Tuesday Tip: The Roll Cast

Written by: Truel Myers and Phil Monahan

[Editor’s note: Over the past few weeks, Truel Myers, head instructor at the Orvis Fly-Fishing Schools, has been walking us through The Orvis Progressive Method to Fly Casting. This is the teaching methodology used at all Orvis fly-fishing schools, and it’s designed on a building-blocks approach that begins with the most basic mechanics of the cast and moves toward the double haul. This is Lesson #4. Click these links for Lesson ILesson II, and Lesson III. ]


In our last lesson, we discussed how to add line during the cast. But what do you do when you can’t make an overhead cast because there’s no room for a backcast? In many situations, bushes, parked cars, or even people make it impossible to throw the line behind you. That’s when you need to break out the roll cast.

The roll cast is quite simple because timing is less important than it is with an overhead cast. You simply bring the line into position (see below), and then accelerate the rod forward to a stop. Here’s how to do it.

One important thing to remember is that you must keep the front end of your fly line on the water. It is the water tension that loads the rod on the forward cast.

1. Raise your rod and forearm slowly to your normal back cast position. You are not trying to pick up the line, as you would with a normal backacast. Instead, you must keep the end of the fly line in contact with the waters surface.


Roll Cast 1

The start position of a roll cast, with the arm and rod in a normal backcast position, and the line draping beyond the shoulder.


2. Bring the rod to a stop, so the line drapes behind your shoulder, like the rounded part of a capital D. Your elbow should be pointed at your target.


Roll Cast 2

The forward part of the roll cast is just like an overhead forward cast: the rod accelerates to an abrupt stop at about eye level.


3. When the loop drapes beyond your shoulder, make your sharp forward cast—accelerating the rod to an abrupt stop with the rod tip at eye level. The line will roll out in front of you.

It’s important that you finish the cast as you would your normal cast—making an abrupt stop to unload the rod and keeping the rod high to project line outward, rather than downward.

The roll cast is useful in other situations, too. You can use it to take slack out of the line before making a normal back cast or to bring a sinking fly line to the surface to pick up for a normal back cast.

4 thoughts on “Tuesday Tip: The Roll Cast”

  1. It’s either trying to get out to the greenspace behind the house, or practicing the arm movements inside.

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