A quarterly newsletter from Clear Creek Fly Casting LLC.

Your source for efficient, controlled, effective fly casting

Fall 2017

Hello Again Everyone,

Some of the best fishing of the season is upon us, in my opinion! Hope you’re getting out there. I never get to fish as much as I’d like, but do any of us? I hope you find this edition of the newsletter helpful: one of the most common casting problems is addressed. It’s not just a beginner issue, as it often affects clients who have been fishing for years. It is often responsible for leaders that don’t straighten and casts that don’t go the distance.

Speaking of casting, you may be fishing more streamers in the coming months. In the Ask the Instructor section there are some tips for casting those heavy bugs. Some, I have found, dislike streamer fishing simply because they don’t understand how to adjust their cast.


January 5-7, 2018: The Fly Fishing Show at the Denver Merchandise Mart: Free casting consultations and free beginner casting lessons will be offered at the Fly Fishers International booth each day at the show. I and a group of other certified casting instructors will be there.

February 10, 2018: TU West Denver Fly Tying Show: I’ll be present again with some demonstrations and free casting consultations. Hope to see you at the Jefferson County Fairgrounds!

Create your own event: Put together a presentation or clinic for your group! It can be a fishing group or a group of interested people that don’t fish yet! I can help you tailor instruction to your group’s needs. Contact


There have been a few responses to the incentive for questions for Ask the Instructor! The offer still stands! From now on, if you submit a question or suggestion, I’ll give you $5 of lesson time. These are cumulative: if you submit 3 questions or suggestions, you have $15 of lesson time. That would bring the cost of a one hour lesson down to $35! You can use them for yourself or give them to someone that you think needs it. (Be diplomatic!)

Send your questions or suggestions to



This is the problem that nearly every casting instructor will identify as the most common problem amongst clients. Why does it happen, why is it a problem and what’s the solution? Read on!

Why does it happen?

  • Experience tells me that most people are unaware of the movement and don’t perceive it as a problem. They allow the wrist to move uncontrollably.
  • Some are aware of it and seem intuitively to think that it’s appropriate or not the cause of any problem. There are a “wristy” casters that are successful, and other casters mimic them. However, the accomplished casters have a controlled wrist movement where those mimicking them allow for uncontrolled movement. (See my note about the “power snap” below.)
  • Many that are aware that it’s a problem don’t know how to fix it. Often they laugh and say ”I use too much wrist!” Some wish to change, and some don’t!
  • Sometimes the rod and/or reel is simply too heavy for the forearm strength of the individual to cast. This happens often with children. It’s less important to match the reel weight with the rod than to match the weight of both with the strength of the caster.

Why is it a problem?

Let’s start with the rod movement that forms a good cast or loop. Simply stated this is smooth acceleration through an appropriate size casting arc to an abrupt stop. This will create the desired straight line path of the rod tip. Now let’s consider how uncontrolled wrist movement affects each of these.

Appropriate size casting arc or angle through which the rod moves:

  • Overuse of the wrist opens up the casting arc causing wide loops, especially on the back cast. Opening the wrist on the back cast causes the rod tip to travel in an arching path creating a top leg of the loop that is also arching. This is a wide loop which is weak and very air/wind resistant.
  • Overuse of the wrist often makes the casting arc about the same for all casts. The arc should vary with amount of line past the rod tip, line speed and loop size desired. Poor loops result, except for maybe one particular length of line for which the wrist movement and therefore the arc is appropriate.
  • A weak back cast trains the caster to overpower the forward cast.

Smooth Acceleration:

  • Allowing the wrist to “open” on the back cast encourages the caster to snap it shut on the forward cast. This is not smooth acceleration. The snap often causes a dipping rod tip path, which causes a dipping top leg instead of a straight one. Combine these two and get wide loops on the back cast and tailing loops (causing “wind knots”) on the forward cast.
  • This forward cast wrist snap is one way the caster overpowers the forward cast.

Abrupt stop:

  • When opening the wrist on the back cast, there is no abrupt stop that rapidly transfers the energy of the bent rod. The caster loses about 20% of the energy of the cast. Combine this with the wide loop that is created and one develops a wide, weak, air resistant loop.
  • Casters that use more wrist successfully incorporate a controlled, small wrist movement into the casting stroke before the abrupt stop.

How do I fix it?

You can’t fix what you can’t see!

