Quick Tips — Put More Juice in the Cast

by | Nov 25, 2018 | 11 comments

Keep it tight and crisp. Cast with speed. Be more aggressive. Build more momentum with the rod tip. The casting stroke should be snappy, energetic and sharp with abrupt and forceful stops between two points. I’ve used all of these descriptions and more to communicate the correction for the most troublesome fly fishing flaw out there — lazy casting.

By the end of December, I will log over sixty guide trips this year. On these trips I meet a lot of good anglers from all over the country who want to take the next step and turn a corner with their fly fishing game. I also meet anglers relatively new to fly fishing who are looking to build on the basics. And on the majority of my trips, at the end of the day, the number one thing I leave with my new friends is this: put more juice in the cast. Cast with more power.

It’s like this . . .

Build speed into the casting stroke. Then stop abruptly on the back cast. That flexes the rod and sets up the forward cast, where you again build speed and stop abruptly. This motion — this force — solves any issues of accuracy and distance. It’s simply the right way to cast a fly rod. And it’s true for nymphs, streamers, wets and dries.

For casting dry flies, a soft and slow, “lazy” cast is not the best. Instead, stop hard on the forward cast, and only then drift the rod down into position to follow the drift — that’s how you build good slack into a dry fly cast.

When casting with any weight — when nymphing or fishing streamers — the hard stops are crucial, no matter if you are long lining with a Mono Rig or using fly line. And accelerating between the two point to build up speed is the key. Otherwise, the stops are ineffective.

When we stop the rod on the backcast, we should feel the weight tug on the rod tip. Many anglers seem to avoid this. But good casters of streamers and nymphs welcome the feeling. The line straightens and the weight pulls on the rod tip. It’s a good thing.

READ: Troutbitten | Fifty Tips #28 — Ten and Two

More on casting

The casting concept of 10:00 and 2:00 is simply a starting point. The realities of a river force us into angles far different than those two points on a clock. The concept is solid, but the positions on the clock change. So we allow the river to dictate the casting angle. Consider your objectives first. If you have to put the fly under a tree limb, then drift the rod past the level of that hanging limb before delivering the hard stop.

Many of our more advanced casting techniques need speed and these solid stops to succeed. Things like aerial mends and tuck casts work only when we build up enough speed in the cast to deliver a power stroke. Stop the rod hard and high to deliver a good tuck with a nymph. Drift the rod tip upstream after the power stroke to easily perform an aerial mend. Neither of these are possible without speed and two distinct end points in the casting stroke.

All of this is even more important when long lining with the Mono Rig. Building speed into the cast and making crisp, tight stops is the source of both accuracy and distance while tight line nymphing up close or throwing big streamers to the other side of the river.

Photo by Chris Kehres

What about the rod?

The specific weight or the type of flex in the fly rod matters very little here. In the last few days I’ve cast two-weight rods and seven-weight rods, along with my standard four and five weights. And I noted that all of them needed speed and abrupt stops to cast the flies efficiently. Are there adjustments with each rod? Of course. The variations are broad, and yet the principles remain the same. Build speed, and stop hard at two points.

Most of the anglers I guide use their own rods. And somewhere before noon, after fishing for a few hours with me chirping away to build speed and force into the cast, their rod separates at the ferrules. It happens often. Thankfully, the fly tied at the end always catches the rod section sliding down the line into the water, and we have a good laugh about it. The sections separate because most anglers never think much about how tight the ferrule connections are. They’ve never cast a fly rod with much power in the stroke, so they’ve only made the ferrule connections snug instead of tight.

The bottom line

Put more juice in the cast. Use more power. Make the fly rod flex, and you’ll gain control and distance in the presentation. I promise.

Fish hard, friends.


Enjoy the day.
Domenick Swentosky



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Domenick Swentosky

Central Pennsylvania

Hi. I’m a father of two young boys, a husband, author, fly fishing guide and a musician. I fish for wild brown trout in the cool limestone waters of Central Pennsylvania year round. This is my home, and I love it. Friends. Family. And the river.

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  1. I’ll be honest, I never think much about 10 and 2. I was taught that the casting angle/stroke is determined by the length of line. With a short line out, 10 & 2 is sufficient, however with a significant amount of fly line out then the casting stroke needs to be lengthened proportionally or you will throw tailing loops. When casting for distance (saltwater sight fishing) I will use a 9-3 stroke with a significant drift at both hard stops to try to lengthen my stroke as much as possible. With a hard double haul you can still bend the rod enough to keep the rod tip in a straight line path even with a 9-3 stroke. I know this is probably not what you want to talk about with beginner casters but the whole 10 & 2 mantra always bothers me a little.

