Tuesday Tip: The Line Hand and Shooting

Written by: Truel Myers

[Editor’s note: Over the next couple of weeks, Truel Myers, head instructor at the Orvis Fly-Fishing Schools, will walk 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.]


Last week we discussed the basics of the front and back casts, using a simple pick-up-and-lay-down drill with the line pinched against the cork grip. Now it’s time to add the “line hand,” the one that controls the fly line during the cast, and discuss shooting line to lengthen the cast.

The Line Hand
Hold the line opposite your casting hand, between waist and chest high. Keep your elbows bent and relaxed.) 

Line Hand 1

Grasp the fly line between your thumb and forefinger.


2. Make a backcast and forward cast, as described in last week’s lesson. The distance between the hands should remain fairly consistent during the casting stroke. Try to avoid following the rod and casting hand with the line hand.  

Line Hand 2

As you make the backcast, try to keep the distance between your hands as consistent as possible.


Done correctly, involving the line hand will help you generate more line speed because of the extra tension between the line hand and stripper (first) guide. This extra tension bends (or “loads”) the rod more efficiently developing more line speed. When you consistently feel tension in the line, you are ready to shoot line to add distance to the cast. 

Line Hand 3

By keeping the line between your hand and the rod taut, you help to load the rod and generate more power.


Shooting Line
With 25 to 30 feet of line beyond the rod tip, strip line from the reel until it touches the ground or water. This slack is the line you’ll add to the cast.

Shooting 1

Start with the line on the ground or water, and with your
line hand pinching the line..


2. Holding the line in your line hand, make a backcast. Then make a forward cast.

Shooting 2

Keep the line pinched between the fingers as you make the backcast.


3. As the rod comes to an abrupt stop on the forward cast, simply open your fingers and release the line, letting the line slide over your fingers. Alternately, you can form a loop with your finger and thumb, effectively creating another guide like the ones on the rod.

Shooting 3

When the rod stops on the forward cast, either let go of the line or make a ring with your thumb and forefinger (shown here).


4. After stopping and shooting line on the forward cast, lower the rod tip to the surface and “hook” the fly line with your index or middle finger of your rod hand, trapping the line against the cork handle. This is your fishing position.


Shooting 4

As soon as you’re done casting, trap the line under the first or middle finger of the rod hand. This will be your default fishing position for eveything except casting.


5. Strip in the line that you just shot and repeat the exercise. Remember to take the line off your finger before the next cast.

For everything except casting the fly—including taking in slack, giving the fly action, and setting the hook—the line will in contact with your index or middle finger. So whenever you’ve finished a cast, you want to get the line tucked under your finger immediately.

Once you’re comfortable shooting line on the forward cast, it’s time to learn false casting…our next lesson.


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