Fly Fishing with Chris Dore

Your FFF Certified Fly Casting Professional, and Member of the New Zealand Professional Fishing Guides Association

Tailing looPS


Wind knots – Those little figure 8’s which appear in ones leader, just when we don’t want them. We’ve all had them. Truth is, wind plays a very little part in their creation.

The cause of the dreaded wind knot is the tailing loop.


So Chris, what is a tailing loop?


Glad you asked. A good loop is a tight one, with parallel walls unfurling with the least amount of effort, aerodynamic to the end. These are the result of a straight line path of the rod tip throughout the casting stroke. A tailing loop occurs when a wave in the top leg (fly leg) of your loop drops down and crosses the bottom leg (rod leg) and is caused by the rod tip dipping below the straight line path (SLP) and rising again during the casting stroke. To technically create a tailed loop, your fly leg must cross the rod leg in two places. Otherwise you simply have an underhand loop.


Cause and Correction

A stunning artist impression of a tail.


As mentioned, a tailing loop is generated when the rod tip tracks a concave path during the casting stroke. There are several causes of this, and we will now take a look at the three most common.


1 Creep

Possibly the most common cause, creep can best be described as anticipating the forward stroke, and / or beginning the forward stroke too soon. If you begin your forward stroke whilst your back cast is still unfurling the line will eventually tighten and pull your rod tip under the SLP. This also closes your effective casting arc, another cause of the tailed loop (see cause # 3).

This is relatively simple to cure: Pause longer before commencing with your forward stroke, or learn to drift – you can't move your rod tip in the direction of the impending cast if it is moving the other way.


2 Uneven, Power Application – ‘Shocking the rod’

Your power application should be a smoothly accelerating motion culminating with an abrupt stop.

Many tailing loops occur on the final (presentation) cast, and are the result of the caster ‘giving it heaps’ in an attempt to gain a little more distance. If you apply a sudden burst of unsustained power at the start of the stroke, you force the tip to bend deeply from the get – go. All this sudden energy goes into bending the rod rather than moving the line. Later, as the line gains momentum and the casting hand slows down, the rod begins to unload (straighten) and the rod tip rises above SLP.

And if you apply an unsustained surge of power near the end of the stroke, Ditto!

Think of it as sitting in a van at the lights, with all your friends in the back. The light turns green. If you floor it, you will jolt forward, and your friends will all be thrown around, with beverages flying everywhere! Now if we apply the gas gradually we move off smoothly; everyone’s happy, no beer wasted.  In fly casting, we don’t want to spill a drop!

Think smooth whilst casting. Remember – stroke before power!


3 Too Small a Casting Arc ( for the flex in the rod)

Casting arc is the angle of rotation the rod butt travels during the casting stroke. You must match your casting arc to the flex in the rod to attain SLP.

With a set casting arc, say from 10 – 2, a few feet of line will not provide enough weight to flex the rod much.  You are likely to be following a convex tip path and throwing wide, open loops.

Now if you extend the line a little you will have a little more weight outside of the rod tip, which in conjunction with the same sized casting arc will flex the blank nicely, your rod tip will track a SLP and your loops will tighten. Sexy!

NOW. Add more line into the cast whilst retaining your 10 – 2 casting arc and the extra weight outside of the rod tip will bend your rod more so throughout the casting stroke, resulting in a concave (dipping) path of the rod tip…. Tailing loops! What you needed to do here was to increase your casting arc as you increased the length of line outside of your rod tip.


Drill: With a set amount of line outside of the rod tip, say several feet, start off false casting s l o w, with minimal power. Concentrate on nice, tight loops. Now increase the tempo to medium…. Now fast! As you step up the pace you will force a deeper flex in the rod. You must widen your casting arc to prevent the rod tip dipping under SLP.


Other causes of tailing loops include:

1       Finishing your stroke too soon

2       Completing the Haul too soon

3       Letting slack line into the cast

4       Throwing a high back cast with a high forward cast (common when steeple casting)

5       'Winding up' for the forward cast (dropping the tip backwards momentarily before the forward stroke 'to give it more oomph!', and introducing slack)

All the above will result in the rod tip dipping below the straight line path.


In summary, if your loops are tailing;

1       Apply power smoothly throughout the stroke.

2       Widen your casting arc to accommodate the flex in your rod.

3       Wait…. Then wait some more on the back cast – your loop must straighten before you begin the forward stroke!

4       Practice, practice and practice! Smoothly accelerate to a stop.


With a smooth acceleration and a correct sized casting arc tailing loops will disappear from your everyday fishing experience, resulting in less time untangling leaders, and more precious time stalking trout!



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