Understanding Hauling

 by Nial Logan

Next to mastering the proper casting stroke, the double haul is viewed as the most important tool a fly caster, particularly in saltwater, can learn. 

Many fly fishers still think of the haul as solely a method for increasing distance and may not realise that it also produces additional and equally important advantages. The technique of hauling also assists in line control, overcoming the effects of wind, presenting bigger flies and generally allows you to cast with less effort.  Another major benefit is the control of slack between the line-hand and the first guide of the fly rod to maintain the taut line required for good fly casting.

This hauling movement has been comprehensively dissected and analyzed and there are numerous opinions as to the correct method for the execution of the movement.  Like other aspects of fly casting, there are many varying styles, which in the hands of experienced casters, work efficiently.

In this article, the some of the different aspects of hauling will be covered to enable you to learn, improve and employ the haul more effectively.

What is a Haul?

There are many different opinions of what constitutes a single and a double haul.

Ed Jaworski, in the glossary of his publication “The Cast” defines the double haul as “A technique to increase line speed and rod load involving pulling the line sharply with the line hand during both the back and forward casts.”

Other authors of fly casting literature describe hauling in several ways :-

  • A single haul is the pull with the line hand during either back cast or forward cast, but not both.
  • A double haul is the pull with the line hand during both the back cast and the forward cast.
  • Others refer to the action of pulling and giving line back as constituting a double haul.
  • Joan Wulff on the other hand has described in her writing and teaches that “a single haul is performed by pulling with the line hand and not giving back line back during either the forward or the back cast, or both”.

 Throughout this article, for simplicity and to avoid confusion, references to hauling will mean:

  • A haul is made up of a pull with the line hand and give back of line during the pause.
  • A pull done on either the back cast or forward cast but not both constitutes a single haul.
  • When the haul is performed on both the backcast and the forward cast it is referred to as a double haul.

How does hauling effect the cast?

The haul has 2 effects:

 ➡ It increases the load of the rod by increasing its bend.
The rod tip is moving fastest between the stop of the rod butt section, and the RSP (rod straight position).  The faster it moves, the more energy is transferred to the line and this translates to faster line speed. The faster the line speed, the further the loop will travel.
In making the haul, the caster pulls with the line hand as the rod is accelerating forward.  This pull is against the “dead weight” of the line which is moving more slowly than the accelerating rod tip. This results in further bending the already bent rod.  The increased bend in the rod stores more energy which is later released at the stop, thus translating to more line speed.

 ➡ Apart from the bending effect on the rod, a haul also directly increases line (loop) speed.
In demonstrating this effect, you could make a rod out of a broom stick, to eliminate the bending/loading aspect, and note marked increase in line speed with a haul.
Gordon Hill, a FFF Master Casting Instructor uses an easy to understand explanation this way:
“Think of the guides and the tip top as a pulley.  If you pull on a rope which goes through a pulley, you can move the rope on the other side of that pulley.  The faster you pull on your end, the faster the rope moves on the other end. Now, when you make a haul, you pull the fly line through this “pulley” (the rod tip)………..and the faster you pull it, the faster the speed of the line on the other side of this “pulley”. The faster the line is moving toward the rod tip at the RSP, the faster it moves as it overtakes the rod tip and forms the loop…..and, consequently, the faster that loop will be propelled in the direction the rod tip was moving when it came to a stop.”

Length and Speed of Haul

How aggressively (length and speed) you haul depends mainly on the stiffness or action of the rod and how much load it being applied to make the cast in a particular situation. 

A haul using a 9 foot stiff rod throwing 60 feet of line will differ significantly from one you’d use with slow action 9 foot rod, casting the same distance. The same haul on both would probably result in a very modest load on the fast action, whereas it would result in a much deeper load on the slow action rod.

The key to remember is it to use a haul that not only increases line speed to the desired level, but also does not compromise the straight line path of the tip.

