Roll Cast vs. Overhead Cast

The latest articles have been about tailing loop issues; that still is an ongoing project and I have a lot of video editing and writing ahead.
While I put some order in those ideas I decided that it was time for some new slo-mo stuff, so yesterday I called my friend Haritz to shot an experiment that has been round my head for a long time.

The simple exercise of making a roll cast on water shows us that, although we like to say that its forward stroke is like that of an overhead cast, in practice a roll cast isn’t as effortless as expected (you know the anchor loads the rod for the forward stroke of a roll cast and all of that). Of course the water grip on the line plays a big role in this, but what happens if we make a roll cast on grass so line “stick” is removed from the equation?

I will describe the scenario:
One rod rigged with two lines: Royal Wulff TT #7 and Rio Tournament #6.
The TT one has the ideal taper for roll casting; the Rio one is designed for long casts overhead.

The Rio line is unrolled behind the caster; the TT set in a roll cast configuration with its leader anchored by means of a screwdriver stuck in the ground (is there a more solid anchor than planet Earth itself?).

So what we have is a roll cast and an overhead cast performed by the very same casting stroke.

The result? Just judge by yourself, but it seems evident that a roll cast asks for a higher rod tip speed to reach the same distance, even on grass.

If you understand why, you’ll have the indispensable foundation to crack the code of spey casting mechanics. But this is just the rehearsal of a more complex project focused in the spey stuff.

Enjoy it… if there is somebody out there crazy enough for enjoying this geeky stuff. 😃

25 comments on “Roll Cast vs. Overhead Cast

  1. Bill Wheeler says:

    Thank you for providing such a great demonstration of the difference between a forward overhead and roll cast. I will definitely use this in my discussions of the difference between the two.

    Bill Wheeler, MCI
    Board, Washington State Council
    International Federation of Fly Fishers
    Watch your backcast



  2. Geenomad says:

    Hi Aitor
    Good demonstration mate. I wondered if the cast used suited the overhead and the roll had to put up with being a passenger. Other way around would be interesting too.

    Waaaay back when I learnt casting it was popular to start the student off with a roll cast – and static too. Completely dippy idea, to reprise the TL thing.

    Will be interested to follow the spey oriented project. Tension mounts. :^)



  3. Steve Kemp says:

    Hi Aitor! Long time!
    There’s so much less mass in the D-loop compared to the fully stretched out fly line, that it will always take more force for the roll cast to produce the same line speed.
    How many years has it been now, since the first rear weighted fly lines designed for spey casting came out? A long time I think!


  4. Malik says:

    Hi Aitor,
    Very interesting demo. I have no doubt that a roll cast needs some more force than an overhead cast for the same result. May be it will be more conclusive to do the test with the same line and exactly the same amont of line, in order to have the same mass to move.
    According to me, the component “friction” plays a central role, even under grass, and also the position of the line during the casting stroke (with a D loop the line needs to go upward, and that takes some energy, while the line is already upward in the overhead cast) and the waste of energy, when the final part of the line slides under grass.
    Thank you for your input
    Best regards


    • Aitor says:

      Good points, Malik!

      The amount of line was the same (aproximately 12m to match the head length of the TT7). The lines are different but I wanted to give some advantage to the roll cast (#7 vs. #6 and the ideal profile for rolling).
      Since the roll is artificially anchored no friction due to bacwards slipping. An artificially anchored roll cast is incredibly easier than a conventional one, both on grass.

      Thanks for your input!


    • Steve Kemp says:

      Hey Malik,

      Your comment –

      “May be it will be more conclusive to do the test with the same line and exactly the same amont of line, in order to have the same mass to move.”

      This is the point that I made above. Even with the exact same line, and exactly the same amount, the usable mass of the line in the roll cast will only ever comprise a section of the D-loop, so you’ll never be able to compare the same mass in this test.
      A good experiment is to take a rear weighted line designed for spey casting, and a regular trout line, and set up a test similar to this one, but roll casting both lines. You’ll see that the line with more mass in the right place will be far easier to cast.



  5. Aitor says:

    Steve is spot on.

    The key is that “usable” part of the D or V loop. And that part is just the section of line we impulse forward, using “impulse” in its proper meaning in physics: F x t. We apply a force over a time during the casting stroke. In a cast of the roll family that impulse affects just the part of the D loop that we move till RSP. That is the time we are giving energy to that part of line; the rest of the line (even that of the D loop which hasn’t moved or moved in a different direction from that of the cast) is just a passenger, a hindrance, an energy wasting element.

    I can’t remember for how many years I tried to convey this basic concept in the Sexyloops board. To no avail, of course. 😓 No more. 😛

    More experiments to come.


    • Malik says:

      Hi Aitor,

      Once again, thank you very much for the explanation. Very clear and convincing, according to me 🙂

      Best regards



    • flyslinger says:

      Hi Aitor
      Are you becoming an old grump or what? There where people conveying that statement before you joined the board, and who doesn’t believe it?


      • Aitor says:

        Come on Lasse!

        No, I ain’t becoming, I have always been a fucking grumpy old man! 😜

        I have some great board’s threads kept in my “favorites”. This about “dynamic” anchors is a classic. Not only the idea of an anchor being dynamic is really attractive, but the underlaying concepts about how a spey cast works are interesting as well. Just from six years ago (way after I joined):;f=3;t=9944;st=0



      • flyslinger says:

        Hi Aitor, na you’ve always been a nice puddy cat, Mike Conner was a old grump, maybe he was before your time? Nice thread, and yes plenty of stuff in there, glad to see you afterwards busted several of the statements, even some of your own 😉 changing people’s conception about how things really work is a looooong slow process, the continuous load in skagit was a fast one, but still the disciples are maintaining the wrong point. Too bad you coined the good and bad creep, it seems like someone took it and ran with it (post 69) as it is now a definition for rod rotation in the direction of the next cast during the pause….


  6. Malik says:

    What about your favorite one : “the anchor loads the …” ? 🙂


  7. Malik says:

    Seriously : no counter arguments, it’s boring but I am convinced you are right on that matter.


  8. Aitor says:

    Yes I knew Mike Connor. Even had some “words” with him.

    Our own mythology should be the first in being busted! 😈

    Didn’t know that good creep had its first appearance there. No problem. I don’t mind about definitions any more, having the concepts well nailed is enough for me.


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