Q&A: How Do You Measure Your Fishing Distance?

by | Jan 7, 2024 | 5 comments

This Q&A series is an effort to answer some of the most common questions I receive. The latest question appears below. But first, here’s why all this matters . . .

You can fish all day every day without thinking much about the details. But when you keep lacing up wading boots throughout all seasons and scenarios, the particulars are what put fish in the net.

Specifics matter. A couple years ago I published a series on Troutbitten, titled, Know Your Weights and Measures. I argued that knowing sizes, weights, diameters and distances improves our effectiveness dramatically. And ignoring these details is a little like a painter not knowing their colors or a photographer not knowing their shutter speeds.

READ: Troutbitten | Know Your Weights and Measures

So, for many years now, I’ve cited the distances we’re casting and drifting on the river. Thirty feet with a dry fly to the opposite bank. Forty feet on a long cast-and-strip with a streamer. Twenty-five feet up-and-over while tight lining a nymph.

Lately, I’ve even included these distances on the Troutbitten YouTube Shorts that include first-person style footage.

Knowing these distances helps add data to the catalog of experiences we build upon, every time we’re out. Instead of generalizing about “too far” or “pretty close,” it’s better to be specific. “With my favorite fly rod, my accuracy on a dry fly falls off at thirty-five feet.” Or . . . “With this #14 beadhead, I have no leader sag on my standard Mono Rig when fishing within twenty -four feet.”

Details matter. Now here’s the question . . .

Austin Dando had the easy life dialed in.


This one comes from Derek Ledbetter, from a comment on the Troutbitten website:

Hey Dom, I hear you talk about these fishing distances on the podcast too. And my friend and I have disagreed about what you mean. When you say twenty-five feet away, do you mean from where your feet are or from the end of your rod tip?


Thanks for your question, Derek. I’m surprised how often this one comes up. But I’m glad to know where confusions lie, and your question gives me a chance to clear things up in this article.

Short answer: When we talk about fishing distance, we definitely mean from where you are standing. How far away were you fishing? That measurement happens from your boots to where the fly lands.

Why not from the rod tip? Because there are far too many variables. Most times, my cast doesn’t end with the rod stretched out in front of me. In fact, it might stop at a forty-five degree angle. It might also stop and then shift to the side, after an aerial mend. Therefore, measuring from the rod tip is an inaccurate method.

Instead, measure distances from where you are standing. It’s easy. With a ten foot rod, for example, grab the line at some length above your fly. Tighten the line up to the rod. Now you have ten feet up (the line in the guides), ten feet back (the line next to the rod). Then simply measure the remaining line in two foot increments against your arm. (From fingertips to my shoulder is two feet.)

One more point, here. Say you end up with a measured distance of twenty-six feet. But twenty-six is the maximum distance you can cast with that length. And once you factor in some s-curves to the dry fly or a tuck cast with a nymph, you’ll more likely be fishing about twenty-four feet away.

Gathering all that data is important, and using your fly rod as the measuring stick (from where you are standing) just makes sense.

Fish hard, friends.


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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. Thanks, Dom!

    This has definitely been a question rattling around in my mind as well.

    I hope the New Year has been great for you and your family!

  2. Thanks Dom. This is helpful. Here’s one to consider. Every time I park my car in a parking lot with striped spaces, I think of the rectangle I am fishing with a tight line. A parking space is typically somewhere just under a 10×20 foot rectangle. Stand at the corner and engrain that visual into your brain. Then recall it on the water.

  3. Dom,

    This is great. It condenses (you have shared this before) the concept in a hyper palatable version that I will be implementing thursday.


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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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