Is it possible to haul the line faster than the rod’s movement? Look on the rod as a long lever which greatly magnifies the speed of the tip and consequently, it is likely that the rod tip is moving a lot faster than any speed achieved with the line hand.

A simplistic way of looking at this aspect of length/speed is, “short cast….short haul and long cast….long haul.” and match the speed of haul that is appropriate to the stiffness of the rod.

When is the start and finish in stroke sequence?

When considering when to start and finish there are a couple of important points to bear in mind.  The rod tip is moving fastest between the stop of the rod butt section and the RSP and the loop begins to form at the rod straight position. This is the moment when the line starts to overtake the movement of the rod tip. It then follows that the peak “pull” of the haul should be at the point of maximum pressure on the rod from the rod hand, prior to the stop. 

That’s when it’s best to haul if you are going to use a very short, crisp haul.  Most distance casters however haul throughout the entire stroke….. the pull with the line hand is a mirror image of the application of force with the rod hand, with the peaks of pressure of both at the same instant.

Having looked at the optimum time to start and finish, it is also important to consider the negative effects of incorrect timing.  For example, a haul done suddenly in the middle of a casting stroke or completed too early, can yield a spike of rod load that will cause the rod tip to dip and then return to the original path in the stroke.  That’s a concave rod tip path which can yield a tailing loop. 

If the haul is continued after the RSP you are, in essence, pulling on the bottom leg. This effect will speed up the top leg forcing an earlier turnover and shorten the cast. In situations such as when using large flies or long leaders, this technique to cause early turn over can be used to assist in presentation.

 To be able to haul correctly or at least efficiently, the fundamentals of the basic casting stroke must be sound to produce a tight loop shape with legs of the loop parallel (that is the upper and lower portions of the fly line that forms the loop). The importance of this is noted by Lefty Kreh who once quoted that the basic casting stroke of many casters is so flawed that “….most fishermen use the double haul to throw their mistakes faster and over a greater distance.”


Learning to haul could be likened to those PT classes at school where learning to star jump while rubbing your stomach with one hand and patting your head with the other was the ultimate test of co-ordination. When hauling, it is the independent hand actions between the line and rod hands that many have trouble with.

The hauling action is made up of a pull on the line and a “give back of line’. The pull is performed during the last part of the casting stroke when the majority of power or speed is applied and is completed not later than the rod straight position. The “give back” action is done during the pause after the loop has formed and is trying to pull the line out of the rod tip.

One of the most difficult aspects to learn is not so much the timing of the pull but rather the ‘give back’. If the give back part with the line hand is not completed correctly slack is often introduced. Slack between the line hand and the stripping guide can be as equally detrimental to the cast as slack outside the rod tip.

Endeavouring to learn to haul as a whole is a recipe for frustration. By far the best way to develop the co-ordination and “muscle memory” is to separate and practice the actions individually and, once mastered, then progress to the whole action.


If you have never tried to learn to haul previously, you may find it beneficial to overline the rod by one or two weights to achieve more feel for the rod loading and the loop pulling the line.

Use  a slightly open stance so that the rod can be moved at about a 45 degree angle to the ground. Lay out 25 to 30 feet of line in front of you. Make sure the rod tip is close to the ground and there is no slack in the line.

 Back Cast
• Step 1 –   Start with line hand within about 18 inches (40 – 50cm) of the reel.
• Step 2 –   Lift the rod to make the backcast with both hands moving together maintaining a constant separation.
• Step 3 –   As the rod is accelerated for the power application make a short pull (about a foot) with the line hand so that it is completed at the same time as the stop with the rod hand.
• Step 4 –   Immediately move the line hand back close to the reel. If you have thrown a good loop the “pulled line” will be drawn up through the rod guides eliminating any slack between the hand and the stripping guide.
• Step 5 –   Let the line fall to the ground behind you. This allows you to collect your thoughts ready for the next cast.
• Step 6 –   Turn around and repeat the process.

