Mastering the Rollcast

There are many variations of the basic fly cast, yet none is used more than the rollcast.

October 3, 2001

There are many variations of the basic fly cast, yet none is used more than the rollcast. Sadly, almost all fly fishermen make this cast poorly, or at best, inefficiently. Much of the blame falls on those who have taught the rollcast for generations. With a minimal amount of practice, most anglers could easily rollcast to 50 feet or well beyond that. But to do so, they have to understand three basic principles of casting.

Making an Inefficient Rollcast

First, a large loop is difficult to throw any distance. The size of the loop is determined by the distance the rod tip speeds up and stops at the end of the cast. The shorter the distance of the speed-up-and-stop, the smaller the loop and the farther the line will travel. Second, the line will travel in whatever direction the rod speeds up and stops in the final moment of the cast. Finally, the longer the rod moves throughout the casting stroke, the more it contributes to the cast.
Given those principles, let’s examine why almost everyone has problems rollcasting.


The angler raises the elbow and elevates the rod so the tip is angled up and slightly behind the caster. In a single stroke, the rod tip is then driven forward and down. By elevating the rod to a near upright position, it will be of little assistance. If the rod tip is then swept downward in a single motion, two problems occur. The size of the loop will be huge, and the line will go in the directio’ that the tip stops. What you’re ask’ng the rod to do is this: Don’t help me much on this cast; throw the energy of the cast around a wide curve and dump the fly in the water in front of me.

Making a Good Rollcast
The first thing to understand about efficient rollcasting is that you have to modify the backcast, but then make a normal forward cast. A good rollcast will resemble the line loop of a normal forward cast.

To make an efficient rollcast, you need only do a few things. If conditions allow and the cast is anything but a very short one, bring the rod tip well back of the body.


| STEP 1| The more effort needed on the cast, the farther back it should be positioned. On a long or difficult rollcast, the rod should be behind the angler and parallel to the water. Make sure the line end stops. This allows surface tension to grip the line, so you can load the rod. As the rod hand moves forward, keep your elbow parallel to the water and make a normal forward cast, using as little wrist motion as possible.

| STEP 2| Too much wrist action will cause the rod tip to develop a large, undesirable loop. At the end of the cast, stop the rod tip parallel to the water.

| STEP 3|


A common fault with almost all rollcasters is that they dip the tip toward the water at the end of the cast. Remember, the line and fly will go in the direction the rod tip stops.

There is another factor, which I have never heard anyone mention or write about, that contributes greatly to a good rollcast. It is the position of the line end before the forward cast is made. Realize that on a rollcast the line has to be brought back around a circle and projected forward. If the line end is well in front of the caster, much of the energy of the cast has to be expended to bring the line back and around that curve, before it is sent to the target. But, if you position the line end not more than one-and-a-half rod lengths in front of you before making the cast, it is infinitely easier to do.

To impress this upon you, make two rollcasts. With a good amount of line outside the rod tip, position the line end so that it is well out in front. Make the cast and note how difficult it is. Now, reposition the line end so that it is within 10 to 15 feet of you and make another cast. You will see how much easier it is to make the rollcast.


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