A quarterly newsletter from Clear Creek Fly Casting LLC.

Your source for efficient, controlled, effective fly casting

Spring 2020

As I write this, I am reminded of our changing world and our frailty. That old saying “if you have your health, you have just about everything” rings so true now. I sincerely hope all of you are well, and if not, that you are weathering whatever storm has come your way. If you are suffering loss, my heart goes out to you.

Casting lessons have ceased. I can’t in good conscience continue them, even following “social distancing” guidelines. However, you as an individual can get out and practice as well as fish occasionally. Tune up your cast for when the fishing gets better and adult flies are about! This is a great opportunity to improve your casting. Use the Fly Casting Skills Challenge I wrote about in last newsletter as a practice plan. Go to and the newsletter tab to find the Winter 2020 edition. If you run into problems with either, drop me a line. I’ve been doing this long enough now that I can often offer advice based on verbal descriptions. Video is also welcome.

Due to the pandemic, I’m not planning any casting events at this time. Keep an eye out for announcements in the future.


The Back Cast: Overlooked, Misunderstood and Often Poorly Done
The back cast sets up the forward cast. Although true, that’s a rather vague statement.

  • What’s misunderstood? The specifics of how it sets up the forward cast and why it’s important.
  • Why overlooked? It’s behind us and so the phrase “out of sight, out of mind” applies. Knowing how to look at your back cast without altering it is important. Unfortunately, I’ve even observed some (non-certified) instructors ignoring it when it is clearly visible, so it’s not just the caster at fault!
  • Poorly done? Why would anyone fix something they didn’t know they needed to? So, casters (and unfortunately some instructors) tinker with the forward cast without knowing they are only compensating for a poor back cast.
  • How important is this, really? As a certified instructor, I fix the back cast first 99% of the time! Most forward cast problems start in the back cast.
What is the purpose of the back cast?
  • It aerializes the mass of the line behind the caster. In fly casting, we are casting the weight of the line. Getting this mass opposite the target, in the air, and behind us is critical.
  • It tensions the line with minimal slack. Fly casting is all about line tension. Lack of tension is slack. The number one mistake I see people making is starting the cast with slack, and then this slack is tossed into a wide first back cast. The caster must now use an overpowered forward cast to pull out the slack. Subsequent back casts improve, but are still not great. This encourages false casting, which tires out the caster and spooks fish.
  • It aligns the casting loop 180 degrees from the target. This is important for accuracy and distance. I often see back casts that swing away from the body, sending the top leg out to the side. When this straightens and is pulled forward, the top leg does not track correctly, and accuracy and distance are affected. This is known as tracking error. Right-handed casters often get a curve to the left when the leader lands in this scenario.
How do I improve my back cast?
  • You must look at it! The best way to start looking at the back cast is casting sidearm, or in a horizontal plane. Stand sideways and face the unrolling loops back and front. Your head should swivel back and forth so you can clearly see the back and forward casts. Once you are forming 4 ft. loops back and front, including the first back cast, you can elevate the casting plane in stepwise fashion up to as close to vertical as you wish. Consider obtaining a brightly colored fly line for practice so it’s easier to see.
  • You must know your objective. The objective is a loop that is <4 ft. top to bottom leg with a relatively straight top leg that is parallel to the bottom leg. This should be true of both the back cast loop and forward cast loop.
  • You must know how to achieve the objective. Such a loop is formed by moving the rod with smooth acceleration through a right size casting arc (angle change at the butt of the rod) to an abrupt stop. Wide loops usually result from using too wide an arc. Secondarily, they can result from a “soft” or less than abrupt stop.
  • You must learn to achieve such a loop on the first back cast. I call it the pick-up loop. This is key to an efficient pick up and lay down cast, especially with shooting line. There are a few key elements:
    • Start with the rod tip at or in the water and line straight. Otherwise, you are starting with slack. When you start with slack it’s impossible to get all the line under tension and the errors compound.
    • Start the cast with a lift, all one slow speed, and don’t start accelerating until the rod is at about 10-11 o’clock. This defines the beginning of the appropriately sized casting arc.
    • Stop the rod abruptly at about 1 o’clock. Abrupt means as if your hand ran into something. The way most of us grip the rod the thumb will be vertical, and the rod will point at 1. This defines the end of the appropriately sized casting arc.
    • Wait for the loop to almost straighten, then start the forward cast. Almost straight means when you see the line-leader connection start to round the nose of the unrolling loop.
When you improve your back cast, the forward cast feels effortless!!