  • As you hold the rod, look at the area between the rod butt and the wrist/forearm. Keep the relationship between the rod butt and the forearm about 2 fingerbreadths of distance. For most this is a comfortable, neutral wrist position. It should remain throughout the cast.
  • This will force you to use larger muscle groups (upper arm and shoulder) and will ultimately smooth out the casting stroke.
  • Keep looking at this area as you cast and start developing this “muscle memory.” You should start seeing 2-4 ft. loops on back and forward casts.
  • Once you feel you’ve started to “get it,” close your eyes for 3-4 casts and concentrate on the feeling in the wrist when done properly.
  • Then open your eyes and cast the old way: overuse the wrist for one-two casts. Close your eyes and overuse the wrist for 2 casts, then correct it to a controlled wrist movement, still with eyes closed. You will then begin to know when you have an uncontrolled wrist without looking.

You will have to practice!

  • If you’ve been using a wristy cast for a while, this process is one of “unlearning and learning.” Don’t expect it to change by practicing only when you go fishing.
  • Having said that, make sure you do practice when you go fishing! That is, don’t cast one way when you fish and another way when you practice. If you want to use less wrist, use less wrist all the time. Otherwise, one re-learns the bad habit when fishing and corrects it only when practicing.
  • Over time (many days of casting) you will start using a small, controlled wrist movement almost intuitively. Just make certain you don’t fall back into bad habits.

(Please note: there is a method of instruction that calls for a controlled wrist movement called a “Power Snap” as popularized by Joan Wulff. I have yet to find a student who likes this technique when given a choice between the above method and the power snap. I’ve essentially stopped teaching it. It is not wrong, just a different style. It requires the caster to take the uncontrolled wrist and control it while integrating the movement into the casting stroke. I find it too much for most at the beginning level as well as some intermediates.)

Do this and you are well on your way to correcting the problem. One lesson with me will help if you can’t get it fixed. It’s important enough to get this that investing in yourself with a lesson will be worth it. Besides, we will likely have time to address other problems!


What’s the best way to cast heavy streamers?

Casting streamers can feel like a chore or even downright scary. There are 4 things to recommend: roll cast a deeply sunk fly to the surface before picking up, open up your loop, slow down the cast, and consider using a Belgian cast.

When the fly is down deep, strip back till the head of the line is at the rod tip. Then roll cast the fly to the surface and immediately make a back cast or start the Belgian cast as described below. Otherwise, the fly will leave the water as if launched from a catapult and be difficult to control.

Opening up the loop keeps the weighted fly further away from the bottom leg of the loop, and also keeps it further away from you! More importantly, it reduces the uncomfortable excessive tug (I call it the “clunk”) that occurs when the leader straightens. Often the mass of the streamer pulls the leader out straight and causes recoil and slack. When this happens on the back cast, pulling the slack out can suddenly put excessive bend in the rod and cause a tailing loop.

The extra mass of the streamer allows one to slow the cast down. One simply doesn’t need as much speed. For you math and science folks, Force=Mass X Acceleration. (F = m X a) If there is greater mass, one doesn’t need as much acceleration (final speed) to get to the amount of force needed. For you non-technical folks, think about putting a ping pong ball v. a tennis ball on the end of a string.

The Belgian cast is simply one where the back cast doesn’t stop and the line swings around under constant tension. The “clunk” or tug mentioned above will not occur, and therefore recoil and slack will not happen. I’ve taken to using this cast frequently for heavy streamers and even sinking lines.

I can form good loops at 35 ft., but what do I change when I make longer casts?

Four things must change when we try to cast longer bits of line. Casting arc size, stroke length, force applied and length of the pause must all increase.

Casting arc refers to the angular distance (measured in degrees) the rod moves through. This arc or angle must increase slightly as line length increases. One can judge the casting arc size needed by what the loop looks like---keep it 2-4 ft. top to bottom leg.

Stroke length is the linear distance the hand moves (measured in inches) during the casting stroke. The movement helps pull all the line (including any slack) under even tension and speed. There is a point at which pure rotation of the rod doesn’t work anymore to get adequate line speed. The longer the amount of line past the rod tip, the more stroke length is needed.

Increasing applied force seems obvious but most apply more force than necessary. When going from 35 ft. to 40 ft. only a little bit of extra force is needed.

The pause length must increase simply because it takes more time for a longer line to straighten. Not waiting long enough often causes an audible “whip crack” effect as the undiminished force of the back cast is added to forward force and the end of the leader snaps. The fly is often lost. Waiting too long allows too much slack in the system requiring extra force and stroke length to pull out.

Looking for past newsletters? Here you go: