Learning the Roll Cast


Learning the Roll Cast

 Spey Casting


Learning the roll cast is probably one of the first skills you will learn as it forms the basis and foundation when learning to Spey Cast. Once understood, progression can be made onto the jump roll and then various other Spey Casting techniques. It is an excellent way for individuals to learn the importance of correct body movement and alignment, rod tip path and power application. We are also able to learn how to stop the rod correctly and cast a narrow, efficient loop when required.


The roll cast comes mainly in two forms: a presentation roll cast with a tight loop which extends above the water’s surface or a lifting roll cast with a more open, wider, slower loop that extends either just above or on the surface of the water. As mentioned before there are many factors that will dictate which method you use to achieve the desired loop shape and line speed, but often it is the equipment that will be one of the main factors. During the next few chapters I will mainly be referring to the presentation cast and the ability to form narrow fast loops. Making suitable alterations to widen the loop will become much more intuitive when we understand the importance of correct acceleration and power application to create the most effective tip speed from an efficient stop.


Stance for the roll cast


 I would advise people where possible to lead with the foot from the casting side. If the right hand is uppermost on the rod, then the right foot should be positioned forward, thus keeping everything in alignment. This also helps prevent over rotation of the shoulders during D loop formation.


Forming the D loop using a floating line


First we raise the rod and can't it slightly to the side to keep the line and fly out of harm’s way. We can then change the angle of the rod by raising our top hand as the bottom hand is gently pushed out from the body. This movement continues as the hands and arms are raised simultaneously into the casting position. If done smoothly at the correct pace, the line will slide along the water’s surface in the correct alignment and formation of our D loop will occur. At this point our upper hand and arm should be positioned at around 90 degrees with the lower hand and arm resembling a 45 degree angle. This position is very efficient in that we have adequate range of movement to make the correct acceleration and angle change of the rod during the forward delivery.


Forward delivery


The forward delivery for me always starts with my weight on my back foot. In this position I can transfer my weight onto my front foot as I lead into the cast. At this point my hands will be coming downward and forward changing the angle of the rod throughout before applying the speed in the final part of the cast and stopping and blocking to form a neat, efficient loop. As the line extends I will soften my grip to aid rod tip recovery. Using this method it is possible to cast 60ft or so of line holding the rod only by the finger tips.


There are common mistakes that are often made even during the setup when learning the roll cast. Often the rod will be raised much faster than necessary especially when pulled or tugged by the upper hand. This can cause the line to be almost thrown backward rather than slid effortlessly into position. The result will be a slack line in the D loop and often excessive line stick. This top hand dominated pulling will often present itself as another symptom as above in that the shoulder will be excessively rotated as the line is pulled in behind the caster. It is also surprising how many people actually keep the rod very low and close to their body throughout the movement (this is often referred to as hugging the rod). It leaves little freedom to make effective acceleration and produces all sorts of problems. I have also often observed when the student’s top hand passes over faster than the bottom hand when trying to cast a tight loop, over-rotation of the rod then takes place and the loop opens up. There will often be V shaped wave in the line on the bottom leg of the loop which indicates excessive rod tip counter flex due to inappropriate power application and subsequent over rotation of the rod. The rod will lack tip speed in the correct direction and consequently the loop will often lack speed.


Roll casting into wind


When roll casting into the wind we will require a loop with sufficient speed to penetrate wind resistance and turn over on the surface of the water without being further effected by the wind. The principles outlined above will remain the same while forming the D loop, however alterations in the casting stroke and arc will be required during the delivery as the rod will be rotated through a bigger angle. The majority of speed, (no surprise) will come mainly from the bottom hand and the stop will still be in the last margin of the cast although the rod will be stopped much lower to drive the loop forward.


Roll casting with the wind behind


Wind coming from behind presents a different problem in that it will close our D loop and create slack line in the system. We have to then lower the rod and sweep slowly back in a much flatter movement with the rod almost horizontal to the water’s surface. This movement should continue as far back as possible without the need to over rotate the shoulders. The rod can be held in this position for as long as necessary trapping the line in position unaffected by the wind. We can then rise the rod up into the casting position without hesitation and momentarily form a D loop. This allows us to make the forward delivery which will require less effort as we can use the assistance of the wind to deliver and unroll the line to the intended target.


 Roll Casting with sinking lines and heavy flies


The principles of using effective leverage will remain the same however casting heavy flies or dense lines generally requires a longer, more progressive movement allowing line momentum to be effectively increased. This type of equipment will not respond effectively to fast compact movements or firm stops, so overly tight loops are not required as there would be too much energy and speed. Therefore we would naturally lengthen and widen or movements to accommodate a longer progressive acceleration. Also our stop and power application would not be so abrupt and would take place over a larger margin at the end of the cast.


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