspects
Different tactics will be required as the direction of the wind changes or as the casts change direction in relation to the wind.

There are four basic considerations in relation to casting technique that need to be addressed to improve wind casts.

When casting with either a head or tail wind, it is necessary to adjust the trajectory of the casting plane to maximise the “penetration” of the loop into the wind as well as using the wind to assist the loop to unroll.

Wind_2    Wind_1

A tight loop is the best tool to overcome an adverse wind. In summary, in order to throw tight loops, the rod tip must travel in a straight line during the casting stroke. To do this, right to left deviations in the rod tip path need to be eliminated, slack needs to be minimized and the power needs to be applied so that the rod accelerates smoothly ending in an abrupt stop.

Having the ability to alternate between wide and narrow loops for the back cast and the forward cast enables the wind to be used to assist the cast.

Increasing line speed imparts more inertia to the loop to allow it to better punch into the wind.

When casting directly into a strong wind, it is very important to make an adjustment to the length of the pause. If the pause is not shortened for the forward cast made into a strong wind, the wind will blow the fly/leader/line right back at you.  By lengthening the duration of the pause on the back cast, it allows the wind to help the back cast loop unroll.

This equation gets a bit more complicated when you consider that as line speed is increased into a wind in either direction, the pause time needs to be decreased. Every addition or subtraction to the cast will affect the time it takes for the loops to straighten. You need to constantly watch the loops to make the correct adjustments.

Casting into Direct Head Winds
If you must cast into a direct head wind the back cast should be high with the forward cast aimed low with maximum power and a tight loop.

a. Trajectory – high back cast and low forward cast (directly to target.)

b. Loop Size –  tight (small) loop for the forward cast with wider loop for the back cast.

c. Line Speed – high line speed for the forward cast and less line speed for the back cast.

d. Timing – shorter pause on forward cast with longer pause on backcast.

By far the best option is to change position so that you can cast across or with the wind rather than against it. In lighter winds, another alternative is to use a side-arm cast to keep the line close to the water where the wind speed is marginally less.

Casting with Tail Winds
a. Trajectory – low back cast with a high forward cast.

b. Loop Size – wider loop for the forward cast and tight loop for the back cast.

c. Line Speed – high line speed for the back cast with less line speed for the forward cast.

d. Timing – shorter pause for your back cast, and longer pause for your forward cast.

The back cast needs to be extra powerful, high speed and low into the wind. An effective way to achieve this is to employ an oval cast technique (Belgian Cast). The backcast is thrown low and parallel to the water and while the line is straightening, the rod is lifted vertically ready to make the forward  cast.  A wide loop is thrown high on the forward cast, letting the wind assist to carry the line out.

When the wind is really strong, a high roll cast is also a good technique to present the fly.

Techniques with Wind from Casting Arm Side
This is almost as troublesome as a direct headwind because the wind tends to blow the hook and line into you from the side.

a. Trajectory – high back cast and high forward cast  so that the wind blows the line over you.

b. Loop Size – narrow loops for both forward and backcasts

c. Line Speed – high line speed for the back cast and high line speed for the forward cast.

d. Timing – no specific adjustment of pause is needed.

Casting across your body so that the line is on the downwind side works well but it is hard to make a powerful cast. Another solution is to turn around and switch the roles of the casts. The forward cast becomes the back cast and the back cast becomes the final delivery. Having the ability to switch casting hands is a distinct advantage when the wind is from this side of your body.

A cross wind will require that the aim be adjusted upwind to allow for the fly to drift sideways in the wind to hit the target.

Casting with Wind on the Line-hand Side
This is one of the easiest directions to handle. You won’t have to worry about hooking yourself because the wind is blowing the fly away from you.

a. Trajectory – no change of trajectory is required

b. Loop Size – narrow loops for both forward and backcasts

c. Line Speed – high line speed for the back cast and high line speed for the forward cast.

d. Timing – no specific adjustment of pause is needed.

The aim needs to be a little upwind to allow for the drift effect of the wind.

Water Haul
This is useful to increase the load on the rod and hence the line speed. It involves allowing the back cast to momentarily touch the water behind you before making the forward cast.

The tension on the line being pulled off the water puts more load on the rod and extra line speed is generated as the loaded rod straightens at the end of the forward cast. It’s important not to let the line sink otherwise you won’t be able to snap the line back off the water.

Because it is a low cast it is a little risky when the wind is blowing from the casting arm side. To lessen the risk of the hook hitting you in the back, angle the rod out at about 45 degrees or switch hands or cast backwards.

Copyright © Try on Fly 2005 All rights reserved.