    With mono rig casting I use a subtle Belgian-cast style backcast motion with a very high hard high stop and a drift upwards afterwards (to allow for tuck).

    Not a champion or expert caster by any means. Just my 2c.

    • Nice. I’m no championship caster either, and my approach is a little different than your own, but I imagine are both very accurate with the flies.

      I agree that ten and two is a mere reference point. But I cannot imagine a cast where you are laying the rod all the way down to 9 and 3 for the power stroke. How is that possible? When I cast distance, I need even greater force built into the cast, and I stop harder at (about) ten and two. How can you lay the rod all the way down to 9 and 3??

      • A picture may be worth a thousand words here, watch the strokes of many of the distance casters here. Many of them are getting close to a 9-3 stroke: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cMa6rLpnIeM

        My “9 to 3” stroke comment is probably better said an “almost 9-3 stroke”. I also am of the Lefty Kreh school of casting rather than Joan Wulff, i.e. I cast out to the side rather than overhead.
        Normally a 9-3 stroke will generate a wide poor loop because the rod tip is moving in a convex path, and a straight line rod tip path is key to generating a tight loop. However you can get your rod tip to move in almost a straight line path even with a 9-3 stroke if you double haul VERY hard thereby bending the rod significantly on the forward & back cast. That is what is going on with the casters in the video above.

        This type of stroke is for extreme distance, and best done from an elevated casting position (the line will tend to drop on the back & forward cast with large amounts of line out) like on a boat on the flats.

        Most of my dry fly fishing these days is on thin blue lines in the mountains and I am often using an 11-1 stroke with traditional fly line b/c I am only throwing 15-20 feet of line and need to shorten my casting proportionally to keep my loops tight…

        • Nice, Greg.

          Thanks for the links and the explanation, Greg. Real good stuff.

          With sincere respect to all those who cast at long lengths like that, I find it to be completely useless while trout fishing my own waters. I guess I would do better to define at the beginning of my own article above what kind of fly fishing situations I’m referring to. But that’s the inherent sacrifice of a “Quick Tips” style of article.

          To your original point, though, that the stops at clock position grow wider with longer lengths of line, I see that too. But I don’t think I do that either. I find that I still maintain a (general) ten and two style but pick up speed and stop harder if I’m casting a little longer. Again, though, all of this happens within about 30 feet. Ha! Probably 50 feet max, for the way I like to fish. Beyond that, and I would rather pick a closer target.


          • yes fully agree that distance casting is meaningless in trout fishing (maybe they need it out west?). i only use it in 2 situations: sight fishing reds in shallow saltwater or late in the smallmouth season where the rivers are (usually) low / clear…both cases fish are very skittish and it is tough to get close

  2. When I try to teach newcomers how to cast there are two recurring problems.

    Number one is too much line. I finally decided to just work on the casting stroke with a fixed amount of line, no off hand, no stripping, no reel contact at all. (Maybe I should try a Tenkara rod for this.)

    Number two is not enough power in the cast. It’s as if they think they’re going to break the rod. I’d much rather they overpower the cast and learn to dial it back than the other way around.

  3. To avoid rod separation, I have suggested to my son-especially with salt water work-to check for loose ferrules every time we pick up a rod before we begin letting your line out. Also, if we notice that the rod just seems to not be casting well, we will check all of our connections. Interestingly, spey rod tutorials still recommend putting tape on the ferrule between the second and third sections as this is where the most torsional force builds up and sections are most likely to separate.
    Maybe an advantage to rods with odd number of pieces is that the more intense torsional force is most likely to occur over a non-ferrule portion of the blank

    • I have a 3# with an unusually loose first ferrule (closest to the grip). I found that waxing the male portion tightens the grip and prevents any slippage. Just split a candlestick in half and rub the rough portion along the ferrule. Surf wax works too.

      • Right on.

        My point about the rod ferules coming apart is that most guys have never cast with enough force to cause the connection to come apart. That’s all. But yeah, wax works wonders.


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Domenick Swentosky

Central Pennsylvania

Hi. I’m a father of two young boys, a husband, author, fly fishing guide and a musician. I fish for wild brown trout in the cool limestone waters of Central Pennsylvania year round. This is my home, and I love it. Friends. Family. And the river.

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