Some find the use of the word pictures such as, “Pull it down, follow it up” or “Haul and return”, help with coordinating the sequence. To assist in synchronising the completion of the haul with the stop and the giving back of line, try watching your casting hand as opposed to the rod or line.  This makes it easier to observe the actions and make any corrections as necessary.

 Forward Cast
• Step 7 –   Start with the rod and hand in the position applicable for the completion of the backcast with the line hanging straight behind you with no slack. The line hand should be positioned as close as possible to the rod hand.
• Step 8  –   Move the rod to make the forward cast with both hands moving together maintaining the same distance apart.
• Step 9  –   As the rod is accelerated for the power application make a short pull (about a foot) with the line hand so that it is completed at the same time as the stop with the rod hand.
• Step 10 –   Immediately move the line hand back close to the reel. Again, the “pulled line” will be drawn up through the rod guides.
• Step 11 –   Let the line fall to the ground in front of you.
• Step 12 –   Turn around and repeat the process.

After some repetitions to cement the sequence into muscle memory, combine both sequences by deleting the steps where the line is allowed to fall to the ground. Once you can false cast with continuous hauling then move on to shooting the line. On the presentation cast, there is no requirement to complete the “return”, just release the line at the same time as the stop of the rod hand.

Common Problems and Fixes

Problem          If you haul too soon with too much travel of the line hand, you have restricted movement late in the stroke when the haul is most effective. Additionally, an early slow haul will commonly result in slack being introduced below the rod.

Fix                   Ensure that the majority of the haul is done during the final portion of the casting stroke during the application of power.

Problem          A common problem, particularly on the backcast, is moving the rod away from the line hand as opposed to the line hand away from the rod. 

Fix                   Move both hands together for the initial part of the cast and pull with the line hand as the final power is applied with the rod hand.

Problem          Slack most commonly occurs because the “up action” attempts to push the line back up rather than the line taking itself back and the hand following.

Fix                 Let the inertia of the traveling loop pull the line back rather than just moving the hand back.

Problem          Line around the rod butt is the often the result of having slack between the line hand and the stripping guide.  Another cause is using an overly long haul across the body for the amount of line being cast that results in the line being pulled across the base of the reel.

Fix                   To overcome both problems, try making a shorter haul later in the stroke. This will make “return” easier to avoid the slack that wraps around the rod.

Problem          If the haul is completed prior to the RSP, acceleration is lost.  The deceleration of the line and partial recovery of the rod tip leads to a concave path often   resulting in a tailing loop. Starting the haul with too much speed that can not be maintained or slowing the haul will let the rod unload with the same result.

 Fix                When the haul is started at the same time rod rotation starts for the power application portion of the stroke, it is easy to match accelerations to maintain SLP and gain tip speed. There is no disruption of the bend caused by a tug on the line in the middle of the stroke.

Problem          Releasing the line too early or too late after the haul. If the line is released before RSP, it is obvious that this would reduce the effectiveness of the cast.  On the other hand, if the line is released after RSP, the bottom leg of the loop is being pulled which will speed the top leg forcing an earlier turnover. This will shorten the cast and sometimes cause the line to land in a pile at the end and not lay out straight.

Fix                Coordinate the line release with the RSP. The time difference between the stop and the RSP is relatively small, so, for practical purposes, release the line at the stop.

Problem          A sharp haul away from the line of the axis of the rod will cause the rod tip to recoil in the opposite direction. That makes the tip throw the line out in that direction.

Fix                    Preferably the haul should be performed along the direction of the axis of the rod.  Pulling down the axis reduces the effect of drag on the rod guides, gives the hand a free travel path and facilitates the natural flow of the line down and back up through the guides.

One last word on practice – start with short lengths of line to develop a sound technique.  As you become more proficient, the extra line speed hauling generates will gradually allow you to carry more line while false casting and consequently gain more distance. 

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