wikiHow to Cast a Fly Fishing Rod

Two Methods:Casting a Basic Forward CastCasting a Roll Cast

Arguably one of the most difficult of all fishing techniques, fly-fishing can take a long time to master. But like all things difficult, the rewards can be equally satisfying. This guide will help you perform the basic fly-fishing forward cast, as well as the slightly more advanced roll cast.

Method 1
Casting a Basic Forward Cast

  1. Image titled Cast a Fly Fishing Rod Step 1
    Load your fly rod. Fly rods are much more flexible than spinning rods. Your fly rod will not cast properly if you do not feel the rod bend and unbend in your hand. This is called “feeling the rod load” and can sometimes be a difficult concept for beginners to grasp. Another way to think of the “load” on your fly rod is as the amount of potential energy “loaded” into the flex of the rod and weight of the fly line.
    • Let some line out of your fly rod. Fly line is thicker and heavier than monofilament line, but it features a plastic sheathing to make it buoyant.[1] As you let more line out of the rod, you add more load. The process is very similar to the length of a whip determining its potential energy load.
    • When done correctly, the torque of your cast combined with the flex in the fly rod will sail the heavier fly line out, carrying the fly with it. This means that your rod will not load if you do not let out the right amount of line.
    • The amount of line to let out will depend on the length of your rod and other factors such as weight. Consult your rod's manufacturer or an expert to find the perfect amount of line to let out for your specific setup. However, a good rule of thumb is to let out line equaling approximately three lengths of your rod.[2]
  2. Image titled Cast a Fly Fishing Rod Step 2
    Grip the rod like you are shaking someone’s hand. Your thumb should be on top with four fingers wrapped around the rod. Do not grip too tightly. The casting motion requires fluid movement, so a firm but relaxed grip, the same as you would grip a golf club, is ideal.
    • Keeping the butt of the fly rod under your wrist and in line with your forearm helps you maintain a straight plane while casting as well.[3]
  3. Image titled Cast a Fly Fishing Rod Step 3
    Start your back cast. Begin with your fly line in front of you and cast it back. Anglers may have a personal preference between a sidearm, 45 degree, or overhead cast. Each is useful in its own situation, but start with the casting angle most comfortable to you while learning.[4]
    • Keep your wrist stiff and your elbow close to your side. The most important part of the backward and forward casting movements is that each is in a straight line.
    • Pull your fly rod back to a 10 o'clock position. Only bend your elbow.
  4. Image titled Cast a Fly Fishing Rod Step 4
    Pause when your fly line fully leaves the surface. Once you see the line leave the surface, pause at the apex of your back-casting movement. This allows the momentum of that movement to travel all the way down the line.
    • Your amount of line and rod load will determine the exact amount of time you need to pause before beginning your forward cast. The ideal amount of time to wait is for the fly line to unfurl behind you almost entirely so that the leader is nearly extended at full the moment you begin your forward cast.[5]
  5. Image titled Cast a Fly Fishing Rod Step 5
    Finish with your forward cast. Start your motion forward smoothly in a straight line toward your desired spot on the water surface. The movement should be relaxed but swift. Once again, you are transferring energy from the movement into the line.
    • As with your back cast, the most important aspect is making sure that you cast forward in a straight line, otherwise the fly line will wander and take your fly with it.
  6. Image titled Cast a Fly Fishing Rod Step 6
    Stop your hand abruptly with the tip of the fly rod still slightly pointing upward. The line will continue to transfer momentum from your movement, but keeping the rod tip upright will help the line carry out to its complete distance rather than falling short.
    • You will feel the rod “unload,” but again, do not bend your wrist.
    • As you see the line in flight, slightly turn your thumb down around 1” or 2.5cm.
    • Keep your hand where it is and let the line fly out of the rod.

Method 2
Casting a Roll Cast

  1. Image titled Cast a Fly Fishing Rod Step 7
    Use the roll cast when there is no room behind you for a back cast. In some situations, trees, brush, or anything else that makes it difficult to extend a back cast may limit the movement of your cast. These situations call for a roll cast.[6]
    • A roll cast keeps the line, and therefore the fly, closer to your body, so a hat and sunglasses are recommended while practicing this casting maneuver.
  2. Image titled Cast a Fly Fishing Rod Step 8
    Hold the rod out in front of you. Use the same relaxed but firm, thumb-forward grip described in the forward-cast method. You should also ensure that there are no tangles down the line.
  3. Image titled Cast a Fly Fishing Rod Step 9
    Bring the rod tip back so that a small segment of line hangs loosely behind your casting shoulder. The majority of your fly line will still remain in front of you in this position, most likely stretched out across the water.
    • This isn’t a rapid movement, simply the position you want to be in when you actually begin the roll cast.
  4. Image titled Cast a Fly Fishing Rod Step 10
    Move the rod in a forward-cast movement. This movement should start gradually and gain speed. The slow initial movement will help you maintain control of the cast, which should be in a straight line.
    • Instead of unfurling behind you like in a back cast, the fly line will roll out in front of you as the tippet and fly catch up with the forward momentum of the cast.
  5. Image titled Cast a Fly Fishing Rod Step 11
    Stop when the rod tip is still pointing slightly upward. Stopping with the rod tip in an upward position gives the fly line more height and room to roll out in front of you.
    • Casting the rod tip too far forward will sink the rolling line too low, possibly allowing it to contact the ground or water before unfurling.


  • While you’re casting, don’t extend too far back or forward with the rod. If it helps, picture yourself casting from a side profile view with a clock face overlay. From this vantage, the rod movement should stay between 10 and 2.
  • When inspecting your rod beforehand, be sure that the guides are lined up on the rod as you put them together. The guides are the rings on the rod, which the fly line goes through.
  • The thinner end of the leader is called the tippet.[7] Various knots are used to tie these together, such as the improved clinch knot, the arbor knot, and the albright knot. As you attach new flies, the tippet will get shorter, so you should always keep extra tippet in your tackle box.
  • Setting points at thirty and sixty feet and trying to hit those marks is a great practice exercise that allows you to gain experience casting with different amounts of line let off the rod.
  • Practice the feel of the cast using “false casts” where instead of letting the fly land on the surface you continue with another back cast. False casts are also useful for drying your fly.
  • Point your thumb in the direction you want the line to go. Wherever you point your thumb, the rod tip will follow, and wherever the tip points, the line will follow.


  • Look behind you before you cast.
  • The fly line moves much more freely than when casting from a spinning rod, so a hat and eye protection are highly recommended while learning the basics of fly-fishing casts.

Things You’ll Need

  • An assembled fly-fishing outfit, including a rod, fly line, reel, leader, and fly.
  • Extra tippet.
  • Sunglasses and a hat for safety.
  • An open space to practice.

Article Info

Categories: Fishing