As you progress as a fly fisherman you are going to realize it takes a whole lot less energy to achieve the results you want. If you are just starting with casting a fly rod then this article will give you a good start. Knowing what causes the shapes of your loops will help you self-correct while practicing, making your time on the water a lot less difficult. There are essentially only two classifications for loops, efficient and in-efficient.
You might be asking yourself, what is a loop? A loop is the shape that the fly line creates as it exits the rod tip on a casting stroke. It looks like a horizontal candy cane. In fly fishing we are casting virtually weightless lures a.k.a. flies. So you would be correct in thinking, you don’t actually cast the fly but rather the fly line. Properly transferring energy through the rod to the fly line is crucial to presenting your fly in a manner that will fool a trout.
In-Efficient Loop 1: The Open Loop
An in-efficient loop or an open is a loop that takes a lot of energy to cast. In a windy situation, an open loop will only end in disaster. There are however, situations when opening your loop a bit is desirable. While casting heavy flies or weighted rigs for nymphing are a few of those situations. But, if you don’t know how to control the shape then you won’t be able to take advantage of it’s benefits when the situation calls for it.
As you can see in the illustration, the energy in this loop is dissipated in all directions. Not only will it take more energy to get this loop to unroll, it will cause your fly line land in a big pile in front of you. This loop shape is caused by an arcing motion made by your casting hand. Usually it is because a caster is using too much wrist or elbow. The power for your cast should come from the forearm and shoulder. If you aren’t moving the rod tip on a 180 degree plane you will find that your loops will do funny things.
In-Efficient Loop 2: The Tailing Loop
Another loop that we can classify as in-efficient is the tailing loop. Unlike the open loop, there are no situations where this loop shape is desirable. If you find that you get a lot of “wind knots” in your line and leader, then you are most likely throwing tailing loops.
It is relatively obvious how this loop can foul up the casting motion. When you find yourself getting knots in your fly line it is usually caused by moving the rod tip in a concave path. Often this happens because you are using a little t0o much power on your forward cast, but obviously the cause varies with each caster. Some of the best advice I ever received, was to slow down. That helped me get rid of tailing loops. I was told to see how slow I could cast and still make good loops. I was overpowering my cast and it was causing problems.
Efficient Loops: Tight Loops
An efficient loop can also be called a tight loop or a narrow loop. This type of loop is extremely efficient in the wind and enables you to present your fly with pin-point accuracy. The energy is mostly uni-directional and has high line speed. You will find that tight loops will require a whole lot less energy to control. Tight loops are also really fun to cast.
You can see in the illustration that these loop shapes are going to be efficient because the energy is focused. To make a tight loop you must have good line speed (high line speed isn’t necessarily generated by high rod speed) and move the rod tip on a 180 degree plane. Much of what dictates the direction your rod tip will travel, is going to be your hand. It is important to accelerate your hand to a crisp stop in a straight line in order to achieve amazingly tight loops.
The top shape is a narrow loop. It is the ideal and most picturesque loop. It will deliver a dry fly magnificently and delicately. The bottom shape is the ultra mega super duper shape :). Being able to create pointy loops is a direct function of crisp execution and high line speed. When you can consistently make pointed loops on command, you have entered the fly casting masters group. I might be exaggerating a bit but, they are awesome and deliver your fly in an EXTREMELY efficient way! Perhaps someday I will enter that club, but for now I just practice a lot.
There is a lot to be said about casting and forming efficient loops. This post barely scratched the surface but, understanding how to identify loop shapes is the first step to correcting your cast. For more information about casting and efficiency I recommend checking out my post called: The 5 Essentials Of Fly Casting. Another topic that will GREATLY improve your casting is Line Control. I try to emphasize the importance of line control in my class but some students just don’t appreciate it until they are on the water.
Make sure you practice casting. The best place to learn how to control your loop shapes in off of the water. When you get on the water you want to be fishing not just casting. Thanks for reading, if you have any questions feel free to leave a comment or shoot me an email.