Fly Fishers' Republic

Overhead Cast
(Lesson 2)

May 16, 2006

by Sue MacNiven

Inevitably when overhead casting there comes a time when more distance is required. The difference between fishing and casting now becomes a problem of sorts. When practising casting it is easy to get into the habit of lifting a full head of line and casting it back out again, the weight factor and drag on the water helps the action. So what happens when we start fishing? First and most obvious is that we start retrieving line to hopefully attract a fish to our fly, this can mean bringing the line so far in that there is little or no fly line left out of the rod tip to help load it with energy for the next cast.

There are a number of ways to get around this problem, all of which require a further step up in our casting repertoire. There are I would say four main methods of extending line from almost nothing to a decent distance. The first is the roll cast, possibly incorporating an overhead false cast & shoot of line (Now I have you totally flumoxed)! The second is the shoot of line. The third is the false cast with shoot of line. And the fourth is the false cast with shoot and double haul.

If I were teaching casting in real life practice I would more often than not teach the roll cast first as it is safer and relies less on natural timing. Unfortunately it can have the disadvantage of getting the beginner into a wrist break habit which without an instructor on hand can be difficult to recognise and fix, which is why I have started with an overhead cast.

The chances are you will use the overhead more than the roll cast therefore it stands to reason that the hand action for this is more critical to get right and achieve some muscle memory.

Let us go back to our casting practice to start off with, this means that we can get the overhead casts dealt with before going onto the family of roll & Spey casts.

With the fly line out on the water in front of us we are going to add a shoot of line on the forward cast. So, making sure that all of the basics are set up to help us, i.e. stance, grip, direction etc, we pull off another small section of line from the reel, to start with no more than it takes to form a loop reaching to the ground.

Take hold of the line in the opposite one to rod hand and grip firmly between finger and thumb, so that there is no slack between the bottom rod ring and the line hand.

Now we make the cast exactly the same as before with no added effort or change of movement in the hands, arms, and wrists. When you stop the rod on the forward cast and the line comes past you and starts to straighten out, simply let go of the line. You know when it is done correctly because the loop of line shoots through the rod rings and makes a satisfying slap against the rod as it tries to take even more line.

If the timing is off there will be either no shoot or very little shoot of line at all if you are too late in letting go, or if too early the loose line will flip up and wrap itself around the rod between the bottom ring and the reel. The more extreme the wraps the earlier you have let go.

The normal thing is for the caster to anticipate and try to throw the line down the rod, extending the casting arm and pointing the rod tip at the water, thereby creating loose wobbly line with no distance achieved.

It is important at this stage to get used to maintaining the basic casting action, keeping the stopping points high and the elbow down with the wrist firm. The only change is in taking the line away from the rod hand and letting go of the loop at the correct point on the forward cast. Sounds easy, and it is, just go back to basics with no shoot of line if it all goes pear shaped, get the correct action back before going on to the shoot. Look at the line in front of you as it starts to straighten, the release must happen before the speed and energy created in the forward loop disappears. If the line lands before the line has fully unfurled look at the forward stop. Is it high enough, is it dynamic enough?

Look at how the line lands, does it land correctly in a straight line, or is there a wobble or curve in it, has the wool tag landed behind the fly line? All of these suggest either too much power or coming off the straight track.

Keep the action smooth with progressive speed to both up and forward stops.


Safety Rules: These should be adhered to at all times when fishing or during casting practice - they are for your protection. Remember it is an adult's responsibility to set a good example for the younger generations. You will find a complete set of safety rules at the end of the first article.

Related articles:

Lesson 1
Lesson 3