Saltwater Fly Fishing In The United Kingdom

Destination Reviews
Courtesy of Carl HutchinsonBass caught by ColinSteve searching for salty Sea TroutBass caught by CarlFin Fly WalletSplash of a sea troutPerfect SunsetPerfect Sunset


Self Analysis, What are your loops telling (screaming at) you?

When you first string up a fly rod and make those first tentative swishes you usually have no idea of the swearing and frustration that is soon to follow! The vast majority of fly fishers are self taught by gradually adapting those initial swooshings into something resembling a cast.

Having been swooshing for about an hour and failing miserably to reach the 10 meter mark the average beginner starts to increase the power and is already sliding further down the route to despair.

There is a technique that we instructor dudes use to read your loops. It's the basis of most of the analysis we do. It goes something like this:

1) Watch the loop find the fault
2) Watch the rod to see what its happening
3) Watch the hand to see what it is doing to the rod
4) Fix the hand
5) Which fixes the rod
6) Which fixes the loops
Simple really!

First of all, if we go back to our purple faced beginner with the cloud of blue air drifting off downwind and ask him a question. "If you were casting a 12 gram weight, on 3 lb line, 10 meters, how much power would you use"? After he's caught his breath he may well suddenly realise that He could quite possibly cast a 6oz weight to Holland with the power he's using. Next time you are out casting bear that in mind. 10 yards of 7 weight fly line weighs 12 grams. How much power are you using? How far would your 12 gram spinner be going?

So, back to these loops. Just watching the shape of them can tell you everything you need to know IF you know what you are looking for. If you know what you are looking at and you know what causes it you can work backwards and fix it. This is the primary reason most fly casters are stuck at their present level. They have no idea what to do to change what they have.

Let's do something about that.

Loop size.
Loop Size is due to path of the rod tip. Simple as that. If the rod tip moves in a straight line, the loop will be narrow. If the rod tip moves in an arc, the loop will be open and wide. So to make a narrower loop make the rod tip travel straighter. How do we do that? Well if we break down the casting stroke (the distance the hand moves) into 2 pieces we can change each piece independently. Lest call the distance the hand moves part 1(stroke) and the turnover of the rod part 2 (arc). The longer we make part 1 before we make part 2 the straighter the path of the rod tip. Easy Hu? The shorter we make part 1 the more open the loop will be. This is also the same as lengthening the stroke the more line you have out of the tip and just by making part 1 longer will reduce a lot of tailing loops. This can be seen in the picture below.

Part 1, 2 and 3

So, now we know what controls loop size we can change the loop size whenever we want! How handy is that?

Now that you are all back from rushing outside to try it, grab a coffee and we'll do the next bit.

The point.

The pointier the point the harder the stop. If the radius of your loop point (which is independent of loop shape by the way) is larger than you would like, stop the rod harder. Or in other words, make part 2 above faster. It's as simple as that. Oh, and don't forget that armed with the information above you can now throw narrow loops with a round point or wide open loops with a pointy point.

Next let's look at loop speed.

Fly casting loops can be viewed just like the volume on a stereo. We can turn up the volume and cast the same loop at three different speeds. Slow, medium and fast. Being able to change between the three, at will, is more useful than you think. By making your loops at volume 1, the slow speed and then increasing the last one to volume 2 for the shoot (and changing nothing lese) you line will fly out. When it gets wind, move the volume to level 2, Medium speed loops and then increase to level 3 for the shoot. Simple as that. This way you don't get all of the problems of changing the last stoke on the shoot that are so common.

So now we can cast any shape loop with any shape point at any speed we choose and vary the speed up or down as required. Well done!

Next let's look at some particular problems and how they show up in the loop.

For those that have a loop that looks like this:

Haul is too early

1) Have two applications of power. The point at the top (A) is the point from the rod stop and the second point (B) is caused by the peak power of the haul. This shape loop is a sign that the haul is too early. If you have loops this shape, back or front, simply delay your haul so that both applications of power merge and form one point. The haul will feel heavier and will really feel sweet.

2)The next loop is caused by a good hard stop but is a sign that the caster is gripping the rod too hard throughout the stroke.

Gripping the rod too hard

Relax the hand and finish the stroke with a Squeeeeeze and then relax. The loop should smooth out.

Next we have the good old tailing loop. This can be caused by several reasons but the vast majority are uneven application of power (the rod not accelerating smoothly) or too short a casting stoke for the length of line outside of the tip (see "Part 1" above, just make it longer). remember, its impossible to make too long a stroke, but you can make too short a stroke.

All tailing loops are caused by a concave path of the rod tip during the loop, this can be caused by 5 things. As long as you are smooth and have a long enough casting stroke, most of them will sort themselves out.

If we next look at a compound fault. And pull it apart.

Here we have a loop with several faults but you should now be able to figure out what causes each of them.

Compound fault

Ok, the waves are caused by the caster gripping the rod too hard. Fix: Squeeze the cast to a stop.
The loop has two points so the hauling timing is too early. Fix: Delay the haul.
The loop has a tailing loop and because the loop is wide we know that there was not much of "Part 1" and too much of "Part 2" from the earlier section. This means this tailing loop is caused by too short a stroke for the length of line outside of the tip. Fix: Make "Part 1" longer increasing the length of the stoke. There are hundreds of other smaller effects to look out for but those above should be the most common ones.

Once you know what affects each part of the cast you can change it at will. Have a play with your casting and see what happens. If it's no better I'll see you in the casting section of the forum.

Happy casting,

See you in the Forum

Tight loops,


Carl Hutchinson

Carl Hutchinson is a qualified instructor with the FFFE and FFFUSA and runs saltwater fly fishing Mullet with He is a member of the board of the British fly Casting Club and has fished extensively in many saltwater locations and specialises in saltwater fly fishing for Salmon in Canada.








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