Fix one thing at a time!

It’s not unusual to identify more than one mistake that a caster is making. Make a mental list and pick the one you think will help the most. Work on that and don’t pile on. For example, your student has 6 ft. back loops and trouble with accuracy and distance. There are often tailing loops on the forward cast. She is aware and quite frustrated by them but unaware of the underlying back cast problem. You choose to work on the back cast first and explain why. Within this choice to fix the back cast first, choose one thing to change in a positive way meaning tell the caster what to do more than what not to do. You coach her to make her back cast stop more vertical. She gets some improvement, but it’s not consistent. Now you tell her to make the stop both vertical and abrupt. Given the improvement in her back cast, there are an increasing number of tailing loops forward (not unusual). Don’t pile on by trying to correct the tails in detail. Rather, explain that now that the back cast is better, she can back off the power on the forward cast. Keep working on a consistently good back cast, making sure the caster can see the difference in the back cast loop. Once more consistent, one can approach the tails on the forward cast. At the end of the lesson, summarize what was covered and what you want the student to practice.


Chuck Prather, guide and fishing guru at the Rocky Mountain Angling Club, recently asked that I write an article for them about casting tight line fishing rigs. Here is my article! Hope you find it helpful. Contact me if any questions.

Casting Tight Line Rigs
Tight line rigs are frequently used for nymph fishing. The definition for the purpose of this article is a subsurface rig without an indicator other than a colored monofilament “sighter.” Often these set-ups include a very long leader (10-20 ft.) with long (3 ft+) lengths of tippet material of 4X or thinner. These go by various names, such as Euronymph, Czech nymph, and others. The problem is that the monofilament (nylon or fluorocarbon) is skinny and long. It’s hard to control the weighty flies typically used, especially if there are 2-3 of them. If the leader piles up instead of straightening tangles result. Sound familiar? Information about how to cast these rigs is sparse. I am fortunate to have had discussions with members of both the US and South African fly fishing teams. Two answers are a continuous tension (Belgian) cast or roll cast, with or without a “tuck.” In most cases, stopping the rod high to keep the leader off the water is best. Practice these casts with a tight line rig using split shot in place of the weighted flies before you take them fishing.
Roll cast is probably the most familiar and easiest. Launching a euronymph rig into a standard back cast is often a disaster. Roll cast is an isolated forward cast preceded by formation of a waterborne anchor and “D loop.” The roll cast forward motion can often be done with the D loop and anchor washed downstream, although some of my instructor colleagues might not agree with calling that a roll cast. This cast will also change direction, meaning downstream to up or across stream. When done properly, the leader rarely piles up.
A straight line will not tangle. The corollary is that a line under continuous tension will not tangle. Therefore, the standard overhead cast with a back cast and pause (tension loss) is not the best option. Learn the Belgian Cast (a.k.a. Oval Cast)! To learn this cast, start by getting about 20 ft. of line and leader outside the rod tip. Make a steady lift freeing the line from the water followed by a smooth circular back cast without a stop and a forward stroke towards the target. Stop the rod aiming the loop at the target. A wide loop (5 ft.) with a nymph rig is often preferable. This can also be used for change of direction by stopping the rod at different points on the circle, as well as bringing the line back over the dominant shoulder and delivering over the opposite shoulder. The “Tuck,” aka tuck cast, is nothing more than adding more power to the forward stroke than would be necessary to get the leader to straighten. Due to this extra power the leader straightens and turns down, or “tucks.” This maneuver can be added to any forward stroke, and the presence of a weighted fly at the end of the rig makes the tuck easier.

Looking for past newsletters? Here you go: