After fly fishing for 30 years I thought I pretty much knew how to roll cast. Boy was I wrong. I think I just learned more about rolling casting in this 5 minute and 10 second video short from ‘Casts that Catch Fish‘ than in my 30 years flailing about on the water. I’m going to have to have a serious talk with my Dad about the instruction I received as a youth.
The roll cast is one of the fundamental casts used in fly fishing, the other being the overhead cast, and has two basic variations, the static roll cast and the dynamic roll cast. The roll cast is useful when you have limited or no back-casting room and is the foundation of all switch and spey cast with both single- and double-handed fly rods.
The static roll cast starts with your fly line on the water in front of you (yeah you have to get it out there first) and then lifting the rod tip overhead till your casting hand is about ear level but away from your body a foot or so (like you are picking up a phone and bring it to your ear).
At this point you stop the rod motion so the line hangs behind you forming a d-shape from the rod tip to the water surface and then begin your forward rod motion with a flick of the wrist. You then stop the forward rod stroke when it gets to about eye level and the fly line will roll out in front of you completing the roll cast (in theory).
The dynamic roll cast is useful when you need a little more distance from your roll cast and is performed by picking some of the fly line up off the water as you draw your rod tip back (rather than drawing the line across the water as you do in a static roll cast) and then letting some of the line set back on the water before initiating your forward rod stroke, also known as splash-n-go. This forms a larger d-loop behind you and reduces the amount of line lying on the water. The latter is important because it still provides an anchor point for the fly line which is needed to load the rod but reduces the amount of energy loss to the water, the end result being the fly line go furthers.
It’s a subtle difference between a static and dynamic roll cast but if you think about it when on the water and practice you’ll see and feel the difference.
An important note about the roll cast is that it is not meant to be a change of direction fly cast, meaning that your cast will go in the same direction as from where the fly line started out. This is not a big deal when fishing on a pond or still-water as shown in the video, but is very important to remember when fishing in a river.
If you want your fly to land in a particular spot then the fly line needs to start out on the water pointing toward that spot. On a river, you can accomplish this by letting the line hang down stream of you then use a water haul to flip the line upstream or out in front of you. As the current starts to carry the line back downstream you can then begin the roll cast once the line is pointing toward your target.
When done correctly the roll cast can be a stealth and accurate cast, and a quick way to get a fly up and back into the water with limited false casts. The roll cast is useful for lifting up heavy sink-tip lines and shooting heads, and for throwing bigger flies. A roll cast can also reduce tangles and minimize the chance of clunking yourself in the head with a meaty fly!
Ken is an avid fisherman of 40+ years who loves to explore and is on a quest to map the best places for fly fishing in America. He created the DIY Fly Fishing App to share this information and help you find new places to fish.
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